Sometime last week I must have “done something” to my foot. Perhaps I overexerted it, stretched it too vigorously in some contortion, pushed down too hard on the elliptical trainer, or maybe that sudden misstep at the curb had indeed been more intense than it felt at the time. Whatever the trigger, by the time the weekend rolled around I was limping, my foot was slightly swollen across the top (where the long ligaments are – same area as the top of your palm). And it hurt.
Still does, actually.
By Monday it was so bad I went to a walk-in clinic (this is what you do in Canada if you don’t have a GP, and many of us don’t), where a very brisk young doctor in her early thirties almost immediately filled out a chit for radiology because, she said, it was quite likely my foot had some kind of stress fracture.
She asked, “How are your bones?”
Straightaway, that question sounded wrong to me.
Then it hit me: I heard an implied “dearie?” at the end. As in: “How are your bones, dearie?” I just know that’s what she was thinking.
In my mind I am not a “dearie” – and with any luck, I never will be. But that’s what I heard: You’re of that age, [dearie]… the bones …you know …brittle bones, brittle bones.
It wasn’t just the imagined “dearie” that aggrieved me. It was the betrayal I felt – the betrayal that aging implied. I trust my body. It’s a wonderful body that has held me in good stead (and steady on my feet) for a long time. I haven’t always treated it well, but I’ve always come back to it, and it has always, always stayed with me. We’re in this together.
Hearing the [unspoken] “dearie,” however, revealed a glimpse of an abject body: one that breaks down, that wears out or betrays you – develops cancer, has an aneurism or a stroke, gets Alzheimer’s, has osteoarthritis. The one that’s growing old and makes you unhappy because it can’t be trusted.
Happiness and Trust
Happiness studies show that trust is key to happiness. If you can’t trust your neighbors or your colleagues or your family or your friends, you’re less likely to be happy.
A network of trust increases happiness.
Maybe that should read in the plural, as in “networks of trust.” At the center of it there’s you with your body, which in itself is a bunch of networks in which you trust to get you through the day, to make that day fly, to make it shine.
Literally hobbling just one small segment in the network can trigger a cascade of real and imaginary failures, of mistrusting, in the rest. Studies which show that “happiness dips and then rebounds after people lose a limb” or worse (source) might suggest that rebuilding a sense of trust is key to rebounding. I guess that applies to accepting senescence as well, which probably goes a long way toward explaining religion and the solace of belief (that is: trust) in the beyond.
I moved through the rest of Monday and all of Tuesday in a cloud of anger. Well, actually, anger alternating with depression – they’re supposedly two sides of the same coin, right? – because if you google foot fractures, you’ll find plenty of reasons to feel blue. At 5pm on Tuesday, I called the clinic back to learn whether my x-ray results were in. I learned only that the radiologists were not able to discover fractures – which immediately made me a lot happier: “Yay, body, you can be trusted! You don’t have brittle bones and aren’t completely falling to pieces!” Followed immediately by, “But why the frack does my foot hurt so much, eh?”
…Trust, but verify…
That doctor is not going to call me back (it’s not in the protocol of walk-in clinics), so I’ll have to hobble over there again to learn if there’s anything else they can diagnose or advise. I will choose to ignore the websites that suggest x-rays aren’t conclusive for finding foot fractures and instead choose trust: trust that I got off lightly, that there’s nothing wrong with my well-nourished and -supplemented bones, that with any luck, my delightful body and the mind it accommodates can continue to be happy together.
Just don’t call me “dearie”…
Over five years ago, I kept a “secret” blog, very, very briefly. It was written from the standpoint of a stuffed toy: a sleeping, dreamy, already “antique” sheep that used to belong to me and which I then passed on to my daughter. The strategy of writing as a stuffie was inspired by Maria Benet – I found her idea so good, I stole it for my own purposes.
The “author” of the secret blog was my old stuffed lamb, which (briefly) chronicled the goings-on between TM (“the mother”) and TD (“the daughter”).
This particular post was about eyesight – its failings, and what they mean, according to alternative practitioners. Over the past five years my eyesight hasn’t improved in the least. I never did follow up on any of the new-agey suggestions offered by the sources cited below, and would (aside from doing absolutely nothing) probably prefer to cast my lot with medical advances of the more …um, spectacular kind (see Geoff Arnold‘s amazing post about having his eye’s lens replaced with a synthetic one) – aside from doing absolutely nothing, of course.
But then again this 2006 post, then written in secret, was about so much more than just looking. It was about feeling, too. Who knew stuffies could feel?
Eyes, windows, souls, health (Aug.22, 2006):
TM told me that the other day, our local paper ran an interesting article about a psychotherapist in Vancouver who uses yoga in her therapy sessions. The article is called Yoga stretches stressed psyche, releases emotions, and it profiles Danielle McDermott. I don’t need yoga, of course, because after all the love I’ve gotten, I’m so squished and bendy I can touch my toes twice over! But in this article we’re told how Danielle helps humans to get in touch with their bodies, which, she says, hold emotion in. I had to laugh pretty hard when I read that she gets her clients to relax by going limp as a …ragdoll! The journalist wrote:
Think ragdoll. It’s difficult. We humans like to be in control. Yet, once we do let go, there is a feeling of surrender.
Baaaaaah, that’s a hoot — I never think ragdoll, I AM ragdoll! But humans like to be in control, eh? Oh well, to each his or her own!
TM thinks it would be a great idea if someone like this Danielle person were available here, because she is trained not just in yoga but as a psychotherapist, and she thinks that TD might enjoy talking to someone like Danielle. She certainly looks very nice and kind in the photo on her site.
TM has always had a bunch of whacky ideas — believe me, I know: I have been around her since she was practically an infant! (If you ask me, she’s still an infant in some respects, but maybe I shouldn’t say that, otherwise she’ll cut off my blog account!)
Turns out she spent great huge chunks of time surfing around on the web, looking for inspirational psychotherapists in Victoria. Nothing really came up, but she did find a reference to an Anne (or Anna) Hannah — yup, that’s the full name: Anna Hannah. Baaaah-nana. Sorry, couldn’t resist! It’s just my inner sheep coming through…
Anna Banana, er, Hannah, is a member of the Association of Vision Educators, and she practices here in Victoria. TM got all interested reading this since their work is based on “the Bates method.” He’s the guy who wrote “Better Eyesight Without Glasses,” which TM got hold of many decades ago and which convinced her to lay off her glasses (periodically, anyway) when she was a teenager.
We stuffies, with buttons or thread for eyes, don’t worry our empty heads about this sort of thing, but it turns out that some groovy people think that you humans get near- or far-sighted for the strangest reasons. TM is near-sighted, and so is TD. In fact, TM got all spooked when she read on the Association‘s library page about the various theories these folks hold for why people develop vision problems. Boy, if they’re even half right, I can see how being a human is a job-and-a-half! Scroll your emotion-warped eyeballs over these choice snippets:
When we suppress our feelings or any part of our self the energy of our emotions gets locked in our bodies. Our bodies stiffen and our eyes harden. Hard eyes indicate a deadness of expression. Hard eyes do not focus easily. From my experience as a natural vision improvement practitioner I have learned that unexpressed fear may manifest as myopia or nearsightedness. The myope is often afraid of making a mistake, he is a perfectionist, a thinker who is centrally focused, and shutting out the periphery. Unexpressed anger, on the other hand, can emerge as hyperopia or farsightedness. The hyperope may tend to look away from self or space out. In either case the person is restricting his vision to a comfort zone. Is it more comfortable to sweep our feelings under the carpet?
So a near-sighted person is a perfectionist, full of fear of failure? Hey, TM, does that sound right? (She says, “maybe.” She’s looking kinda peeved, if you ask me.) And then there’s this:
If you are nearsighted: You were probably told that it’s because you read too much or in not good enough light. These actually don’t in themselves make your eyes get worse; there’s nothing wrong with reading a lot. However, chances are, you are a hider and indulging a bit of an escapist tendency in those books. You blur the world around you because you feel so overwhelmed and pressured that you can no longer see the “big picture.” You tend to be afraid of the future, and can only deal with the here and now before you. (…)
If you are farsighted: You were probably told that it’s because the eyes change as you get older. Actually, it’s more so that your attitude changes as you age. Farsightedness has to do with a sense of a loss of time—that there are too many details, too many things you need to get done; thus—you are overwhelmed with what’s in front of you, and you blur it. You tend to be afraid of the present, because your attention is in the future and the past. As people age, this perspective tends to become more dominant.
Ouch! I can tell you that TM didn’t like reading that her voracious reading habits (as a child and still now, although she reads too much drivel online, if you ask me, instead of serious literature in books) also spoke to being a hider or escapist, in addition to being a perfectionist, the curse of the gifted child — and she nearly blew a gasket when she read that bit about far-sightedness, because for at least 2 or 3 years, she has had to toy with the notion of investing in a pair of bifocals since she can’t see things up close anymore when she is wearing the glasses that are supposed to “correct” for her near-sightedness!
But most of all, she had to think about the other “hider” in the family, the one who keeps mum and minimises computer screens lickety-split and doesn’t talk about her feelings …and has trouble seeing clearly past her nose!
“Yeah, yeah,” TM said to me, “so maybe a lot of this is just new age drivel.” But sometimes the drivel hits its target anyway…
So, inquiring sheep want to know: is there yoga for eyeballs…?
Not mincing words, Florida warns that this recovery could easily take a generation – up to 25 years, in other words – to kick in.
But what really caught my eye, battle-scarred as I am from, literally (as a homeschooling parent), routing around industrial-age education, was this paragraph:
…crises inspire substantial upgrades in our education or human capital system. The economic crisis of the 1870s and 1880s coincided with the rise of mass public education. The Great Depression and its aftermath saw a vast expansion of primary and secondary schooling, while the GI Bill made higher education more accessible than it had ever been in the post-World War II years. Talent is our most precious economic resource and we can’t afford to squander it. It will require substantial investment—bigger than those of two previous crises combined—and new approaches to retool our educational system. But it must be done. We need schools that foster innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship across the population, not just develop rote skills. (link)
I’m an academic, a researcher. And I’m a
former sculptor / artist (not to mention, therefore, a slut for beauty, which I believe trumps everything).
I’m also not a stranger to making trouble.
And yet I’m loathe to describe myself as an educator – and maybe that’s a problem, because maybe I need to make people listen to my experiences with k-12 education (and beyond). Maybe I should put myself out there as an educator, because I’ve sure as heck spent a lot of time educating other people, …not to mention educating myself.
Self-education is the key thing. (Key thing, as in keystone.) Self-education of our children is not going to happen with a bureaucracy that’s intent on “teaching” it, though. Nor is it going to happen with a system that’s modeled on industrial-age methodologies.
When we were homeschooling, from 2000 to 2008 (the year that my youngest child decided, at age 14, to “do” grade 12 at Oak Bay High School, from which she graduated at 15 to enter UBC on a National Entrance Scholarship: she’s currently, age 17, finishing an 8-month co-op teaching ESL in Weifang, China, after already accruing many hours of volunteering as a math tutor in Vancouver’s Downtown Lower East Side middle schools), we sometimes heard other (usually fearful) people ask the “What about socialization?” question. …As if being homeschooled meant that you were being kept under a bell jar, in a cage, in a lab, in sterile circumstances.
That way of thinking about the alleged value of socialization in schools is just so screwed-up I don’t know where to begin to dismantle it.
Let’s just start with this: are you an adult? Yes? Well, then: how would you feel if you were told that henceforth, for the next twelve to thirteen years, you would only be allowed to “socialize” with people your exact same age for five to seven hours each day?
How would you feel if you could, seriously, only interact with your “peers,” if peers meant (more or less exact) age-mates?
But that’s the ridiculous – not to mention toxic – situation we’ve set up with our industrial-age model of education. That model says, “Oh, you’re five? That means you interact with other 5-year-olds.” Insert whatever age, and off you go to the races. To the deep end. The Kool-Aid. The toxic dunk.
This model is deeply fucked. There’s no other way to put it. It’s insulting to the child/learner. It’s insulting to the people who are supposed to teach them. It’s insulting to society, which could be so much more.
Seriously. You’re twelve. So you get to screw around with other 12-year-olds for …oh, six hours each and every frickin’ day.
How’s that working for you, you poor kid?
This is where you get the toxic soup. Today I saw a tweet by a friend, Raul Pacheco-Vega (hummingbird604), who was moved to tears by the news that 14-year-0ld Jamey Rodermeyer, who made one of the ‘It Gets Better’ videos, committed suicide due to bullying at school.
And to think that “normal” parents ask innovators like us homeschoolers about “socialization”… Seriously?
Self-education. It has to start somewhere. It’s not going to start in the kind of toxic legacy peer culture we’ve created out of industrial-style education.
I could go on (but fear the wrath of hipsters everywhere whose laconic “drtl” would cut me to the quick), but just consider how much easier it is to sway a population that’s not used to self-education or critical thinking, a captive audience that’s totally immersed in so-called “peer culture,” toward idiotic pseudo-science and general political quackery.
Current educational practice, modeled on industrial-age/ Taylorist methodology, is like the lottery: win some (rarely), lose some (often). Not the most reliable way to get any economy up and running these days.
I recently took up the habit of daily 4-minute headstands. I’ve done headstands for decades now, but I never tried keeping to a daily regimen, nor did I ever before pay attention to duration.
Lately, for a purely physical reason, it occurred to me that I should do headstands often (every day), and that I should keep track of the time so that I would do them for longer. And so I came to decide that I would keep the pose for a minimum of four minutes.
Something interesting started happening:
I got bored, quickly.
Therefore, I had to do something to stay interested, or at least to stay …mindful.
My physical exercise, in other words, turned into a mental exercise before I even realized it.
If you’re standing on your head, there’s not that much you can do (except go into a lotus pose with your legs or something – but you can’t even scratch your nose or check email, so it’s pretty limiting).
And so, purely as an exercise in countering boredom and in keeping my mind from going all over the place, mindlessly, I began counting along with the timer.
Four minutes is 240 seconds, and I started by counting forward. For the first couple of weeks, I let the first minute slip by, and started counting at …oh, the three-minute mark. I was counting to 180, in other words. Sometimes I started daydreaming and lost track, finding myself lost at …wait, was I at 110 or had I already hit 115?
When I noticed that I wasn’t able to stay focused, I began to “force” myself to pay attention, and I also began ratcheting the starting mark up, in line with the start of the timer. Soon I was starting at four minutes (beginning to count at zero, going up to 240), with the goal of hitting each second with a silent count of yet another number.
But again, my mind would wander – or else be perturbed by an apparent “synchronicity” I couldn’t calculate (reason away) quickly enough. For example, the first few times I noticed that I mentally “said” one-hundred-forty and also saw the number 140 appear on the timer, I was flustered. It broke my concentration: why did I “say” 140 at the same time as the timer “said” 140?
The first few times it just threw me (was I counting “wrong”? would the number 140 match up tomorrow?), and the next few times I lost track of counting as I reasoned the answer: “Oh, right! When I say 140, I’ve been counting for 2minutes 20seconds, and there’s 1minute and 40seconds left, which is 100 seconds, and 140 plus 100 is 240 seconds, which is 4 minutes…” And so on, mind racing, clock ticking, losing track, not being mindful or present.
Then I noticed something rather interesting: the power of images.
If I pictured the numbers as I counted them, I didn’t lose track. Thus, I’d “say” the numbers silently – 128, 129, 130, 131, and so on – while at the same time “seeing” them. This kept me on track – even if I “wandered” and went off on a mindless tangent, the images of the numbers ticking on brought me back quickly. The words? Not so much.
Today I decided to count backward from 240, down to zero. Again, I noticed that without a visualization of the numbers, it was easy to lose track – to wander off and think about something else. With a picture of each number in mind, it was
easy easier to concentrate be mindful.
However, counting backward I was much slower (by at least 30 seconds!) than the timer. I guess that even with the trick of picturing the numbers, I was slower than actual clock time when I had to count backward from 240 to 0.
But I’m convinced that with a bit more mindful practice, I’ll get the hang of counting backward in time to the timer – as long as I keep a clear picture of the numbers in mind. Otherwise, all bets are off and my mind gallivants in all directions.
I guess I’m a visual thinker after all, an interesting (to me) insight I hadn’t expected from what I thought would be the purely physical exercise of standing on my head.