Spared By Dorian, Buffeted by Dementia

Compare this photo and the following video I took today with the video I took two weeks ago here. The walkable beach here in Naples on the Florida Gulf coast is narrower, and most of the shells I saw as I walked along the water’s edge were broken. The wind was very strong and you can really hear it. I had brought my lunch to the beach and settled at a covered table where I could see the water. I had to hold onto my purse, sandwich and drink while I ate to keep anything from being blown away, not easy to do with two hands. We are about 125 miles from the Atlantic coast of Florida and much further from the hurricane itself, and have been getting some effects from the outer bands, but there’s no danger to life or property here as far as I’ve heard. The east coast has been hunkered down for days, and we were briefly. Unfortunately cognitive impairment prevents some from understanding here from there, or us from them, or safety from danger. I am so grateful for the people and organizations here who understand this and provide so much help and support.

When I saw videos of the devastation in the several of the Bahama islands after they were strafed by category five hurricane winds for over 48 hours, I could hardly take it in. The drone view was from a height that made much of the debris field unrecognizable, but it’s hard to imagine how many people can have survived. This devastation strikes me as being analogous to that being visited upon the brain suffering from progressive dementia. It’s hard to imagine anything surviving, and yet much does, at least for a while. And for any of this, and for all those who help us weather the storm, we are very grateful.

Your Weekly Diversion, Year 2, Week 1

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Starting the second year of this blog, I’m thinking about where we stand. What does that mean? Where I stand is where I am in this moment, sitting in the living room looking out on the small lake to our west, while my husband watches football. Where do we stand as a country? Boy, I wish I really knew. Yesterday people in Hawaii were scared out of their wits when an imminent ballistic missile attack alert came over cellphones, TV broadcasts and from outdoor speakers. It took a full 38 minutes for the official push announcement to come through on cellphones that it was a false alarm. 38 minutes! People were running around like crazy, some even lowering their kids down the manholes of storm drains.

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Photo from Pinterest

Most of us baby boomers can recall the Cold War air raid drills in the 1950s and early 1960s where we had to crouch under our desks with our hands over our heads, preparing for the possibility of nuclear attack. Many still harbor vestiges of those early fears of being attacked by a missile with a nuclear warhead. We learned as we got older that hiding under a desk would have done nothing to prevent our extreme injury or annihilation, as the entire industrialized world knew after Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Some of us wondered when the bomb was going to get us, and how old we would be when it did. Some families actually built bomb shelters in their back yards. It was a thing. I knew a kid whose family had one. Did you?

Most parents and working adults today have no such memories and only know the recent feud the so-called leader of the free world has been fomenting with North Korea as a potentially imminent threat. No “duck and cover” drills for them. Yet out of fear and chaos yesterday, little kids were dropped by their parents into storm drains! Given that Hawaii is closer to North Korea than the US mainland, within reach of their missiles, and that Pearl Harbor was the site of a deadly attack on Hawaii, this preventable false alarm seems especially cruel.

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Drawing from moziru.com

Now that I’ve scared you, tweaking that old nuclear specter from your unconscious yet again, let’s get diverted! This may seem counterintuitive, but to be relieved of  the torment of this fear, you are going to have to look at it. As a psychologist, I know this from professional as well as personal experience, and although it’s not necessarily easy, doing it really helps. Experiencing fear is a form of suffering. Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has said that rather than running from our suffering, we can hold it as we would a crying child and we will suffer less. You can read more about this in his book No Mud, No Lotus. Here is an excerpt from Goodreads:

The function of mindfulness is, first, to recognize the suffering and then to take care of the suffering. The work of mindfulness is first to recognize the suffering and second to embrace it. A mother taking care of a crying baby naturally will take the child into her arms without suppressing, judging it, or ignoring the crying. Mindfulness is like that mother, recognizing and embracing suffering without judgement.

So the practice is not to fight or suppress the feeling, but rather to cradle it with a lot of tenderness. When a mother embraces her child, that energy of tenderness begins to penetrate into the body of the child. Even if the mother doesn’t understand at first why the child is suffering and she needs some time to find out what the difficulty is, just her act of taking the child into her arms with tenderness can already bring relief. If we can recognize and cradle the suffering while we breathe mindfully, there is relief already.

― Thich Nhat Hanh, No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering

So let’s imagine for a moment the fear evoked by that scary reaper, or descending nuclear annihilation or fire of death or whatever you will.  As you allow yourself to think of this fear, see if you can pinpoint what are you actually afraid of.  Is it pain? Death? Nonexistence? Separation from loved ones? Seeing loved ones hurt or dead? Losing your possessions? Living under tyranny or despotism? Okay, if you know what fear thoughts of a nuclear attack evokes, imagine you can hold it in your arms. Give your fear loving, caring attention. Don’t try to silence it with a mood-changing substance or activity. Just sit with it, if even for only a minute. Breathe deeply as you hold your fear. Breathe in with awareness, and breathe out with gratitude. You might do it for a few minutes longer, but only if you want to and feel you can. Now take a couple of deep, cleansing breaths and go do something else. Good for you!

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Photo from quartz.com

Another diversion for you, more interesting than that first one, I suspect. Former Army soldier Chelsea Manning has decided to run for the US Senate in the state of Maryland as a Democrat. This will pit her against veteran Democrat Senator Ben Cardin, a tough slog due to his strong role fighting for progressive issues and taking on Russian interference in the recent presidential election. Chelsea may not win, but she’s definitely showing her mettle. This Guardian story elaborates and includes her YouTube video.

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Something more fun, you ask? Okay, there’s a new bar in Brooklyn called “Kick Axe” where drinkers can throw axes at a target! Wheee! Can’t wait! Um…

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Photo from #catpusic on Pinterest

More? Love inspiring kitty stories? Me too! Meet a cute black and white cat named Pusic.

Since the prospect of nuclear war arguably spawned some of the best the folk music of the 1960’s, let’s not forget that “The Times They are A’Changin” then and now. And since we heard this anthem from composer Bob Dylan earlier, now we can enjoy Simon and Garfunkel covering it.

 

Namasté

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Our Dozers of Love

This blog post from our own David Nelson speaks eloquently what my own heart has been saying. He reminds us that the “eternal law of impermanence” means that this too shall pass. And so shall we. If we don’t stand up for what is right and stand against what is wrong, who will? If not now, when? Many make resolutions at this time of year. Others simply vow to live their values more fully. Whatever we call it, let us make the most of this life, however much of it each of us may have left, because that we cannot know.

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mighty dozer of love ~d nelson

When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

dozer vs mountain ~d nelson

If it was left up to me, and you,
everyone would have an equal opportunity
to live a simple…

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 38

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Photo courtesy of Theen Moy

Okay, it’s week 38, and more violence and incomprehensible suffering. Maybe life in this world has always been filled with violence and incomprehensible suffering, but we are certainly more aware of it now with our global media sources, from social to formal. So whether it’s our own personal suffering, or that of our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and Las Vegas, the anxieties of DACA youth, sick people in fear of losing their coverage, and floods, famine, unrest and wars across the globe, the magnitude of current suffering really can’t be ignored. It sometimes feels our hearts cannot withstand it all. And yet most of us can and do. One foot in front of the other, doing the next right thing.

Each of us has our heartaches. No human being, and probably no being of any ilk, can escape suffering, what Buddhists call dukkha. We must muddle through the miseries that will surely find us as best we can, be they personal, collective or catastrophically global. Just as a tennis player facing the ball machine, we must prepare, get into position and believe we have the ability to cope with what comes speeding at us. Yes, we will fail to see some challenges coming our way, but being accepting of the realities of this life will better help us deal with them.

That said, sometimes heartache brings us to our knees, and we may end up in the fetal position, barely breathing, and perhaps even unsure we wish to get to our feet again. It feels as if it is all just too much. But as Annie sings, the sun comes out the next morning, whether or not we are standing at the window to see it. So we might as well pull ourselves up and try to get back into position to meet the day. And if we can’t, let us believe there are good people everywhere who step in to try to help.

Here are this week’s diversions, and you’ve been very patient to read thus far to get to them!

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How about a unicorn horn for a kiddo getting ready for Halloween? Or for your own costume party! This one is available here but the site isn’t taking orders right now, so here’s a link to DIY unicorn horns . Trick or treat, yeah!

Need some upbeat inspiration? Don’t we all! These wonderful women tell it to us like it is. You go, girls!

And if you’d like to help the devastated island of Puerto Rico and her good people who are staggering from the blows Hurricane Maria threw at them, here are Lin-Manuel Miranda and the amazing musicians who joined with him in creating this beautiful song, “Almost Like Praying.” At the end of the video, there’s a link to make a donation. And you can buy the song on iTunes, too.

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Weekly 37



Now we find ourselves at Week 37. It’s been quite a challenge for the planet and for human kind. My mom’s 92 year old baby sister just fell and broke her pelvis. We are all praying for her healing and return to the active life she loves. Then my cousin finally got down to her home in Florida only to find leaks and other damage. Another cousin found that her Florida art gallery and museum and all the contents survived undamaged, although trees and plants on the grounds were devastated. Friends with property and family in Puerto Rico are anxious about their wellbeing. And then there’s the political circus with its twirling and gesticulating, gyrating and posturing, bellowing and sanctifying its innocence in the face of a blunt reality that begs to differ.

Painting  by Yukon artist Natalie Parenteau

Do you smudge? If not, here’s why you might want to start. Science backs up the belief many share that smudging is good for our health and can be good for the air we breathe. I do it in the office between clients sometimes, especially if the vibe has been especially intense or just to give me a lift. The wonderful work of Canadian artist Natalie Parenteau as seen above can be found here.

The colorful seaside neighborhood of La Perla in Puerto Rico inspired singer Luis Fonsi to write and perform his iconic “Despacito”. Before you get to enjoy the video make earlier this summer, here’s how La Perla looks after Hurricane Maria, in a sobering video clip.

Now, the joyous “before” to remind us all how much work will need to be done for the people of Puerto Rico and this pastel paradise to be restored to gain. “Despacito”:

                                                            Namasté

Your Weekly Diversion, Week 36

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Week 36. Too much suffering going on right now, and fear, and the great unknown. I’m not even talking politics. That’s another painful topic, with healthcare uncertainty for many and the real possibility of nuclear war for us all.  Hopefully cooler heads and compassion will prevail.

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How about some diversions? Let’s make a fairy lantern! This looks like such fun, and if there’s a child in your life, it’ll be fun for both of you!

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Photo from Color Made Happy

How about painting some rocks? Go look for some nice smooth rocks, and check out these instructions. I’m  checking out good rocks now with the intention of using some pretty nail colors I’m replacing with Zoya polish which is cleaner and greener, than You-know-who’s in the ubiquitous square bottles.

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Zoya is free of the Big 10: formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, camphor, TPHP, parabens, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, and lead. Lots of pretty colors, too!

As I write this post, I’ve been listening to the Global Citizen Festival, so who better than to close with than Stevie! 

 

 

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 35

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London number by Tim Rich

Now at Week 35, I find myself wondering where the week has gone. The answer is pretty simple. This time last week we were gearing up for Hurricane Irma from up north. Our house watch man put up our storm shutters, and not the cool permanent rolldown or accordion ones but the kind that go up slat by slat, labor intensive and time consuming. He took everything out of our freezer and disposed of it so we won’t find something awful when we return in a few weeks.

We watched cable news and the Weather Channel compulsively, but we’re grateful for the windows into our world in Naples they gave us from almost 1,400 miles away. The Naples Daily News also delivered news updates throughout the days and nights.

Friends and neighbors down there shared their stories during and after, and people really struggled and suffered from the heat, humidity, damaged buildings and anxiety. The storm was so unpredictable. Hearing about the dreaded surge, a friend left his first floor apartment with no window protection and went to family with a big house with the best storm shutters and a generator. They were harder hit and all had to go to neighbors with a second floor where the comedy of errors in the telling afterwards had us in stitches but had to be stressful to the max going through it. He told us there were whitecaps in the street. When he got back to his place, it was dry and damaged. Go figure.

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Graphic by Shielagh from 2012 visit to the Everglades

Us? Our condo made it through unscathed. It’s unbelievable that the lake overflowed but stopped right at the edge of our lanai and didn’t spill over and seep inside. It’s a miracle. All our friends, family and neighbors survived, although a cousin and some good friends suffered serious damage. Neighbors lost terra cotta roof tiles but we’ve been told by two people that our building did not. A hundred trees were blown down or otherwise destroyed on our street alone. And rumor has it that an alligator has taken up residence in our lake!

The hard part for us was the delay in learning our fate, getting a message at first that sounded dire, and then the good news started trickling in. Although over 85,000 households are still without power in Collier County, ours was restored on Wednesday, although not confirmed by Florida Power and Light until Friday afternoon. Earlier that day we got a recorded message that they were aware we still didn’t have power and were promising it by September 22. We hold everyone who is suffering loss of power, home damage, homelessness and fear in our thoughts.

So I’ve been diverted and distracted all week, barely aware of other news in the world. Mostly terribly sad and distressed for all the people in the Keys, Marco Island and the hard hit Caribbean islands that are virtually uninhabitable now. The devastation is hard to take in.

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This AA 11th Step Meditation by George Lewis was a comfort to me to listen to and I sent it around to friends in Florida and those waiting and watching anxiously from afar. And I learned I could tee it up on my iPad and make it play on my TV without doing anything special! Wow!

Not many fun diversions this week. But white giraffes!

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Photo from Tree Hugger

Namasté

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