We’ve passed the six-month mark of the first Covid-19 virus diagnosis in the US, January 21, 2020, and it still rages with more and more cases every day, as well as increasing deaths due to its spread. We’ve also passed the two-month mark of the death of George Floyd, May 25, 2020. Both of these occurrences have changed the landscape of our lives in this country, and I feel we must pay attention to them, learn and act. They are turning points, and we can go either way on both of them: either show our humanity and care about and for each other, all of us, or ignore the consequences of selfish actions and continue with our own individual lives as if no one else matters.

We must wear masks. We must practice physical distancing. We must wash our hands frequently and sanitize surfaces. These are not difficult guidelines, and they can save lives, maybe even our own. Yet there are those who protest, especially mask wearing. They say it violates their personal freedom. But what about the freedom of others to be safe? We do not live in a vacuum. There are millions of others sharing the same spaces, and they have rights, too. But more than that, what about compassion and good will? How have we somehow fallen off the path of decency and caring? How do we get back on it?

Then there is the rampant racism infecting our country. It has been present for generations, and I’ll bet most of us don’t even know why it began, let alone why it continues. People who are held down for so long are bound to rebel, and it’s what we’re seeing now in the streets of many cities around the country. And who can blame them? People of color want equality and fairness, and they should have them. They shouldn’t have to fight for rights they already have. They should be treated as the equal citizens they are.

It seems too much to have two battles to fight at once, but it’s what we’ve been given, and there is no avoiding them. Are we going to be participating citizens and good people or angry, mean, selfish people? I hope that most of us will be the former.

Who Will We Become?

Who will we become
as we try to find our way
through this maze?
Will we move with assurance
along the winding paths
or bump into dead end after dead end
and grow frustrated and afraid
that we won’t find our way out?
Will we become stronger
and more self-reliant
or shrink within ourselves
and hide from reality?
Will we be kind and generous
or selfish and angry?
The unknown can be frightening
or an exploration of what is within.
Who will we become
in these times of uncertainty?
Which will we choose to follow,
the rabbit down his hole
or the sun moving across the sky?

© 2020 Dorothy A Joslyn

Write about what you can do to slow the spread of Covid-19. What are you doing now? How do you feel when you are out in the world?

How can you educate yourself about racism in our country? How do you define it? What will you do to help eradicate it?

Write about how you are feeling in these uncertain and volatile times. Pour your emotions, fears and hopes on the page. How can you maintain your equilibrium and continue living your life under these trying circumstances?

I feel as if I’m an independent person: a white female, retired, and my time is my own. But how many people are restricted from doing or being who they are, especially people of color. I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about how African Americans have been treated and restrained in so many ways throughout the life of our country, even up until this present day, and it has been eye-opening to me. There are so many things I didn’t know, didn’t learn in history class, don’t know now. Independence is for the privileged.

We celebrate our independence from England in July, but that certainly didn’t include all the people who were living in that time. Slavery was an abomination, a cruelty that is unimaginable to me, and even after it ended, the horrors continued for those who were supposedly freed after the Civil War. The Civil Rights Act only freed people of color by law, not in spirit. Many people of privilege didn’t, and still don’t, buy into it.

It sounds empty even to me when I say I don’t understand the resistance. How can the hate and the fear be so strong? I’d really like the answer to that question, but I don’t even know who to ask. I’m reading the book, White Rage, by Carol Anderson, and I have to say I’m outraged by this country’s history of, and present, cruelty to African Americans. It makes me think we are not a civilized society at all.

The following poem is just the beginning of my exploration and the extreme emotion that washes over me as I pursue a study that will last for the rest of my life. I have a lot of catching up to do.

Trying to Make Sense

I am white.
I don’t know what it is like to be black,
but I have been reading and listening,
and my head is close to bursting.

I want to be able to understand,
but I don’t think I ever will.
How can a human being
reign terror on another human being

and continue on
as if nothing is amiss.
Things keep happening:
accusations, shootings, death,

and little is done about it.
We close our eyes,
and follow our own paths
without looking to either side,

or behind us or what is ahead.
We’re blind, deaf and dumb
to the atrocities
in our own country

while punishing with sanctions and invasions
the human rights violations in others.
What in hell is wrong with us?
What are we afraid of?

We belong to each other,
we are each other.
Our hearts beat the same way,
each breath keeps us all alive.

We cannot sever our connections
no matter what we do, so
“. . . never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for [all of us].”*

© 2020 Dorothy A Joslyn

*John Donne, “No Man is an Island”

Write about where you are in your understanding of this country’s treatment of people of color. Really explore your thinking and your heart, and write honestly. (Remember, you don’t have to share your writing with anyone.)

Explore your understanding of privilege and whether or not you feel privileged.

I believe we, regardless of color, are connected by the human bond. How do you feel about that? What does it mean to you?

A friend of mine found this test in her research, and I wanted to include it here. I will admit, I didn’t do well. I have a lot of work to do. Take the test if you wish and then write about the results: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html (highlight link, then right click and click on “go to [link]” or copy and paste in your browser)

Covid-19 still rages, as well as anger, grief and violence. The country is gradually “opening up” in stages, but still not fast enough for some, and others are afraid it’s too soon. Some are wearing masks, others think it’s not necessary, and some arguments have ensued. Many are not willing to allow others to choose their own paths, and still others are not interested in the common good but only what is comfortable for themselves.

On top of that, another African-American man, George Floyd, is dead by police action. Every time this happens I wonder how it could have happened again. Can’t we learn from the past at all? Is the fear that great? That’s what it is, it seems to me, fear, but why? What about blackness scares some people? Black men, in particular, seem to be targeted as “bad” and “dangerous.” They are not safe anywhere, and that must be very frightening to them.

So, what’s your point, you may be asking. What can we do about either of these circumstances? Covid-19 is rampant with no end in sight, no cure, and no remedy. We, who do not see black men as “bad” and would never do what happened to Mr. Floyd, are at a loss for knowing the solution for their continuing deaths. I guess awareness is all we have, and actions that recognize that awareness: become informed, act in safe ways in the matter of Covid-19, don’t prejudge anyone for how they appear or what they may be doing or not doing, and be kind and generous to all until they prove not worthy of those acts. Humanness is not perfection, but acting in good faith can be what we strive for.

I’m feeling a lot of grief for both those who have contracted, or may still contract, Covid-19 and George Floyd’s death. Yet, I keep getting up each day and living my life in the best way I know how and hoping things will get better. Hope, it’s another thing we can have.

This virus has brought out the worst, but also the best, in people: first responders, nurses and doctors, people helping to distribute food to those in need, others donating money and other resources to causes to help others. And whenever a black man is killed, people rally around the family. I read where almost 5 million dollars has been raised for the family of George Floyd. Of course money cannot replace the man, but it may relieve some of the burden of his death on his family.

For relief for your own trauma from all that is going on, watch the YouTube videos of Some Good News. It is a wonderfully refreshing look at the good going on right now. It will make you laugh, cry, and just feel better.


Think about something good you have read or heard about someone doing recently, and write about it.

Writing about negative feelings can help get you to a better place. I had that experience recently and came out feeling more positive about what is going on in my life. Write about your feelings about the virus or George Floyd’s death or something else weighing on your mind, and see if it takes you to a better place. Even if it doesn’t, just writing it down will help unburden your mind.

Do something positive for someone else, even something small, then write about the results and how you feel after doing it.

As we begin the third month of the coronavirus pandemic, people are getting restless. They want to leave their houses, go back to work, take off the masks. Some are protesting the government regulations put in place to slow the spread of Covid-19. They want to put reviving the economy ahead of saving lives. Some are protesting losing what they think are their personal rights. But these are desperate times, a crisis; sometimes we have to give up some things temporarily for the good of all people. We don’t live in a vacuum; we share this planet with millions of other people, and many of them are dying. Some people are willing to trade lives for open-ended freedom. I’m not one of them.

I have found it easier than I expected to stay home most of the time. I seem to find plenty to occupy my time, and I get my contact with others through Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, texts, and email. Of course it’s not the same as in-person, face to face contact, but it’s an acceptable substitute for me. I’m kind of a solitary person by nature anyway, so this, I hope brief, respite will be savored and treasured. I’ve written this poem expressing how I feel about being home alone:

It is quiet here in my room,
introspection settling in.
The silence soothes my soul;
stillness wraps me in its soft embrace.
I am almost drowsy from inaction,
sifting through my mind
sorting through thoughts and emotions
but not latching onto them,
just letting them pass
with interest but not attachment.
I feel present in this moment alone
with no hope – or dread – for the future.
The unknown stretches beyond
what I see now,
and I have no anticipation,
just watching what is
and being comfortable
sitting in this cloud of not knowing,
closing my eyes and dreaming
nothing at all.

© 2020 Dorothy A Joslyn


Write about how you are faring in this time of isolation and solitude. How are you feeling? What are your thoughts as you go through these days?

What do you think about what you’re hearing in the news about protests—on both sides of the issue of staying at home? Do you think it’s time for it to be over, or are you still concerned about the spread of the virus and are willing continue staying at home?

How do our beliefs about our connections to all people of the world color our perceptions of what is the “right thing to do”? What is that “right thing(s)”?

What can I say that no one else has said? All the newscasts are filled with Covid-19 reports, and they sound more dire as the days progress. I’m staying in my home except for grocery shopping, as are most of the people I know. We communicate by phone, email and text, as well as Zoom.

Zoom seems to have become the premier method of group gatherings. Some friends and I spent time together on it recently, and had a nice time catching up, talking and laughing. There’s something about seeing people’s faces even at a distance that makes the contact more intimate and meaningful, at least for me.

Yet with all the turmoil and overwhelm, life continues. But I’m wondering what will come after this crisis is over. Will we have been changed? Will we have awakened to the bare truths that have become clear during this time? Will we proceed in a different direction to repair and save the only home we have? I would like to think so, but I wonder. Sadly, I think we may sink back into what, over the years, has become “normal.” We may be relieved that the worst is over and adopt our old patterns to feel safe again. It will take a huge effort to not do that, to choose health for ourselves and our planet going forward.

I wrote two poems that began the same way, but ended differently. I posted the one with a positive ending on Facebook and read it on Open Mic of the Air, because I thought it is what people would want to hear at that moment, and it was relevant, too. But I will include the first version here, because it, as well, needs to be heard.


The magnolias in my front yard are blooming,
There is a blue jay sitting on my fence, peeping,
and spring rain is greening up my lawn.

Daffodils are showing their faces
en masse
in the medians of our city streets.

Regardless of our human condition,
the natural world is continuing
its normal flow.

From winter into spring
it marches without pause,
not looking back

to see if we’re coming along with it.
In fact, it’s thriving
because of our absence,

the lack of smoke in the air,
vehicle exhaust fogging the roads,
manufacturing waste pouring into rivers.

We are beginning to see
the other virus affecting our planet
has been our relentless abuse.

© 2020 Dorothy A Joslyn

What do you think may come next?

Write your own poem about the Covid-19 virus with an ending that reflects your feelings right now.

What is your next step? How do you expect to change, or not, when the crisis is over?

March is a month of some significant special days. Daylight savings time begins on March 8, St. Patrick’s Day is the 17th, and Spring makes its appearance (we hope) on March 20th. I was looking at a fun website of other special days in March and one jumped out that made me smile: Everything You Do is Right Day on the 16th. It’s even a Monday this year, which may make the day even more challenging than usual, but I think it’s possible to do it! Yes, I think you probably have to make it happen, so why not try? I wrote a list poem that you may want to use as a guide.

Get up this morning with a smile on your face.
Get to work on time….if you’re still working, or
if you’re retired, you are already starting on the right foot.
Be sure to eat breakfast; it will begin your day in a better place.
Take your time drinking your coffee or tea, or
whatever your morning beverage is.
No matter the weather, approach the day with optimism.
Whatever you do today, do it with energy and enjoyment.
Offer a smile and friendly greeting to everyone you meet.
Take time for lunch; get away from your desk or home work
and find a quiet, comfortable place to eat, or
meet a friend and brave the noise of a busy café together.
Return to your afternoon activities refreshed and ready to go.
Be sure to leave work on time,
and be careful on the drive home, or
stay put for the time that is rush hour,
and be glad you don’t have to be in it.
Spend the evening with family or friends, or
quiet time alone with a good book or hobby.
Go to bed relaxed and ready to get a good night’s sleep.
Who knows what tomorrow will bring, so
Do Everything Right Today!

Write about what your “right” day would be like.

At the end of this day, think back and write about how it went. Try to emphasize what was positive about it.

List what you are grateful for today in your gratitude journal.

In this month that holds Valentine’s Day, I’ve been thinking about what it’s all about, really. It is a big commercial day: flowers; candy, especially chocolate; dinners out at nice restaurants; gifts; and a day when some people propose marriage to the ones they love. Shopping aisles are full of red and pink everything trying to draw us into the “spirit of the day.” I believe in love, but maybe on a softer, quieter level.

The love I’d like to talk about this month is self-love. Experts say that if you can’t love yourself, you can’t really love someone else. What are the signs of self-love?

eating properly
getting enough sleep
being at least a little social
moving your body/exercise
being kind to yourself
forgiving yourself when you make mistakes
appreciating yourself when you accomplish something you’ve been working toward
rewarding yourself in some way for that accomplishment
talking to yourself as you do to a good friend
having some fun
and on and on with all the positive thoughts you can muster for yourself

Here is a poem I found by e.h. (Erin Hanson) that gave me food for thought. I hope it will for you, too.


You are not your age,
Nor the size of clothes you wear.
You are not a weight,
Or the colour of your hair.
You are not your name,
Or the dimples in your cheeks.
You are all the books you read,
And all the words you speak.
You are your croaky morning voice,
And the smiles you try to hide.
You’re the sweetness in your laughter,
And every tear you’ve cried.
You’re the songs you sing so loudly,
When you know you’re all alone.
You’re the places that you’ve been to,
And the one that you call home.
You’re the things that you believe in,
And the people that you love.
You’re the photos in your bedroom,
And the future you dream of.
You’re made of so much beauty,
But it seems that you forgot,
When you decided that you were defined
By all the things you’re not.


What are some things you know you are that you don’t show to the world? Make a list, then write about one of them: what makes it you, why don’t you show it, how do you feel about hiding it?

How have you defined yourself in ways you are really not.

Write a poem contrasting an aspect that is the real you with one you show the world.

Introspection is my word for 2020. I’m at a crossroads in my life, and I need to look inward to find out what comes next. There was a time when age 70 sounded old to me. Now that I’m there, I’ve pushed old up to at least 80! My body often tells me I’m older than my mind feels, but I’m still looking for adventure. I can’t just sit around waiting for my time to trickle down to nothing. Hence the word Introspection. I think I must find and/or create the next phase of my life through looking within. Here is a poem from my book Just Show Up that expresses my desire to still find meaning in my life moving into the last phase of it.

Sleep Walking

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning
for life. . . . I think that what we’re seeking is an
experience of being alive. . . .”
Joseph Campbell

Do you know what I miss in my life?
Having no idea of what comes next–
the vision of “what if”
driving me forward
toward a gaping chasm,
unhooking my tether from fear,
kicking up the dust in my soul,
pushing me into the flames.

Do you know what else I miss in my life?
The unreserved offering of myself
to a calling that consumes me,
infusing substance into intention,
bearing me higher until I touch
the feathers of angels.

Do you know what I’m missing most in my life?
Sprinting to the peak,
dancing there in the rain
until a bolt of lightning
strikes me down,
then bursting upward
as fire in the night sky.

Write about what your life is missing and how you can create that missing piece moving forward.

Look inside yourself and find something that excites you, then write how you can incorporate it into your life.

Choose a word for your year and write about how you will use it in 2020.

Happy New Year!

Most of us are thinking about gift-giving around this time of year, and it is often a stressful time. That defeats the purpose of gift-giving, which could be joyful and fun. Maybe we can begin with a gift to ourselves, one of calm and peacefulness during this season of many different celebrations. How can we “buy” that gift for ourselves?

We can be aware of the stress first and acknowledge it. Then look for the reasons for the stress: maybe it’s a lack of money to buy all the gifts on your list, or not knowing what Mom really would like, or not enough time to do all the shopping. Whatever it is, look inward for the answers to the dilemmas, because they are there. You know what to do. Go to stillness and breathe deeply of peacefulness. Then choose the answers that make sense to you. Can you give time instead of something you buy? Can you help with a project or something the person needs done? Can you make something? These are things that come to my mind; your answers may be something else. I wish you a wonderful holiday season, whatever and however you celebrate.

Here is a poem that may show you a way to banish stress:

It is for me,
this gift of being here,
and for all of us,
if we embrace it.

Notice what is before you
in this moment,
time we can use
any way we wish.

We can celebrate life,
give of ourselves to something
that pulls us in,
or just be still.

Put aside the stresses
of living and worry.
it can be done,
if you treasure this gift.

So much doesn’t matter
that we carry with us,
the light
of what is always there.

If we turn our eyes
that are closed
we will see
from a different view.

Be calm in your hearts
by breathing
of the silence
that is in you,

and fall into peace.

© 2019 Dorothy A Joslyn

Write about some ideas you may have to celebrate the season in calmness and peace.

Write a good memory of a holiday in the past that made you happy.

What do you do every year at this time that creates a tradition for you and/or your family that makes happy memories?

If you don’t or don’t feel like celebrating, write about how you can create peacefulness in your life anyway in the midst of holiday hype.

Not long ago, I began a gratitude journal. It is in addition to my regular daily journal. It doesn’t take long every evening to list what I am grateful for that day. Sometimes I make short comments beside particular entries, but mostly the entries are just lists. It’s a really nice way to end the day, remembering the positive things. Since it’s close to the last thing I do every day, I can smile myself to sleep. Sometimes I’m just too tired to write in my daily journal, but, so far, I haven’t missed a day of writing in my gratitude journal. There has always been something to be grateful for.

November is the month of Thanksgiving and a time to reflect on what we’re thankful for, so it’s a good month to begin a gratitude journal. It doesn’t have to be fancy; mine is just a composition book with a few stickers throughout with gratitude quotes on them and “Gratitude Journal” printed on the front. That’s it. Easy and really satisfying. I date each entry, so if I go back through the journal it gives me a sense of the time frame in which the gratitudes occurred.

The following is a poem by Mary Oliver from her book, Thirst that expresses how gratitude can cause your soul to soar.

The Messenger

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird –
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

Which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

© 2006 Mary Oliver; Beacon Press, Boston, MA.

Writing Prompt:

Begin a Gratitude Journal. Start anytime, anywhere in whatever you have to write in. Write in it every day, or whenever you have something to be grateful for. I promise, it will raise your spirits and make you smile. Be sure to date your entries, so you can go back and say, “Oh, yeah, I remember that day. It was a good one.”