Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wordless Wednesday Post

Happy Wednesday!  

And welcome to your weekly opportunity to do all the talking.

Use any/all of the photographs below, all five of your observant senses, your memory, and your imagination to talk about some of the following:

What do these images say to you?  What do they remind you of?  What emotions and reactions do they bring up for you - either individually or as a collection?

Share away!

Until next time,
~~ Hasky

Monday, September 24, 2012

Emergency contraception: What's the real emergency here?

NYC schools give out morning-after pills to students — without telling parents

  • Last Updated: 10:51 AM, September 24, 2012
  • Posted: 12:29 AM, September 23, 2012
The Department of Education is giving morning-after pills and other birth-control drugs to students at 13 high schools, The Post has learned.
School nurse offices stocked with the contraceptives can dispense “Plan B” emergency contraception and other oral or injectable birth control to girls without telling their parents — unless parents opt out after getting a school informational letter about the new program.
CATCH — Connecting Adolescents To Comprehensive Health — is part of a citywide attack against the epidemic of teen pregnancy, which spurs many girls — most of them poor — to drop out of school.
JUST SAY NO: Annette Palacios says that at 15 she’s too young for sex, while mom Pania laments not getting a parental opt-out letter.
Helayne Seidman
JUST SAY NO: Annette Palacios says that at 15 she’s too young for sex, while mom Pania laments not getting a parental opt-out letter.
While Big Apple high schools have long supplied free condoms to sexually active teens, this is the first time city schools have dispensed hormonal birth control and Plan B, which can prevent pregnancy if taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex.
It might be a nationwide first as well. The National Association of School Nurses could cite no other school district supplying Plan B.
So far, during an unpublicized pilot program in five city schools last year, 567 students received Plan B tablets and 580 students received Reclipsen birth-control pills, the city Department of Health told The Post.
This fall, students can also get Depo-Provera, a birth-control drug injected once every three months, officials said.
Oral and injectable contraceptives require prescriptions, which, in the CATCH program, are written by Health Department doctors.
Plan B is typically sold as an over-the-counter medication, but those under age 18 need a prescription. For the CATCH program, students can tell a trained school nurse they had unprotected sex. The student will then get a test to see if she is already pregnant; if not, the prescription is issued and she can walk out with the pill.
The city expanded CATCH to 14 schools with more than 22,000 students over the past year. Officials dropped one, Seward Park Campus in lower Manhattan, because CATCH was overwhelming the medical office.
Parents at the 14 schools were sent letters informing them about CATCH. Parents may bar their kids from getting pregnancy tests or contraceptives if they sign and return an opt-out statement.
If they do not, schools can confidentially give the contraception without permission.
An average 1 to 2 percent of parents at each school have returned the opt-out sheets, said DOH spokeswoman Alexandra Waldhorn.
At the High School of Fashion Industries in Chelsea, where 85 percent of the students are girls, ninth-graders were told about CATCH at summer orientation. Some welcomed it.
“I don’ t want to be a young kid who gets pregnant and can’t find a job,” one cautious freshman told The Post.
A 14-year-old pal agreed. “I would go to the nurse without telling my parents, and I would ask for help,” she said.
But sophomore Annette Palacios, 15, outside the school with her mom, said parents should give consent in case their children are “allergic” to the drugs.
“Girls shouldn’t be sexually active at that age,” she added.
Her mom, Pania, complained that she got no opt-out letter — and does not want Annette to secretly get Plan B or birth-control pills from the nurse.
“Parents should know if their daughter is pregnant,” she said.
Teacher Rosa Chavez applauded CATCH, saying she had two pregnant students last year. Getting knocked up, she said, “is not cool and not accepted among peers.”
But Chavez worries that giving girls Plan B emergency contraception might encourage careless sex. “If they made a mistake, they could still do something about it,” she said.
About 28 percent of city students entering ninth grade have already had sex, and more than half are sexually active before completing high school, according to city data.
But some school insiders dislike the CATCH program’s lack of parental involvement and fear medical complications.
“We can’t give out a Tylenol without a doctor’ s order,” said a school staffer. “Why should we give out hormonal preparations with far more serious possible side effects, such as blood clots and hypertension?”
The other CATCH schools are: Adlai Stevenson and Grace Dodge in The Bronx; Boys and Girls, Clara Barton, W.H. Maxwell Career and Technical Education, Abraham Lincoln and Paul Robeson in Brooklyn; John Adams, Newcomers, Queens Vocational and Technical, and Voyagers in Queens; and Port Richmond on Staten Island.
7,000 girls under age 17 got pregnant last year citywide
90% of those pregnancies were unplanned
64% were aborted
2,200 became moms by age 17. About 70 percent drop out of school.
Source: NYC Department of Health

Rather than summarize the article I read with this morning's coffee, I decided to copy and paste it directly into this post.  And I have decided to refrain from commenting. For now.  And for several reasons.   First of all, I am not a parent.  What's more, I am not the parent of a teenage girl (though I tip my hat to anyone who is/has been/will be, given that I do recall myself at 13 and am often retroactively horrified by so much of my own 13 year-old girl behavior).  Second, I have pretty strong feelings about the meanings of "consent," and rather than dump them here and then ask "What do you think?" I decided I wanted to see what other people (parents and non-parents) thought first.
So I am just wondering - is providing this pill to young women the same as distributing condoms (the latter of which is already happening) to young men? Is there a sexual/gender-based imbalance here, in terms of girls vs. boys, when it comes to reproductive rights and resources?  Do we, as a culture, seem to monitor girls more closely because they are the carriers of these unborn children, and, at least statistically, continue to report almost triple the rates of sexual assault and rape than do their male counterparts?  Which is not to suggest that all teenage pregnancies are the result of rape, but which does then beg more questions, such as: What is consent?  Whose consent counts?  And how is it given?

Finally, do non-parents have any role or voice in this conversation at all?  Are we all responsible and accountable to  our youth, or is this the point at which such issues become a private matter between children and their parents, possibly their doctors, and maybe their schools?

What's the deal?  What's really happening?  What is birth control actually controlling? And what do you think about it?  
Til next time,
~ Hasky

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Have we officially gone bananas?

Billa supermarkets, which have stores in nine European countries, are now selling peeled bananas on plastic trays covered in plastic wrap.  Thoughts?

Share away!

Until next time,

~~ Hasky

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wordless Wednesdays

Happy Wednesday!  And welcome to your weekly opportunity to do all the talking.

Use the above photograph, all five senses, your memory, and your imagination to talk about some of the following:

What does this image say to you?  What does it remind you of?  Make you look forward to (or dread)?

Share away!

Until next time,
~~ Hasky

Monday, September 17, 2012

To Tip or Not To Tip: How much does it mean to you?

I am desperately seeking an answer  - ONE answer - to the question: "How much should I tip?"  Problem is, as we all know, there isn't one answer to this question, and a whole host of factors determine what and whether we choose to tip for an infinite number of services. Although some people never tip, citing everything from "can't afford it" to "don't believe in it," tipping isn't a "one size fits all" situation. And while for some, tipping is an opportunity to express gratitude for service delivery, others see it as an unreasonable expectation. In my experience, it can be - and has been - both.  But here's the thing: tipping is part of our culture.  What's more, it is perfectly reasonable to expect people to tip if and when the services provided have met any reasonable person's basic minimum requirements.

But who should you tip, and how much, and under what circumstances? There are quite a few resources out there that answer this question.  I found this to be a good, quick, handy reference, though I am not above simply asking someone I know what the standard tip tends to be in his/her profession.  What a considerate way of telling someone "I value your work."  And since I zoned out during most of my ninth-grade math class, I often use the tip calculator on my cellphone to determine the right percentage (and trust me - if my low tech Verizon cell has this feature, your I-device most certainly has something at least as good).

My opinion (and I am interested in yours too!) is that there are some professionals one should always tip, without exception.  Again, if the service is poor and/or not accomplished for the agreed-upon cost or within the agreed-upon timeframe, a conversation with the provider of said services may replace a tip, or at least provide some clarification that will make you feel better about tipping.  Yet bailing altogether, failing to express dissatisfaction and also failing to tip, will do nothing to improve future services and will end up costing you (and others) a whole lot more time and energy and poor future service than the few measly bucks you may have happily held onto this time.
That said, there are places where even though tipping is expected, I choose not to tip. I don't generally think that buffets or cafes where I have to pour and/or prepare my own food and drinks before carrying them to my  table and then cleaning up after myself warrants a tip - because usually there is no one person to tip. Even though a lot of people  have put in a great deal of effort in these circumstances, I can't afford to start handing dollar bills to each and every one of them .  And yet, I have made exceptions when seeing how beautifully a buffet was displayed or how accommodating a particular cafe has been. So again, while I don't feel compelled, I often feel a desire to leave a little extra behind, even in these cases.

The tipping situations I most dislike, however, are the ones in which I would like to tip but can't.  Because the establishment either has a "no tip" policy, or a "tip sharing" policy, neither of which seems fair to the individual who may very well be providing the kinds of services that I, as a patron. would like to reward.  Yes, I have often folded a $10 in my hand and stuffed it into the closed palm of a waiter or a dog groomer in cases like this, but always with the awareness that my measely bill could cost the receiver his/her job if management spots "the exchange."  So I typically do respect the establishment's "no tipping" policies, offering much verbal praise and gratitude and very often following up with a letter to the manager stating how happy I was with the particular staff member I would have tipped if allowed.  Sometimes such a gesture can be just as good as a tip, and I always hope it will result in anything from internal recognition to a much deserved financial reward in the form of a raise, a promotion, maybe a bonus.  Because let's face it, we all take the time to complain when things go wrong, so we all have the time to reward hard work and quality service.

Even though there really are no hard and fast universal "rules" for tipping, it is really about the gesture of gratitude, of telling someone "you and your work are worth my money" that makes understanding this convention so necessary. And yes, very often, what is tip money to the tipper is a necessary part of the income for the professionals providing these services.  They count on it.  They perfect their skills and maintain their qualifications and licences and certifications and training so that our money will be well spent.  Well invested.  After all, everyone works harder and happier when appreciated.  Everyone.

I am often thankful for the guaranteed (as much as anything is a guarantee) salary that comes with my current job.  Every two weeks, regardless of  my productivity, my moods, my energy level, or the mental and emotional distractions of my personal life, the same amount of money lands in my bank account and generates an email to let me know that, financially at least, nothing has changed and everything I expected to happen has happened.  I did my work.  I got paid.  Period.

This isn't always a consolation on those weeks of twelve-hour days, where I pay to put my puppy in daycare several days a week and pay $50 a month to park a twenty-minute (uphill) walk from my office, which sits smack dab in the middle of downtown Albany, New York where there are no stores, no coffee shops, no lunch places that even come close to meeting my dietary preferences.  And on days where I decide to turn all these minor details into major factors, I lament that I am not being paid what I am worth.  But then there are days - we all have them, and we all deny them - where I am simply too tired, too unfocused, too overwhelmed, or simply too busy with the rest of life's demands to show up mentally for work, even though my body is present, my fingers are typing, my mouth is spewing all the right jargon and data.  But my mind is elsewhere.  And still, I get paid.  So, I guess it all balances out somewhere.  I'll let you know when I retire.

But until then, here's are a few tips from me to you:  There are lots of ways to tip that don't involve any money at all.  "Thank you" is always free and always allowed.  Good customer service is more likely to happen to good customers.  Kindness and appreciation goes both ways - if you expect to receive it, expect to give a little, too.  And when it comes to the financial aspects of tipping, when in doubt ... just do it.

So, what do you think?  To tip or not to tip?

Until next time,
~ Hasky

Friday, September 14, 2012

Speaking of Old Wives' Tales

Recently, a friend and I were discussing Old Wives' Tales. More specifically, we were wondering whatever happened to them.  These interesting little nuggets of advice and information that, at least when I was a child, seemed to materialize out of nowhere a million years ago. They made anyone who uttered them sound smarter and more capable as they offered solutions to poverty, illness, even interpersonal conflicts.  While each generation often takes the liberty of revising some of the more common classics, most of the Tales remain in tact, even to this day. Yet I so rarely hear them used anymore.  Is it because I am older now, and childless, and perhaps lack the two primary reasons Wives' Tales usually find their way into a conversation?  Without youth in my life - either mine or that of my non-existent offspring - am I just missing out on these little bits of wisdom as they continue to happen around me?

After my Wives' Tales conversation, I was inspired to come up with a list of the ones that I remember from childhood.  Wives' Tales my parents and grandparents, even a few of my teachers used to guide - and sometimes warn - me as I made my way through life's daily trials.  So, here are a few personal favorites:

  • If you sit too close to the television, you'll go blind.
  • If you swim immediately after eating, you'll drown.
  • Bad luck will be yours if you: break a mirror, open an umbrella indoors, step on a sidewalk crack, or walk under a ladder. (Though you can reverse the bad luck by throwing salt over your shoulder)
  • If your right hand itches, money is coming your way.  But if you scratch it, you will lose the money before it arrives.
  • Three butterflies together mean good luck
  • If you shiver suddenly, someone is walking over your grave
  • If you bite your tongue while eating, you have recently told a lie
  • It will rain if you kill a ladybug.

Do any of these sound familiar?  Do any of them sound believable?  (I ask because, at one time, several of them seemed perfectly sensible to me - which is probably why I have a salt-covered floor in my kitchen and a butterfly net on my back porch). 

Whether you call them Wives'Tales, superstitions, rules of thumb, or just words to live by, what are some of your old favorites?  Or some of your new ones?  And am I the only one who feels like these treasures have somehow made a gradual exit out of our daily conversations?  Sometimes I wish each day included a Wives' Tale to make me stop, think, chuckle perhaps, and possibly even consider an alternative approach to life once in awhile.  A Wives' Tale a day ... interesting concept. Maybe, as with everything else in life, there is an app for that  And if one doesn't yet exist, I'm sure it's only a matter of time before they make one.

Looking forward to your list!

Until next time.
~~ Hasky

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

September 11th - from a different angle

Even though yesterday was Beckett's first birthday, I decided not to post this until today in the interest of letting yesterday's 9/11 post sit at the top of my blog awhile longer. 

Certainly, Beckett's September 11th (2011) birthday endears me to him even more, as a reminder of how signicant a date can really be.  And that date, in particular.  Though Beckett was born into an unfortunate beginning - the runt of his litter and a parasite- and flea-filled dropoff at a local, horribly overcrowded but very loving shelter, his amazing strength and beauty still strikes me as something of a miracle.  In fact, on occassion I have even admitted to myself that, given his initial circumstances, there is no logical explanation for why he survived at all.

Fortunately, I'm not a huge fan of logic.  Because sometimes, things just are.  Sometimes, we survive despite the obstacles. Often we survive because of them.  Perhaps that is why I have allowed myself to believe that Beckett was as destined to come into my life as I was fated to care for his.  Together, we continue to figure out our own rules and establish our own "logic" as we go.  And so far, it works just fine for us.

So now that I am officially the parent of a one year-old dog whose bark has become noticably deeper and whose little baby paws have grown noticably larger, I am amazed that this once sickly little 7-pound guy has not only survived his first year of life (ten months of which he spent in my often frazzled and learn-as-you-go care), he is a healthy, loving, brilliant little ball of energy with an old soul and a forever-youthful spirit.

I have written a lot about Beckett, so I know that anything I could add here would be repetitive, but I couldn't let his birthday go by without acknowledging the joy he has brought to my life.  His constant presence is a gift, and while my tendency to worry endlessly about his health and his care and his wellbeing tires us both at times, I am so grateful that Beckett requires so much of my energy (and what he doesn't require he kindly tolerates) becaise he has truly taught me to lighten up - on life and on myself.  More than anything, he has given me the gift of such pure joy --  I can't quite remember a time when a shopping trip didn't end in the excitement of a new chew toy or squeaky bone, or when I didn't head out for an evening walk with a leash in one hand and a pooper scooper in the other  - and no room for my cellphone.

I decided to write this post not only because I couldn't imagine not writing something about Beckett's big day, but because last weekend, while I sat in the hair salon, I listened to people around me talking about how unfortunate it was that they knew people with birthdays, anniversaries, and other once-happy occassions on September 11th.  The day will always be a dark one, even as time goes by.  And  I wonder if it is even okay to celebrate these small moments, modestly and with respect, when the memory of terror will always (should always?) cling to that day.  So I wonder how other people feel, or whether others have special occassions that they are celebrating differently  - or not at all - since 2001.  Does it help the healing to move forward with something positive and familiar, or is it somehow insensitive to acknowledge anything other than the events of that terror-filled day?

Leave your thoughts ...

Until next time,
~ Hasky

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"We will never forget" - Some thoughts on 9/11

Like most people, I am thinking about September 11, 2001 today.  I am remembering that I was walking through the SUNY Plattsburgh student center right after the first plane hit.  I am remembering the lack of hierarchy in the students and faculty and administrative and janitorial staff clustered around the campus television mounted above them, their mouths open yet silent. I am remembering my own insistence that, yes, of course that report about the Cessna was accurate: some poorly-trained pilot accidentally went off course and flew into the towers. And I am remembering how the second plane flew through my comfort zone when it hit the other tower, confirming that, yes, of course this was an act of terrorism.

Most of all, I remember the reactions.  The fear.  The sadness.  The anger.  The birth of "Ground Zero" confirming that even the site of death and destruction could somehow lead to the creation of something.  A new place with a new name. A landmark that immediately became an historical site. A smoking, smoldering memorial of lives lost and lives spared. A tribute to the countless firefighters and police officers and emergency responders who rushed toward death amid the screaming and the flames thinking only of saving the thousands of bodies trapped inside the terror.  I remember watching the footage on every network, sometimes seeking it out, other times seeking anything but the instant replays and the news reports and the climbing death tolls and the lack of answers.  Nothing was more jarring than the images of people and papers jumping, falling, floating out of 90th-floor windows and covering New York City in the reality that, in a single breath, America had become a victim.  Yes, healing and recovery would happen.  Strength and hope would come. But at that moment, there was only loss and confusion.  The knowns offered no more comfort than did the unknowns and suddenly nothing, not even our ability to protect and defend ourselves, set us apart from every other country in the world.  We became one of the many.  And it was terrifying.

Not to avoid the positives here, I do remember the strengh.  The unity. The yellow ribbons and the parades and the determination to heal as a country and as individuals.  And I think I remember it all because I was told to, and because I proudly agreed to, as I took my vow alongside every other American promising: "We will never forget." I often wondered - and still often do -- whether I had any right to utter this phrase as I experienced the unspeakable through the safety of my television screen.  My fears were based on "What if?" rather than "What now?" as I imagined people combing the streets of New York City in search of loved ones.  Or pictured the passengers on Flight 11 frantically calling family and friends to say the goodbyes they knew were being thrust upon them.  I was, for all intents and purposes, tucked inside my safe little microcosm of geographical distance.  Even so, I did utter the words.  Because I, too, remember it all - from my own persepective.  Like everyone, I have my own 9/11 story, and this is it.  Glued to televisions, wondering what was happening at the Towers, wishing I could do something, and pleading with everyone I could think of -- from God to Allah to the Taliban itself -- to make it stop.  And eventually, the death tolls seemed to level off.  The skies went silent.  The streets were bare and the subways were empty.  But "it"- the terror and the unchangable, unstoppable reality - did not stop.  And for so many, it never will.

Even though the "We will never forget" promise is everywhere today, as it should be, I sometimes feel like, as a nation, we have forgotten something essential.  Not about that day or about the horrors and the images and the loss and the fear, but about the thing we have pledged to remember.  Because I don't think it is the attack that we want to hold onto - though maybe I am only speaking for mysef, from my own experience. I think, at least when I pledge not to forget, that what I am really remembering is the vulnerability - the human vulnerability - that truly unites us, and the strength we find in places we never imagined as the antidote to that vulnerability.  September 11, 2001 was the most devastating example, the most horrific proof, of just how nuch we need and rely on one another and of just how much we can actually depend on the strength of a nation.  Yet each day, when I am standing in a coffee shop or at the grocery store or sitting at the hair salon or walking through the dog park, I see so many missed opportunitites to live this slogan, to reach out to somone with a smile or a kind gesture.  To fight for the widows and the children and the elderly every day in our own neighborhoods, with the same level of urgency for healthcare coverage and housing so often denied them.  To call on our politicians every single day and make sure they remember, not just on September 11, but every day, what our military families truly fought for so we could be safer, and so they never forget what so many of those families lost in the process.  To make sure that not another Republican National Convention or Democratic National Convention ever fails - or forgets- to acknowledge our troops and their families as they did last month, even as they thanked one another and credited their spouses and their colleagues with the freedom that makes this country great.

September 11 will always be a day of rememberance.  And it should be.  But not only to remember the loss and the terror of that single day eleven years ago.  Instead, it is my hope that it will remind us to refocus our busy lives and our many responsibilities so that every now and then, we can hug someone not in the midst of tragedy, but just because we appreciate them.  Maybe we could buy a soldier in uniform a cup of coffee on a random Tuesday morning, or sit down and chat with an elderly person sitting all alone on a park bench.  Or ask a police officer what it is like to do what he/she does every single day.  And maybe to even say "thank you." More than anything, this reminder is a blessing because we are here to receive it.  It is what we do with the memories we have and the reminders we are given that will truly honor the lives that were lost.

What do you remember about September 11, 2001?  And what do you remember now, looking back eleven years?  When you think of - or say - the phrase "We will never forget" what is it, precisely, that you want to hold onto as your forever memory of that day?

Peace and love, until next time -

~~ Hasky

Monday, September 10, 2012

How are you?: Some thoughts on World Suicide Prevention Day

Sometimes I think about how many times in a single day I ask people: "How's it going?" and barely hear their scripted "Fine. You?" response. Probably because I am already answering their question with a "Fine, thanks" of my own. Often, even as the "Fine, thanks" is falling out of my mouth, I am anything but fine. Or grateful for being asked, since I resent feeling compelled to let the question asker off the hook rather than saying "I'm not feeling great today, actually. And here's why ..."

As I was reading daily Facebook updates this morning, I came across a post by Mental Health America, announcing that today is World Suicide Prevention Day. According to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK), suicide is, in fact, preventable. Perhaps not in the way we'd like to think, but often in ways we haven't thought about. While there are many risk factors for suicide (not to be confused with warning signs), the National Suicide Prevention Resource Center has also identified several Protective Factors considered to "make it less likely that individuals will consider, attempt, or die by suicide."

Certainly, while no amount of wanting to save someone from suicide can ever be truly, permanently effective without that person's permission/participation/willingness to live, there actually are things we can do to enhance one another's lives, to connect, and to show that we care beyond the superficial exchanges we shout across crowded coffee shops or send through "How r u?" text messages. According to the National Suicide Prevention Resource Center, some of the protective factors for suicide include:

  • Effective clinical care for mental, physical and substance use disorder
  • Easy access to a variety of clinical interventions
  • Restricted access to highly lethal means of suicide
  • Strong connections to family and community support
  • Support through ongoing medical and mental health care relationships
  • Skills in problem solving, conflict resolution and handling problems in a non-violent way
  • Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support self-preservation

As I read through the above list, the factor that jumps out at me is the one right in the middle: "Strong connections to family and community support." I can actually implement that one! With others, and for myself. What's more, it seems to me that those strong connections are what make the other factors more likely to happen at all, and more likely to be successful if and when they do. Have you ever tried to navigate the mental health or substance abuse treatment worlds alone? Ever tried to access any clinical interventions, much less a variety of them, while in need of the services they may provide? Discouraging, no? What about problem solving and conflict resolution? Ever try to accomplish either of those alone? Ever try to question faith-based messaging in a vacuum, with no one to guide or counter or support those messages?

Strong connections to family and community support. I knew it was important. And it is a skill and a process I struggle with myself. Big time. Because I have bought into the quick conversations and the indifferent exchanges that allow me to pretend I am engaging in something meaningful. And because like so many, I don't want to unload my burdensome self on someone, even when asked. I don't know what it would be like to admit to a friend or a colleague or family member: "I'm not feeling that great today, and I could really use some support."  Because I have never really tried.

Like many others, I have been conditioned to skim the surface of the "How's it going?" conversation as a matter of social convention. On some level, we have convinced ourselves that others don't really expect to hear how we are. Even worse, at least in my opinion, is the realization that, generally, I don't even attempt to find out how others are doing, either. Not really. Whether because of time constraints or comfort levels or varying degrees of intimacy with the people to whom we pose this universal question, we continue to do this dance with one another by asking the seemingly "required" questions and then praying that the recipient doesn't botch his/her lines and throw us a curve ball - like, perhaps, the truth. Or an answer that extends beyond two words and a noncommittal, sorta-smile.

But the truth is this: Prevention, even suicide prevention, is a process. And often, when it comes to prevention, we never realize the magnitude of our impact because ... well, we have prevented the worst case scenario. Or, more specifically, we have created an undesirable environment for the risk factors to attain any kind of power or take hold. So we aren't aware of what could have happened, under different circumstances, even though such an awareness could make us more grateful for each moment we do have, for each connection we make, for each truth we feel able to give and receive.

Even though suicide prevention doesn't feel like a light topic, I think it is a necessary and important one for us all to be thinking and talking about. And perhaps a wonderful reminder to ask just one person today: "How are you?" And then wait for the real answer, even if it isn't "Fine. You?" and be ready - and willing - to listen to the truth.  To simply connect.

Until next time -

~~ Hasky

Friday, September 7, 2012

Putting yourself on the calendar

In her book Real Happiness, Sharon Salzberg tells a fantastic story to illusrate the concept of "globalizing," that thing we all do from time to time (some of us more frequently and more intensely than others) where we tell ourselves (and anyone else who will listen) dramatic stories about how irreparably doomed and out-of-control our lives are.  Salzberg writes:

"Mindfulness helps us get better at seeing the difference between what's happening and the stories we tell ourselves about what's happening, stories that get in the way of direct experience.  Often such stories treat a fleeting state of mind as if it were our entire and permanent self.  One of my favorite examples of this kind of globalizing came from a student who'd had an intensely stressful day.  When she went to the gym later and was changing in the locker room, she tore a hole in her pantyhose.  Frustrated, she said to a stranger standing nearby, "I need a new life!"

"No you don't," the other woman replied.  "You need a new pair of pantyhose."

I love this story, because while the concept of globalizing is a hard one for me to grasp at times - probably because I am usually indulging in it myself - examples like this make me laugh as I recall similar experiences where I blew a seemingly minor event or occurrence into an all out catastrophe. 

Stuck in traffic?  I need to move!  I can't drive in this town anymore.

Conflict at work?  I have to quit.

Argument with a friend?  I am all alone in this world.  I have no one!

Just look at that.  And the exclamation points aren't there for effect, either. They are there in an attempt to accurately reflect the level of urgency and emotional distress that usually accompany these moments - moments I believe to be true while I am living in them.

Through meditation, I am learning a little something about mindfulness, which is really not as complicated as it sounds, even though it is difficult to achieve, I think.  Because mindfulness is, by its very nature, a process. And I, in my perpetual rush-and-hurry-and-multitask-my-life-away state, often skip over as many steps as possible to get to the end result of things.  After all, who has time to stop and be mindful?

Well, we all do.  If we make time.

I am not saying that responsibilities and demands and schedules aren't real, constant stressors in our lives.  But what better reason do we need to write ourselves into our own day planner once in awhile?  I use this as my example because that is precisely what I have started doing.  Since I store all my appointments and meetings and various schedules in my cellphone calendar, every few days I come across a half hour appointment - sometimes an hour, if I am feeling really self-loving. Or in desperate need of grounding and focus - labelled, simply "HH."  Not a very cleverly-veiled code or anything, it serves as a gentle but necessary reminder that I need to take some time for myself.  Time that doesn't include work or family or working out or writing or dealing with my dog or ... and this is the biggie ... stressing myself out.  As in -- globalizing the hell out of minor occurrences that I so often turn into catastrophes.

So I meditate. And I have started doing light yoga again.  I go for walks. Sometimes short ones. Sometimes with my dog and sometimes alone.  I have even started playing my piano again.  Sometimes I even put on a half-hour comedy that I love (think Roseanne or The Office. And I make no apologies for how wonderfully funny I find the characters and the situations in both of these shows.)  In essence, I lighten up.  But only if I schedule it.  Because not only do I never miss an appointment, I always arrive everywhere early. Which is really nice when it buys me ten extra minutes with myself . To laugh. Or breathe more deeply.  To look at a minor blip in my day and realize it isn't actually the end of the world.  Or even of my world. It is a blip.  And I need not react to it at all.  I can simply let it be and move on.  Or, I can go out and buy a new pair of pantyhose and give my life a break altogether.

Does this concept of "globalizing" sound familiar?  Do you ever do it to yourself?  If so, do you do it often, or only under certain circumstances and around certain people?  And how do you lighten up?  Are you more preventive, with a regularly scheduled practice, or are you more likely to intervene after crisis hits and the stakes seem higher? (Or at least your blood pressure seems higher?)

I highly recommend Real Happiness if you haven't read it - and I recommend reading it again if you have already read it once.  In fact, what a great way to spend some scheduled time with yourself - reading a chapter, a page, a paragraph.  Whatever you can manage.  After all, you are the best use of your own time.

Until next time -