Life

/Life

When I’m Feeling Sad

Do you feel sad too? I generally feel a bit let down this time of year. You know, the excitement of Xmas is done, the pressure of the New Year has begun. And the days are short, dark, and dull. Then, add to this year? An Invisible Criminal lurking on bedknobs and broomsticks, while also creepily MUTATING!

If the days under another lockdown (here in Ontario anyway) have you feeling like you’re Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, you could check out that new movie on Prime, Palm Springs. A similar concept, with a wallop of raunch, it’s a fun time mindbender that will help you confirm that, yes, days are actually passing, we are all growing older and this is a good thing. And we’ve so much to look forward to: a swift jab in the arm, the end of this lockdown, the start of another one perhaps, spring, summer . . .

I call it an “Invisible Criminal” because I was chatting with my daughter out west recently and she said one of their friends is so over it, if anyone mentions the name of the pandemic we’re in, he’s out of there. Perhaps you feel the same way?

Well, it is invisible, making it hard to believe in, kind of like God I suppose. While some may unfortunately have first- or secondhand experience with it, the rest of us need to take a leap of faith? Or just believe in science, a weirdly challenging concept these days, it seems.

And it is also criminal, in how it’s stealing our collective sanity.

I’m feeling so sad, that like the song goes, I’ve decided to “simply remember my favourite things” so I possibly won’t feel so bad.

But first: a huge THANK YOU to all the frontline workers who’ve been dealing with this monster for months now, while also being weighed down with enough PPE to sink a politician if thrown overboard with one. (But, please, wrap that PPE all around her/him on the way down and save yourself!) If anyone should be allowed to gripe about it? It’s you.

Alas, I have gripes too, “dog bites”and “bee stings” that must be gotten out of the way to get to “my favourite things”:

*People have suffered, a lot, physically and financially (mentally too). People have died.

*So many things are CLOSED: community & fitness centres, arenas, spas, hairdressers, restaurants, retail stores, etc. (And will they survive?)

*So many Canadian politicians thought this was just the most hunky dory time (despite provincial lockdowns recommending only “essential” travel) to take exotic vacations, to places like St. Barts, Hawaii and Mexico. “Obviously, I made a significant error in judgment,” said Ontario Finance Minister Rod Phillips as he resigned upon his return from the Caribbean. Well, Mr. Phillips? You are correctamundo, resignation accepted.

*Many other Canadians are travelling too: south, west, abroad. Will we be able to get things under control if this continues?

*A pandemic divides – spiritually, mentally, physically.

*A pandemic is SSLLLOOOOWWWWW. Will . . . it . . . ever . . . be . . . over?

*Why aren’t numbers reported in a way that would be more helpful, like hospitalization and infection rates? I can usually find these numbers, but it takes a lot of digging.

*I miss hugging people.

*I don’t really “get” or care for the anti-mask movement.

“My favourite things” about our Invisible Criminal:

*There’s so much time to: workout regularly (solo or on Zoom!), read, learn a new skill like water colour painting, hang out at the cottage, take long walks, clean cupboards and closets, and stream shows with great scenery so I can pretend I’m travelling.

*If you want to? You can wear grubs, pj’s even, and no make-up, for days on end.

*I happen to live with an extraordinary chef, so I’ve been eating well. (If it were up to me? I’d be pretty tired of PB & J sandwiches by now.)

*I marvel at the resilience of humans! (Most of us) wearing masks like we’ve been doing it forever. And what about the musicians out there? They’ve been livestreaming, performing at drive-ins, and also on driveways (we met some of our neighbours this way). In our family? Faced with not being able to celebrate Xmas together? We plunked a portable fireplace in my daughter’s backyard, my nephew started a roaring fire (although he’s a man now, nineteen, he did show up the older men in attendance) and we sat around with hot chocolate, chatting away while the grandkids ran around in the snow. It occurred to me that, here I am 62 and I have NEVER sat out by a fire in winter. Why not? What a great new tradition!

Regardless of the “dog bites” and “bee stings” of our Invisible Criminal, I’m sure you’ve found your own creative ways to enjoy your family and friends. Now we just have to keep it up for another few days, weeks, months . . .

When I’m Feeling Sad 2021-01-04T19:21:33-05:00

We’ve Got Eachother

I don’t know where we’re going
But if the going gets rough
We’ve got Eachother
And for now, that’s enough

Do we ever truly know where we’re going? We plot and plan, but … sh*t happens, huh? Unprecedented sh*t. That word – unprecedented – came up so much in the last year, it lost its shine, its wow factor. In 2020? Unprecedented sh*t has been happening all the time!

The above lyrics are the chorus of an evocative song written by Grace Potter in the early days of the pandemic. “We may not all be affected in the same ways,” says Potter, “but we are all going through this pandemic as a human race. It is incredibly humbling. It’s invited me to really take account of the things that matter most, which aren’t things at all … they’re people.”

Good gratitudinal words to usher in this unprecedented Holiday Season, yes? It’s not the stuff, the things, it’s never been the things. It’s the people! It’s always been the people that mattered most. And our people circles keep getting smaller. There are people, loved ones, that we long to see, but it’s either been mandated (or will be) that we not see them, or they live too far away, the travel is too challenging. So we visit on Zoom – at least we have the technology! – and imagine our eyes locking again, the feel of our hug, hearts touching hearts, beating together as one. Ah.

And while we are all affected in different ways by this pandemic, as Potter notes, did you not have a moment early on in the year, a realization, of both the fragility and the sheer awesomeness of being one of billions of people on the planet coming to terms with this common threat? A deep understanding of spiritual connectedness at a time when physical connectedness suddenly posed such grave danger?

We do have Eachother, from six feet apart with masks on and often plexi-glass between us and the cleanest, rawest hands that cannot shake. Humbling indeed.

Tis a good time, perhaps, to go for a walk in the deep dark woods and think about how trees, stationary and seemingly mute, stay connected. I listened to a fabulous podcast the other day, from The Daily, about “The Social Life of Forests”. Canadian researcher Suzanne Simard, has spent almost three decades studying old growth forests, and, as Ferris Jabr writes, “By analyzing the DNA in root tips and tracing the movement of molecules through underground conduits, Simard has discovered that fungal threads link nearly every tree in a forest – even trees of different species.”

Her findings blast holes in Charles Darwin’s emphasis on the individual, the notion that survival of a species is inherently competitive. Simard’s doctoral thesis proves how Douglas fir help out paper birch in the forests of British Columbia. Just knowing that makes me want to be way more community-minded and way less focused on me.

Also? Have you ever spun it, considered what trees think of you and your presence in their deep dark woods? Simard points out how trees sense plants and animals that are nearby and alter their behaviour accordingly, so why not when humans are tromping around under them? Writes Jabr, “The gnashing of mandibles of an insect might prompt the production of chemical defenses, for example. Some studies have even suggested that plant roots grow toward the sound of running water and that certain flowering plants sweeten their nectar when they detect a bee’s wing beats.”

Wow. Mind blown. We are connected, not only to Eachother, but to every living thing on the planet. Much gratitude, much respect. An aha moment and, for me anyway, an easing, a lifting of the weight of individuality and a relaxing into all that is.

Western culture raises us up to be competitive, individualistic. It’s a dog-eat-dog world, right? It’s also friggin exhausting. Instead of trying to explain my place in the world, my purpose, I’ve decided “I’m just a girl raised by trees”. It’s so very freeing! In the last blog Rights and Responsibility, I mentioned the book Braiding Sweetgrass, how the author, Robin Wall Kimmerer, shares an indigenous view of people and their place among the various species of the world. It’s a kinder, gentler worldview, with generous doses of gratitude and reciprocity.

Kimmerer talks about meeting a man who described himself thus: “I’m just a boy raised by a river”. Did he grow up beside a river? Did the river raise him? I suspect a dollop of both.

Me? I grew up in the Forest City, with trees all around and a huge appreciation of forest walks. When I’ve been down, trees have lifted my spirits. And they’ve certainly taught me a thing or two.

Grace. Joy. Cooperation. Freedom of expression. Beauty. Adaptation to change.

Happy Christmas everyone! We’ve got Eachother, if not physically, then spiritually. On Zoom. Covered up inside (unless we’re in our little bubble). And out, now that the weather is cooler. Stay connected socially. And if you’re feeling lonely? Why not take a walk in the deep dark woods? Contemplate what the forest thinks of you as you absorb the loving energy from its wood wide web.

Website photo: Snowpeople in my neighbourhood. They do have Eachother, although one is missing his head.

 

We’ve Got Eachother 2020-12-10T16:20:35-05:00

Rights and Responsibility

“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy

This familiar quote from JFK, the 35th US president, is worth contemplating in these tumultuous times (and might also be great advice for the 45th US president*, but then again, he is a self-professed “stable genius”, knowing more about “Wall Street, taxes, trade, steelworkers, politicians, renewables, drones” etc, etc than anyone, so, if there was ever a guy who didn’t need to ask a single solitary question . . .)

You watch enough people march in the streets, locally and globally, for the freedom to NOT wear a mask, hoisting signs like “MY FREEDOM DOESN’T END WHERE YOUR FEAR BEGINS”, and you could get to thinking about human rights. I feel a mask protects you from me (although I did read recently there’s proof you get protection from it too) so I figure I’m kind of doing you a favour, protecting you in case I have coronavirus and don’t know. You refuse to wear a mask yet want to be in public places where masks are mandated? So . . . you don’t care about my health? Oh yeah, slap-myself-in-the-face emoji. As the sign says: it’s my “FEAR” you don’t care about!

I guess this is where/how human rights get tricky. I feel I have the right to protect my health and you feel you have the right to “FREEDOM”. But, surely freedom comes with some responsibility?

That GINORMOUS word, with it’s SIX friggin’ syllables! Oh man, it used to weight me down. Back in the day, when I had three young children and a full time job? Responsibilities made my TO DO list as vast as space. Until! I took a course in which the instructor flipped the word on me.

“Stop thinking of them as responsibilities,” he said, “and start thinking of them as your ‘ability to respond’.”

Wow! An Oprah “ah ha moment”, right there. How empowering is that? We all do have varying abilities – and gifts and strengths and so on – that enable us to respond appropriately to demands of home, work, community, country.

So, living in countries like Canada or the US, one does have the right to freedom, but there are several responsibilities that accompany that freedom, like for instance, obeying the law, paying taxes, and being community-minded. In Canada, “protecting and enjoying our heritage and environment” is another – a good one to be reminded of in this time of climate crisis. In the US, supporting and defending the constitution is also on the list, which confirms that the “guy-who-didn’t-need-to-ask-a-single-solitary-question” is sorely lacking in the ability to respond.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights as set out in Article 1 by the UN in 1948 states: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

Oh that second sentence: “reason and conscience”, “spirit of brotherhood”. Maybe we’ve lost something over the last 70something years? Or the UN made a GINORMOUS assumption?

In an article for vision.org a quote by Mary Ann Glendon, from 1991, points out a possible quandary: “Converging with the language of psychotherapy, rights talk encourages our all-too-human tendency to place the self at the center of our moral universe.”

Ah. And there’s this biggie: humans are heterotrophs. This is a new word for me, I’ve been dying to use it! What exactly is a heterotroph you ask, if you’re inclined, unlike some, to ask questions? Oxford dictionary: “an organism deriving its nutritional requirements from complex organic substances”. Meaning? Humans – and other heterotrophs – cannot live on sunshine and water alone. It’s a dog-eat-dog world. Eat or be eaten.

We’re consumers, for cripesakes, working hard at consuming every living thing Mother Earth has to offer!

I learned the word “heterotroph” from Robin Wall Kimmerer, the author of Braiding Sweetgrass, a book I highly recommend. She talks a lot about another word, “reciprocity”, which is the practice of exchanging things for mutual benefit. Kimmerer, with her indigenous background, observes nature from an all-inclusive perspective. Trees, along with many plants and animals, were here for a long time before humans came along, so they actually know more than us. What can they teach us? How do we show them respect? How do we give back?

Okay, so I’ve strayed a tad from the topic at hand, which was mask wearing during a pandemic. But what I’m trying to get at is that rights and responsibility are two sides of the same coin. We should not have one without the other. Being born human should give us many rights that seem self-evident, but what if we flipped it, thought seriously about what we can give back – to others, to Mother Earth and all the bounty she generously provides – for the sheer privilege of spending time on a beautiful blue planet?

If a majority of humans don’t start, soon, giving back, showing gratitude? I fear Mother Earth will say, “So glad to be rid of those ungrateful humans. They may have been born free, but wow! Expensive experiment.”

 

Rights and Responsibility 2020-11-17T16:32:41-05:00

It Just Hurts

“Politics, these days, is no occupation for an educated man, a man of character. Ignorance and total lousiness are better (…) A demagogue must be neither an educated nor an honest man; he has to be an ignoramus and a rogue.” from the ancient Greek comedy The Knights, by Aristophanes

Aristophanes was born in 450 bce, so this begs the question, will we ever learn?

Ok, agreed. The current President* (45) did get a degree in economics, but according to author Michael Wolff (Siege, Fire And Fury) his college transcripts “are apparently terrible” and “this was a guy that was obviously not interested in school and possibly never read a book in his life.” Twitter, with its 280-character limit, has proven time and again and late into the cold dark night to be the perfect platform for such a man. Perhaps aides should tweet 45’s briefings to him; he’d be more likely to read them.

Would you describe 45 as “a man of character”?!?! Puh-lease! The shallowest of dives quickly debunks that conspiracy theory.

A demagogue? Defined thus: “a political leader who seeks support by appealing to the desires and prejudices of ordinary people rather than by using rational arguments.”

Rational arguments anyone? How about these irrational samples from a recent Trump rally:

*“You know, our doctors get more money if somebody dies from COVID. You know that, right? I mean, our doctors are very smart people – so what they do is they say, ‘I’m sorry, but, you know, everybody dies of COVID.’”

Fact Check, from Politifact: “Doctors and coroners fill out death certificates according to established rules and face legal penalties for falsification. Hospitals must prove to Washington that patients tested positive for the virus, and their doctors gain nothing from a COVID-19 diagnosis. There is no evidence that official death counts over report the reach of the disease.”

*“If these corrupt forces succeed in electing Joe Biden, Washington will see to it that another outsider never becomes president again. It’ll never happen again, and nobody has done in three and a half years, nobody, no administration, no president, what we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished, and it’s not even challenged.”

What “corrupt forces”? How will Washington see to it “another outsider never becomes president”? What, specifically, have you “done” and “accomplished”?

*“I don’t take my orders from the media, or as I affectionately call them the fake news media.” Then, on and on, “fake”, “more fake”, “corrupt”, “fake” is “not strong enough”, and so on and so forth.

Lesley Stahl of CBS, who 45 recently walked out of an interview on, says he once admitted that he bashes the press to “demean” and “discredit” reporters so that the public will not believe “negative stories” about him. Also note that, control – and discrediting – the media is one of at least 14 handy tools in the fascist’s toolbox, along with rampant sexism (anti-abortion, homophobic), protection of corporate power, and disdain of human rights, intellectuals and the arts.

*“All Democrat governors, you, Michigan, North Carolina, they’re all Democrat governors and they’re probably doing it because they want to affect the election. They’re probably doing it, by November 4th they’ll announce, ‘We’ve decided to open up Pennsylvania.’”

Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania aren’t locked up. And with coronavirus still a major threat in the US and throughout the world? I think it’s pretty safe to expect that “COVID COVID COVID” discussions and restrictions will continue past November 4th.

*“There’ll be no weddings, no Thanksgivings, no Christmas, no Easters, no Fourth of Julys. There’ll be nothing.”

Did Biden and the Democratic party run on a platform of cancelling EVERY SOCIAL GATHERING AMERICANS HAVE EVER ENJOYED FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIFE?

Hmmm. So, yeah, 45 is just a poor little demagogue with fascist tendencies. Someone to be pitied because those mean old Democrats and the fake news lamestream media keep picking on him! Whah! And after showing the American public, over and over again, his true colours – various shades of black – for the last three and half years? He’s secured approximately 50% of the vote. So there you have it folks, and you can pass it down to half your kiddies: bullying, lying, cheating, and stealing pay off!

Says Van Jones, CNN host, author and lawyer: “The political victory still may come. But I think for people who saw babies being snatched away from their mothers at the border, people sending their kids into schools where the n-word is now being used against them, for people seeing this wave of intolerance, they wanted a moral victory tonight. We wanted to see a repudiation of this direction for the country. And the fact that it’s this close I think is – it hurts. It just hurts.”

It Just Hurts 2020-11-04T17:06:00-05:00

The Coronavirus Blahs

Covid fatigue anyone? Or, as my six-year-old granddaughter said months ago, when being reminded to social distance, “I know, I know. Coronavirus, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

We’ve all got ‘em: the coronavirus blahs. The good news? A cost-saving thang? I don’t need Botox! My upper lip is permanently swollen (and chapped) from mask-wearing. And I don’t even wear one that much; I feel immensely sorry for those who must.

I have a friend who just finished a year of expensive invisalign tooth straightening. And now, thanks to the mask? Well, pretty much the only one who sees her perfectly aligned teeth is her husband.

Lipstick expenditures are way down though, huh ladies? Or do you continue to forget? Put it on to go out? Take it off again to put the mask on once you get there?

More good news? That mask is gonna keep your face nice and toasty in the winter, right?

Hmmm. The cooler weather is taking us inside, where we don’t feel safe, so to stay connected seems we’re back Zooming again. But, let’s just stay connected to each other and not drift off, fantasizing, and connect to . . . ahem, personal body parts like Jeffrey Toobin! My husband B calls it, “Zoomin’ with Toobin”. Oh geez. If you’re unfamiliar with the matter, you could Google it while that option is still available (Google was sued by the US government recently for their monopoly powers).

But, truly guys, it’s one thing when a person falls from grace and you’re ambivalent about that person, or you can’t stand them, right? I like(d) Toobin! He is (was?) highly intelligent and accomplished: a US lawyer, writer for the New Yorker, analyst for CNN, author of books for cripes’ sake! Alas, not intelligent enough to keep it in his pants while on a Zoom work call. As Heather Mallick writes in thestar.com, “On Twitter, good men are issuing pleas. ‘It is the easiest thing in the world to keep your junk in your pants. Don’t be a #MeToobin.’”

And just like that, as Confucius might say, man who allow little head to think for big head become big dickhead.

Bringing it back to masks, what do you think of anti-maskers? Perhaps you agree with them? Personally, I’ve been surprised by the huge protests over masks, in cities throughout the world. Locally, there’s been several incidents on transit services where people have become enraged about having to wear one. I say, if you don’t want to wear one, don’t go where they’re mandated. I mean, sure, they are annoying and suffocating, but we humans are so resilient, eh? You can adjust pretty quickly if you let yourself.

Maybe I’m too much of a follower – a “sheep” the anti-maskers would call me – but, I figure in a health crisis like this we should appeal to the most vulnerable, the most freaked out by it. And, it seems masks, along with social distancing, do work. Watching CBC news the other night, it was estimated mask-wearing in Canada is in the 80% range, while in the US, due to a lack of good federal leadership, it’s in the 60% range. A quick look at the stats shows that the infection and death rates in the US continue to be alarmingly high, while ours, although trending up now in some areas due to the change of seasons and increased activity, remain low.

Masked up and chatting with Jazzercise friends after class about anti-maskers, while also lamenting new restrictions that mean we’re reduced to 10 people/class, we agreed that, mentally, some people are just plain fed up. We are all fed up with this pandemic, but unfortunately it’s not fed up with us yet. Quick research (Google, still there? Ah, yes.) into the Spanish flu shows it lasted from February 1918 to April 1920. More than two years! But we’re more advanced right? Medically, technologically? Vaccines are being rushed through. But it’s looking like next spring, summer and will a vast majority of the population take them?

To show how far we’ve come in 100 years, here’s a recent Macleans’ magazine headline: “Sick president. Global pandemic. Racial injustice. Welcome to the U.S. election . . . of 1920.” Wow.

Don’t despair; I have more good news. Got a car? You can still go for a drive. And if you’re with your bubble or alone? You don’t need to mask up! Another Jazzercise friend did just that, embarking on an interesting adventure.

“Since I can’t travel to Europe,” she said, “I’ve been taking day trips to SWO (Southwestern Ontario) towns with European names.” On Facebook she posted her beautiful pics, resplendent in fall colours, from towns like Paris, Scotland and Copenhagen.

“While I was out exploring I sought out trails and conservation areas,” she added. “And also made sure to buy local – from an orchard, a cheese farm, markets, a couple of bakeries, a craft brewery, roadside stands, etc.”

So, depending on your point of view? You can rail against restrictions . . . or delight in the smell of the roses in your own backyard (where you don’t have to wear a mask! Lol.)

Hang in there! Be creative. We (kind of) know how to deal with this illness. Masks and social distancing and lots and lots of hand washing/sanitizer (oh, the red, raw hands!) do work. We’re probably in for a long, cold, dark winter (insert frozen blue gritted-teeth emoji here) but we can do this! Right?!

And as the days shorten and cool, perhaps it’s important to recall this quote from Alfred Wainwright: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”

 

 

The Coronavirus Blahs 2020-10-23T10:04:55-04:00

A Nut Like You (and Me)

Don’t worry if your job is small,
And your rewards are few.
Remember that the mighty oak,
Was once a nut like you.
Anonymous

The thing about writing a blog during these tumultuous times –about these tumultuous times – is that by the time it’s done and, as the saying goes, in the can? It is done and should be chucked across the room and into the waste can! Three points!

What I finished last night and planned to post this morning fails to mention that 45 was diagnosed with coronavirus.

Unless you’re currently living atop Mt. Everest, you know by now the US president* has IT, so let’s connect the dots: he’s the 45thpresident, hence the moniker 45. Perhaps, like me, you’re really tired of hearing his name? Barack Obama, explaining why he and Michelle stopped naming him way back, prior to his election even, was quoted this way in an article for The Atlantic: “He seems to do a good job mentioning his own name. So, I figure, you know, I will let him do his advertising for him(self).”

The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah, delights in calling him 45. Noah is from South Africa where 4-5 is slang for penis. If the shoe fits . . . but journalist Graydon Carter did describe “he-who-shall-not-be-named” (what my sister-in-law calls him) years ago as a “short-fingered vulgarian”. Lol.

Anyhoo, this blog is about nuts and if you happened to watch the “sh*tshow” (CNN’s Dana Bash called it!) of a recent not-so-presidential debate AND are now coming to terms with pandemic-denying-lying-non-mask-wearing 45’s diagnosis, then you can feel pretty darn good about not being nuts like him.

The nuts I want to talk about? The ones inside our brain. For instance, there’s the amygdala, so named due to their almond shape. They’re actually amygdalae, as there’s two of them, sitting at the base of the brain, one on each hemisphere.

If you caught any of the sh*tshow, what you could say happened to 45 (and seems ongoing) was an “amygdala hijack”, described by verywellmind.com as “the fight-or-flight response that takes place when you are faced with a perceived threat”. Fear, anxiety, aggression and anger kick it off, releasing hormones that prepare the body to fight or run.

We’ve talked about this in the blog before, how if, like way back in the good ol’ days, a sabre-tooth tiger is stalking you, this system is superb for the preservation of life. In modern times though? Did 45 have someone to physically fight or run from? (Trevor Noah did suggest in his assessment of the sh*tshow perhaps they should have just duked it out.)

Regardless, minus a physical threat, 45 sweated buckets (maybe a sign of illness?), interrupted at least 128 times in 90 minutes (according to slate.com), raised his voice and generally looked and acted like someone under threat by a sabre-tooth tiger. Despite what you may think of him, I’m sure we’d all agree that Joe Biden is more loyal old blonde Lab than ferocious tiger, huh?

To use Biden’s phrasing, “here’s the deal”:  while the almonds are great for saving us from threat, it’s unhealthy – for mind and body – to keep them constantly activated. You may recall times in your life when you’ve succumbed to an amygdala hijack and overreacted to a situation, then regretted it later. Don’t beat yourself up: the almonds are powerful, disabling the newer, more rational areas of the brain – the frontal lobes – that can talk you down. Two ways, according to healthline.com, you can raise your emotions from these base, powerful, negative ones?

  • Reasoning. Engage the frontal lobes to think the situation through, review options, and choose a rational response.
  • Meditation. Relax body and mind through meditation or deep breathing, altering the brain’s focus. (You may have noticed Biden doing this throughout the sh*tshow, lowering his head, closing his eyes, breathing.)

Also within our brain? There’s the pineal gland, so-named because it resembles a tiny pine cone (which, as you may or may not have considered, houses nuts). It sits toward the back of the brain, and if you’re familiar with Fibonacci’s constant – a mathematical sequence that repeats over and over in nature – you’ll be excited to learn that if you follow the golden ratio along the circumference of the brain, the spiral ends at the exact point of the pineal gland. Wow!

Seventeenth-century philosopher and scientist Rene Descarte called the pineal gland “the principal seat of the soul”. I’ve been reading Becoming Supernatural by Dr. Joe Dispenza, in which he denotes an entire chapter to this little nugget. It gets pretty complicated, but here it is in a nutshell, pun intended. Ha ha.

If you meditate well enough, pulling energy up from your lower chakras, or lower spine, and into the brain, specifically the pineal gland, which acts like an antenna? You can improve your health while also tapping into the unified field (quantum physics) to experience life beyond the senses, beyond the material. While that may sound crazy, Dr. Dispenza has studied this at length; he has the brain scans, case studies and personal experience to back it up.

As humans, I feel it is our responsibility on Earth to continuously grow, learn, expand. Current global events are so scary and unstable they threaten to pull us down, pull us apart. Don’t succumb! Resist. Keep rising up. Overpower the almonds by engaging your frontal lobes. Try to activate that wee pine cone planted deep within your brain. Trust in the divine unknown. Now more than ever, the world requires us to be mighty, like the oak.

A Nut Like You (and Me) 2020-10-02T11:55:13-04:00

Seeing The Self

“In understanding oneself, we understand others; in feeling compassion for oneself, we feel compassion for others.”
Andy Puddicombe, Headspace

It seems simple enough. I mean, you spend 24/7 with yourself. Therefore, you should be an expert on you, right?

Well, yes . . . and no. According to psychological studies, it turns out we’re super good at gauging our emotional stability. But with observable traits, like appearance, or things like introverted/extroverted-ness? Others can clearly see those with their own eyes. And with evaluative traits, like intelligence, creativity? According to Adam Grant writing in The Atlantic article “People Don’t Actually Know Themselves Very Well”, “you just can’t be trusted”.

Why? Because most of us want desired qualities, like intelligence and creativity. And most of us want to be seen as unbiased too. But, because we’re so damn close to the action? Our perspective is distorted.

Writes Steve Ayan for scientificamerican.com in “10 Things You Don’t Know About Yourself”, “(Princeton University psychologist Emily) Pronin argues that we are primed to mask our own biases. As a result, our self-image has little to do with our actions. For example, we may be absolutely convinced that we are empathetic and generous, but still walk past a homeless person on a cold day.”

While I agree it’s challenging to see our own biases, I’m not sure this is the best example. Perhaps you’re running late and truly have no change/cash? Or you gave to this person earlier in the day? Or, like what happened to one of my friends, you bought him a sweet (and expensive) pair of gloves for his red, raw hands a week ago and he threw them back at you, said, “I don’t want these!” Perhaps the gloves would’ve made him a less sympathetic character on the cold city street? Or he just wanted cashola for drugs?

And so, for generosity, I say pick meaningful causes to you and contribute what you can. For many, philanthropy is something that comes at a later stage in life, when finances are fairly stable and one understands the responsibility of giving back, the potential lifting of the heart it can provide. I have a friend in fundraising who shared a story about a wealthy donor who she worked with over the years, eventually tailoring his giving to his personality and lifestyle, and how much he blossomed through this process.

Quite likely, she saw things in him he could not see in himself. Getting back to Grant in The Atlantic piece, he points out, “Chances are, your coworkers are better at rating some parts of your personality than you are.”

Grant goes on to say that “sixteen rigorous studies of thousands of people at work” back this up. “As a social scientist,” he says, “if I want to get a read on your personality, I could ask you to fill out a survey on how stable, dependable, friendly, outgoing, and curious you are. But I would be much better off asking your coworkers to rate you on those same traits: They’re often more than twice as accurate. They can see things that you can’t or won’t.”

“(M)ore than twice as accurate”? Wow. What a bunch of liars we are!

What to do about this? Well, if you have coworkers? You could give them a survey? And then grow some really thick skin if you agree to accept honesty?

I think it’s just good to know, don’t you? That we kid ourselves from time to time? So, why waste energy on defensiveness? Maybe it helps explain why others say daft things about themselves, like, “I’m a stable genius.” Activities like mindfulness meditation and journaling can help, as thoughts can be observed with some distance and without judgment. Accepting oneself as a malleable being is helpful too, as that’s what we’re all here for, right? To adapt, change, learn, grow?

I recently read a great observation by Keith Boag, writing for the CBC on Trump in “The Great Divider”, about “the human temptation to believe what’s most convenient”. I regard it as a warning, a reason to stay diligent about the self, to stay curious, to keep digging.

“No one understands that foible, or uses it more effectively, than Trump. Essential to his exploitation of racial tension is his understanding that people will believe what they want to believe about others so that they can believe what they want to believe about themselves.”

Don’t assume (recall the last blog, Road To Hell– “ass” “u” “me”) you’re not biased. Educate yourself on the history and experiences of minorities in your community, country and throughout the world. Ask questions when you can and listen to the answers. Observe your thoughts.

Jennifer Eberhardt, who specializes in bias training, writes in Biased, “The promise of bias training is not to magically wipe out prejudice but to make us aware of how our minds work and how knee-jerk choices can be driven by stereotypes that cloud what we see and perceive.”

Reject the us vs them trap. We are all one. Human. We need each other. To fight a pandemic, a major climate crisis. Not each other.

 

 

Seeing The Self 2020-09-15T09:30:42-04:00

Road To Hell

“We judge ourselves by our intentions, we judge others by their actions.”

This quote has been attributed to various people, but I first heard it from my husband B. He found it in a fortune cookie years ago and keeps it attached to his computer monitor at work as a reminder. While at first blush it seems to lack fortune-telling quality, your lack of adherence to its wisdom could affect your future by drowning you in a bowl of rancid alphabet soup with other people from time to time.

Maybe you’re okay with rancid alphabet soup? Or maybe you don’t notice – the stench, the chaos? Me? When I find myself in that stinking, confusing mess? My mind locks on the many times I’ve effed up in the past, all the times I was 100% sure I was right, but no, now look dammit! Let’s check off the list:

Jumping to conclusions without a full investigation? Check.
Possible condescension in tone? Check.
Anger about the issue removing empathy for the other? Check.

As a comment on reddit.com puts it: “When we make a mistake, we allow ourselves the excuse ‘but I meant well’. When others make mistakes, we assume they’re just f**ktards.”

Hmmm: “we assume”. How many times have we been reminded that that friggin word makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me”, and yet? We still assume. Well, I still often do. Have you managed to get that one under control?

And here we find ourselves, all 7.8 billion of us on the planet, with our myriad backgrounds, colours and languages, dealing with responses to various major crises – a pandemic, a reckoning on race, a pending economic downturn, climate change – along with the minor crises of just being alive on planet Earth – severe weather, blown brakes on my rusted out jalopy, bright pink lipstick on the inside of my mask, again! – and it’s hard to cope, right? Are you finding it hard to cope and that everyone’s fuse is just a little shorter? Or, am I just making excuses for myself?

The noise out there is LOUD.

Politicians, bickering and lying. But, hasn’t this always been the case? Don’t they have to lie, you know, for our own good? Are they lying more?

And there’s so much “fake news”. Did it not exist before? Didn’t it used to be called “propaganda”? Or, is that somehow different?

And the “conspiracy theories”?! But, they existed before. Look at all the ones on JFK’s death – it was a “mob hit”, it was “umbrella man”, the “government did it”. Is it because social media spreads them further, faster now?

Anyway, what was I getting at? Am I worried I’m on the road to Hell because sometimes I forget B’s fortune cookie advice? Perhaps I should get a copy of it, attach it to my computer?

B says, “Well, at least you’re not doubling down. You’re admitting that you were wrong, right?”

And being wrong (yet again) makes me think of the Fonz from Happy Days. (You’d think I’d have more, that all of those childhood hours I spent in front of a TV would reap reams of details from various shows. No. This one bit of this one episode I do remember.) If you ever watched the show you’ll recall that the Fonz had way too big of an ego to be wrong. But the cast and events throughout the half-hour (including commercial breaks to refill the chip bowl) showed the Fonz that he’d indeed been indisputably wrong. (It’s a thing you may fantasize about in real life, cornering your opponent, saying just the right thing at just the right time to make your very valid point. But, as you know, it NEVER happens this way.)

And the Fonz goes, “I was wrrr, I was wrrr, I was wrrr.” I don’t know how many “wrrr”’s it takes before he actually says “wrong”, but it’s a memorable scene. It made me appreciate the Fonz even more, you know? Because, as hard as it was, he did admit it.

Some people can’t say, “I was wrong.” But in our dealings with them? We must remember their intentions are likely good. And if they’re just paving their own personal road to Hell? Their choice, not yours.

 

Road To Hell 2020-08-18T10:48:34-04:00

Queen of Crabgrass

Everyone wants to be good at growing something, yes? Or is it just me? Surely we all have a green thumb – latent or glowing – as Science Daily boasts evidence of human trial plant cultivation from as long as 23,000 years ago. It’s in our DNA to want to grow things!

I have friends, a couple (I’d say Dutch, which they are, but that would be stereo-typing, right, and we’re trying not to do that anymore, but why is it that some Dutch people are so very hard-working, and so damn good at gardening?) whose gardens are so inviting and lush that when a neighbour recently got a first peak into their backyard he couldn’t help but burst out with something like, “Holy Garden of Eden!”

Orchids? Not a problem for her, the stunning blooms just keep coming, as if magical. Grass? For him? It’s truly like the thickest, richest emerald carpet over the most expensive underlay on the planet. Crabgrass would not even think about spreading its ugly, crabby self down amid that kind of beauty. First off? It would have a hard time gaining purchase due to the zillion-thread-count-nature of the healthy green blades. Secondly? It would have like a half-second life span. He’d attack immediately with whatever kind of weaponry a grass expert uses in this type of battle.

Instead? Crabgrass seeds blow on down south to my place.

Now, some of you may boast you have the best crabgrass in town – last year a Jazzercise member told me, “If it weren’t for crabgrass I’d have no lawn at all” – but I’m pretty confident of my crop here. So much so, that when I thought I saw it sprouting, in abundant ugliness in early spring, in an area on the front lawn where the previous fall I’d put down several bags of soil and overflowing handfuls of turf builder dense shade mix, I made a big decision.

I told my husband B about it. “Well. I’ve decided!”

“Hmm-mm?” he said, happily poking about on his computer, rearranging numbers on spreadsheets. And perhaps? Here’s the thing: if he helped me, like my gardening friends . . . could we also have a Holy Garden of Eden in our backyard instead of a Holy Garden of Weeds?

“I’ve decided,” I confessed. “I really really like crabgrass!”

“Yeah?”

“It’s just so beautiful. And abundant. And easy to grow! And also . . . green.”

“Okay.”

But here’s another thing: there’s a big difference between deciding to like crabgrass and actually liking crabgrass. Once Sgt Major Crabgrass gets her soldiers trained and ready for combat? Those Green Berets march all over every square inch of your lawn, soaking up rain, sun, digging incredible trenches – good for ongoing muscle-building – all in an effort to fight a war that is . . . well, let’s face it. The battlefield is your lawn.

Want the battle to be somewhere else? Well, you’ve got a battle on your hands, don’t you? And knees. You have to be willing (and able) to get down and personally annihilate every single Green Beret. (There could be a spray, but it will annihilate you too.) But wait! That’s not all! You have to also be willing (and able), according to my emerald-green-carpet-growing friend, to immediately get thyself to a garden store and get copious bags of soil and grass seed to fill all those gaping holes – it was a battlefield, after all – you’ve gouged in your pathetically poor excuse for a lawn. Otherwise? Well, the myriad Green Berets will jump back to attention before you can say Holy Field of Crabgrass.

Crabgrass, antlerservices.com: “This grass if left unchecked will produce hundreds of seeds per plant, growing each summer and dying in the fall. A single plant will look like a large crab (truth!) by the end of the summer with as many as 125,000 seeds (horror-face emoji).”

No one ever said growing emerald green carpet would be easy. Crabgrass? Those Green Berets are trained, strong and able, always awaiting marching orders. Low on seeds? Come on over, I have buckets full.

Queen of Crabgrass 2020-08-06T16:34:07-04:00

Practicing Safe Six?

Masking for a friend.

LOL and haha.

We need to laugh more, huh? It’s hard to laugh with a mask on, yes? You risk passing out. It’s also hard to laugh while witnessing the coronavirus disaster south of us, knowing from our Canadian experience that, with a proper and serious response? It didn’t have to be this bad!

OMG! On a day when the US hit another single day record for new cases – 67,417 – the President* was more intent on blaming China for sending a “plague” and campaigning from the Rose Garden (a serious, but typical for this guy, breach of protocol). Empathy? Fuhgetaboutit. All that’s in 45’s bag-o-tricks? Blame, denial, lies. Oh, and self aggrandizement.

For laughs? How about the Trump administration’s insistence that the only reason coronavirus case numbers are up is because of the phenomenal amount of testing the US is doing? My favourite fb meme in response to this is a woman, highly pregnant, saying, “If only I didn’t take that pregnancy test . . .”

I want to do what the President* does, assign blame (to him) for the horrific mess the US is in, but what good does it do? It’s painfully obvious he’s in over his head, has been from day one. He’s doing what he does best: con, verb, from the Oxford dictionary: persuade (someone) to do or believe something, typically by use of deception.

This “profile of a liar” is interesting, from The Confidence Game by Maria Konnikova:

“He does not answer questions, or gives evasive answers; he speaks nonsense, rubs the great toe along the ground, and shivers; his face is discolored; he rubs the roots of his hair with his fingers.”

Sound like someone you’ve been hearing, seeing way too much lately? Well, it’s from 900 BCE, so either liars haven’t changed much in almost 3,000 years or someone back then was real good at predicting the future.

It might be helpful for all of us to read The Confidence Game right now, as it “takes us into the world of the con to examine not only why we believe in confidence artists but how our sense of truth can be manipulated by those around us”. A good future political prophylactic.

That’s the tricky thing about a democratic society, eh? Sometimes people don’t know what’s good for them and they elect Mickey Mouse, because of his TV ratings, his spritely manner, his ears perhaps. When they could have had . . . John Kasich.

Kasich, a Republican, was the last candidate standing against 45’s bid for the presidency. And he has tons of political experience! He was governor of Ohio from 2011 to 2019. He was a member of the US House of Representatives from 1983 to 2001. And, also unlike 45, he writes (and reads) books. Here’s a helpful one for the times, published by Kasich last year: It’s Up To Us.

It is up to us. We can look to our leaders for guidance, for inspiration, but if and when they fail us? It’s time for a grassroots revolution. I guess, kind of like what’s happened with the racial unrest movement that began in the US with George Floyd’s death, then expanded worldwide. As Dave Chapelle pointed out in his Netflix special 8:46, “This is the streets talking for themselves!” It’s up to us to make a difference.

Individually, we can read Black history, examine our responses, thoughts and attitudes about race. We can do some of the suggestions in Kasich’s book:

*be the change where you live
*love thy neighbour
*put yourself in someone else’s shoes
*examine your eternal destiny
*know that you are made special

And, as the particular areas in which we live begin to relax coronavirus restrictions? We can continue to follow the guidelines of health professionals and scientists (lordy, lordy, not the politicians, as another fb meme points out that would be like getting a colonoscopy from a plumber) so that we keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

Coronovirus is real and still exists. For people who think it’s all a hoax, I ask:

Why would Wuhan have built a hospital in 10 days to deal with coronavirus patients?
Why would we have gotten so many stories from Italy about having to enact wartime measures to deal with critical patients?
Why would we have had to endure so many daily pressers by NY Governor Andrew Cuomo? Oh, scratch that. (Blushing.) I really did not mind at all. I’ll admit: I’m cuomosexual.

Practice safe six. Mask for a friend. As another fb meme wisely observes: “If you hate wearing a mask, you’re really not going to like the ventilator.”

Website photo: Me, masking for a friend, and realizing how great masks are  for the, ahem, older person, taking selfies!

Practicing Safe Six? 2020-07-15T15:25:43-04:00