Category Archives: World View

WoW – Dina Wilcox Lets Your Brain Explain Itself

Dina Wilcox, is publishing her first book: “Why Do I Feel This Way? What Your Feelings Are Trying To Tell You.” It’s what our brains would tell us about how our feelings work, if they could talk.  She’s a story teller with great stories to tell of how she learned the truth of what goes on with our feelings, emotions, memories, fear, love, joy—even dancing and embarrassment. It’s a nonscience book that has unscientific experiments and a lot to tell, and we don’t have to be scientists to understand any of it.  Ann Fry says:

I’ve read this book and in my opinion is is a trail-blazer — helping us understand “why” and to make sense of it.

Dina, creator of Raising Healthy Voices, explains her mission this way:

At Raising Healthy Voices, we’re out to get people all over the world talking about our brains and our responses to life, the things we have most in common with each other. Why? Because our brains build connections between us. There are the obvious ways–when we see and talk with each other–and there are the not-so-obvious: we dance, feel empathy, and we get embarrassed—yes, did you know that embarrassment, the very moment when your heart races and your face gets hot and red, when you might wish you would just disappear—you are transformed into a great teacher of empathy for the people around you. These connections happen automatically, without our having to decide to do anything. We send each other silent messages all the time. We connect automatically for the survival of the human race.

At Raising Healthy Voices and RHVGlobal, we’re taking connection to the level of consciousness. We’re inviting people all over the world to come together to talk about our feelings, fears, love, memories, thoughts, actions, even consciousness and reality. The more we talk, the more we tap into each other—and the more powerful we become, individually and collectively.

Let the dialogue expand!

Living In a Disposable World

Somehow, it seems that fewer and fewer things are built to last. Phones change from month to month. Computers need constant updating – and, after a while, they don’t support yet another update so you need a new one. It’s often less expensive to replace things than to repair them.

Lately, clothing has taken this trend towards disposability further than ever. Chains like Zara and H & M trade on the need for whatever is new and trendy. Zara’s strategy is to have a smaller inventory with a shorter shelf-life. They change their entire stock every few months, so the old strategy of waiting for sales doesn’t work here. Like it? Better buy it today, because it will probably be gone tomorrow, replaced by an even newer trend.

These new stores keep prices down, too. It’s easy to buy too many things at Zara or H & M or Joe Fresh or Uniqlo – after all, it’s only $19 … or $29 … or, at the most, $69. Sticker shock doesn’t hit until you check out and see how all these “it’s only” prices add up.

For those who grew up on hand-me-downs or learned how to stretch a limited budget by carefully selecting new items that would integrate well into an existing wardrobe, this age of disposability is a very different world. We still look for durability, and many of these items will last a season or two. Some are even classic enough to not become obsolete.

Still, what’s the larger impact of living in a disposable world? A recent New York Times article points out that it’s sometimes easier to replace a stained garment than to clean it. Why pass along your baby clothes when new ones are so inexpensive? Why take good care of garments that will be out of fashion in weeks? How much of this is recyclable? Where will all the garbage go? Are antiques going to disappear too? Will all our cherished mementos be digital?

I wonder if this will seep into how we think as well. If everything is impermanent, there’s always room for change and new beginnings. On the other hand, if everything is impermanent, are there still consequences?

Just wondering.

Now What? Feeling Stuck After the Storm

It’s a couple of weeks since the storm; less since the snow. And it’s a gloomy, drizzly day. Many neighborhoods are cleaned up. Some have a long way to go. I’m finding a lot of gloom in the people I speak to as well. Cab drivers, strangers on the bus, friends are all sharing disaster stories. Most of these are not personal. They’re about people we’ve seen on television or read about. Some are about friends and family. Few are about personal loss.

What all these story-tellers have in common is a feeling of frustration and loss without any feeling of being entitled to feel this way. It’s an odd sort of depression – and maybe a degree of PTSD. It’s hard to not think of earlier catastrophes – all those people trying to recover in Breezy Point are also living in the shadow of the plane crash ten years ago. Homes that survived that have now been leveled. Many who lost their homes and belongings are the bedroom communities that sent loved ones off to work in the World Trade Center. And now this.

We think we’ve moved on, but maybe not. After our earthquake experience last year, I noticed something interesting in people’s reactions. In midtown Manhattan, people were making jokes about the experience. One woman on the bus was telling a friend on the phone that yeah, she was buried under a heap of rubble, but she had water, so she was fine. In lower Manhattan, though, people boarding the bus were silent and ashen-faced. Too many memories, even ten years later.

As we try to help those who suffered the direct impact of the storm, we might also take a little time for those on the periphery – including, perhaps, ourselves. We’ve contributed to the funds. Packed up supplies. Donated online. Volunteered. And it doesn’t feel like enough. We can help, but we can’t bring back the little, most important things – the keepsakes, the photos, and in some cases, the loved ones. We’re helpless and many of us are sad.

Sad. And feeling like that’s wrong. What, some of us are asking, do I have to complain about? My problems are so small. There’s something flawed in that logic, though. It’s a little like cleaning your plate as a kid because children in China were starving. How did your finishing the vegetables help those kids? Acknowledge that you are feeling lost and stuck if that’s how you feel.

This is a good time to reach out and help everyone you can. And a good time to be happy about doing that. And to know that you can’t do everything, yet every little bit contributes to the overall rebuilding.

It’s also a good time to take care of yourself. Reach out to your friends who are feeling the way you feel. Be kind to each other. Celebrating the love around you puts more love out into the world. Being happy doesn’t steal happiness away from someone else – it expands the pool of happiness.

Kindness

I have always been impressed with something I heard about the Mennonites. When disaster strikes, I was told, the Mennonites just show up and start working. They don’t ask disaster victims what they need. They just ask which room to start in and do what needs to be done. This impressed me both because of the kindness and because of the practicality. Survivors of any disaster are in a special kind of suspended animation. they are in shock. They aren’t always in the best position to articulate their needs, and, for the most part, those needs are glaringly clear. So having someone show up and pitch in restores an element of calm and comfort.

Many years ago, I heard a similar story about a small town. When someone died, people just showed up at the family home armed with cleaning supplies and got to work. Anyone can bring food or send flowers, but it takes a different perspective to understand that maintaining a clean house is likely, while a nagging concern, low on the bereaved’s action list. And that people are going to be showing up at the house.

This week, in the aftermath of Sandy, people just showed up. Local people showed up with food. Marathon runners ran to Staten Island with backpacks full of supplies. Neighborhood organizations of every sort collected food and clothing. People from other states – not nearby – packed up trucks of supplies and headed to the tri-state area. One of my favorites is a man from Georgia who packed up a load of supplies and has been cooking up some southern comfort – grits and biscuits with sausage gravy – to hearten a New Jersey community. A couple in my building, both unemployed students with no money to spare, packed up a shopping cart full of clothing and food – and took a load from me as well – to a local drop-off point.

I’m not a big believer that every cloud has a silver lining, but often some small good does come out of disaster. Events like Sandy remind us that we’re all connected and that we all need each other. There’s some small thing that needs doing every day – some act of kindness, some small courtesy that will make someone smile, if only for a moment. Will you find one today?

No, 60 Isn’t the New 40 (Revisited)

This is a story about my new shower curtain liner. And age and agility.

I’m sixty seven and I’m proud of my age. I don’t mind a few crinkles around my eyes or even that things are not necessarily in their original locations (ah, gravity). I don’t think that 60 is the new 40. On the other hand, I don’t believe that 60 is old. I don’t think age defines what we can or can’t do, but maybe sometimes it’s good to be a tad more careful.

So why is this about a shower curtain liner? My old liner had gotten dingy and seemed to plan to stay that way, so I went out and got a new one. No problem – I didn’t mind having no shower curtain overnight because the drying rack was in the tub (yes, some of us still do hand laundry).

Fast-forward to the next day. I decided that I wanted a quick shower. No problem – I moved the drying rack and then realized that I hadn’t put up the shower curtain.

OK – this is easy, right. Not so much, it turns out. At 40, I easily balanced on the rim of the tub. Today, it made me shaky. And dizzy. OK – stepladder. Not as much of an improvement as I’d hoped, but it works.

Now, somehow, I’m not lining up the hooks correctly. It takes three tries to have them in the right spaces. Not necessarily a standing on a stepladder task, perhaps. This is taking a lot longer than I’d expected. Should have considered the ladder.

Task completed. But it reminds me that 60 is not the new 40. While long walks and dancing stay on the agenda, maybe there will be fewer substitutions for actual ladders. Or – I have more money than I did at 40 – I can pay someone to climb and lift and carry.

I know that some 90 year-olds run marathons. I wouldn’t have been able to do that at 20 and I don’t want to. A friend can still do a cartwheel at 70. Now that’s something I aspire to. And maybe even go nyah-nyah – bet you thought I couldn’t do it AT MY AGE afterwards.

There are all kinds of distinctions. And just because at 25 I didn’t have the sense to realize that I couldn’t lug a 30 pound turkey a mile doesn’t mean I haven’t developed a little judgement over the decades. I believe in shopping carts and the occasional car service when I can’t just get something delivered. And I believe in shopping online.

I’m saving my energy for the good stuff – vacations, parties, nights out with friends, long walks. And I’m admitting that there are both things I don’t want to do and things I can’t easily do. And, more and more often, I think I’ll choose not to do those things.

Hey – I earned it – don’t bother me!

West Village Nostalgia

For more than fifteen years, the Far West 10th Street Block Association has hosted a street fair and for many of those years my friend Betsy has coordinated the event. This past year, in part because she no longer lives on West 10th Street, she stepped down from this role. This year was slated to be the final fair, so I wasn’t going to miss it. The fair set of a chain of nostalgic stops in and outside of the neighborhood.

Saturday was one of those perfect September days where you need to think about whether or not to add a second layer. The fair seemed a little smaller than some years, but there were so many familiar faces that it was a delightful experience. I had time to chat with a couple of the vendors and we reminisced about fairs past and the neighborhood and history. My sole purchase was an old pedometer – no bells and whistles, needs to be reset, operates on a pendulum, no battery. He wanted a dollar. I gave him two.

Then, on to lunch at Rosemary’s Enoteca and Trattoria – a wonderful new place on Greenwich. It’s on the site where Sutter’s Bakery was in the 60′s and 70′s. As I sat facing out onto the street and the community park, I was immediately transported to those days long ago when we would sit in Sutter’s for hours. For probably about $2.00, you could get coffee and a croissant and sit with the Sunday Times enjoying the great show provided by men and women calling up to their girlfriends in the Women’s House of Detention across the street. Even as I admired the beautiful trees and flowers across the street in the garden that has replaced the jail, I could hear the echos of those voices.

As I walked along Greenwich and down 6th Avenue to Houston Street, I thought about shops and restaurants long gone and celebrated those few that have remained. I spent another nostalgic hour staring at the former home of The Fantastics and missing Jerry Orbach’s wonderful voice while having espresso at Dante, one of the few remaining coffee houses, a place where laptops are banned. Raffetto’s is still selling pasta but the Mystery Bookstore is gone.


The Belly Button transformed to become Elephant and Castle, but is still selling their signature burger with bacon, curry sauce, cheese, tomato and avocado.

The day ended with drinks with a friend at the Algonquin in tribute to Dorothy Parker.

Driving rain aided a more rapid transition to the present than I might have wanted, but, within the safe (dry) confines of the bus home I reflected on a day full of a wonderful blend of past and present and wondered what the future will hold.

It’s August – Come Back Later

August, in general, is hazy, hot and humid. In many European countries, almost everyone is on vacation. Sounds like a good idea to me!

I don’t think that I’m unusual in being eternally locked into the academic calendar. I start winding down in June, have some ambition in July, even as I begin to fill my calendar with festivals and free events, and just plain run out of steam in August. I’m caught somewhere between a frantic push to be sure I’ve had enough summer fun and an overwhelming desire to do absolutely nothing. Right now, doing nothing is winning.

In September, I’ll be rejuvenated. I’ll replace my office supplies and get all my projects lined up. I’ll be energized. I might even have a “first day of school” outfit to wear even if I’ll be wearing it in my home office.

But right now, it’s August and I’m appreciating the continued good performance of my air conditioner. There are watermelon slices and heirloom tomatoes to be eaten. Painted toenails to display. Street fairs. Popsicles. Trips to the beach. Outside cafes. Oh – and daydreaming. I plan to do a lot of daydreaming for the next couple of weeks.

August dreams, in my experience, often become September projects. So, I will write down or create voice memos to capture these dreams.

I plan to be very productive – right after Labor Day. For now, could you please pass the sunscreen and maybe pour another margarita?

Madness as a Leadership Asset

A while ago I attended a Womansphere event honoring Linda Cureton, CIO of NASA, who has recently published a wonderful book, The Leadership Muse.

During her presentation, Linda mentioned that a good leader probably needed to be a little crazy and cited S. Nassir Ghaemi’s A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness. It’s on my Kindle and I haven’t been able to put it down. Ghaemi describes a group of leaders, including General Sherman, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill, who suffered from mental illness. Yet each was an excellent leader.

Ghaemi feels that a certain madness is essential in turbulent times, while sanity can be an asset in times of calm. He cites the creativity that comes with mania and the greater sense of realism that comes from depression. Early disappointments, he feels, (echoing Chip Conley’s thinking in Emotional Equations), can result in a realistic attitude towards life and therefore better judgments.

Perhaps sanity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. An interesting thought. And a great read.

Occupy Wall Street, Symphony Space and the Beat Goes On

Pete Seeger is no stranger to protest, and neither is his grandson, Tao, nor Arlo Guthrie, nor Toshi Reagon, nor any of the other artists at the Power of Song Award Concert.

Here are a few pictures from October 21, 2011, a day that started with catching the Columbia University Marching Band at Zucotti Park and ended with marching to Columbus Circle with many of those who were at the concert.

Reflections on a Friday Morning

Autumn is always a time for reflection and new beginnings for me, and, in the midst of the Jewish High Holy Days, it is all the more appropriate to think about the past year and set new goals.

One thing that has become increasingly clear to me is the importance of faith, so I’m sharing part of a poem by Daiseko Ikeda:

Faith is
to fear nothing
to stand unswayed
the power to surmount any obstacle

Faith is
the source from which all solutions flow

Faith is
the engine that propels us in the thrilling voyage of life, a life victorious and transcendent.

Wishing everyone productive reflection, happiness, great plans and faith.