I have mild hoarding tendencies—nothing serious, but sometimes I find it difficult to discard items for which there may be some future use. My biggest problem is paper—articles I’ve saved for future reference, notes and handouts from conferences, and scraps on which I’ve scribbled brilliant, budding ideas that I hope will grow into mature, wise, and literate prose. One of my goals during this period of enforced isolation is to tackle the piles and files and miles of paper. I try not to be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task, but to devote a certain amount of time each day to purging, sorting, and deciding what stays (and where!) and what goes.
Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go
~John Prine, Angel from Montgomery
John Prine, Wikimedia Commons
I was saddened to learn this morning that the great John Prine died yesterday, another casualty of the coronavirus. I have loved John Prine’s music since I was a teenager. His voice is as piercing as his lyrics, illustrating why Rolling Stone proclaimed him “the Mark Twain of American songwriting.”
I wanted to link back to a post I wrote in 2016, which talked about my very favorite Prine song, “Hello in There.” It describes the isolation so many elderly people feel in our society, and it’s particularly poignant today, in the midst of COVID-19, as isolation confronts us all in different ways. I hope you’ll follow the link and listen to Prine’s song and then think about who in your life, or in your neighborhood, could use a “hello” from you.
“The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” (Marcel Proust)
I’m not big on making New Year resolutions (What’s she talking about, Leonard? Doesn’t she know it’s nearly April?). But what I do try to do at the beginning of each year is think about who I want to be, what I hope will be different, and what I want my life to look like at the end of the year. Then, I set my monthly, weekly, and daily intentions with that vision in mind.
It’s very organized and kind of nerdy (and maybe a tiny bit OCD). It works for me.
But, here at the end of March, 2020—a month during which the world changed in ways that were unimaginable a short time ago—I find it’s time to rethink my priorities and reset my intentions for the emerging brave new world (which, I hope, will not resemble the one imagined by Aldous Huxley).
I wonder, as we hunker down—giving colossal thanks to those on the front lines who cannot hunker—if it would be healthy and wise to take some time to think about who we will be and what the world may look like once the coronavirus pandemic is behind us. Continue reading →
“Kindness causes us to learn, and to forget, many things” (Anne-Sophie Swetchine)
I’ve always been fascinated by memory. How my husband remembers incidents I don’t recall at all, how I’ll remember something that is completely absent in his memory, and how we may both remember an episode from our shared past, but remember it so differently that we question the other’s sanity.
As I age, I wonder why I still recall embarrassing moments from grade school, but don’t remember why I got up from my desk and walked into the kitchen.
Scientists are always sharing new bits of information about memory. So, of course, I sat up and took notice when I saw a new study showing that we are made happier and healthier by recalling our own acts of kindness.
Researchers from the University of California, Riverside, conducted a three-day experiment in which they randomly assigned undergraduates to one of four tasks: 1) performing acts of kindness; 2) recalling acts of kindness they had performed in the past; 3) both performing and recalling acts of kindness; and 4) neither performing nor recalling acts of kindness.
Their findings revealed that study participants in groups 1, 2, and 3 all reported an increase in their well-being: greater life satisfaction and positive feelings, and a decrease in negative feelings. It didn’t matter whether they performed acts of kindness, recalled acts of kindness, or did both—all experienced the same level of enduring and stable happiness and satisfaction. Continue reading →
“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion, against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.” (William Faulkner)
I love it when a new idea taps me on the shoulder (or whacks me upside my head!).
Recently, I was reading The Best American Essays of 2019, edited by the always invigorating Rebecca Solnit. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the best essays of 2019 are political in nature. Given the times, it could not be otherwise. I was particularly struck by one short essay, “We Are Not the Resistance,” by Michelle Alexander. It first appeared in the New York Times, so you can read it here. She contends that those of us who oppose Donald Trump and everything his administration stands for are not the resistance. Trump and his ilk are the resistance. It is they who are resisting the march of history—the march toward our nation becoming “a multiracial, multiethnic, multifaith, egalitarian democracy in which every life and every voice truly matters.”
Ms. Alexander further asserts that “the whole of American history can be described as a struggle between those who truly embraced the revolutionary idea of freedom, equality and justice for all and those who resisted.” Continue reading →