Wednesday, October 28, 2009

GoodBye Summer, Hello Fall

This wreath came down

And this one went up

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Part 2: Local Living Means Letting the Day Count


To sit
with a dog on a hillside
on a glorious afternoon
is to be back in Eden,
where doing nothing was not boring -
it was peace.
~Milan Kundera

Inspirational Song
I Love My Old Bird Dog (and I Love You)

Local Living = Making a Life of the the Daily Events

This is a continuation of the last post I made about Living and Loving Locally.

Part of Local Living seems to me to be about becoming aware of and being satisfied with the little teeny tiny successes and accomplishments and interactions in each day.

I don't know how some people do it. Like look at Sean Anderson of The Daily Diary of a Winning Loser? Each of his days are packed with events. Of course his job is one that gets him out there with the public and and at events that are at least interesting to hear about. But he can make even the most mundane of things--the things you just have to do to sustaining yourself each day--like eating breakfast, sleeping, and talking a walk interesting to read through. I congratulate him on this. . . .my life seems so quietly uneventful next to his.

Another person who does this beautifully--and very consciously--is Maria of Little Things Are Big. She gets joy and satisfaction from taking a walk with her dog and noticing the leaves changing.

I want their kind of energy and optimism about the little makings of our lives!

I'm afraid I spend a lot of my life in "stew"--in my head a lot, tumbling worries and ideas and plans around like so many chopped vegetables, so that they all that simmering blends them together in one big brown, unidentifiable melting pot.

Even as a kid, I thought of myself as too smart and too worthwhile to lose any of my time on petty day-to-day tasks like making my bed. Making the bed, in my mind, was for less creative folk. I had things to do! Books to read! People to talk to! Journals to write!

In some ways, it was a similar argument with myself in terms of deciding not to have children (not just this, but it was a factor)--who had time to spend the evening making & monitoring meals so that kids ate nutritiously or giving them bathes or taking them to piano lessons? I had my own life to tend to! My own piano lessons to take! My own worries about nutrition to solve! Of course, I'm past the child bearing years now and I'm still fretting and stewing about the same issues sans the loving connection of kids. (Thank goodness for my "steps" --all of them--kids & grandkids!)

Recently my aunt gave me a huge bunch of clothes (26's, that fit, if that tells you anything)--and she included freshly laundered--barely worn, like new-underwear. After my initial thought of gross; I found myself thinking, I wish I could fold underwear so neatly and aligned--the very kind of thing I snobbishly have placed myself above spending time on! I neglected to realize that coming in the room to see a nicely made bed or opening a draw to nicely stacked undies gives you that mini boosting surge of happiness. . . and sometimes, that is enough.

John Lennon & the Bhutanese

John Lennon said, "Life happens while you're making other plans." I've started reading The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World again (I displaced it under the car seat during a recent road trip). The writer, Eric Weiner, goes on an international search looking for places that are the most happy. While in Bhutan, he meets with a happiness expert appropriately named Karma. I found this scene memorable and thought provoking:

"Karma, are you happy?"

"Looking back at my life, I find that the answer is yes. I have achieved happiness because I don't have unrealistic expectations."

This strikes me as an odd explanation. In America, high expectations are the engines that drive us, the gas in our tanks, the force behind our dreams and, by extension, our pursuit of happiness.

"My way of thinking is completely different," he says, "I have no such mountains to scale; basically, I find that living itself is a struggle, if I am satisfied, if I have done just that, lived well, in the evening I sigh and say, 'It was okay.'"

"Do you have bad days?"

"Yes, but it's important to put them in the perspective of insignificance. Even if you have achieved great things, it is a sort of theater playing in your mind. You think it is so important, but actually you have not made such a difference to anyone's life."

"So you're saying, Karma, that both our greatest achievements and our greatest failures are equally insignificant?"

"Yes. We like to think we really made a difference. Okay, in the week's scale, it may have been interesting. Take another 40 years, I'm not so sure. Take three generations, and you will be forgotten without a trace."

"And you find this a source of comfort? I find it terribly depressing."

"No, as we say in Buddhism, there is nothing greater than compassion. If you have done something good, then in the moment, you should feel satisfied."

I had a manager once who told me that she wished that I valued more what a great skill I had communicating with people (I didn't want to be promoted in the customer service aspects of my job; I wanted the path that led to editorial promotion so I could strengthen my editing and writing skills).

Another manager told me once I was "gifted" managing other people.

I hired someone once who later gave me a card with a picture of a drop of water hitting the surface of a lake and showing the concentric circles; she said I had no idea how much my faith in her had an ongoing impact on her life and confidence in herself.

In my current job, no one is falling over themselves to compliment me in such ways, but I like to think that I make my direct report's lives just a tad more fulfilling just by thanking them for their work and respecting their contributions and putting their lackadaisical moments and errors in perspective--like I try to do with my own.

Doing that at work comes easier than doing it with the personal stuff--feeling satisfied with a day filled with the mundane . . .the mundane that basically adds up to life.

Part 1: Live & Love Local--For Tomorrow You May Die

I know the answer!
The answer lies within the heart of all mankind!

The answer is 12?

I think I'm in the wrong building.

Charles Schulz (Lucy Van Pelt in Peanuts)

Inspirational Song
Charlie Brown Theme
Vince Guaraldi

A Case for Local Living?

I got this in an e-mail from a friend and I don't know if it is really attributable to Charles Schultz or not, but it struck me as true in a bittersweet sort of way.

Charles Schultz Philosophy
The following is the philosophy of Charles Schultz, the creator of the 'Peanuts' comic strip. You don't have to actually answer the questions. Just read the e-mail straight through, and you'll get the point.

1. Name the 5 wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last 5 Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last 5 winners of the Miss America.
4. Name 10 people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
6. Name the last decade's worth of World Series winners.

How did you do?

The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But the applause dies. Awards tarnish. Achievements are forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.
Here's another quiz. See how you do on this one:
1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through school.
2. Name 3 friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name 5 people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Think of 5 people you enjoy spending time with.

The lesson: The people who make a difference in your life are not the ones with the most credentials, the most money, or the most awards. They are the ones that care.
'Don't worry about the world coming to an end today. It's already tomorrow in Australia (These last 2 lines are attributable to Schultz for sure.)
--Charles Schultz
Local Loving = Work Second, Family First
Of course what this means is the reverse is also true. All our attempts and dream to find immortality through fame and power are likely to result in a small poof--our real value is what we do and give and how we live on in those around us whose lives we touch.

It feels like our whole societal structure was not set up properly for this. We spend at least--and more like 10 or 12 hours a day preparing ourselves for work, getting there, and using our brain work and energy to make someone else's desires come true.

I'm even lucky enough to truly like my job. My career is my life in many ways. . .but I also see the pointlessness of it. I've left enough jobs to know that people start to downplay your value and contribution before you even get all your belongings out the door if you decide to leave (or if they decide to lay you off), and even the people who you share most of your life with now--all the day's ins and outs, the laughs, the inside jokes--they most likely do nothing to keep in touch either after the work connection is gone.

So there we are, giving our families the bits of energy we have left, struggling to re-energize ourselves to connect with them and laugh with them make a significant contribution to their spirits and psyches, without it just being a re-hash of our work day.

To remember each time we speak to them that they are the people we love most in the world. . . let them hear it in our voice.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Day 105: I'm an Art on Metal Kind of Gal

Go ahead and play the blues if it'll make you happy.
Dan Castellaneta
Inspirational Song
Your Funeral & My Trial
Sonny Boy Williamson

Artwork Admiration

I saw this artist's work--Fleetwood Covington--at both Atlanta's Folk Fest and Northport's Kentuck Festival. His expressions are amazing. I really like his work oils on metals--huge big colored metal pieces. . . I'm note sure it's the kind of art that Hubby would choose to live with.

White Harp
Fleetwood Covington,
Oil on Metal

Little Walter Fleetwood Covington
Oil on Metal Blowin'
Fleetwood Covington,
Oil on Metal

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day 101: Pleasingly Pumped


Habit is habit and
not to be flung
out of the window
by any man but
coaxed downstairs
a step at a time.
Mark Twain

Inspirational Song
Life Is a Highway
Rascal Flatts

Appreciating the Little Things

I've been doing pretty well with my food. Bringing my lunches--even when I have to punt like today. This AM I "fried" an egg and heated it up at lunch with a piece of veggie sausage and ate it on one of those Pepperidge Farm Sandwich Thins. I've had a few days where I'm a bit over my 1500 calories (because I lag on the calculations), but I am so much more on track and in charge. And I came home tonight really hungry and ate a 90 calorie bag of baked Doritos instead of just randomly munching on whatever I could grab out of the fridge. It feels good.

Exercise Ponderings
As I am planning my exercise habits. . . getting my arms around likely having to get up earlier. . . argh. . .I'm thinking about climbing a flight of stairs after every time I take a break to pee. . . got to fit it in sometime. . .

First thing to do this weekend. . .get a new battery for my pedometer.

Discipline Before Affection
Yesterday my friend--who's way more dog savvy than I am--told me I needed to get more forceful with our 10 month old goldendoodle, Yeats, and be way way more consistent to keep her off me and to not let her bite at me (it's play, but it's still teeth). And I swear I thought I did sound like I meant it before when I said off and no, but I got down more in her face and concentrated on saying it more like I meant it, and she really is listening! I feel so much more hopeful that I will be able to get her respect instead of being her romping partner. It's really annoying to not be able to walk through the gate (we still gate her off in our family room and kitchen) without her leaping on me or walking while trying to hook my toes in her ring toys! I feel so much more empowered after Christine's little speech! Thanks, Christine!

There is a brisk coolness in the air today. I love fall.

Artwork Admiration
This weekend we go to Kentuck--a folk art fest near Tuscaloosa AL. My friend, Pat, who I saw a few weeks ago with my sister called and said she wanted to see me again while I was nearby because she'd had such fun with my sister and me. And it sounds silly but her wanting to be with me made me feel so normal and healthy and pleasant. We're going to go gallery hopping together. I'm psyched.

I'm hoping at Kentuck I'll be as intrigued by the interesting pieces like these I saw at Atlanta's Folk Fest, by Robin Anne Cooper.

She does sculptures and paintings using what she calls painted canvas collage. My favorites are her dogs.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day 100: Revving Up to Move

Planning is bringing the future
into the present so that you
can do something about it now.
Alan Lakein
Inspirational Song
Long as I Can See the Light
Ted Hawkins

Preparing to Plan

Do you know the stages of change made famous by Prochaska? They are precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. He says that the reason a lot of people fail when they try to change is because they jump into action too quickly without giving themselves time to plan.

So instead of feeling like I am procrastinating with what I'm going to say next, I am looking at this as taking a few days to plan and get ready. I did that years ago when I successfully lost 60 lbs on WW. I talked about joining with Hubby but delayed it for a few weeks I think as we got our minds around it.

So what am I planning for now you wonder? Exercise.

I haven't been exercising. For 6 years while I maintained my 60 lb weight loss I was a regular exerciser. I walked alot. I swam. I worked with a trainer and strength trained. I biked a little. I wasn't thin; I wasn't fit, but I was a heck of a lot more fit than I am now. AND it felt great.

I see people coming back from a walk at the park a few blocks away from our office and coming out of the gym and I feel a bit envious like they are doing something I can't do. . . but the only thing really stopping me is me.

Yes, I have a really busy work schedule and it is very hard to get away. But no one is going to come to my desk and say, OK, now, Sandy, go exercise. Take an hour. I have to figure this out. And if I can't figure it out during the day then I need to before the day starts or after. . . I need to weed through each and every tiny obstacle and come up with a plan I can deliver on.

I want to feel like I can count on myself again.

What to Work Through
So I need to
A. Figure out a time to exercise
B. Figure out how to remove obstacles
C. Create motivation
D. plan for the need to punt

Obviously walking is a good first start. When I did this before--starting from 0--I started with a 20 minute walk and added several minutes every few days. Eventually, I picked up speed and more time. Later I added inclines but that was never my strong suit.

I want to do all these things again--walk regularly, bike, swim, strength train. And I want to dance with hubby in the living room, on the front porch. . . I want to dance as I cook in the kitchen and feel free swaying my body.

The other thing I want to do is come up with a list of personal successes I want to accomplish. When I broke my wrist, I created a timeline of recovery--showing how long it took to get certain movements back. I'd like to create a similar list now, recovering from inactivity and obesity. . .
There will be more but here is a taste of my list. . .

Squat on floor to work on something
Get in bathtub without dropping the last foot
Get out of bathtub without getting on all fours
Clasp hands across the middle of my back again (one hand over your head)
Not feel like I want to avoid the stairs

Thinking About a Year from Now
By this time next year, I would like to be in Acadia Maine with hubby and be able to comfortably bike on some of their trails and also canoe. Fall in Maine is amazing. A bigger bonus would be to feel comfortable to try kayaking. Maybe even ride horses. To be able to do this, I need to increase my aerobic capacity, get more skilled on a bike (I don't even feel able to ride right now), increase my upper body strength, be able to ascend and arise without difficulty, hike someand lose enough weight to fit into the boats! My plan is to come up with a plan of attack that will get me where I need to be.

I've made plans before and plenty of llofty ists. Not so much a year out goal. I feel excited and skeptical. I feel like there isn't really anything to stop me. . . I'm not feeling depressed, I like my job, I am gaining more authority at work--it's time to move forward. I hope you'll help me with ideas and inspiration and support. . .

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day 99: Back to Feeling Proud

Doubt can only be removed by action.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Inspirational Song
Sarah Haggarty

What I've Done Lately to Feel Proud

I talked with my friend Christine tonight and she told me to stop and give myself a pat on the back. She said I was often so concerned about the future and where I wanted to go that I didn't notice now. She urged me to take notice and take pride in the fact that I clawed my way out of this recent depression to change meds and get help. And that IS good. I am feeling so much better.

Here are some other less monumental things but things of which I'm proud:

  • Made a tuna salad sandwich last night for my lunch today
  • Made a new sweet potato, chick pea, zucchini kind of stew last night for dinner tonight.
  • Ate muscadines for a snack today at work.
  • Took a 15 min walk outside in the middle of today at work today. The weather was perfect and fall like.
  • Started tracking my calories in Spark people again.
  • Read a few blogs and left comments.
  • Gave my dog a shower night before last
  • Felt really good when my friend I saw a few weekends ago in B'ham called to say she knew I was coming again and wanted to see me--and I set up plans for us
  • Connected with a dear friend who I hadn't talked to in months and really enjoyed it
  • Have had some meaningful conversations with Hubby with the TV off
  • Grabbed & hugged my 2 NC granddaughters at the same time and kissed on them. The 3 year old told me I was the best "Meme" she'd ever had! (I'm her only Meme. :) She also has a grandma and a nana.)
  • Apologized to 2 people at work after I was cranky with them.
  • Allowed myself to thoroughly enjoy my stepdaughter's peformance in a church play while sitting next to her mother (my hubby's ex)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Day 98: "Excited Every Moment"

You must begin to think of yourself
as becoming the person you want to be.
David Viscott
Inspirational Song
I Only Have Eyes for You
Ella Fitzgerald

Keeping My Eyes on the Prize

On this morning's Today Show, they showed the story of Kimberly, a woman who recently lost 211 pounds. After saying she'd been overweight her whole life, she also said she had never been a dieter and that this was the first time she had tried to change her food consumption. When Matt Lauer asked her if she'd had setbacks or doubts along the way she said no that she'd been "excited every moment" and "happy through out the whole thing." Once she had her moment of awareness she was anxious to get on with being able to live her life for the first time.

Such focus is inspirational, isn't it? Amazing. She lost 211 pounds in less than 21 months.

Does Thinking It Make It So?
I found something else by Googling about excitement and weight loss. David Bennett says:

Experts tell us that our mind doesn't necessarily know the difference
between what we think is true, and what is true. If we are excited about weight
loss, then we are constantly telling ourselves how we will lose weight and reach
our goal! When this excitement fades, it becomes more difficult to lose weight,
because our mind is no longer able to think as positively as when we started.

As you know, I'm no mystic, but sometimes it does seem like the more I have a weight loss mindset, the more I lose. What do you think?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Day 95: Could Heresy Lead Me to Freedom?

Om Namah Shivaya
I honor the divinity that resides within me.
A Sanskrit meditation as cited in
Eat, Pray, Love
by Elizabeth Gilbert
Inspirational Song
What If God Was One of Us
Joan Osbourne

My Heretical Thoughts

I know this post won't attract a lot of readers because words like heresy never do. For those of you unfamiliar with the word but loyal or curious or bored enough to come by anyway, allow me to translate. Heresy is an opinion that goes against established religious beliefs. You could use the word unorthodox, but I don't think it packs quite the punch as heresy.

As I've said in other posts, I'm not a traditional believer. Many members of my beloved family take the Bible literally. I am not one of them. When I look at concordances that show the various translations and with my understanding of how difficult it is to translate, I can't understand how anyone could think one reading is the "right" reading or that a single translation could carry the whole original message intact.

I appal my family and other orthodox believers even more by not believing the Bible is the only book that we can learn religious ideas from. I think it's really thought provoking to hear Buddhist ideas or Hindu ones or beliefs of the B'hai. Many of my traditionally religious family members are very threatened by other works and cannot hear how similar some of the ideas and teachings are or pick things up that they might be able to apply in their own life. They can only look at other religious teachings with skepticism and disdain.

And to go even further, I shock them, by letting them know if we ever get to that depth of conversation, that for me there is no "truth." There are a lot of cool ideas to ponder and consider and dwell on enough to think about how to improve myself--by being a more loving and generous person--and improve the world--by hoping my love and peace and calmness could at the least not contribute to violence and hatred even if it can't foster peace. I find it interesting to discuss these ideas with others, even if they have found a "truth" they firmly believe in. The conversation goes better if they don't scorn me, of course.

The Makings of a Parable
by 45andaspiring

I find the concept of parables--a simple story that tells a moral or teaches a lesson--a comfortable one. It allows for the sharing of a message about "good living" without too much emphasis on literalisms or mysticisms.

My studies so far in life have allowed me to play with this little parable. It's not my intent to offend or sway. It's just a little what if story that I find interesting to contemplate. I hope some of you appreciate it.

What if instead of the story being that
Jesus is God incarnate--the human form of God--
the meaning was all humans are a physical form of God?
So that the beauty of the story was not just
that Jesus was divine, but that we all are.

If that were true, then we would need to nurture and try
to reach and grow what was divine within us.

And if this divinity was specifically given to human forms,
then would not our very bodies also be part of what we
needed to nurture and enhance as the vessel and
one-time carrier of that divine spirit?

What if all the people worked on developing their inner
divinities as well as their outer vessels, their bodies?
Would that not lead to repeated swells of mass ecstasy,
with mind-blowing, trembling transcendence both
mentally and physically?

Would not this mass ecstasy allow for a greater world of
creative and positive energy--like a humanity sized climax?

And ultimately, what if the promise of eternity for cultivating
the divine within us was that all these divine spirits came
together both now when we have bodies and also later
when our bodies are no longer?

If that were true, then would not the spirits we cultivated as humans continue on in a new body-free form, continuing
to be a positive, creative, divine force in the universe?

Allowing myself to contemplate this story makes me feel a need to be kinder to myself, more honoring of my strengths. Thinking of my body as a vessel for a divinity within me helps me feel more motivated to work with my body to make it all it can be--to train to levels that allow me to transcend the limits I've let fat put on me. It helps me think of my body and my spirit/mind together as the divinity that I can experience now in this life. Thinking this way makes me feel more positive, more gentle with myself, more content in my uniqueness/imperfections, and more driven to blossom my potential.

Gentle reader, if I have offended thee, please forgive me and know that I honor your faiths and beliefs and the truths you hold dear and that guide you.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Day 92: Awards Are Good

The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.
- E E. Cummings

Inspirational Song
Pick Yourself Up

I Love Awards

Sandra of My Travels to a Better Me gave me an award! So the process is for me to answer the questions below with one word and to pass the award on to 6 others. . .

1. Where is your cell phone? Table

2. Your hair? Highlighted

3. Your mother? Loving

4. Your father? Charming

5. Your favorite food? Raspberries

6. Your dream last night? Vibrant

7. Your favorite drink? Coffee

8. Your dream/goal? Fit

9. What room are you in? Office

10. Your hobby? Writing

11. Your fear? Homelessness

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Tahiti

13. Where were you last night? Home

14. Something that you aren’t? Shy

15. Muffins? Rarely

16. Wish list item? Books!

17. Where did you grow up? Appalachia

18. Last thing you did? Talk

19. What are you wearing? Pants

20. Your TV? Off

21. Your pets? Goldendoodle

22. Friends? Heartwarming

23. Your life? Progressing

24. Your mood? Improving

25. Missing someone? Often

26. Vehicle? Imagination

27. Something you’re not wearing? Shoes

28. Your favorite store? Bookstore

29. Your favorite color? Green

30. When was the last time you laughed? 9:50 PM

31. Last time you cried? Thursday?

32. Your best friend? Hubby

33. One place that I go to over and over? Cape

34. One person who emails me regularly? Coworkers

35. Favorite place to eat? Outside

Your Blog Is the Over the Top
I pass the award onto these folks who are fairly new to my reading list--but all more popular than me! I still love many others (you know who you are!)

Debbie at Weigh to Go: Diary of a Fat Chick
Sarah at Quick. . . Save Me from Myself
Roxie at Gravel & Rust
ZaZa at The Incredible Shrinking Woman
Irene at Livin' Large
Name?? Stages of Change

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Day 90: Being Satisfied With the Mundane

“Diligence is a good thing,
but taking things easy is much more restful”
Mark Twain
Inspirational Song
Take It Easy
The Eagles

A No To-Do Weekend

This weekend I didn't create a to-do list and I don't think I "accomplished" any of the normal weekend to-dos, like laundry or grocery shopping. And I admit I did experience some angst about it at times.

But here are some things I did do:

  • Drove 2.5 hours to B'ham and 3.5 hours back (including dropping her back home) with my sister. She only lives 45 minutes away from me but we couldn't remember the last time we had spent time together (she doesn't drive which is a huge impediment.) I was hoarse before we even arrived. It was great. I brought the Smothers Brothers CD for us to listen to because we loved it as kids. . . but we never got quiet enough to need/appreciate it.

  • Sis & I met up with my friend who has 3rd stage ovarian cancer and who is in a clinical trial. She seemed good. Her hair was died a nice dark auburn--much filled out from her chemo from last year. She's feeling much better during this stint and her spirits are amazing.

  • We all went to the Bluff Park Art Show together. And surprise, surprise I didn't buy anything.

  • It was a lovely, lovely sunny day--great for driving and art show going--though hot in the sun.

  • Went to see a movie today with hubby! We used to go to movies every weekend, sometimes twice. But for years now we rarely go. We saw The Invention of Lying. It wasn't riotous (may have been funny with a larger audience), but it was thought provoking and enjoyable.

  • Through out all the ruined veggies and other foods from the fridge and wiped out shelves because something was stinking. . . still had enough fresh ingredients left to do the next 2 things.

  • Tried a recipe from Spark people for a nice fall soup--sweet potato with lentil & curry (160 cal). I've only taste tested it--not bad.

  • Tried another recipe of a zucchini pie (180 cal)--quite good. I think I could eat it for breakfast even! But I'm taking it tomorrow for lunch with some soup.

  • Attempted to brush mats out of the dog's hair. . .

  • Bulleted ListGot my 2nd letter of rejection for my short story, The Winter Mom Sold Don Quixote. . this time from Narrative. . . c'est la vie.

  • While I made the soup, listened to This American Life with Hubby. . . I often go off and do my own thing while he listens and listen to it on my iPod during a commute. . . but it was relaxing to be with him and Yeats (the dog) sat in the kitchen watching me. . . seeming enchanted as I chopped . . .

  • Sitting near Hubby now as he watches Inspector Lewis--something else I like but usually let him do alone. It took some mind clearing on my part to hang here instead of going up to do laundry. . . But there are still clean things to wear and time that can be taken to do a quick iron in the AM if needed because sometimes taking it easy is a healthy thing.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Day 88: I Believe in Hugs

According to University of North Carolina researchers
one extra 20-second hug can make a huge difference in
how happy and relaxed you feel.
Inspirational Song
The Touch
Stan Bush

I saw this article a couple of years ago and it hangs in my cube right next to my Civil Treatment certificate. . . the harrassment training course our company makes us go through which says. . . no touching, no hugs. . .

A Thousand Ways to Disconnect, and Now a Hugging Ban, Too
By Leonard Pitts

"Is there anybody alive out there?"- Bruce Springsteen, from Radio Nowhere

I needed a hug. This is two years ago, outside the village of Tykocin, Poland. I was on assignment, traveling with a Holocaust memorial group, most of whom were Jewish. After days spent touring murder camps, viewing the artifacts of the dead, grappling with the incomprehensible, our group found itself in a forest clearing. There, in 1941, we were told, 1,400 Jews - all the Jews of Tykocin - were made to dig three mass graves. And then they were shot.

I swear you could feel their presence, see them ambling the path down which we had come, hear mothers soothing anxious children with soft lies. "Hush now. Everything will be all right."

For me it was, finally, too much. I'm not a guy who cries easily and I didn't then. But man, I needed a hug. Needed a human touch. I sought out one of my bus mates and opened my arms.

It is a long way, physically and emotionally, from Tykocin to a middle school in Middle America, but the moral of the story remains the same. Sometimes - times of pain, times of commiseration, times of affection, times of joy - you just need to be held. So I was appalled to read this week about a school in Texas - Fossil Hill Middle in Fort Worth - where students are banned from hugging or even holding hands. And it turns out Fossil Hill is not the only one.

From Bend, Ore., to Oak Park, Ill., to Des Moines, Iowa, to Orlando, Fla., to, believe it or not, Cornwall, England, schools are banning hugs. Some say it's because hugging creates congestion in the halls. But there are others who say these "PDAs" - public displays of affection - are a gateway to sexual harassment.

My, my, my.

Am I the only one who feels this is just the latest step in a troubling trend? Am I the only one who sees businesses, schools and public institutions moving, inexorably as a Terminator, toward the standardization and regulation of even the most mundane of human interaction? In so doing, they seek to remove the defining element of human interaction: humanity.

I don't know about you, but I'm sick of punching in numbers. And talking to voice recognition software. And of self-service checkout lines. And of customer service agents who ask robotically, "Have I provided you with excellent service today?" after they have just told me they can't help me with my problem.

Ten years ago, a 58-year-old woman who worked as a cashier in a cafeteria in Washington, D.C., got in trouble because she had a habit of addressing her customers as "sweetie" and "honey." I've always thought women of a certain age who call you "honey" while taking your order were one of life's small, human pleasures. But some young person was offended.

My goodness, what robots we have become.

I understand the thinking. If you can standardize all interactions, you ensure a consistent level of quality. I'm just not convinced what we gain is worth all that we lose.

We already watch television in separate rooms. Eat dinner in shifts and on the run. Go about cocooned by iPod tunes. Now we have hugging bans. As if there were not already enough in life to made you feel disconnected, disaffected, alienated, isolated.

No one is pro-sexual harassment or, for that matter, pro-hallway congestion. But surely there are better solutions.

We're not talking about kids groping and making out. We are talking about "hugs." To hug is to reach across. It is to reaffirm common humanity. That is a powerful instinct.

Now the hug joins that long list of banned things. I guess kids who need consolation, kids primed for celebration, kids who just want to know that they are not alone will henceforth have to write text messages instead.

And progress marches on.

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. His e-mail address is© 2007 Pioneer Press