How Deprived Are We?

I’ve been listening to a lot of people complaining about the deprivations brought about by the COVID-19 quarantine. Truth be known, I’ve complained, too. I miss my hairdresser. If I don’t get a cut soon, I’m going to start looking like Cousin Itt.

Cousin-Itt

People want to go to the movies again. They want to get their tattoos. They want toilet paper, even if they have a stockpile. They can’t understand why we can’t have our concerts and parades and baseball games.

When I hear this, I think, “Wow, we’ve gotten soft.” I think of the stories I was told about what life was like during World War II. If we’re freaking out about hairdressers, I can’t imagine how we’d feel about being allowed 4 gallons of gas a week, and only then if we could justify having any at all.

According to Wikipedia, here are some of the austere measures applied to the American public at various points during WWII:

  • There was a shortage of rubber, so tires were allocated to each community based on the number of registered vehicles.

  • Gasoline rationing was also a function of preserving tires.

  • At one point, automobile sales were stopped. Along with the sales of typewriters and bicycles.

  • A national speed limit of 35 miles per hour was imposed to preserve rubber.

  • You were only allowed 5 tires. IF you could justify a need for your vehicle. All other tires (and all tires for those with unjustified use of a vehicle) were confiscated for government use.

  • Low priority vehicles could get 4 gallons of gasoline per week. Military industrial workers could get 8 gallons per week. People essential to the war effort, such as doctors and truckers, could get more. An unlimited supply of gasoline could go to clergy, police, firemen, civil defense workers, and, scandalously, to congressmen.

  • Automobile racing was banned, as was simply driving around to sightsee.

  • Only households with babies and small children could get canned milk.

  • Sugar rationing lasted until 1947 in some parts of the country. It was ½ pound per person per week, which was apparently half the normal consumption at the time.

  • Coffee was restricted to 1 pound every five weeks, also half the normal consumption.

  • Canned dogfood was no longer produced.

  • You had to turn in an empty toothpaste tube before you could buy a new one.

  • All production was halted for metal office furniture, radios, television sets, phonographs, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, washing machines and sewing machines.

  • Other items that were rationed were shoes, silk, nylon, fuel oil, stoves, meat, lard, cheese, butter, margarine, processed foods, dried fruits, firewood, coal, jams, and jellies.

Given the way people are reacting to our current situation, I doubt any of us would have made it through World War II. We actually have it pretty darned good. We can get through this, if we put it into the proper perspective.

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First World Problems

I’m having a bad day.

I got about 4 hours of sleep last night, and the commute to work this morning was even more of a nightmare than usual. On the way, I discovered that my radio somehow got rid of my preprogramming for KNKX, and since I don’t know their position on the dial by heart, I missed their weekly broadcast of BirdNote, which is something I always look forward to. And I’m falling behind on my blog and feeling particularly uninspired. And I’m getting a pimple on my chin.

At times like these, there’s this little voice inside my head that tends to give me a reality check. I call her Third World Barb. Here’s what she had to say today:

“What? Is that all you got, girl? I’m starving, struggling, sweating, and do not have a safe place to call home. Thanks to Trump, there’s no asylum for me. I have no hope of an education or a decent job. I consider myself lucky when I have access to indoor plumbing and eat more than once a day. I hear gun shots outside my window every night, and women screaming, when the sounds of my own screams don’t block them out. My life expectancy is probably half of yours. I have never known stability. It’s hard to hear you whine about someone peeing in your Post Toasties when every minute of my life is about the desperate pursuit of food, clothing, and shelter.”

Perspective. It’s a beautiful thing.

Forced Perspective

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Get a Life

Yup. I heard someone say that to a girl who looked really resigned and defeated the other day. Clearly the comment was not made to buck her up.

If I were inclined to butt into other people’s business, I’d have had quite a bit to say to that girl. Too much, probably. Maybe I should have. I don’t know.

First of all, I would have said, you have a life. You’re breathing, right? So clearly your “friend” doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He said that to you because the life you have does not meet his specifications. And nothing says you have to meet his specifications. Your life is your own to do with what you will.

Often people will say “Get a life” when someone is intruding upon theirs, though. Just to be on the safe side, you might want to examine your behavior to make sure you aren’t trying to push unsolicited advice onto him. Because he, too, has a right to do with his life whatever he wants.

But expressing concern about someone’s behavior because you care is not a crime. Empathy is a good trait to have. Don’t let anyone quash that in you.

Just be sure you can distinguish between expressing concern and trying to solve someone else’s problem. Give advice if asked. Otherwise just tell the person what is worrying you, in a calm and factual way, and let the cards fall where they may. After all, you’d want the same treatment, wouldn’t you?

But if allowed to butt in even further, I’d suggest that perhaps that girl might want to find a different friend. Because if someone is inclined to be that rude, and wants to shut you down so thoroughly, then you’re not being valued at all. You deserve better, girl.

If, on the other hand, you are reading this because you find yourself saying “Get a life” to others on a regular basis, you might want to a) stop and listen to what people are trying to tell you, and/or b) figure out that you are not the life police. Advising others that they have no life is rude, arrogant, insulting and unproductive. Maybe you should get a life. (See what I did there?)

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First World Problems

Have you ever tried to find a last-minute dog sitter for a holiday weekend? Especially when you have a dog with a history of chewing on people? It’s no picnic, believe me. I asked 8 different sitters, and had no luck whatsoever. Come on. I just want a romantic weekend with my new boyfriend! Waaaaaah!

In times of great stress, that very boyfriend likes to remind me that the situation in question is a very First World problem to have. (See, that’s why I respect him so much. He’s pretty darned deep. And he’s great at calming me down.)

He has a point. Perspective is a wonderful thing. Relatively speaking I have very little to worry about. There have been no drive-by shootings in my neighborhood. I know I will eat today. It’s a safe bet that I won’t freeze to death. No armies will invade my city. I will very likely live my entire life without hearing an air raid siren. I’m safe. I’m secure. I’m healthy. I have options.

It’s those people who lack perspective who tend to succumb to road rage. They’re the mass shooters, the wife beaters, the conspiracy theorists, the Fox news viewers of the world. They are the ones who whip up mass hysteria about situations that don’t even exist.

I just need to remind myself that this is no time to panic. I’ll be fine. My dog will be fine. My romantic weekend will be fine. And if this is the worst thing that’s happening in my life, then I’m one fortunate blogger, indeed.

Perspective

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Even Weeds Belong Somewhere

My whole life, I’ve felt as though I didn’t quite fit in. So much so, that at some point I gave up trying. In fact, these days I seem to have gone to the other end of the bell curve entirely. I kind of delight in being out in left field most of the time.

Except when I’m feeling vulnerable. When I’m tired, I feel much more insecure. When I’m improperly dressed at a party, and have no idea which fork to use, I’m not going to lie–that kind of sucks.

But it isn’t anyone else telling me that I don’t fit in. It’s entirely me. And it’s based on some pretty arbitrary social rules. It always makes me think of weeds. I’m a weed.

During my young adult life, I lived in a town called Apopka, which called itself the “Indoor Foliage Capital of the World.” (I wonder if they still do? It’s been many decades since I’ve been back.) Back then, you couldn’t throw a rock in that town without shattering a greenhouse window. It made me look at plants in an entirely new way.

It amazed me how much people were willing to pay for stuff that you can find growing entirely wild somewhere or other. People do love the exotic, but even exotic things have to be commonplace in some location, or they wouldn’t exist.

So, a weed is simply something that doesn’t fit in. It’s not where it’s supposed to be. Worse case scenario, it’s invasive. But that’s not the weed’s fault. It never asked to be uprooted. There it was, minding its own business in its natural habitat, when some fool decided to send it half way across the world without considering the consequences. And then the name calling begins. (Damned weed. Get out of my yard! We don’t want you here!)

So it’s all about perspective and location. We all have our place. It’s just a matter of finding it. So maybe as you walk along the path of your life, try being a little less judge-y of the other living things that you encounter who are feeling out of place. They, too, have their journey. Just sayin’.

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The Choices We Can’t See

“So, why didn’t you do it like this?” She asked.

“Because it never occurred to me,” I replied.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve had a similar conversation, both as the inquisitor and as the embarrassed person who failed to find the obvious solution. It makes you wonder how many choices are out there that you just never see.

That’s why I always find it so helpful to discuss issues with third parties. Inevitably, they bring a unique perspective to the table. Not that I always take their advice, but it is always good to have alternatives.

It’s almost as if the fifth dimension (rather than being a band that sings about the Age of Aquarius), is a land of invisible options. It’s a place that we sense, but can’t seem to access, try as hard as we might.

“Why didn’t I think of that?” I ask, while pressing my nose against the window of that quirky dimension.

I suppose that if we always got things right, there would be no challenges in this world. There would be no room for improvement, and nothing to strive for. It would certainly squelch all creativity and innovation. What would be the point?

I like the concept that there are choices out there that we don’t see. I like unlimited possibilities. I only hope that we figure things out at the most critical junctures, because much hangs in the balance. But it kind of makes me wonder if it’s ever possible to get something completely “right”.

L0027293 The gyri of the thinker's brain as a maze of choices in biom

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Maybe If…

So I decided to go camping in British Columbia during the Perseids meteor showers. I love astronomical events of all kinds, but the Persaids is one of my favorites. And it was supposed to be particularly spectacular this time around.

I had been planning this trip for nearly a year. I had no idea that half the province would be on fire. Fortunately, the worst of it was far from our campsites, but the smoke… that was everywhere. I could tell we were driving through some spectacular views… but it was like I was looking at them through a shower curtain covered with lime deposits. Oh well. My imagination is nothing if not fertile.

Needless to say, though, this was cause for concern in terms of meteor viewing. Would we even be able to see the stars? I was having a hard time hiding my dismay from my camping buddy. He seemed unconcerned. When I asked him about it, he said, “You don’t have to experience everything, you know.”

Wow. I love it when a new perspective leaves me speechless. I sat there for a long time, thinking about that. I wish someone had said this to me years ago. Because it occurs to me that I spend quite a bit of energy trying to soak up experiences like a sponge. When I travel, especially, I try to do everything there is to do, because I might not pass this way again. Maybe if I push through this bit of exhaustion I can squeeze in one more thing. Maybe if I keep looking up, I’ll see those meteors. Must. Look. Up. This hypervigilance means that I have very few regrets, but it also means I experience more than my fair share of stress.

Martin has a point. What happens if I miss the meteor showers? Will I die? No. Still, I did spend quite a lot of time staring skyward that night and the two nights to follow. Turns out I could see the stars after all. And I think, but am not sure, that I saw some shooting stars out of the corner of my eye. I wasn’t sure enough to wake Martin up, though. So he slept on, peacefully, while I monitored the heavens for some spectacular sign.

And that pretty much says it all.

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Arbitrary Stress

I like to have at least 7 blog entries in queue, waiting to be posted, one per day, when the clock strikes twelve. Right now I’m one behind and it’s stressing me out. I can’t come up with anything to write about.

But for heaven’s sake, what difference does it make if I have 6 or 8? I mean, my adrenaline is pumping (well, a little bit, anyway) because of a random yardstick I’ve chosen to measure myself by. Yeah, it’s good to have goals, but this is truly absurd.

What’s going to happen if I don’t write that 7th entry today? Will Donald Trump jump out of the bushes and grab my nasty bits? (Now, that would be something to write about! Once I was bailed out of jail and he got out of intensive care, that is.)

I think that in some ways, we were better off back in the days when we were chased by saber-toothed tigers. Now that was a legitimate cause for concern. You’d run like hell, and either be killed or survive, and then move on to the next thing. But lacking tigers, we feel the need to make shit up. And in this modern world, the pickings are mighty slim.

I need to practice determining which of my unmet expectations are actually worthy of my anxiety, and which are random constructs that my tiger-craving mind is conjuring up for lack of anything better to do. Perspective. It’s a beautiful thing. But for me, at least, it seems to be fleeting.

But, oh look! I just wrote my 7th blog entry! Yay, me! I deserve a cookie.

Smilodon_Knight

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Try Listening

I know a guy who talks so much that people actually scatter when they see him coming. He’s a nice guy. He means well. But he can suck, literally, hours out of your life as he holds forth on whatever he has chosen to blather on about on that particular day. And you’re expected to just stand there and say, “Uh huh.”

I doubt, even after all this time, that he knows much of anything about me. I can’t get a word in edgewise. And he doesn’t seem the least bit curious about anyone else. He never asks questions.

I think this is really sad. I personally would be bored silly if the only topic I was willing to discuss was me, me, me. I know me. I’ve done me. I’d much prefer to learn something new, or experience a unique perspective. This guy isn’t capable of that. His life seems very limited.

He also seems rather short-sighted. He doesn’t seem to notice people running away from him. I’ve seen people who have had to get rather rude to shut him up. One guy started his leaf blower right in the middle of a story. Mr. Talky-Pants didn’t even seem surprised or insulted. I bet things like that happen to him a lot. You’d think that someone who is that inwardly focused would be more aware of insults, but he lacks that quality.

When you are talking to someone, try listening as well. Every once in a while, check in with yourself and say, “Am I learning anything new?” If not, ask something. Show some interest in those around you. Keep doing that until it comes naturally to you. People will most likely be charmed by your sincere curiosity, even if it does take practice.

That, and knowledge is power.

A big rule of thumb is that if people are running from you, you are either too big of a proponent of open carry, or you most likely aren’t a pleasure to be around.

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Continuity

I read something recently that I found very comforting. The same sunrise/sunset has been circling the globe for millions of years. Mind officially blown.

I love the idea that my sunset is someone else’s sunrise. It gives me a sense of connection with the wider world. It links me to all of time, past, present and future.

I also enjoy the perspective this gives me. The thing that is causing me stress and anxiety today is a mere blip on the sun’s radar. Talk about not sweating the small stuff! Here I am, one tiny little person, in one tiny little point in time, worrying about one tiny little thing.

It also makes change seem trivial. That multi-million year sunrise has looked different every single day, for every single person, and it will look different again tomorrow. And yet it still keeps on keeping on.

Despite our mortality, despite the havoc we wreak, on a larger scale there is stability and continuity. Life will go on, in some form or fashion, somewhere, some time. We are each just one thread in a vast, complex tapestry.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me feel like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

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