Live Small, Live Well

old Italian windows_Milan

After watching a PBS Frontline report on coronavirus in Italy , I had an idea about people living smaller lives, and not just during a pandemic. What if we chose to live this way on a daily basis? Ideas led to writing and writing led me to creating this post – even though it’s not really about writing… but ends up that way, I guess.

In other words, when something moves you, write about it. 

Small and Close Is a Good Thing…Usually

Smaller living spaces bring people closer together. There’s plenty of room for everything you need using smarter design, smarter placements, living with less stuff. Simpler lives are happier lives. People are then able to focus on what really matters: relationships and community – look at Italians, they seem to have perfected it.

Europeans have lived this way for a long time out of necessity because there’s no room for the multitudes of sprawling American McMansions or penthouse-sized apartments in most European cities. Americans seem to think they need more open living space, so they purchase bigger homes and more material items, like furniture and art and expensive kitchen toys. But is it all really necessary in order to feel fulfilled? Or is it a nod to some internal need to “keep up with the Joneses?”

Or perhaps it’s the result of an overblown sense of entitlement; that what we want we deserve simply because we work for it or can afford it. That seems more like an individual-oriented mindset.

What’s Really Important

Watching the video, seeing the small spaces Italian families share, it’s no wonder they’re as close as they are. Normally, that’s a good thing but during a pandemic that kind of intimacy, sadly, has had a deleterious effect on their lives. But I doubt they’ll change their ways because those very connections are the lifeline of Italian life.

Smaller apartment homes force people to share the whole living space, including common and private areas (in Europe, brothers and sisters routinely share bedrooms). This type of living also provides lessons in conflict resolution since we’re not going to get along well all of the time. This is a community-oriented approach.  

Smaller is Better for Everyone

Tiny houses are all the rage here in America but what we need is to reduce overall apartment living space (square footage) to make room for more people in each building. With burgeoning populations across the globe, it makes sense for us to adopt more of a European style of living. We’ve been spoon fed the ideal that the “American Dream” is to own a single family home, which requires more land space and finite natural resources (and equates to a much larger individual environmental footprint). For some reason, in America, living with others in apartment or multi-family (aka tenement) housing is perceived as inferior to owning your own home (which actually owns you for 20-30 years until the deed is in your hands). The benefits of community living can far outweigh life in the suburbs.

European style refrigerators, for example, which are much smaller than their American counterparts, force people to think about what to eat, how much, and how often. Shopping becomes a daily responsibility or at least every 2-3 days, depending on how many one is shopping for and feeding. Smaller fridges force people to choose foods that are most important: what is fresh and made daily, rather than something with a 6-month or more shelf life; that’s hoarding for a future that may or may not come. This pandemic has certainly reminded us of that.

Living smaller means living well today, within our community. Tomorrow will come when it comes.

Finding Peace in Chaos

Yin Yang with Light3 (3)

Universal Law

The Law of Unity of Opposites (theory of Yin and Yang) states that nothing in the Universe is totally Yin or totally Yang. Yin and Yang are in opposition and are interdependent – each is necessary for the other’s existence (The 5-Element Guide to Healing with Whole Foods, 2016). In our current situation, it’s necessary to find the Yin/peace within the Yang/chaos. With external avenues closed to so many (e.g., fitness centers, yoga and tai chi classes, meditations, etc.), going inward is our only salvation if we’re to survive this viral onslaught.

Finding Your Peace

All over Instagram (and other SM sites), people are gathering together in solidarity (and solitude) to find that peace. Meditation and other spiritual services are readily available online to help us maintain equilibrium. Another road inward is writing: expressing those emotions, telling those stories, that must be felt and heard. Out of chaos (erratic) comes peace (consistency), it’s the natural order of things. People all over the world are finding ways to cope and, hopefully, to survive.

The TCM View

Naturally, I can’t help but think how many will be affected so deeply that physical health becomes an issue at some point. Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners know that emotional distress can contribute to the development of disease (imbalances). Learning to control emotions is a major step in preventing these imbalances. The Huang Di Nei Jing, also known as The Yellow Emperor’s Classic, the bible of TCM medicine, recognized that emotional and psychological factors are important causes of illness. The Nei Jing indicated that excessive emotions impair the internal organs of the human body: Anger hurts the liver, joy hurts the heart, brooding hurts the spleen, and melancholy hurts the lungsHence, the Nei Jing proposes regulating the emotions by keeping the heart calm and cheerful and the mind free of worries:

“Do not be weighed down by perplexing thoughts; strive to be calm and optimistic; be complacent; keep sound in body and mind.” 

Let It Out

In other words, get writing! Use your writing as a catharsis, if you will, to free yourself of pent up stress and emotions brought on by this viral pandemic.

After my mother died I wrote my first book, a creative nonfiction, in four and a half months. Tears and words poured out of me and by the time I was done writing the book, I was pretty much done grieving her death. Use this downtime wisely; don’t squander the opportunity to find your peace in the chaos, no matter what it is.

#coronavirus #findpeaceinchaos #Chinesemedicine #writing #storyteller #yinyang #meditation #yoga #acupressure #acupuncture #fictionwriters #

Below is a chart you can follow for applying acupressure to various points if you’re feeling stressed/depressed (please share it with as many people as possible):

Acupressure for Depression

Source: Acupuncture Media Works

Stuck At Home? Make Lemonade From Those Lemons!

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Source: Pixabay

Lots of folks stuck at home right now, including writers. That may be a good thing – for writers, anyway. Sheltering-in-place is providing us all with much needed down time and an opportunity for writers to catch up on writing projects. Some folks might think it rude to market one’s book during such a serious time. I say business is business and this outbreak will eventually subside (hopefully sooner rather than later) but your business won’t. A lapse in marketing now can have negative effects later on. 

Marketing Your Book During a Crisis

Sure, some people are home because they’re sick, but many are home as a preventive. And with the Internet, we can maintain connections with loved ones as well as fans/readers. It’s a great time to reach out to others, whether for a well-check or for marketing your book/s. Use this down time as an opportunity to reach out to people but haven’t had the time. Cuz now you do.

Acknowledge But Don’t Apologize

Don’t apologize for continuing to put your book out there in front of potential readers. Sure, you can acknowledge the current atmosphere. Maybe your book is relevant to this viral outbreak: science/clinical; nutrition; ways to stay safe in a crisis (i.e., how to put together Go Bag), etc. Here are a few suggestions from an article at booklaunch.com on how to tie your book/marketing into what’s going on:

  1. Start a social distancing book club with people (that includes your book). You can have daily/weekly meetings on Zoom or Skype to discuss. This will give isolated people a way to connect.
  2. Run a “boredom promotion” where people can get your books at a discount.
  3. Partner with other authors to promote a box set of all of your books.

I’m running a ‘stuck at home’ deep discount for readers who want to shop smarter in the grocery aisles. Personally, I like the idea of a ‘boredom promotion’; takes their focus off the negative and puts it on something positive. You’re helping people through your book.

Something New

This is also a great time to start a new marketing angle like podcasting. You can host your own show or be a guest on another podcast. Check out radioguestlist.com if you need guests to interview or wish to be interviewed. Great way to get the word out on you and your book and it won’t cost you a dime.

Yeah, we’re all cooped up in our homes but there are ways to invite the world in so it doesn’t feel so lonely. Remember the old saying: “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” 

Are All Your Eggs in One (Amazon) Basket?

eggs in basket2

Source: Google Images

New Priorities

In case you don’t already know, Publishers Weekly sent an email titled “Amazon Deprioritizes Book Sales Amid Coronavirus Crisis.” Amazon is working diligently to prioritize “the surge in demand for household staples, medical supplies, and other high demand products.” Publishers (self and otherwise) are one of the suppliers whose goods (meaning books) will receive a low priority in shipping until at least April 5th. This makes sense; a good decision on their part, I believe.

So if you have your books self-published only through Amazon, this will pose a problem of lost or delayed sales. Hopefully you have listed your books (eBooks and hard copies) with other publishing sites like Lulu, Smashwords, Ingram, and the like. Because my book is published via Lulu Press and distributed to Amazon (and other retail sites), readers can still access my book here. Not a good idea to have your works all at one location, not at anytime but certainly not in this current climate.

Amazon is aware of the negative trickle-down effect of this decision and is working diligently to add 100K new positions in fulfillment centers across the U.S. The good news is that many of those folks out of work (restaurant servers, retail jobs, etc.) will have an opportunity to earn instead of falling into financial ruin or bankruptcy while waiting for businesses to reopen.

Plenty of Options

Which is why I’m glad I’m with Lulu Press. So far, I don’t see any announcements on their site re shipment issues. Not yet, anyway. But I’ll keep watching. 

In times such as this, it’s best not to put all your eggs in one publishing basket. While sales may droop overall, it’s not the end of the world (despite what some preppers may believe). There are plenty of self-publishing sites to list your work on; make a list of which ones would best benefit your genre/s. Widen your net, keep your options open. Put a few eggs in many different baskets.  

The Viral Effect

Chinese herbs

A Shift in Focus

Okay, so this is going to be one of those occasional, off-topic blog posts I mentioned in my previous post. You know, the one where I discuss something other than writing.

Coronavirus, aka COVID-19, is making its way around the globe. In the wake of this pandemic (per the CDC), irrational fears about this virus are just as prevalent. So I wanted to take this opportunity to help ‘clear the air’ on some fears that have gone ‘viral’, especially regarding certain items coming from China – Chinese herbal medicines.

A Long History

Chinese herbs are the most studied herbs on the planet. There exists over 2500 years of empirical evidence (patient-centered treatments and responses) and Western evidence-based trials, though inherently flawed, are increasingly showing the efficacy of many herbs in our pharmacopoeia. Outbreaks of SARS and H1N1 were successfully treated with herbs in some Chinese/TCM hospitals. Chapter 2 of a popular medical text (that got me through four years of herb classes and clinics), Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology (Chen, 2001), is Heat-Clearing and Toxin-Eliminating Herbs. Subsections of this chapter contain many herbs that have either antiviral or antibacterial properties, or both. Several have been tested and show effects stronger than some pharmaceuticals (and without side effects).

There is an irrational fear that anything coming out of China, especially medicinal herbs, is contaminated with the virus. Let me clarify: 1) these herbs must pass muster at customs when arriving in the U.S.; 2) once they arrive at either a manufacturing facility or a large retail operation (in both cases, Kamwo Herbs, located in NYC’s Chinatown, and one of my finest herb sources), the herbs go through a rigorous testing process required by the FDA. These companies are in regular contact with either the CDC and WHO to continue providing safe, efficacious medicines.

Extra Precautions

According to several emails I’ve received from some of my professional accounts, herb companies are currently taking extra precautions when it comes to testing. They’re also reassuring customers that there are no health concerns at this time for the transmission of COVID-19 on packaged goods (traveling far, changes in temperature, etc.). Even the CDC advises that because of poor survivability on hard surfaces there’s a low risk of the virus spreading from packages shipped over days or weeks due to ambient temperatures. 

Seek Out a Professional

One of my concerns is people rushing to order herbs online to treat this virus without first consulting a TCM physician. Another is if you don’t know what you’re ordering or aren’t familiar with the company you’re ordering from, my recommendation is don’t do it. In school, we’re taught to look for specific certifications, such as GMP standards (Good Manufacturing Process) and other certifications. Certain companies (like MinShan) follow GMP standards, while some in China do not (and their formulas may contain questionable substances, including Western meds). It’s important to know the difference.

Also, if you’re not familiar with medicinal herbs, you may inadvertently buy herbs or a formula that is incorrect for your symptoms. This may lead to unnecessary side effects (i.e., loose bowels due to Cold nature of antiviral herbs), no effect (because they’re not the herbs you need), or an interaction (positive/potentiate or negative/inhibit) with other medicines you’re taking, whether plant-based or pharmaceutical.

If you’re interested in going the holistic/plant-based route, seek out a licensed, trained professional. Individual diagnosis is paramount to prescribing the correct herbs in the correct dosages, all in one formula. This will save you money and give you peace of mind, knowing that the herbs you’re taking are safe.

Be careful, and be well.