I recently turned 65. I had not planned any big events. 65 is a culturally significant milestone, but it was an anniversary I just wanted to walk through chilling, I was open to suggestion. Suggestions from friends, suggestions from family, from the universe.
I will not assign tight, specific meaning to one of the events, but I do think seeing this little juxtaposition of random items in a thrift store which a friend and I decided to take a quick spin through after an impromptu breakfast at a local diner next to store. It was a nice little greeting from the universe.
Another more nebulous “message” was sent to me, if you believe in that sort of thing, when I resolved a car problem I had thought would require a trip to a repair shop. I realized that some needed upkeep should be scheduled soon if the Hubster and I are to drive to visit family for vacation. This will preent problems. I received the prod in any case, even if it wasn’t sent, and I am glad I did. I like to acknowledge good things when they happen.
I am also happy that even though my daughter lives in the Bay Area we were all able to share, via video link, the dinner she had delivered here. It was really nice. Then my husband made a birthday peach pie for me. Yum.
I also thought about a few birthdays past:
- playing outside, marching around the drive way, wearing a new orange-print two-piece shorts and top, play set, and feeling so Big when I turned four.
- being in Wisconsin at a lake house for a weekend celebration of my daughter’s graduation in which she received her Au.D. in 2018
- spending my 50th birthday with my Mom at her home as she prepared to transition from this life. We had chocolate cake together and enjoyed the day
- turning 40 in NYC as my step-daughter received her B.A. from Barnard.
My lovely family, shopping with a good friend, tons of online greetings, fond memories, and at peace with the universe. It was very nice relaxing 65th.
Then, just as I was getting ready to wind-up or officially close my birthday week, elderly shoppers were slaughtered. Then babies in the early grades were murdered like point markers in a video game. Then I slip into a multi-day migraine. We all handle stress differently. I guess I overload my neural system until it rebels.
How do people unlink from the pain in the world? There has always been disaster and pain. Somehow it seems different, is different, now. Of course the pace at which we consume information and the way we welcome it into our homes, as an essentially undigested, spewing stream of opinion masquerading as fact does not filter out the poison, from the lies, from the few bits of data still embedded in the stream.
I know a ton of people find that consciously balancing themselves is the way to survive and grow in this life. But how do you know that balance has been achieved? Is coming home to share a meal with the family really something you have to put into the equation? Shouldn’t that be a given? If it comes about as a sacrifice hollowed out from your professional life, it that really balance or just a guilt that is balanced by expanding another aspect of work in importance. I honestly cannot imagine that we as a people have enough perspective to view, manipulate, and balance our actions. Not in the world we built from 20th Century Capitalism, that was build to be aimed like a weapon at the exploited people who are mass-media-convinced that the way they live is normal and they should not rock the boat.
What Do We Do with the Force of the Explosion?
First, identify which explosion you are reacting to, and allowing into your personal sphere of interaction, into your personal biochemistry, and what sort of filters you have, and whether you need more of them or a different type of filter.
For me, I know I must to incorporate a physical soothing ritual into my personal go-to bag of filters.
My physical ritual kit includes:
- hot, epsom salts baths
- calming breaks with a cup of tea – traditional Earl Gray (with bergamot extract)
- closing my eyes for a few minutes and focus on breathing and clearing my mind
- outside exercise: walking, gardening, running
My emotional ritual kit includes:
- schedule “icky” task completion so as to have accountability. I’ve written about my accountability group in an earlier post. If I can “keep up” and not feel guilty about undone tasks my mood is elevated
- break out of negative thought spirals. Some people need medication such as an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety prescription to break out of the emotional equivalent to doom scrolling.
- aerobic activity can also break out of the doldrums or negative behavioral spirals… any intense exercise that mimics stress creation in a safe way also creates a release of endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, and norepinephrine, and no two researchers completely agree on which chemicals or parts of the neural system are responsible as it is a complex interaction between several elements and processes.
The spiritual ritual kit is a tough one for me, personally, as I was raised to believe that ritual is secondary, at best, to goods works, and quiet, reflective time.
- quiet time and conscious, peaceful, meditation connects me to the spiritual plane.
- symbolic ritual enacted through established physical and material actions sooth and inspire a vast part of the world’s population.
Intellectual ritual and informational ritual are modulation and mediation filters and boil down to conduits or how you allow information into your world, and how much you allow in. This is where Americans fall down. We have been indiscrete in our use of logic.
Radio was a huge change for people and many scholars believe it disrupted society in a way that allowed for fascist thoughts and propaganda to arise in the 1930s. Some say the current rise or neo-fascist, fundamentalist, and misogynist factions is due to the rise of social media via the now well-established web.
Talk Radio is a conduit, but the information carried by that conduit is difficult to validate in realtime. Talking Heads on TV are similarly purveyors of information in forms that are difficult to parse. Written information can be screened and organized by you into trusted channels whose research you trust, into critical thinkers who examine current events with different perspective from you but that use logical evaluation. News of the day and recurring topics of interest should both be evaluated to be
- Verified and data driven
- Opinions you trust
- Framed conceptually and structurally
I use Flipboard for my news channel that I peruse first thing each morning, and a digital subscription to the NYT.
An Abundance of Rabbit Holes
I never thought I would have to filter my news carefully to sort out malicious memes and professionally crafted propaganda. But I do. I also have to scour out the DYOR individualist group thinkers who mistake a tiny bit of research for expertise. Learning how to do archival research to support or refute particular claims takes years. Evidence builds slowly. Aha moments inspire, but knowledge bases accumulate.
Being an independent scholar, I understand the nuance and the tendency for people to misattribute “pop” status to people like me. If we are unaffiliated with an academic institution, we are discredited. There may be no better example of this discrediting of significant, ground-breaking work than that of the great Zora Neale Hurston. She almost vanished from history.
I also marvel at how these same nay-sayers follow the ramblings of cryptocurrency gurus or generously and quietly compensated dark money politicians. Hope and belief in goodness still burn within me, but I am…
Older and wiser this trip around the sun.