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Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Another “R”

 

When You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going – Winston Churchill


It is said that in school they teach you the three “Rs”- reading, writing and arithmetic, but there is another “R” that we’ve all be studying, whether we like it or not, and that is resilience. And for many of us this, may be the most important class we will ever take.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines resilience as “the ability to be happy, successful, etc. again after something difficult or bad has happened" or “the ability of a substance to return to its usual shape after being bent, stretched, or pressed."

I don’t know about you but for nearly a year since the pandemic gripped us, I’ve been feeling a bit bent, stretched and pressed, and I bet many of you are too. 

 


To borrow from Charles Dickens, this time has not been the “best of times.” Unless you are detached from reality, I’m guessing that you and everyone you know has suffered something this past year, be it the postponement of a special event like a wedding, the loss of a loved one or maybe a job or income, the ability to travel at will, freedom to breathe without a face covering, or maybe a way of life or an enormous amount of anxiety over what our future holds.

So, how do we spring back from all of this? According to a 2018 Psychology Today article, called “Resilience 101,” one of the most important things you can do when enduring or trying to spring back from a difficulty is to check your negative thought patterns. Are you hearing your mind repeating things like: I can’t take this much longer! This is never going to get better. What’s going to happen now?

You need to stop this. As I have mentioned in past columns, that when I was in my thirties, I suffered with an anxiety disorder and panic attacks, and one of the best books that helped me get my negative thoughts under control was Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by Dr. David Burns. The book teaches you to pay attention to what you are thinking and put the lie to them because you, essentially, are what you think. Therefore, if your mind is polluted with “stinkin thinkin,” you are going to be miserable. And don’t forget there is a mind-body-spirit connection.

If your thinking is negative, it affects your health and your spirit. It is a difficult task to rein in your thoughts, but there are some things you can do help. The first is to take good care of yourself—eat well, get out in the sun if we get a sunny day, exercise and get sleep. When you are tired, everything goes out of whack.

Spiritually, pray, meditate, and take time to be quiet, which is exceedingly harder to do these days with cell phones and all of us being cooped up together.

Also, reflect on your past, you’ve been an overcomer before, and you can do it again. Maybe you were cut from a team in high school, or maybe you lost a job or loved one. Maybe you failed at school or in business. No one escapes an education from the school of hard knocks. If you’ve made it this far, you can keep on going!

Finally, and most importantly, if you are really struggling, seek help. It may be as simple as just telling someone how you are feeling that will lighten your load, or maybe you need some professional help. 

There’s no shame in that. Smart people admit it when they need help. And I’ll clue you in on something: You are not alone. When I finally revealed that I was terribly worried and suffering from panic attacks, nearly everyone I told either revealed that they had felt that way sometime in their life or had someone in their immediate family struggling too. 

So, though we’ve all been tested this year, there is hope. Nothing bad lasts forever. One of my favorites quotes is: The Lowest Ebb is the Turning of the Tide. Here’s looking forward to that tide changing soon and all of us riding a wave of good times and fortunes and coming back better, stronger and wiser than ever.  

 


This article originally appeared in the February 2021 issue of Northern Connection magazine.

 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

2020 – Worst Year Ever?

Here we come to the end of 2020. To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, “What a long, strange trip it’s been.” I’ve seen many people posting Facebook memes or tweets saying that this was the worst year ever and that they can’t wait to kiss it goodbye.

While this has not been the best year on record, I feel guilty for wishing it out the door. See, because I am still alive, and every day on earth is a gift.

So, was 2020 really the worst year ever? Not by a long shot.

Have you ever heard of the 4.2 kiloyear event? I hadn’t. There is a great YouTube channel called UsefulCharts.com, and by way of easy-to-understand graphics, it explains history. A while back I came across their chart “Timeline of World History | Major Time Periods & Ages,” which illustrates the concurrent historic events of the world across time periods.

Approximately 4.2 thousand years ago an event happened that experts aren’t exactly sure what caused it, but nevertheless, it resulted in 100 years of extremely dry conditions that wiped out fledgling civilizations around the world. It really was a reset.

 

Jump ahead a few thousand years, and we come to the year 536 A.D., which many historians site as the worst year ever.  Europe, The Middle East and Asia were plunged into darkness. According to the Byzantine historian Procopius, the sky was dark for 18 months, writing: "For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year." Without the sun, temperature on earth fell, ushering in the coldest decade in 2,300 years, resulting in crop failures and mass starvation. The Chronicles of Ireland recorded "a failure of bread from the years 536–539."

Evidence found in tree rings and the polar ice caps point to a cataclysmic volcanic eruption in Iceland that spewed ash around the world, blotting out the sun and changing the course of civilization. To make things even worse, shortly after that, the Justinian plague broke out and rampaged the world, wiping out one-quarter of the world’s population and hastening the fall of the Roman Empire. 

 


Skip ahead to the lovely year 1346 when the Black Death swept Europe, wiping out 60% of Europe’s population. A little over a hundred years ago in 1918, we had the tragic trio of World War I, the Spanish Flu epidemic and the Russian Revolution. The year 1968 was no picnic either as assassinations, civil unrest as well as the Vietnam war raged.

So yeah, 2020 wasn’t the worst, and no, it certainly wasn’t the best year ever, but as we turn the page on a new calendar, let’s acknowledges our losses, be grateful for what we brought out of the year and stake our hopes on a better 2021. 

Happy New Year!

 


 This article originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of Northern Connection magazine.



Tuesday, November 17, 2020

What Is and What Will Never Be

 What if? 

These two little words pack a powerful punch.

For those who enjoy crafting fictional tales like I do, they provoke creativity. What if we make the protagonist a kleptomaniac? Or what if the killer is the mother? What if we set the story during the Renaissance?

For those who battle or have battled anxiety, (myself included), those two little words can send an anxious mind down a path to panic. What if that mole is cancerous? What if they die? What if I don’t have enough money saved for retirement?

For the “what might have been” crowd, the What if? question can be haunting. “What if I hadn’t gotten drunk, driven my car and injured that pedestrian? What if I hadn’t cheated on my girlfriend? What if I had chosen a different major?

For historians, these two little words spark debate. In fact, there is a series of books entitled What If? in which brilliant historians examine critical turning points in history and what the world would be like today. They explore such topics as: What if the Americans had lost the Revolutionary War? What if Lincoln had not freed the slave? What if the Russians hadn’t backed down during the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Since we celebrate Veterans Day this month, I thought I’d share my little stroll down the historical What if? path. Although many men in my family have served in the armed forces including the Korean War and World War II, my family has been fortunate to lose only one life to war and that was my Will Moran, my paternal grandmother, Agnes Lane's older brother, who died in World War I.

 


I didn’t know much about Will except for seeing a few black and white photos of him in his Army uniform and a photo of his mother, my great-grandmother, on a ship sailing to France for Gold Star mothers to visit the graves of their fallen children.

As we began to dig a little deeper into Will’s life, we learned that he was killed near the end of the war at the Second Battle of the Marne in France. My son knows so much more about history than I do, and one of the history books he has stated that a young German soldier by the name of Adolf Hitler was on the front during that battle where Will perished. That got us to thinking: What if Hitler had died at that battle instead of Will? How different would our world have been? Would there have been a Second World War? Would six million Jews have died in the Holocaust? What would Europe be like today?

While the What Ifs are intriguing and thought provoking, they are futile. Although those two little words are powerful, two other words surpass them, and they are: What Is.

Reality is where life takes place and dealing with what is and what is real is where we can affect the most good. You can’t live in regret or fantasy or conjecture or what will never be. So, in life, there’s no going back, there’s only going forward. 

Note: While researching this article, I recently learned that Will Moran was killed on July 19, 1918, and is buried at Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, Fere-en-Tardenois, France. He was also awarded a Purple Heart. 

This article originally appeared in the November 2020 issue of Northern Connection Magazine.