Dreary days got you down?
Snow is in the air, on the ground, the weather app, Facebook (some FB friends in the US Midwest had more accumulations recently than here in Southwestern Ontario).
At this point is staying optimistic for spring sheer lunacy? Being cheeky, an assistant at my dental office said, “You know what they say. April showers bring snow plowers.”
I was full of springtime vigor late last week when spring put in a brief appearance, opening bags of soil, spreading, raking, sprinkling grass seed. A neighbour walked by, said, “Oh, are you doing that in time for the freezing rain?”
“Well, I was hoping just rain,” I said.
She was right. Oh, but . . . wait! The long range forecast? Sunshine emojis! And? Double digits! A big deal for those of us measuring temps in Celsius.
To be fair, recent world events haven’t helped raise spirits. There was the devastating bus crash in Saskatchewan, with such tragic loss of life. Sixteen members of the Humboldt Broncos junior hockey organization wiped out, just like that, and most of those who survived now face numerous physical hurdles.
We relate, as we think of our local junior hockey players, what it would to the team, the families, the community. Mike Stubbs, the voice of the London Knights, shared with us on FM96 what it’s like on the bus, with members of staff, younger players up front, veterans in the back. There’s card games, movies, lots of joking around.
The pain, the horror, cannot be comprehended, nor made sense of. We’re left to find comfort in watching hockey sticks sprout on front porches and by participating in jersey day and the GoFundMe initiative – an unprecedented $12 million and growing!
Then there was the bombing of Syria by the US, UK and France over the weekend. I always find these things unsettling. Do you? According to Reuters, “Russia’s Putin predicts global ‘chaos’ if West hits Syria again.” Global chaos sounds scary. But, there were strikes – apparently of three government chemical weapons sites – and the strikes are done for the moment and, according to this headline in the New York Times “Syria Returns to War as Usual”.
So, the result is questionable. What’s not questionable? Both of our countries, mine and my husband B’s – Canada and the US – have questionable leadership, with both Trump and Trudeau experiencing low approval ratings. Trump’s is currently at 39%. We measure it a little different here in Canada, with Abacus Data’s latest survey saying that 36% of committed voters would vote for their local Liberal candidate if e-day were tomorrow, down 3% from January.
The bright spot – the cheery – in all of this? Oh my. Well, since it’s not a bright shiny sun in a clear blue sky? I guess we’re left to find cheery all on our own.
In an effort to find mine I watched this TED Talk: You aren’t at the mercy of your emotions – your brain creates them by Lisa Feldman Barrett. Barrett is a psychology professor who has spent 25 years mapping faces, scanning brains and generally figuring out where our emotions come from.
She insists we have the ability to “turn down the dial on emotional suffering”. “Emotions are not built in,” says Barrett. “They are just built.”
What are they built from? Predictions. It’s primal, the constant work being done by all of those circuits in our brains. Predicting makes it fast, efficient, but not always correct. The churning stomach we get from walking into a bakery? It’s a pleasant feeling, yes? Anticipating the aroma, the taste of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. The churning stomach walking to the podium to say a speech? Same physical sensation, but wouldn’t you rather vomit than eat a cookie?
Says Barrett, “Your brain is wired so that if you change the ingredients that your brain uses to make emotions then you can transform your emotional life.”
It’s not easy, she admits. It’s not like just changing your T-shirt. But being aware? That’s the ticket.
We can’t change the weather, just like we can’t change bad news, but we can observe our emotional response, decide what emotion serves us best depending on the situation.
And we can buy a bright bouquet of flowers. I mean, since April’s just bringing snow plowers.