Sunday, February 3, 2019

Media Minimalism

I love the Calm app. Recently, the meditation focus was on minimalism. ( That got me to thinking. And yes, I could do with more minimalism in several areas of my life, but the one that jumped out to me first was with regard to news. I remember, and this suggests how old I really am, when the news was generally provided by radio, television and one or two daily newspapers. Radio broadcasts sometimes broke in to regularly scheduled programming if there was news of an extremely serious nature, as when Kennedy was shot. Usually the news was broadcast at six PM on television and Uncle Walter (Walter Cronkite for those too young to remember) was a regular part of many families.

Radio stations sometimes had a noon broadcast and an early morning broadcast that focused on "leftover" news from the night before and the weather forecast. People received local news as well as national, state, and regional and some world news from their newspapers. Of course, technology developed and now we have news alerts beeping at us 24/7. We have headline news around the clock on televsion, computers, our phones, and radios. 

In our household, I cannot watch the current political news on a 24/7 basis. So, I leave the room when my husband insists on watching it. The whole thing spikes my blood pressure. And, so that I am balanced in my information sources, I have alerts from several different news outlets on my phone, that dutifully blast headlines throughout the day. Do I check them religiously? No. 

Everyone is different of course. I do tend to be a worrier, to which basically anyone who knows me well would attest. My life has given me plenty of cause to worry over the past six months. But I know that this constant barrage of "news".... or headlines and soundbytes designed to shock, dismay, enrage or inspire ..... does not help my peace of mind. Maybe I need a moratorium on news. Maybe I should apply the principles of minimalism to "news". As an aside, whether you agree with me re news or not, the Calm app is one of the best investments you can make in yourself. But do think about becoming a minimalist in at least one area of your life. 

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Political Discourse and Friendships in this time of Discord

We are living in such a discordant time. More and more, I have heard people say that they can not  consider being friends with someone who thinks differently from them politically. I've also seen that the norms that people follow in terms of polite conversation seem to have changed and become much less conducive to true discussion and more geared toward disruption and ill feeling. 

We have known a number of different people (friends, neighbors, etc.) for many years and have enjoyed long-lasting friendships with these folks. We have tended to avoid political topics until recently when somehow these topics began to be introduced into our conversations, and not always happily. I grew up in a family that tended not to engage in political discussion outside of the family and sometimes not even in the family. My father was a career officer in the U.S.Navy and he often referred to the rules on board ship. I'm not sure if they were actual rules or norms that helped to keep dozens of sailors in a confined area peaceful and focused on their jobs. So that is how I grew up. My husband is from a culture that is highly group oriented, which results in all sorts of conventions in conversations and gatherings that keep the group cohesive and harmonious. There is a place for debate: political, religious, philosophical - but it is done carefully and with consideration of the other person or persons and their viewpoints. 

What I have noticed lately is that more and more people exercise freedom of speech (which is an incredibly important freedom and one that we must not ever compromise) in a way that can be directly insulting to others. That is their right, yes. But the insulting add-ons are completely unnecessary and takes what could be an opportunity for parties on different sides of an issue to gain insights and further polarizes them. 

In the past few years on several occasions, dinner guests sitting at my table eating food I had prepared to serve them, insulted me and my family directly. I did ask them to stop, and said that their words were offensive to me. On one occasion, one of the individuals got angry and got up and left, saying that he had "freedom of speech". I said "yes, but you are in my house and you are insulting me. Please stop". Other times, people have made disparaging comments toward one speaker or another while trying to make their own points. That isn't necessary. Sometimes it seems that there is a drive to turn every discussion into an argument which then requires a winner and a loser. What is wrong with a discussion for discussion's sake?  Not everything has to be a competition. And not everything is right or wrong. 

I am also tired of dealing with people who approach discussions with the idea that if they just give me enough information, then I will change my political viewpoint. Not always the case. Some beliefs are deeply rooted in ideals as well as information. We all have different ideals and I wish we all could respect that people see things differently. 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Someone I suspect we all know

Every so often there will be a friend or acquaintance in my life whose personality and interactions are very puzzling. There are others....and count yourself lucky if you have friends like this, that even after years of little contact, when you get together again, it is as if no time has passed. But the first type of "friend"....I am not sure this type of person is really capable of true friendship ...possibly but I just do not know. Everyone knows people like this. I started thinking about this because almost every time I encounter this person, I come away from her feeling unsettled. And much as this happens in families, especially newly married couples, the first time I realized that my husband acted differently with my family, and I acted different within mine. Over time, I worked hard to be the same person in both families. But that is what this person does. One on one with me she is fine. But in groups she acts differently depending on the group.

The person of whom I'm thinking is so focused on fitting in that she never or almost never reveals her true personality. What is important to her is being "in" with the group. It can be annoying because this kind of person often talks a great deal and has long detailed anecdotes to capture and hold an audience, but at some point, you ask yourself, "what is going on here?" I finally recognized that this person would act one way with me in one set of people and quite differently in another set. Asking myself why? I finally figured out that she considered me an asset in one group and either neutral or a detriment in another. I tend to be more outspoken and I do try to be honest, nicely honest, but I try to be truthful. Plus I tend to ask deep, difficult questions. Not everyone wants to consider those. As a child my mother (who was a wonderful, gentle loving person was also one who did not want to make waves and who knew and wanted to fit in)...would often try to get me to stop asking those questions.
But I digress.

I am really not certain that friendship can take place without some basic underpinning of honesty. Honesty in the sense that we allow our true selves to be revealed. Not completely, not all the time. There can be situations where discretion is important. But trust is a key part of friendship and I think that trusting one's friend enough to reveal one's true self is essential.

I suspect that underneath all of this is a deep desire to be accepted and loved. I get that. But I think pulling clouds of fog over to hide one's true personality makes it difficult for people to know the other. It is our own uniqueness that we offer to the world.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Dealing with the stress of our New Normal

The stress in today's world has reached epic proportions. Every day there is a new natural disaster, terrorist event, or political news that shakes me to my core. I have always been a person who slept well and easily but for the past few months all of that changed. And nothing else has really changed in my life. I had developed the habit of checking the news and email first thing in the morning, in the middle of the day and last thing at night. Really bad idea. And so, then when I wake up, the first things that occur to me are the latest news. So, I have had to institute a few rules for me. Can't do the news morning, noon, and night. Reading the news is generally less impactful than watching on television, so tv news is now once a day. I am more closely adhering to my practice of finding ten things for which I am grateful during the day as I drift off to sleep. If I wake up or am troubled and anxious about the things going on, I also try to pray a decade of the rosary. Whatever your faith tradition or lack thereof, a mantra, calming sentence, prayer can help to re-center your mind and let go of the anxieties. We are truly in a difficult era, but we do have to catch sight of the beauty and the gifts around us.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

I might just fire my doctor

I have fought twenty extra pounds for many years.  I eat the right things, exercise quite a bit, and not too much changes on the scale. At a doctor appt a few months ago, after nagging me once again about my weight, my doctor sarcastically said to me, "i guess the food just tastes so good". The more I think back on it, the angrier I get. His assumption is that the extra weight is a simple function of just eating too much. It makes me wonder if he is keeping up with new findings in weight loss research. Seems quite a bit more complex than an extra cookie.. The lack of respect that remark reflected is what has stayed with me. Instead of exploring what I've done  and suggesting strategies, I got a demeaning and sarcastic comment. Guess I will be looking for a new doctor.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Nine Questions

Does DT (interesting that his initials also abbreviate a condition known as "delirium tremens"...look that one up) think that his behavior toward HC during the second debate represents respect for women?

Does he think that looming over her and getting into her physical space represents respect?

Does he think that talking over her and interrupting her incessantly exhibits respect?

Does he understand the legislative process?

How did our country get into this situation?

Do we need to have some agreed upon standards by which candidates are vetted?

Why is it OK for DT to go after Bill but as far as I know, the Clinton camp has not gone after Melania?

Do Republicans understand that they would earn tremendous respect by standing on principles and not endorsing him? (I have tons of respect for those who have done so, but it should be across the board.)

Are we the laughing stock of the world?

Friday, October 7, 2016

On the value of Silence

Several days ago, I ran across an article somewhere that referred to research done a few years ago on mice. In exploring the impact of various types of sounds on the brains of mice, an unexpected discovery was made, i.e., that cells in the hippocampus region of the mice subjected to silence regenerated. This area of the brain is where memory, emotions, and learning may take place. This was discussed in Huffington Post in an article by Carolyn Gregoire .(
The original research was done by Imke Kirste, Zeina Nicola, Gola Kronenberg, and Gerd Kempermann and may be found here.

It was suggested that this may finding may result in some therapies for various illnesses including Alzheimers and depression. I think it is also a reminder to us of the fact that our bodies really do benefit from silence at times. I've often thought that our brains are probably changing - moving away from what might be a natural tendency for humans to reflect and think deeply. When we are constantly interrupted by noise of any sort, it makes it difficult to maintain a train of thought and think long enough and deeply enough to reach more than just cursory conclusions. I would love to see some research done that explored differences in quality and depth of thought under conditions of silence and noise.