Citizenship, Values

A Statement on Black Lives & A Note to Self

A Statement on Black Lives

I stand in solidarity with everyone fighting for Black lives now, and with Black activists who have been fighting for social justice for generations. I recognize the toll of systemic injustice on all Black people. I call for justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breanna Taylor, Nina Pop, Tony McDade, and all those who’ve lost their lives to police brutality. I am grateful to Black people because I have benefitted from advancements in civil rights won through Black struggle. I acknowledge that my model minority status has been used to deny the reality of injustice experienced by Black Americans. I recognize the work I need to do as an Asian American to check my privilege, increase my cross-racial solidarity, and confront anti-blackness within the Asian Pacific American community. I recognize that this statement is just the beginning.

A Note to Self

Here are a few ideas I’ve been thinking about over the past two weeks. This has helped me feel more grounded, less reactionary, less needy for validation, more authentic, and more helpful.

Less is more.

Choose quality over quantity.

Contradictions exist.

You don’t have to resolve them. You don’t have to weigh in much of the time. Know your values. Feel secure in the actions that you are taking. It’s OK to hold multiple contradictions, and to care for multiple communities, issues, and concerns.

Things are complicated.

It’s normal to feel a lot of feelings right now. Different people will be on different pages. Everyone falls short sometimes. Don’t sweat the small stuff. In five years, what will you want to remember about this time?

It’s noisy out there.

Opinions are just that. Remember who’s been doing the work all along. Listen to people whose insights are grounded in practices that you respect. Turn down the volume on distractions.

One step at a time.

When problems feel overwhelming and abstract, identify small concrete steps. Start there.

It’s healthy to take breaks from social media.

Get off the hamster wheel of reacting, sharing, checking, scrolling (/feeling outraged, judgmental, exhausted, numb). There is plenty of information out there. Balance sharing with synthesizing new information and formulating deliberate action steps.

Know your spheres of agency, your voice, your platforms, and the differences between them.

Social media is just one tool. Turning off the firehose affords the mental focus to re-center and act in other spheres of agency. Within each sphere, find your lane. You don’t have to occupy every lane.

Don’t forget to balance the negative with the positive.

There are many reasons to feel and express rage, despair, grief, outrage, and sorrow. And… there are many reasons to feel connection, gratitude, love, joy, transformation, and hope.

When the negative feels personal, pervasive, and permanent, it is critical to our sense of hope—and to our resilience and sustainability—to affirm the realness of the positive.

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Art & Development

A New Bandanna Design: See the Good in People

blue bandanna with calligraphy in teal and white, stating, notice small acts of kindness and connection; see the good in people

See the Good in People, 2020, two-color screenprint on cotton bandanna, 20×20 inches. Available on ChristineWongYap.com.

I have been making bandannas for a few years. I see them as mementos that remind us of our core beliefs and express them to others.
I recognize that recommendations to cover faces in public may freight the timing of the release of this bandanna. I actually designed this bandanna prior to these guidelines.
This text was inspired from an unfortunate personal experience I had in a public space last December. Strangers stopped to help, share sympathy, offer soothing commendations, and accompany me when I had to speak up.
After, my brain kept returning to the physical sensation of the incident, which triggered feelings of loathing, vulnerability, and self-pity. But I deliberately shifted my attention to the kindness of strangers.
This helped me re-write the story from one of misfortune to one of faith in humanity. It also became an experience of self-knowledge: because I changed my negative feelings into positive ones, I felt powerful.
I learned that seeing the good in people is sort of a superpower.
I would be thrilled if this bandanna helped to lessen some of fear and division of our present moment and to increase our awareness of connection and togetherness.
I’ve launched a new Shop page to sell this bandanna, as well as some reprints of previously sold-out bandannas from the Belonging project, and other zines and books.
I’m a working artist. Over the past few weeks, some of my day jobs and freelance gigs have been postponed or canceled. Your support is greatly appreciated. The funds also help me pay Forthrite Printing, the artist-run, small business in Oakland, CA who printed these.
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Art Competition Odds

Art Competition Odds: BRIC ArtFP Exhibition Open Call

BRIC’s ArtFP Exhibition Open Call received over 250 applicants, from which 3 finalists were selected.

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Selected images represent 1:83, or 1.2%, of applicants.

See all Art Competition Odds.

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Citizenship

Points of Reference: Alone Together, Part I

Some points of reference from a pandemic-stricken NYC.

News is coming out faster than I can process. Here are some articles, podcasts, and other references on my mind lately.

The Negatives

Rising Sinophobia

Someone close to me was spit at, in a Sinophobic, coronavirus-fear-fueled incident, last weekend in Manhattan. The next day, I read this:

“Spit On, Yelled At, Attacked: Chinese-Americans Fear for Their Safety” by Sabrina Tavernise and Richard A. Oppel Jr. (NY Times, March 23, 2020).

It is disheartening beyond words. There are so many things to be upset about:

  • As if a global pandemic wasn’t enough bad news, humans turn against each other.
  • The flattening dehumanization of racism—the racist doesn’t care if you’re Chinese or any other Asian nationality, whether your family has been here in the US for generations, whether you are actively serving society as a doctor fighting coronavirus, or whether you work in a community organization around belonging.
  • This is happening even in liberal bastions like San Francisco Bay Area and NYC, with large Asian and Asian American communities.
  • Attackers are weaponizing the very thing we’re all terrified of right now—aerosolized or projected bodily fluids—in a perverse act. Paradoxically, the racists could be asymptomatic carriers spreading coronavirus to those who they claim to be guilty of spreading disease.
  • When the attackers are other POC or immigrants, the rift in racial solidarity can feel especially hurtful.
  • Scared Chinese families resorting to arming themselves—aided by loose gun laws and fear mongering, and possibly under-educated about handgun safety, self-defense legal and moral issues, and systemic analyses.
  • Bystanders did nothing.

The dearth of leadership from the White House

A corresponding disaster compounding all of this. I really feel for the nurses and doctors who have to salvage a mess that could have been managed better.

 

The Positives

What to do about rising Sinophobia

  • Report anti-Asian incidents at standagainsthatred.org and caasf.org.
  • Some of us have racists/xenophobes in our families. We have to pick our battles, but consider that these attackers probably have family members who might have pre-empted these attacks with reason, empathy, and gentle disputation.
  • Asians and Asian Americans need to show up for other immigrants and POCs, not just our own self-interests. We can’t expect racial solidarity when we don’t show it.

Learn from the Center for Anti-Violence Education.

  • Sign up for “Bystander Intervention Training: Responding to COVID-19 Scapegoating and Hate” this coming Monday and Tuesday. Check the Center’s website for more online classes.
  • See their tips, especially the third image on what to do if you see someone being attacked or harassed.

 

 

 

Proactive politicians & arts institutions

Not waiting for leaders to lead

In contrast to the White House, S.F. Bay Area and NY politicians have been more proactive in restricting movement.

Arts institutions have also been more assertive, closing museums and studio programs before reluctant, slow-moving bureaucrats call for such closures.

I’m grateful to be allied with arts institutions who have taken leadership when leadership was lacking.

I’m also glad to see institutions heeding the call from artist-activists to donate gloves and masks to local hospitals, just as MAD Museum did last week.

 

 

View this post on Instagram

A huge THANK YOU to our Deputy Director of Exhibitions and Operations @hendrikgerrits and team for leading the charge to collect all of the Museum’s masks and gloves to donate to the Montefiore Medical Center (@montefiorehealthsystem ), in order to provide our city’s healthcare workers with the #PPE that they need to continue their lifesaving work. #Repost @hendrikgerrits with @make_repost ・・・ Our team at MAD Museum is donating all of our masks and gloves to Montefiore Medical Center to help protect our city’s healthcare workers who are putting everything on the line to take care of us. Thanks for the inspiration/suggestion @tin20000 Thanks for coordinating @shabdshabd #stayathome #madmuseum #strongertogether

A post shared by Museum of Arts and Design (@madmuseum) on

If you have PPE to donate, or need donations of PPE, visit GetUsPPE.org. It’s the combined efforts of several grassroots, DIY acts, such as Mask Crusaders.)

New Podcast: Staying In with Emily & Kumail

Humor, relatability, psychology

A new podcast by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani, with proceeds benefitting those affected by COVID. You may know Kumail from Silicon Valley or his woke tweets.

What I love about the first episode is listening to a funny couple that loves to be funny together. I also really related to some of their personal story. (You never know who is immuno-compromised, and how much this impacts the caregiver.) And finally, Emily’s advice is grounded in her background as a therapist.

 

Free Face Mask Patterns

pink/grey/cream hand-made face masks on a black cutting mat

Face masks sewn based on the the Fu Face Mask pattern from FreeSewing.org, using in-house materials.

I’ve been sewing face masks for the past few days, using the “Fu Face Mask” pattern from freesewing.org. [Here’s a printable pattern.]

I’m offering them for free to front liners, essential needs workers, seniors, people with compromised immune systems, people with underlying health conditions, or their caregivers. I’ve been sending them directly by mail.

Next week, I’ll donate 20 to emergency food pantry workers at Make The Road NY, an immigrant-rights organization.

I figure that something is better than nothing, and the less masks consumers use (and the more we can launder and re-use masks), the more masks will be preserved for doctors and nurses.

I’m using materials I already have, rather than order online, in order to preserve supplies. I’ve been using yardage leftover from home sewing projects, as well as past art projects. It’s been satisfying to re-purpose things that I made with positive intentions around happiness or human flourishing into something that might help people in tangible ways now.

If you’re interested in making masks, check out artist Stephanie Syjuco’s findings from prototyping various mask options. She’s using a modified “Deaconess” pattern, as her aim is for volume.

 

 

View this post on Instagram

For those interested in sewing masks: I tested out three designs that are currently circulating and here are my findings. The “Deaconess” design does seem the best for mass production and quick use while other designs could be better for personal fit and customization. I also posted this as publicly viewable on my Facebook page if you want the direct links to the patterns. Please note that these are NOT a medical alternative to proper PPE (personal protection equipment), and these are “last resort” items that can be considered due to lack of supply. I’ll be moving forward with producing “The Deaconess” model in quantity (with minor modifications) at home while under shelter-in-place, because it seems like we have reached the point where they are needed by others… Good luck out there, everyone! 👉🏽👉🏽👉🏽 PS: link in bio to crowd-sourced Google doc of hospitals and medical centers across the country seeking mask and PPE donations. Before seeking to donate home-made masks, please find out first if they will take them! 👈🏽👈🏽👈🏽

A post shared by Stephanie Syjuco (@ssyjuco) on

 

Here’s a nice article about this grassroots movement: “A Sewing Army, Making Masks for America,” by David Enrich, Rachel Abrams and Steven Kurutz (NY Times, March 25, 2020).

 

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Community

Exercises that Require Little to No Space or Equipment

The surefire way to boost your mood.

I found it’s surprisingly easy for days to pass without exercising, now that gyms are closed in NYC, and many people are self-isolating, working from home, consuming news, or prepping. (I can only imagine what friends and family in the Bay Area are doing under the shelter-in-place order.)

I just got back from a workout at a park. This is the best I’ve felt physically and mentally in days!  I really needed that, and I’m sure I’ll need a reminder to do it more (as long as it’s safe for me and for the greater good).

I am really grateful to all the instructors, trainers, and physical therapists who have shared this knowledge with me, so that I can form my own exercise plan even when  gyms are closed and classes are canceled. If you need some inspiration, here are some suggestions…

If you have a few square feet of space…

…And zero equipment:

  • stretches: hamstring, quad, leg-cradle, arm circles front/back, hip hinge
  • full body: push ups (and push up variations like Spiderman push ups), burpees, mountain climbers, sit-outs, jumping jacks, inchworms
  • core: planks (and plank variations: shoulder taps, three-point planks, side planks, side plank hip dips, side plank reach-through’s)
  • legs: squats (and variations like piston squat), lunges (and variations like lunge holds, lunge dips)
  • hips/glutes: bridges, single leg bridges, birddogs
    • an exercise that PTs call a T-walk but it’s basically like a walking, no-weight, single-leg Romanian deadlift)

…And a yoga mat, towel, or rug:

(Or you DGAF because your tailbone is made of carbon fiber.)

  • core: abs: sit ups, crunches, bicycles, leg lifts, Russian twists, in-outs, reverse crunch, V-ups, deadbugs
  • up-downs (switch from high plank to low plank one arm at a time)
  • Supermans, darts

..And a stable couch or chair:

  • dips

…And wall space:

  • wall sits

…And a way to slide:

E.g., you have hardwood or tile floors plus a small towel. If you have carpet, try using a furniture slider.

  • One-armed slider pushups
  • Lunge slides 
  • Body saw
  • Pikes
  • Knee tucks

If you have a garage, driveway, yard, or rooftop, plus a pair of work gloves:

Set up a cone/water bottle/anything to demarcate a distance. Or choose two opposite walls. Then try the following exercises in a lap or a line.

Walking Stretches

  • Try the stretches in the few-square-feet section above, taking steps in between reps.

Warm-ups/agility exercises

  • jogging
  • skipping, swinging opposite arms high and low to stretch your shoulders
  • Cariocas
  • lateral-shuffle (two steps in, turn 180º, two steps out)
  • three steps/ touch the floor
  • walking lunge
  • cartwheels

Full-body Strength

  • inchworms
  • lateral plank walk
  • lateral squat walk
  • bear crawl (forwards and backwards. If this seems easy, try keeping your knees 2-3 inches above the ground, take small steps, and go slow.)
  • Spiderman push-up

If you have a bench, stoop, or concrete/brick planter:


What’s this from?

These exercises I’ve learned from various bootcamp and TRX classes, martial arts, and physical therapy (PT). You may know these exercises with different names. If you’re unfamiliar, Google them.

I’m not a trainer, so take this with a grain of salt. Obviously, talk to a doc if you haven’t started an exercise program. If you’re unfamiliar with the exercise, start small and prioritize technique and control (many exercises are dangerous when performed incorrectly). Use common sense and take any precautions to avoid injury.

Tips

Some helpful habits I’ve learned from PTs.

  • Keep your core engaged (draw your navel back towards your spine).
  • Keep your shoulders down and back.
  • Protect your back by keeping a flat back when doing wall sits, deadbugs, leg lifts, etc.
  • Protect your knees by never letting your knee go past your toes, when doing squats, split squats, lunges, etc.

Structure

For most of these exercises, you can try 30-second intervals, or 3 sets of 10 reps.

If the exercise is too hard, start with a simpler variation, or less time, sets, or reps. If it’s too easy, add time, or progress to advanced variations. If it feels repetitive, try a super set (instead of 3 sets of exercise A, then 3 sets of B, then 3 sets of C; intersperse the sets A, B, C; then A, B, C; then A, B, C. Get it?).

Mix It Up

Working out with a partner is fun and can help you stay motivated. Buddy systems are great ways to form new habits. Try using a video chat to work out together yet remotely. Or, meet up at a public park (and maintain social distance. Nothing wrong with air-high-fives!).

Add spontaneity by setting a timer for 10, 30-second intervals and take turns leading an exercise, such as abs exercises. To make it more creative, add a rule that if anyone suggests an exercise you’re already done, they have to do 10 pushups.

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belonging

Cultivating Belonging through Reflection

Writing to recognize and affirm how people, activities, or places shape a sense of belonging.

Art, Culture, and Belonging in S.F. Chinatown

An animated GIF, with the text "How do art and culture shape your sense of belonging" in English and Chinese. Illustrated below are a woman and a man talking while writing on a sheet of paper. The woman has a thought bubble about shopping for a Chinese dress with friend. The man has a thought bubble depicting a boy holding a drawing of an anime character, and a gender fluid person holding a drawing of a Chinese character. Then there is text, "Share your story or learn more at ChristineWongYap.com" in English and Chinese text.

I’m currently the lead artist in a project exploring how arts and culture inform belonging in San Francisco Chinatown in partnership with the Chinatown Arts and Culture Coalition and the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco.

We are inviting anyone with a connection to SF Chinatown to submit your story of belonging. You can submit your story online now through March 31. I’ll be publishing and interpreting stories in a publication and art exhibit scheduled for Fall 2020. This project is part of the groundwork for the cultural district designation process, which would bring valuable city resources to the neighborhood.

S.F. Chinatown and social distancing

It goes without saying that health and safety are the #1 priority right now. Many people are busy just coping with closures and disruptions.

So belonging might be perceived as lower priority. But I think belonging is especially important now for mental health and the health of a community.

Mental health can be harmed by isolation and social distancing. A lot of people might be feeling ‘othered,’ especially Asians, and anyone with a sniffle (not to mention Asians with a sniffle, like me). It may be a struggle to feel a sense of belonging.

Community life is severely impacted everywhere—especially in Chinatowns, where small businesses have been hit hard by lost revenue due to xenophobia/Sinophobia, social distancing, and the loss of tourism. Two restaurants in Oakland Chinatown have temporarily shuttered. Many folks living in SF Chinatown are elderly, kids, low-income, or English language learners for whom seeking health care or social services may be challenging. For many jobs in Chinatown, working from home is not an option.

SF Chinatown is the most densely populated urban area west of Manhattan. Fifteen thousand residents live within 20 square blocks. The social hearts of Chinatown are in the markets, restaurants, cafes, bakeries, temples, and parks like Portsmouth Square. What happens when you’re discouraged from going to the places where you feel belonging?

Writing to reflect on belonging

Could remotely reflecting about your places of belonging—or the people, cultural activities, or foods that remind you that “I belong”—reinforce your sense of belonging?

In this project, Chinatown Arts and Culture Coalition has been collecting stories from their constituents locally. I also created a Google Form for people to submit their stories online, to give people the option to type, and to allow people who moved away to participate.

Now, the Google Form is a good option for people who have to stay home and refrain from large gatherings. I hope you consider participating and spreading the word.

Two memories

To put my theory into practice, here’s two personal anecdotes.

Nourishment in a bowl

For me, when I’m feeling sick, there’s nothing like a wonton noodle soup with savory strips of BBQ pork and bok choy for making me feel better. I can just imagine taking a bite of a pillowy with crunchy water chestnuts and ginger, and slurping up fat chewy noodles from a fragrant umami-laden broth that soothes the throat and warms the belly.

Photo of a red bowl with broth and wontons. A mug with possibly HK style milk tea, and a rice roll with a side of mustard.

Wonton soup from Sam Wo Restaurant, self-proclaimed as “the oldest restaurant in SF Chinatown”, 713 Clay Street, San Francisco Chinatown. Photo by Deccajpn D. from Yelp. You can order Wonton Soup with BBQ Pork from Sam Wo via Postmates.

There’s something really deep about how much emotional warmth and connection are shared between Asians through the act of sharing food. When I was a kid, I really liked eating just the cooked wonton wrapper, with no meat filling. My mom would just drop a few extra pieces into the broth for me. I can easily imagine how much her heart swelled as she shared this gesture of love and saw my enjoyment, because I feel this same feeling now. When I cook for someone who cares deeply about me, and I can see that a home-cooked meal is meaningful to them, it’s a powerful feeling of gratitude to be able to nourish them, making your feelings tangible and gustatory.

The Tastiest Rituals

I have fond memories of going for dim sum with a large group of family. Even when I lived in Sonoma County, we’d make the hourlong family excursion to go to New Asia Restaurant, with its circular doorways lined in golden tiles.

A photo of diners around a glass lazy Susan loaded with dim sum dishes: rice rolls, chinese broccoli (gai lan), spring rolls, deep fried taro dumplings, shrimp dumplings (har gow), beef dumplings (siu mai), roast pork, roast duck

Dim sum at New Asia Restaurant, 772 Pacific Ave, San Francisco Chinatown. Photo by Sam Y. on Yelp. Locals can order from New Asia Restaurant on Postmates.

Dim sum brunch is a multi-sensory experience. First, there’s the roar of so many people crowded around dozens of 10-seater round tables. There’s the waiters and waitresses shouting out the names of their dim sum dishes as they roll their carts past, and having to flag them down before your favorite dish passes. There’s the rituals of tea: pouring from the pot with two fingers on the lid, tapping the table in a gesture of thanks, and propping the lid up to indicate the need for a refill.

When the food arrives, there’s the custom of serving entrees to your fellow diners’ tiny plates, demurrals of fullness be damned. There’s lazy Susan strategies: rotating to place the fresh entree in front of elders, nudging the tea pot so the handle doesn’t bump into cups, stacking empty bamboo steamers and plates.

There’s a diversity of tastes and textures—lacy fried taro root dumplings, glutenous steamed rice rolls, the forceful punch of soy sauce, the aroma of banana-leaf-wrapped rice with hunks of Chinese sausage and boiled peanuts, the negotiation of eating a plate-length stem of hoisin-drizzled gai lan with a pair of chopsticks. If you’re lucky, there’s warm, sweet red bean soup for dessert. The meal concludes with demonstrative, assertive haggling over who gets to foot the bill.

 

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Projects

Three Elements of Resilience for Better Coping

Some potentially useful skills and abilities of resilience.

I’ve been studying resilience over the past few months, and a few concepts with have been useful to me recently. 

Putting It In Perspective

Seeing the bigger picture, and paying attention to those who have it worse than us, can help make our problems seem relatively minor.

Drawing in pinks, reds, and purples of building blocks. Title: Seven Skills of resilience. There are seven building blocks, each labeled with a skill: Learning ABCs (adversity, beliefs, consequences). Avoiding Thinking Traps. Detecting Icebergs. Challenging Beliefs. Calming and Focusing. Putting it in Perspective. Realtime resilience.

For example, if you or your loved ones aren’t among the most vulnerable, and your priorities right now are non-life threatening, nor about serious economic hardship, it could be possible that they’re first-world problems. Trying to stick too stubbornly to your plans, being upset and inflexible about disruptions, and prioritizing personal gains or achievement goals might be over-investing in relatively minor concerns (over which you probably have limited control anyway).

It’s important for everyone to work together to flatten the curve of COVID-19. Personally, I’m relieved that employers, businesses, and organizations are temporarily closing to mitigate the spread of the pandemic. (This is a great example of society leading when government is flailing.) It’s a time for cooperation and making sacrifices for the vulnerable—as well as their caretakers and all health care workers.

Optimism

Recognizing when to be optimistic, and what we can control.

When to use optimism

Everyday, we’re evaluating risks and making decisions.

I love optimism, optimists, and being optimistic whenever possible. Still, I recognize the limits of optimism. When grave consequences are at stake, be wary of being too optimistic. (Trump’s bluster and uninformed overconfidence are so disrespectful of people’s intelligence and the gravity of COVID-19.) If you’re making a decision that could impact health—yours or society’s as whole—err on the side of caution.

Drawing on gridded vellum. Title: When to use optimism. Red circle

From Positive Signs, a series of 60 drawings interpreting positive psychology research and more. 2011, glitter and/or fluorescent pen with holographic foil print on gridded vellum, 11 x 8.5 inches.

On the other hand, if you’re making a decision with lower consequences, choose optimism. For example, maybe you want to check in on an elderly neighbor but you’re worried about social awkwardness. In the best case scenario, it’s welcome and helpful, and you both feel good. In the worst case, it’ll be awkward, not that big a deal.

What we can control

As Karen Reivich, PhD and Andrew Shatté, PhD, define it in “The Resilience Factor,” being optimistic is to believe we control the direction of our lives.

A drawing in bright chartreuse with a

From a suite of drawings I’m currently working on about resilience.

There is a lot we can’t control right now—travel restrictions, closures of businesses and schools, and diverted plans.

So what can we control?

We can be creative in fostering connection despite the disruptions. For example, sharing photos of families instead of photos of empty shelves and commiseration memes (H/T artist Risa Puno).

We can gather resources and share knowledge.

We can try to use time at home productively, such as brainstorming ways to generate income. [Artists can work on applications, update websites and CVs, and improve art storage and inventory records. For example, I recently make boxes for art that I’ve been meaning to pack.]

Or, we can choose to see the restrictions on movement as a chance to rest, reflect, and practice self-care (such as using yoga instructional videos on YouTube instead of going to the gym), or doubling down on our support of neighbors and our communities.

We can choose to take steps to manage anxiety, and stop obsessing about coronavirus news (H/T artist jenifer k wofford).

Reaching Out

For Reivich and Shatté, reaching out is both a skill of resilience as well as a use of resilience. One definition they offer is to enhance the positive aspects of life.

A colored pencil drawing in green and black. Shown: of an arm reach up with the text,

From a series of drawings on resilience currently in progress. 2020, colored pencil on paper, 12 x 9 inches.

We are in an unprecedented time, when everyday brings scary news, anxiety is high, and everyone is coping with uncertainty. This is a recipe for poor mental health. Balance the negative with positive: connection, joy, humor, generosity. I love the videos of Italians singing from balconies, and Iranian doctors dancing. These are much-needed reminders of the human spirit and resilience.

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