Taking Health for Granted

It really is ironic that right about the time when you have the most freedom and discretionary income, that’s when your body really starts breaking down. The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak.

I have come to tolerate routine aches and pains that my 20-year-old self would have been horrified by. And that’s particularly annoying because it’s her stupid antics that have caused me to be able to predict the weather in several of my bones.

I would love to climb more mountains, but I know those days are gone. I want to go to foreign lands and try exotic foods, but I don’t seem to digest things as easily as I once did. I can’t cover the same amount of ground in a day as I did 30 years and 80 pounds ago.

Older people used to warn me that this would happen, but I was too busy being young to listen. If I had really gotten the message that I shouldn’t take my health for granted, maybe I’d have done more back when I could do more. But no.

I don’t know what terrifies me the most: becoming physically dependent upon indifferent caregivers, or staying relatively spry, but becoming the overwhelmed caregiver of my loved ones as life passes us by.

No matter how much you jog or do sit-ups, age is inevitable. Things fall apart. The center does not hold. So maybe I need to stop looking backward with regret. What’s the point?

It’s time to assess what’s possible now, and take advantage of it while I can. Do more. Now. Because 10 years from now, it’s a safe bet that I’ll be even further down the hill.

Aging

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If Thy Job Offends Thee…

I have got to stop listening to NPR on the way to work. Sometimes it makes me swerve. If you ever hear of me dying in a ball of fire on the freeway, please sue them on my behalf.

Yesterday, they spoke of the latest bit of brilliance from the Trump Administration. According to NPR, “The Department of HHS is adding a ‘Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom’ to protect doctors, nurses, and other health care workers who refuse to take part in some kinds of care because of moral or religious objections.”

I’m all for religious freedom. And that’s how Trump will spin this. As a way to prevent people from being discriminated against due to their faith.

Here’s the thing, though. (Yes, there’s always a thing.) I didn’t become a drug dealer, despite the financial benefits thereof, because it was against my morals. If my religion prevented me from opening a drawbridge, I’d have never become a bridgetender. Everyone in this country has always, always had the right NOT to take a job, except in times of slavery.

What you should not have a right to do, in my opinion, is take a job, expect to be compensated, and then refuse to do parts of it. If you’re against abortion, don’t work in an abortion clinic. If you can’t work on Sundays, then only take jobs that give you Sundays off. If you don’t want to do business with homosexuals, then, I don’t know, go off and live in a cave somewhere and live off berries and beetles.

Make no mistake. This draconian policy has nothing to do with religious freedom. First of all, the “Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom” is doublespeak that sounds like it came straight out of George Orwell’s 1984. It gives me the chills. But the intent behind it is even worse. It is a way to allow people to discriminate. It’s a way to make it harder for women to get birth control and choose what to do and not do with their bodies. It’s a way to refuse to treat homosexuals and their families. It’s a way to prevent people who are suffering needlessly and without hope from seeking succor in states where assisted suicide is legal.

I want every human being on this planet to have religious freedom. But I also want them to be proactive with their faith or lack thereof. If there’s a job that crosses the line for you, then DON’T TAKE IT. Simple.

job

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Are You Reading This Aloud?

Recently I stumbled upon a scholarly controversy that I didn’t even know was a thing up to that point. Apparently some researchers doubt that people used to read silently before the middle ages. Several books and articles have been written on the subject.

There seem to be two arguments for this theory. The first is a quote by St. Augustine, in which he complains about visiting Ambrose, the bishop of Milan, and upon entering the room, Ambrose continued to silently read. St. Augustine makes much ado about this, and some interpret this as shock at such unusual behavior, i.e. reading silently. On the other hand, other scholars interpret this to mean that St. Augustine was shocked at Ambrose’s rudeness. I tend to agree with this interpretation, having taken the time to visit people myself, only to have them distracted by the television, the computer, the newspaper, texts, etc. It’s just plain rude to ignore a visitor. I suspect that is a timeless concept.

The other argument is that before the middle ages, the vast majority of texts were written in what’s called scriptura continua. In other words, there were no spaces between words. Talk about your compound words! Howwouldyouliketoreadanentirebookinthischallengingformat?

The argument here is that people did not read silently back then because with scriptura continua, it was impossible to do so. To this I say poppycock. Did you not just read that sentence above silently? I did. Yes, it’s a bit of a struggle. Yes, it’s slow going, but it can be done.

Another reason that I think people read silently is that I’ve read out loud to someone before, and it’s a pain in the behind. After a while, your mouth gets dry. And after that, your voice becomes strained and hoarse. And it takes effort not to reduce your reading to a boring monotone. It’s no fun to read aloud. These physiological truths would have been equally true in ancient times.

And monks, who were well known readers, sometimes took vows of silence. I don’t care how religious you are, doing nothing but your chores during times like those would have made it seem like an eternity. I bet they read, just as they wrote, silently. They were accustomed to listening to internal voices.

Also, we know that libraries existed as far back as 2600 BC. Can you imagine what an unwelcoming din there would be if people were sitting around in a library, each reading a different cuneiform tablet, aloud? Nonsense.

I’m convinced people have read silently for as long as writing has existed. On the other hand, did they read aloud more often than we do now? I’m convinced of that as well, for many reasons. But reading aloud because you want or need to is completely different than reading aloud because you’re incapable of reading silently, or because it has never occurred to you.

First of all, literacy was less common then than it is now. If you have a group of people wanting to hear the news or be entertained by a good story, and the vast majority of them can’t read, then, yes, someone read to them.

Second, books were relatively rare and expensive. Even if you have an entire household of avid readers, if there’s only one book to share between you, then, again, someone would have to do the reading, or else you had to wait your turn.

Third, lighting was at a premium. The average household was lucky to have a candle or two. So it stands to reason that one person might “hog” the light and read to others.

There is a related theory that reading alone in bed was considered highly controversial at one time. What were you reading? Erotica? Why else did you need to be lying down and alone to do it? What wicked, wicked thoughts were you having that they couldn’t be shared? Gasp! Scandalous!

Now that theory, I’ll buy. Freedom of thought goes hand in hand with reading, and such freedom always has been controversial. I bet you didn’t realize you were a revolutionary, did you?

Thanks for reading!

Ephesus_Celsus_Library_Façade
The ruins of the Celsus Library in Ephesus, Turkey. I’ve been there. I was in awe.

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Oh, Happy Day!

One of my favorite sayings is that a fish doesn’t realize it’s in water until it jumps out of it. I can totally relate to that. I just jumped out of something myself. Epic revelation!

I just got some really, really, really good news, which unfortunately I can’t share with you, dear readers. Just think about the best news you’ve ever heard in your life, and it’s on that level. The news is so good, in fact, that I’m feeling a little nauseous from sheer relief.

And therein lies the situation I just jumped from. Yes, I knew I had been under an incredible amount of stress. Yes, I knew it was making me miserable. But having the problem whisked out from under me like a tablecloth yanked out from under my mother’s best china, with nary a break, is, well, life-changing. There’s adrenaline involved, for sure. I don’t think I realized just how much the situation was impacting me on the most fundamental of levels.

I. Am. Free!!!!!!!!!

That’s an odd feeling. Because up to this moment I didn’t realize I hadn’t been free. I didn’t truly get how shackled I was to my stress and anxiety.

I feel like jumping in puddles! I feel like kissing someone! I feel like a new person. What a gift!

It’s moments like this that make life truly worthwhile. I hope that you get to have a similar experience at least once in your life. And when you do, I hope you recognize it for what it is: a leap out of your personal pond. Revel in it!

Joy

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Why College is Still Worth It

I have three degrees, and not one of them has helped me get a job. I’ve never worked in any of my fields of study. Never. If that’s your only yardstick for measuring a college education, then yeah, for me it was a monumental waste of time and money.

But I still maintain that college was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I would be a completely different person were it not for higher education. The impact it has had on me has been priceless.

First of all, dorm life is the perfect transitional period between living with your parents and entering the real world. You can try new things, have new experiences, and make truly epic mistakes while still being in a relatively supervised environment. It’s a very important rite of passage. Freedom with a bit of a safety net.

And I guarantee you that you will never find it that easy to make lifelong friends again. Something about pulling an all-nighter or sharing a room with someone bonds you. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t experienced it yourself.

And I truly believe that it’s nearly impossible to go to a university and come out without your horizons having been broadened. You are exposed to other cultures, different schools of thought, and controversial points of view. You learn to question authority and make informed decisions. You discover the importance of thinking outside the box.

Continuing a formal education past high school also helps you discover who you are. You spend time with different types of people. You have different successes and failures. Saying to yourself, “I’ll never do that again” is every bit as valuable as finding your niche or your calling.

Having that amazing 4 year span before the chains of life start weighing you down in the form of mortgage and debt and relationships and obligations and soul-crushing responsibilities is also invaluable. I miss that feeling of only being lightly tethered. I’d love to have it back.

And, yes, of course I learned things that are quantifiable. I speak Spanish. I know the difference between there, their, and they’re. I suspect that if necessary, I could still remember how to rappel down the side of a cliff. And the critical thinking skills that I perfected there have served me well every single day of my life.

So yes, move heaven and earth to go to college. Just be more realistic in your fields of study than I was. You will have to pay the bills eventually.

If you skip this precious milestone in life, you’ll be selling yourself short. And you’ll never know just how much more amazing you could have been. Go for it.

college

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You Have Been Warned

I’ve seen two things recently that have made my hair stand on end because they seem to be so prescient. We are living in terrifying times. And they’re all the more terrifying because these things have happened before.

The first thing I’m referring to is the Hulu series, the Handmaid’s Tale, which is based on the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood. Here are some of the events that have taken place in the first 4 episodes. These things either sound very familiar at the moment or very possible:

  • Militarization.
  • Propaganda and catch phrases.
  • News is regulated.
  • People who protest are shot at.
  • People are forced to don particular clothing to identify their role in society.
  • Special rewards for the rich.
  • An atmosphere of divide and conquer.
  • Forced religion.
  • Doctors, professors, and homosexuals being executed by hanging them on a wall.
  • People encouraged to do violence by the ruling party.
  • Calling women sluts and whores.
  • Increased surveillance.
  • Book burnings.
  • Travel restrictions.
  • Martial law in response to terrorism, real or imagined.
  • Women’s credit card and bank accounts suspended.
  • Women fired from jobs.
  • Institutionalized misogyny.
  • Women’s rights over their own bodies prevented.
  • Rape by men in positions of power with no consequence.
  • Women being blamed for all of the above.

Chilling, isn’t it? Even more disturbing is a website that lists the events that occurred in the first 100 days of Fascist Germany. I read every single day. I actually learned quite a bit that makes me even more worried about our future. Here are some of the things that went on:

  • Attacks on the press.
  • Widespread belief in unsubstantiated conspiracies.
  • Prohibition of protests.
  • Public urged to report foreigners who are causing conflict.
  • Communists rounded up.
  • A big effort to crush resistance.
  • Politicians overstate successes.
  • Jew bashing doesn’t start until Day 40. (That surprised me.)
  • Hitler wants to arm all the people.
  • There as much more resistance than I thought. People were going into exile.
  • Artists and writers and homosexuals attacked.
  • Gay bars closed down.
  • Trade Unions banned.
  • Jews begin to be fired.
  • The first concentration camp, Dachau, is open by day 49 and starts receiving political prisoners by day 51.
  • The press warns that its freedoms are being diminished, and stresses the importance of relying on multiple sources to confirm the validity of information.
  • On Day 55 Goring states that persecution of a person based on ethnicity will not be tolerated. The next day the Nazi Party orders a nationwide boycott of Jewish merchants.
  • Hitler says the press are issuing “slanderous propaganda” about Germany. The Nazi party claims that the press is run by “international Jewry”.
  • Book burning.
  • Civil service workers who do not agree with the Nazis are dismissed.
  • Anti-semitic signs begin to appear everywhere.
  • The government begins identifying all non-Aryans, using early IBM computers.
  • Day 74, an opinion piece appears saying that actual Christian values are nothing like the values of the conservative Christians who have aligned themselves with the Nazi party.

Wake up, people! Wake up! Wake up!

handmaid's tale

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Sanctuary Cities

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about sanctuary cities. He happens to fall on the opposite end of the political bell curve, so debates with him can be interesting. And yet we never get hostile with each other, and still manage to be respectful. Why is that such a dying art?

Anyway, he thinks Seattle, and all other cities that declare themselves to be sanctuaries, are stupid, because they’re potentially depriving themselves of a lot of federal funding, and that will put a lot more pressure on the local taxpayers and reduce services to residents.

I, on the other hand, suggested that perhaps it is Trump who is the stupid one. (Yeah, I know. Hard to believe.) If he withdraws funding, he is further ostracizing the people who live in these sanctuary cities, who won’t simply fall into line because of his bullying tactics. He’ll also be harming certain economies, and that will have a negative impact on the overall economy. Bad business. His travel ban has already cost our tourism industry more than 7 billion dollars. That’s billion, with a b. So I shudder to think what a sanctuary city ban would do. How is this making America great again?

And although many of us seem to conveniently forget this, the United States of America was founded on the basic principle that it is a nation that will provide sanctuary. The precedent was set long, long ago. Freedom of religion. Freedom of the press. Give us your tired, your poor…

Yeah, I know that those concepts seem to be under attack these days, but it’s holding out this fantasy that makes me most proud. Even as our rights are eroded, I like to cling to the belief that somewhere within our beleaguered national soul, we still have the potential for being a bastion of freedom. Why on earth would someone attack cities for doing the very thing that makes us a country?

It boggles the mind.

Sanctuary-Cities

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A Message to the World

Hello. I’m an American. Never in my life did I imagine that I would say this, but I am ashamed of the state of my country. I am embarrassed at the face we are currently showing to the world. This is not who we are.

Never again will I look at another country and assume that all its people agree with its government. Because I don’t. Never again will I think of the resident of another country as possessing a stereotypical characteristic based on that person’s place of birth. Because clearly, I no longer fit in here.

In recent months I’ve been seeing a great deal of ugliness. I’ve seen Americans spewing hate. I’ve seen selfishness and greed and intolerance. I’ve seen ignorance deified and intelligence vilified. I’ve seen science discounted and fantasy encouraged. I’ve seen violence. I’ve seen misogyny. I’ve seen fraud. I see more and more lies every day.

I am so sorry that things have gotten this way. I didn’t vote for Trump. I wouldn’t have approved any of his cabinet members or his choices for the Supreme Court. There is not a single thing that this man has done that I agree with. Not one.

I’m particularly mortified that his immigration policies are making so many people live in fear. This is not acceptable to me. I am a second generation American, and the vast majority of the people who live here are descended from immigrants. We have absolutely no right to do what we are currently doing.

We also have no right to treat the Native Americans the way that we do. If anyone should have moral currency with regard to how we treat the land here, it should be them. They should not be beaten down for wanting water that is safe to drink. Shame on us.

We, of all people, should not have the right to negatively impact women’s health at home or abroad. We should also appreciate the good work that other members of the United Nations do every single day. We should be good stewards of our environment, because what we do affects the entire planet.

I just want you to know that many Americans still believe in human rights, freedom, justice, the environment, freedom of speech, science, peace, and respect for all people who do good in this world. I want you to know that those of us who feel this way will not remain silent. We will speak out for the values that we all strive to maintain. Our voices might get drowned out by those in power, but please don’t stop listening for us. We are here.

Because what you’re seeing now is not who we are.

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Seattle Speaks

So many of us are in a state of shock, trying to adjust to this new world we’re living in. We are wondering how we’ll fit in now if we’re women, minorities, immigrants, or part of the LGBT community. I know I’ve really been struggling with this.

Fortunately, there’s a place that I have been going once a month to tell stories, and I thought that this month, in particular, this group, full of so many people that I love so much, would be a source of solace for me. I expected it to be a sort of life raft in a storm-tossed sea. Surely in this place, if no place else on earth, my voice would be heard. And I planned to tell an amazing story, one that I thought would be healing for many people.

But to my shock, I was not allowed to tell my story. Politics were declared to be off limits. The moderator doesn’t seem to have caught on to this new world of ours, where we will need a place where all of us can be heard and still accepted. This wasn’t your grandmother’s election. This was more like a political 9/11, whether the person you voted for won or not, and people need a chance to process that.

Instead, the restrictions mount in this group with each passing month, but they’re unequally applied. It’s kind of like our new country in microcosm, and because of that, more and more people are discontented. In his desperate attempt to please everyone, he’s pleasing no one. He doesn’t trust us enough to loosen his grip. Boundaries are required, yes, but they should be equal and not so heavy handed. It breaks my heart.

So I had to leave. I couldn’t stand the thought that I could only speak there if I fit within an ever-narrowing set of criteria. This was the one place in this city that I didn’t feel like an outsider, but my foothold is increasingly precarious.

I now have to decide whether I can take that feeling. There are a lot of people I would miss. But I can feel like a freak and an outsider just about anywhere, without having to lose a day of work and drive in rush hour traffic.

Did I overreact? Yeah, probably. But in this political climate, it feels like all the nerves are on the surface of my skin. I need embracing, not restricting. So instead of having my monthly invigorating dive into my pool of friends, I came home and felt sorry for myself and may as well have applied the pint of gelato I consumed directly to my waistline. Only time and a cooler head will tell if I’ll be back.

Who knows. I may not be welcome. I may not be generic enough. It’s nearly impossible to avoid stepping on toes in a room that is that tightly packed with people. Perhaps the moderator needs to have faith in people’s resilience. Just a thought.

So, without further ado, here’s the story I intended to tell last night. I ask you, is it so controversial that a group of people, who have always struck me as being extremely supportive, would have found it intolerable? You decide.

____________________________

Yesterday I was at work, trying to figure out how to live in this new world of ours. Everything looked the same, but everything felt different. I was afraid and confused. I was in despair. I couldn’t even figure out how to write my daily blog, in a place where my voice suddenly feels like it’s being discounted by society at large. So I just sort of sat there, stunned.

My shift was going by really slowly. Not a single boat asked for an opening of my drawbridge for several hours. It kind of felt like everyone was hunkering down, trying not to draw attention to themselves until they figured things out. It was eerily quiet.

Then the radio crackled to life, and it was the Boeing corporate yacht requesting passage. I opened the bridge for him, and he passed through. But something surreal happened as I closed the bridge. When I opened it, the street had been deserted, but upon closing three minutes later, I saw that the street was now filled with dozens of flashing red and blue police strobes. And behind them was a massive crowd of hundreds of people. It was like they had appeared out of nowhere.

I finished closing the bridge and then climbed out on the catwalk that is suspended over the street to get a better view. As the crowd drew near, I could hear them shouting, “Bridge! Bridge!” My heart settled into my throat. What was going on? Were they going to occupy the bridge? It happened once before when the occupy movement was in full force. Suddenly I was feeling very isolated and vulnerable. And they were getting closer.

But as they approached I began to hear more of their chants. “Build a bridge, not a wall!” “This is what democracy looks like!” “Refugees are welcome here!”

Voices of inclusion. Voices of unity. Students reaching out and speaking their truth in a non-violent way. The true essence of America at its best. Freedom of speech.

And there were so many of them. The procession lasted a long time and I got to witness it all from my perch. I was gazing down at hope for the future.

And just like that, the ice melted around my heart and I got tears in my eyes. We still have voices, every one of us. We don’t necessarily have to agree, but we all can speak in this country. And the majority of us aren’t going anywhere. We’re here. Together. And somehow we’ll all work this out. These students reminded me of that.

Speaking your truth is a little gift of kindness you give to those who are worried that they may not be able to speak their own. And when your truth is combined with the truths of others, it is very powerful.

Witnessing this piece of history inspired me. Yes, I can live in this world. There’s room for all of us. There’s just a lot of work to be done. I have to say I’m really proud to be a part of Seattle right now.

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The Anatomy of a Great Day

Have you ever had one of those days when everything seems to be wonderful? I had one about a week ago. (Thank you. More please.) So I decided to sort of dissect the day to see what I could do to increase its frequency.

I got up at 5 am, and was well rested for a change. I went to work and it was a pleasant day with no surprises or unexpected catastrophes. I even crossed paths with a coworker that I haven’t seen in about a year (different schedules, different bridges), and had a really pleasant conversation with him.

I got off work at 3 pm, and, having finally discovered a farmer’s market that’s actually open during my off hours, I went there. I reveled in the fresh fruit and vegetables, walking through the market several times before deciding which of the embarrassment of nutritional riches I would settle upon. I got a few huge heirloom tomatoes, still warm from the vine, and some red leaf lettuce. I looked at the artisan pizza with longing, but decided to save that for another day. Instead I treated myself to a locally made chunky peach popsicle.

I drove through a beautiful neighborhood I’d never explored, and fantasized about living there. Then I came home, fed the dogs, and made a salad with my newfound treasures, adding some carrots, mozzarella cheese, walnuts, nutritional yeast and ranch dressing that I already had on hand. It was the best salad I’d ever eaten, probably because of its freshness, local origins, and the fact that I was sitting in the sun in my back yard, watching my dogs play and hearing the birds sing. I also knew I was being kind to my body by eating something healthy that was also delicious.

After that I read a book while taking a long bath in lavender Epsom salts. My dogs kept stopping in and saying hello. I asked if they’d care to join me, but they politely declined.

Then I settled in to bed at a frightfully early hour: 5:30pm. Normally I wouldn’t think of turning in that early, but I had plans. As I drifted off, I was enjoying the concept that I can go to bed pretty much whenever I want to. I answer to no one. What unbelievable freedom!

I set the alarm for 11:45 pm, and got up and made myself a bowl of popcorn. I then repaired to the back yard once again, to enjoy nature’s light show in the form of the Perseids meteor shower. I ate my popcorn and thought about our vast universe, and how it makes me realize that any problems I may have seem to pale to insignificance in that context.

The night was pleasant and I love the fact that there seems to be not a single bug in Seattle that disturbs me in the slightest. I went back to bed around 1:30 am, and spooned with my dogs until it was time to get up for work.

So what made this day so great? So many things. I indulged myself. I pampered myself. There was no stress. I got exercise for my body as well as my mind. I felt the sunshine on my face, and I ate and rested well. I had pleasant encounters. I hugged my dogs. I appreciated nature. I relaxed. I broke my routine. And most of all, I maintained an attitude of gratitude every step of the way.

I think staying in the moment and acknowledging life’s gifts as they present themselves to you, as well as treating yourself with kindness, is the recipe for a happy life.

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