It seems nearly impossible to have a conversation, or even write a blog, without mentioning the pandemic at one point or another. Whatever the topic of conversation or whatever is going on with everyone of every age, the pandemic and it’s affects play a major role. Try as I may to skirt this issue, it underlies this week’s topic.
Here's the thing. I have a tendency, like many of us to be self critical. “I should do more, be more…” I do a lot of ‘shoulding’ on myself. Those shoulds get us every time, don’t they?
They say timing is everything. As I was in this funk of being self critical, one of the newsletters from Lea Waters, a positive psychologist I subscribe to came in. She was talking about the very same issue. She was reminding us of the importance of self- compassion, especially in these difficult times. This newsletter put me in mind of Kristin Neff’s work. Neff is one of the leading researchers in self-compassion which is the antidote to self- criticism and downward spiraling.
Here are her 3 steps for developing the practice. The three steps are mindfulness, universality, and kindness.
Let’s look at mindfulness first. As you go about your life, you want to try to be alert to times when you are being self-critical, when you hear that harsh voice in your head. When you notice it, the first thing to do is to recognize the moment of difficulty. Tell yourself what’s going on. “I’m being self-critical here. But I can choose to intervene. This is a chance for me to practice self-compassion.”
The next step is universality. Kristen Neff’s research indicates that it is very powerful at this point to remind ourselves of our shared human condition. Whatever it is that we’re criticizing ourselves for, we can tell ourselves, “I’m not alone. Other people go through this. Whatever has happened, is part of being human.”
The third step is kindness. Here we want to tell ourselves “I can be a good friend to myself in this situation. May I be kind to myself and give myself the compassion I need.”
It is like turning the Golden Rule towards ourselves, do unto ourselves as we would do unto others. Or, Tal Ben Shahar’s Platinum Rule, “do not do unto yourself what you would not do unto others.”
Comments are welcome.
Robert Frost once said, “I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life in 3 words. It goes on.” And so it does, as things continue to hit the fan. What to do? The answer might be found in humor. Much has been written about the benefits of humor physically, mentally and emotionally. Here are some examples.
A series of recent trials by scientists confirm that laughter is the most effective and inexpensive “drug” on the market. Here are some good reasons to carry on laughing.
Stationary Jogging - Imagine being prescribed laughter for weight loss. It is not as silly as it sounds. Dr William Fry Jr coined the terms “internal aerobics” and “stationary jogging” to describe the physical effects of a good belly laugh. His research found that laughter, like physical exercise speeds up heart rate, expands circulation and enhances oxygen intake. In fact, he calculated that 100 to 200 belly-laughs a day is the equivalent of a high-impact workout that can help you burn off as many as 500 calories.
Internal Massage - Laughter is the ultimate chill pill. We instinctively turn to laughter and humour when we need to rest and relax. Medical researchers have found that while we laugh our upper body is exercised, and after we finish laughing, we experience a physical afterglow in which we relax muscle tension, reduce stress in the nerves, massage the lungs, restore a full and flowing breathing pattern and gently expand our circulation once more. Laughter is the perfect “internal massage”.
Comic Relief - Laughter is a natural pain killer. Norman Cousins is known as the modern Father of Laughter Therapy. In his famous article for the New England Journal of Medicine, Cousins told how he used laughter to heal himself of a painful spinal disease called anakylosing spondylitis. He wrote that he made “the joyous discovery that 10 minutes of genuine belly-laughter had an anaesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep.” Subsequent research verifies that laughter can produce a feel-good chemical called “endorphins” which help to kill pain.
Happy Cells - The repeated research experiments of Dr Lee Berk at Loma Linda University School of Medicine, CA, shows that laughter, happiness and joy “inspire” the immune system to create white “T” cells, commonly called “happy cells”, which help to prevent infection.
Stress Buster - Laughter is a very effective stress-buster. Psychologists describe people who are prone to frequent bouts of stress as “Type H” personalities. The “H” stands for hostile, hurried and humourless. These people are too busy to be happy, too busy to smile, and too busy to laugh. Dr Patch Adams, the subject of the movie Patch Adams played by Robin Williams, prescribes laughter as a stress buster. “Overseriousness is a medical emergency,” he says. “Morbidity blows problems up, but laughter blows problems off”. Physicians have discovered that the “mirthful laughter experience” physically reduces the serum levels of cortisol and other stress hormones in the body.
Merry Heart - Since time immemorial, sages and physicians have advocated a “merry heart” as the finest medicine. Modern medical research had discovered that laughter is a good medicine for the heart. Cardiologists are keen for heart-attack survivors to rediscover the therapeutic power of humour, laughter and play. Whereas emotions like “anger” can damage the heart; laughter has a positive effect on heart rate and blood pressure.
Shock Absorber - Humour and laughter are excellent shock-absorbers that increase personal resilience during testing times.
It appears that the message is the antidote to those terrible, awful, very bad, no good days is to hunt humor. If we can’t find anything to laugh about, I suppose we can always laugh on credit.
Comments are welcomed.
It is essentially a redundancy to say how difficult it has been for everyone these past couple of years. Each one of us has our own personal set of circumstances to deal with. I want to acknowledge that for all of you and extend my best hopes for better things ahead.
For myself, a rather large amount of dark substance has been hitting the fan the past couple of weeks. Consequently, the days clunked by and I suddenly realized I had nothing for this week’s blog. My heart, spirit and right brain have not been in the game. You know how it is. Things happen. Plans change. Under the circumstances, calling an audible made the most sense. See you next week. Be well and stay safe. 💝
Welcome to Crazy Town, the home of conspiracy theorists, propagandists, rogue actors from various professions, fake news outlets and other assorted tribes. Recently, rather than fight Covid with a vaccination, some have preferred to purchase Ivermectin from the feed store. This drug is used to de-worm horses and cows. It can also be used for getting rid of lice and scabies in dogs, cats and other mammals. However, those “other mammals” were not intended to be the 2 legged kind who stand upright and sport opposable thumbs. This is a real thing in several states. Hospitals poison control centers were getting calls from those who had self-medicated with horse and cow de-wormers. Ivermectin is known to cause liver and kidney problems in humans, yet some hosts on Fox news and disreputable internet sites were promoting use of this stuff for Covid.
When I heard a flurry of reports on cable news stations about a rush on Ivermectin, I had to take a big detour from my original topic. Getting back on the road we are looking at GMO mosquitoes. Yet another real thing buzzing around in Crazy Town. Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of what is going on. Apparently it is the female mosquito that infects humans with potentially serious diseases when bitten.
Under the auspices of the U.S.’s Environmental Protection Agency mutant male mosquitoes were developed. The intent was to reduce the use of insecticides as well as reducing the pernicious female population. The mutant male mosquitoes have a killer gene that will do in female offspring thus eliminating the spread of mosquito carrying disease. Hundreds of thousands of these GMO mosquitoes have been released in the Florida keys to the chagrin of residents. If you are curious about the full explanation of this project, it can be found at www.nature.com or www.ctvnes.ca to name a couple of sites.
It was a little difficult to write about this stuff. You could think it came from a sci fi novel. I am a fan of science except when the bounds of morality and ethics are challenged. Tom Clancy sums it all up rather well - “The difference between reality and fiction is that fiction has to be believable.
Comments are welcome.
Have you ever imagined chasing windmills, running with the bulls, what it was like living in the Oklahoma dust bowl during the depression, living in the woods to commune with nature, or slaying a dragon? We certainly live such adventures vicariously by reading books. In our current ADD world of sound bites, 280 characters, 3 min. Tik Toks, emojis, text acronyms, et al, have you found you just don’t have the time to delve into some of those classics you once thought about reading?
Well, I have a possible solution, thanks to John Atkinson (wronghands1.com) which would allow you to check some books off the list. Following are synopses of 12 all time, often cited classics which could keep your fantasies alive or maybe kill them. FWIW enjoy. B4N.
War and Peace - Everyone is sad. It snows.
The Grapes of Wrath - Farming sucks. Road trip. Road trip sucks.
Don Quixote - Guy attacks windmill. Also, he's mad.
The Sun Also Rises - Lost generation gets drunk. They're still lost.
Moby Dick - Man vs Whale. Whale wins.
Ulysses - Dublin, something, something, something, run-on sentence.
The Odyssey - War veteran takes forever to get home then kills everyone.
Wuthering Heights - A sort-of brother and sister fall in love. It's foggy.
Walden Pond - Man sits outside for two years. Nothing happens.
Crime and Punishment - Murderer feels bad. Confesses. Goes to jail. Feels better.
Beowulf - Hero kills monster. Blah, blah, blah, blah. Dragon kills hero.
Dante's Inferno - All hell breaks loose.
Comments are welcomed.
It’s that time of the summer, folks. Have any of you caught sight of people putting zucchinis on neighbors porches in the dark of night and running away? There’s only a finite number of things one can do with zucchini before resorting to something almost criminal. A few years ago I wrote about my forgettable introduction to growing those quasi cucumbers. Seemed it would fun to reprint most of it. Hope you enjoy my past pathetic plight.
“With the growing season morphing into harvest time, I thought I’d share one of my horticultural horrors.
What gardener does not have a zucchini story? Here’s mine. Full disclosure, the closest I had ever come to gardening was buying fruits and vegetables from a farmer’s market. Consequently, during my first bona fide gardening experience, I learned, the hard way, the zucchini principle: Never plant more than one zucchini seed, ever ever ever. Of course, in my exhuberant ignorance, I planted the entire packet. There was a song from the 50’s or 60’s about the eggplant that ate Chicago. Then there was some grade B sci-fi movie about killer tomatoes. We had the zucchini that swarmed Centerville. Zucchini vines traversed the entire garden terrorizing all the other vegetables. They wound their way down an incline leading away from the garden, under the clothesline nearly reaching the main road ravaging everything in their path. The zucchini regenerated as quickly as they were picked. The more you picked them, the more prolific they became. Why keep picking them, you ask? If you don’t they just grow larger until they reach the size of torpedoes or small ballistic missiles. Then you need a forklift (or the military) to clear them out. That was my plight.
There are numerous recipes calling for zucchini and a myriad of ways to disguise them in other foods. We ate as much as was humanly possible. When the eating became humanly impossible, we tried giving them away. Of course, no one in their right mind (or left mind) would take any. When I tried to slip some to the pig. She looked at me grunting. Her grunts sounded like, “Are you insane? What, do you think I am bereft of a discerning palate? Get real.”
It was time for Plan B. Okay, I didn’t have a Plan B. Before long, I got the brilliant idea to stack a cord of zucchini in amongst the wood pile. They seemed to blend in very nicely . Hopefully, no one would notice. Ultimately, the beneficiary was the compost, which before long gave the impression of Vermont’s fifth mountain range being formed
FYI. It’s been said that if you are driving through Vermont in the summer, be sure to keep your windows closed. If you don’t, people will throw zucchinis into your car as you drive by.”
Comments are welcome.
Two weekends ago I got a phone call from a very good friend. She informed me that she and 2 other good friends were going to take me out to dinner for my birthday. Say what? It was not my birthday. I told K that my birthday was a few weeks away. She thought it was the next day. Oops. She talked with J and D and they all decided they still wanted to take me out. It felt awkward to me, but it was a very thoughtful, sweet, kind gesture regardless.
Off we went. This was my first dinner out with friends since Covid. It felt both odd and normal at the same time. A very Happy Unbirthday, indeed.
A few days later I was on the phone with a customer service person from my tech provider. As we finished up he said that since he likely would not be speaking to me again he wished me an early Happy Birthday. This has been most unusual. Here I am celebrating unbirthdays. I hope someone remembers when it is my actual birthday.
Thinking about unbirthdays brought me to Alice in Wonderland attending a very merry unbirthday party with the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and the Dormouse a la Disney. I decided to search the actual unbirthday origin.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published in 1865. However, the unbirthday didn’t appear until 1871 in Through The Looking Glass. It was Humpty Dumpty that schooled Alice in unbirthdays. Here is that conversation:
Humpty Dumpty introduces Alice to the concept of unbirthdays, remarking when she compliments his cravat, “It’s a present from the White King and Queen. … They gave it to me—for an un-birthday present.”
Alice, confused, asks, “What is an un-birthday present?”, to which Humpty Dumpty replies, “A present given when it isn’t your birthday, of course.” However, Alice remains unconvinced, noting, “I like birthday presents best,” prompting the following exchange to occur:
“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” cried Humpty Dumpty. “How many days are there in a year?”
“Three hundred and sixty-five,” said Alice.
“And how many birthdays have you?”
“And if you take one from three hundred and sixty-five, what remains?”
“Three hundred and sixty-four, of course.”
Therefore, remarks Humpty, “There are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents … and only one for birthday presents, you know. There’s glory for you!”
To all of you who are not celebrating an actual birthday, I wish you all a very merry unbirthday. Have presents and cake even if you provide them yourself. You deserve it.
Comments are welcomed.
A soft, buttery shade of yellow that was both vibrant and calming at the same time. That was the color I saw in my mind’s eye when I thought about hope the other day.
There is much turmoil and uncertainty on so many levels in the world these days. Still there is hope because there are those doing whatever they can to bring goodness and restore stability. We have choices. We always have choices. Even when we stand immobile and do nothing, that is a choice. Is that what we want, succumbing to our challenges, not making waves, believing there is nothing we can do? Hope can be the source of what keeps us going rather than the end result. When we choose hope, there are no limits to possibility.
What has kept your hope alive during this pandemic?? What color, sound, smell, music, picture makes you think of hope? If you were to choose a symbol for hope that you could carry around with you, what would it be?
“Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there's no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.” Laini Taylor
Comments are welcomed.