Author, Speaker and Entrepreneur

Author, Speaker and Entrepreneur
Valerie Anne Burns

Friday, November 20, 2020

How Do We Stay Sane in Trying Times, Especially Solo?

How Do We Stay Sane in Trying Times, Especially Solo?

Lilly Pond Zen Moment--Summerland, CA

I'm still trying to figure this out every day. There seems to be a perpetual delay in major areas of our world. I never thought that the pandemic would go on and on to an indeterminable time. It's become so taxing and enormously sad considering the suffering and loss that has occurred. One can not ignore it or 'guru' this reality away...not if one has empathy for a worldwide loss--a worldwide case of medical staff putting themselves at risk and working tirelessly for all of us. Does this sense of helplessness and isolation deliver a certain veil of malaise and/or loneliness to the majority of us humans? I believe it has.

I've experienced feeling isolated since I was a child and being single for some time now, isolation is a part of life. With Covid, there is a deeper isolation felt the world over. Even people who are coupled or with family feel isolated (perhaps for the first time in their lives) and cope pretty well or not well at all. I know how to be in my own company because I learned to do this beginning as a toddler. But it doesn't always make it easier.

The green, salty water on the island of Key Biscayne where I grew up embraced me like a warm womb, which helped me wash away the blues. I'd swim way below the surface where the water became cooler and search for seahorses, which endlessly fascinated me. I was a lonely child from losing my mother so young, and by a fascinating but complicated father who was not present and withdrawn into his own intellectual world and daily drinking. I felt free in the ocean and it always brought a sense of exuberance. Fearless in the sea, I joyfully swam below the surface with my eyes open holding my breath as long as possible, so that I was convinced I had been inducted into mermaid status. I'm yearning to escape in that tropical water right now.

Key Biscayne, Florida 
For the time being, we can envision where we'd like to find our bliss in times of stress and sadness by taking deep breaths, closing our eyes and pulling up a vivid memory of a place we felt exhilarated and peaceful. Imagine being there. See all the details in your imagination--sights, scent, and taste--if it's the sea, you can taste the salty air and water. Notice color and its magnetic abilities. 

I realize that some people have the ability to not let what's going on in the outside world effect their internal world, which is admirable indeed. I suppose I'd be better off if I could do this, but it would take a near lobotomy to succeed. I'm far too sensitive and often too fragile to cope well. I've also been an activist for more than half my life and much destruction has occurred the last 4-years and it hurts on a personal level.

Some of you who have been completely solo during Covid (as I have) may be having a hard time managing and chasing away the blues but may not have somewhere or someone to go to for all these feelings and/or embarrassed to admit depression in the midst of such unrest. I get it. While many of us have had no business income during Covid, therapists are thriving and working overtime. We all must do what ever we can for loving self-care.

The isolation has had some benefits. My writing time has increased and I've taken time to research literary agents and literary magazines to submit. I've also come to some very clear perspectives on my life and what's crucial for my sanity and well-being. These particular enlightenments have come from many mornings staring out my picture window at majestic trees. One milestone, is that I can no longer be the one to chase anyone where I'm the prime initiator of communication. Because I'm so painfully aware of what it's like to be single and lonely at times, I'm always so willing to reach out to others...go the extra mile for love or friendship. Over the years, I've gone so far as becoming the only one to initiate with certain friends, I've had to take a step back to realize a crucial fact that it is not a healthy path to stay on. 

By nature, I'm willing to bend over backwards for others and that's lovely if there is some reciprocation. Everyone has their own challenges and scrambles, which hinders staying in touch. It is all the more reason to be grateful for those friends who stick by you no matter what. I'm forever thankful to have exceptional friends that mostly live out-of-state now. I think it's the core feeling of loss, abandonment, and isolation that too often puts me in a vulnerable place--vulnerability not only from loss, but beating cancer twice and a damn long journey of 6 years with breast cancer. The 9th (and hopefully final) surgery was in January. When I began to recover and surface from pain and isolation, Corona virus hit the planet. We're reaching the 9--month mark. Time has sped up in the routine of things where I have to reach far into my brain to recognize what day it is. I've heard this referred to as Corona brain.

If I'm to be honest (no other way for me), this last 4-years with Trump has aged me. Since voting at the age of 18, this scenario of an autocrat and his unlawful behavior and threat to our sacred democracy has been unprecedented. The lies, deceit, corruption, theft, sleazy scandals, and an utter failure in qualified leadership whether to contain a pandemic and protect the people; dismantling all policy that protects our planet, wildlife in the midst of global climate crisis; transparent racism; or motivating autocrat sycophants and supporters to shout 'voter fraud' in order to tilt the election in Trump's direction when no such thing has occurred. It's flat out worrisome to not witness this person who had no business being in the White House refuse to concede. Just who is guilty of voter rigging--Trump and his enablers. Can you imagine if Obama had done something like this or any of the other offenses Trump is guilty of--the GOP would've shouted treason and impeachment day one!

When these stressors come up, I head out for a cardio power walk to work out my anxiety and anger...quite frankly. We must be aware and honest of reality.

Back to being solo, I have to cope with all this distress and stress daily and there are times when depression hits me hard. I'm an air sign and someone who stays in her head a lot with thousands of thoughts running amok. It would sure be helpful (as a Libra air sign) to be partnered with someone (who's an earth sign) that could help balance my scary, runaway thoughts and deep concerns...someone to pull in this untethered woman to being grounded again. I suppose this is what hope and faith are about...even if it does feel like a far off fairy tale. 😘

Speaking of daily stress, a few days ago in the middle of this Trump insanity, I took an easy stroll (not an easy venture as a power walker) to breathe and clear my mind. I came across this burst of fall color and have always loved the autumn season for its beauty in color and crisp air. Living in CA so hard hit from drought and raging fires this year due to climate crisis, I am also so grateful for rain, glorious rain mixed with fall color is an ideal combo to lift my heavy heart. 

What do you feel is the best way to calm your spirit or restless nights? As a beauty seeker, it's nature (particularly color in nature) that grounds me and delivers perspective in crazy times. Taking a walk, binging Schitt's Creek/ light funny films like, "The Birdcage"; talking to a friend, getting in the car for a drive and entering a sacred spot as I did last weekend that provided a zen garden, (lily pond photo above) which took my mind off things for a while. Brief moments of beauty in nature and connecting with beloved friends feed the soul. 

Let's face it, 2020 has been a taxing and even dark year. I am looking toward a saner more kind and intelligent 2021 in the White House. My heart goes out to all those effected by corona virus and the medical workers who work so hard for all of us. 

Feel free to let me know what your moments of bliss are whether something you visualize in meditation or visit physically with your mask on to nourish your soul. I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving whether on your own or in a bubble with family and friends. Let's all look toward a safer, healthier-(physically/mentally/emotionally) and more connected and peaceful year ahead.

Be safe. Be well.

Keep on swimming through life,

Valerie Anne

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Birthday Blog 2020, What a Difference a Year Makes

 Birthday Blog, 2020
What a Difference a Year Makes

While I won't reveal my age, I can say life is passing by faster than I'm comfortable with. Last year on my birthday, I was in Firenze enjoying Italy and all the beauty it has to offer. I hadn't traveled there since I was 19 on a fashion study trip with college, and I felt more myself away from what I grew up with. At the age of 19, everything is possible so I predicted that I'd return frequently. Life presented many paths and unexpected hurdles but the opportunity to journey back to Europe took decades to arrive. I began to write about the steep hills and winding roads of life and suddenly, I'm back in Italy just as I wrote about in my book, "Caution Mermaid Crossing, Voyages of a Motherless Daughter" where in one of the essays, I describe feeling more at home in Italy than I ever did in my own family home. I wrote how I longed to go back and recapture that sublime feeling once again.

I actually manifested in real-time what I wrote in my book. I never could have imagined that it would take decades to get there and how going through the unimaginable life threatening crisis, which not only led me to completing a book, but would lead me to an organization that sponsored my trip to Cortona (Tuscany) to share my workshop, "Healing and Living Through Color" with sister survivors.

When my ticket was presented by a sponsor who donated miles and my friend and director of the organization asked when I wanted to return, I quickly replied, one month. It became the adventure of a lifetime. Although I had a very small budget; the airline lost my bag for 5-days and I had to retrieve it myself at the Florence airport; jet lag followed me for several days; got lost quite a bit in a foreign country, I was in heaven. Before departing, people asked me about how I'd feel spending my birthday on my ow in Florence. I said, "Who cares, I'll be in Italy." And, it's true. I've spent plenty occasions on my own in Santa Barbara and thrilled for the change of scenery.

The interesting thing about a life-threatening illness is that the mind goes on auto pilot and you lose all track of time. My birthday came a couple months after my diagnosis July 2013 resulting in a radical double mastectomy. I was not so stable. My friends gathered for a celebration at the Biltmore by the sea and I remember wearing heels to feel better about my femininity since the loss of one's breasts tends to lower self-esteem; something I've struggled with my whole life. I felt off-balance in self and in heels. But I was grateful to be alive and with good friends. That was September 29, 2013 and what I couldn't have imagined that the complications from staph infection would result in 9 surgeries over a total of 6 1/2 years. So, finding myself in Italy before that final surgery January, 2020 was the best gift I could've had bestowed upon me.


When challenges came about traveling on my own in Italy, I carried on with the same attitude--Who cares, I'm in Italy. I felt more included and more myself in a foreign country. Why is that? I've been contemplating it ever since. I do know that the lifestyle suits me. I was on such a high when I returned home but I hit the ground running putting one fire out after the next. Challenges prevailed. Another big surgery in January where I isolated in recovery for weeks and as I started to get past brutal pain, a pandemic hit and deeper isolation ensued. We had no leadership with proper preparation and a plan, but one who ignored the warnings, displaying a blatant disregard for the seriousness of Corona virus and certainly no hope for the US being a leader to other countries where we united to contain the virus in a timely manner.

In the year that I've been back from Italy, I've been worn down and worn out from the worst administration I've witnessed in my lifetime. Corruption, collusion, fraudulent acts, shameful racism, laws of the constitution broken, and Democracy crushed barely hanging on. Between the isolation completely on my own, and an authoritarian administration wreaking havoc on this country and causing more than half its people to be in a disturbed and distressed state-of-being, I'm ready to escape--escaping to either a deserted island where my mermaid essence shines or back to Italy.


My birthday in Italy was a day of wandering and presenting me lively conversations with waiters that treated me to an espresso and a shot of an interesting liqueur-like drink to celebrate my day; a tremendous exhibit by Leonardo Da Vinci showing his scientific/botanist genius, to an accidental destination at the Ponte Vecchio where I stared at ancient beauty and history for an indeterminable time, and then walked over the bridge to Piazza Santo Spirito Square for an early birthday dinner. Calorie awareness was not a part of my ordering decision. I was in one of the more romantic cities in the world on my own for my birthday and I was content, happy and grateful to be alive. I listened to the chatter amongst crowded tables and the sound of a lovely fountain in the middle of the square. Sitting with a lover to enjoy the moment instead of a table for one where I'd gaze at the love of my life sitting across from me to celebrate my birthday may have been preferable but I felt embraced by the warm day, the warmth of the people surrounding me, and the warmth of my own spirit ignited by adventure and possibility.


In the time of Libra and Corona: A social distanced birthday this year was spent at my favorite Italian restaurant in Santa Barbara by the invitation from a friend. It was my 2nd official outing (don't count Trader Joes, pharmacy, Dr appointments...AKA necessities) in seven months. I was thrilled to order inside with a mask, sit in the corner of the patio with my friend and have a conversation with an interesting, like-minded friend for a yummy 
meal where the owner of the restaurant (a friend) comped me a glass of Rose wine. Before I went out, I said to myself, "I'm sick of quarantine yoga pants, I'm dressing up!" And, I did. I wore a dress, heels, and makeup and it felt so novel and I felt so human... and feminine

What a Difference a Year Makes

A few days ago in the early morning hours, while the fog lay thick outside my door and sitting on my sofa with tea, I felt a distinct thick layer inside. It dawned on me that it was a layer of loneliness so palpable, I could cut it with a knife. I sipped my tea and stared at trees.

In-the-time-of-Libra-and-Corona, most of us have been isolated. But, many are isolated with family or a partner (a bubble of friends) but some of us are solo isolated, which is my scenario. I've had corona brain and Trump stress causing me to lose track of time and not be as productive or sleep well. Can anyone relate? It's been a couple months since I've written a blog essay and I attribute it to what I mentioned above. 

According to Trump, we heard that it's just a flu that would magically disappear, a Democratic hoax; displaying casual disregard for an infectious disease, intentionally and proudly not wearing a mask, dismissing medical experts who disappeared from the scene, purposely and dangerously downplaying and continuing to downplay a pandemic leading to more than 200,000 deaths, all of which didn't pay off so well when the GOP gathered at an event Sept. 26th without masks or social distancing, which resulted in Trump getting Corona along with many other GOP 'non'-leaders. Does everyone struck with Covid airlifted to the best hospital and surrounded by 20 medical experts with the most advanced drugs??? NO!

Here's what I've decided and it's a statement laced with a bit of sarcasm. According to my chart done by a professional, I have three planets in Scorpio (including my moon) so I'm extending my birthday until November 3rd and asking for an extended present: Vote and vote Trump OUT--Save our country and save OUR Democracy--Vote Blue & Vote Early (drop ballot at secure drop box instead of strained USPS) to not only vote Trump out but for qualified leadership who'll do right by the people during a pandemic, take action on the critical Emergency issue of Climate Change so evident in California with extreme fires (the worst in history-2020), supreme court justices, social justice, health care for all, women's rights, black lives matter, minimum wage increase, education, etc.!

Let's get out of this mess and look to better days ahead with truly qualified, respectable, progressive, and dignified leadership where America is once again a country other countries respect and look to US for guidance. I look forward to my next birthday being one of less stress and worry so I can breathe easy again and sleep better, as well as enjoy deep connection, ability to gather and travel; and a time where I feel proud of this country again. 

Be well. Be safe. Vote well.

Keep on swimming through life,
Valerie Anne