Decent Human Behavior

On a financial site on-line there was a pundit that proposed that we have a line item in our monthly budget for some “decent human behavior”. My thinking is a video class in decent human behavior for 15 minutes a day in schools and required in bars and lounges and coffee shops before a drink is poured or expensive latte is consumed. But, beginning to address the issues of abundance versus scarcity and the belief the “there is enough for everyone” to shift a collective mindset from needing more and more and more to be considered worthy, probably needs more than 15 minutes.

Of course, a rational definition would be required first and all the black and white and grey areas addressed. But, funny enough, my belief is that most human beings already know what is decent…even if it is difficult to always do the right thing.

If you notice the picture at the top of this post you will see what a few friends are doing in the course of trying to be decent. Today, Saturday, we set a hundred pieces of winter gear out in Denver’s Civic Center Park that is a gathering place for those who live on the street most of the time. Scarves and hats and ear warmers and new socks were left with notes for the people most in need. We had interaction, even though it was very early, with several people who needed the gear very much as the weather had shifted overnight.  We did not harm trees, basically using metal benches and concrete balustrades as places to tie our metaphors of warmth.

Among our family and friends and neighbors and thrift stores on half price day, we found enough to share with people who actually needed a warm scarf or pair of socks as opposed to the ones of us who have many to choose from to match our various coats. My personal goal has become to have one of something and hopefully one to share or loan or give away. How many winter hats will you wear on the gurney in the crematorium?

Another personal goal for the winter is to start a conversation with groups I know to help define what decent human behavior is in our particular culture, age, gender, ancestry, neighborhood and economic group to see if the actual human behavior of being civil and decent should be more important than any of those tribe expectations.

How could we manifest that behavior in our lives in addition to starting the seed of a scarf tree ? How can we speak of it in conversations to help people shift?

Today was an experiment that was exciting and next year our flash mob of elders and friends will be larger and louder.

Share hot chocolate with a neighbor,

Joanna

 

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Dysfunctional Balance

The past two weeks that included the release of the movie, based on the book, The Glass Castle, has had me thinking about dysfunction in general, and of course in elders. Loving mysteries, my first thought about the subject was that every homicide detective is dysfunctional in some major way. While I may love the plot and the setting and the minor characters and the red herrings, it gets very boring to see that the psychological dysfunctions do not improve much in a series of novels.

It would be enjoyable for me to see that Barbara Havers, in the Margaret George novels, had learned how to dress and do her hair as a professional woman, as opposed to the ragamuffin look she favors…..because she is lazy about herself and giving her all to the job? The author could invent another dysfunction since all humans have them, especially it seems, the ones on the front lines of human stupidity, i.e. killing, violence, hurting living things in general.

Quirky is different from full-blown dysfunction. Quirky can be charming and fun and when you read or watch a show or movie for entertainment it is almost a required character trait for someone. We sometime hear or see words on the page that are important to the plot coming from the quirky one. So how does a person with “normal” quirks versus one with dysfunctions impact us in reality? As elders how do we deal with the continued or worsening dysfunctions of family and friends or even society?

After conversations with several only slightly dysfunctional friends, my take is this:  If the person has enough redeeming behaviors and attitudes and is aware of the dysfunctions that are harmful to the world, who am I to judge beyond what my standards have become? We forgive or tend to minimize traits that are balanced by either the greater good of a person or society or a physical or temporary situation. In a relationship we tend to balance each other out with a physically stronger one taking over outdoor chores and one of the techies in the family helping everyone.

We can moan about the “lack of a functional city council” and then use the democratic process to remedy it. A friend has a stroke and when the physical therapist says you can help by listening to a less than perfect speech pattern from him/her, you figure out how to develop patience–which the lack of has become almost a dysfunction for you. We adapt and adjust and survive until the malfunctions are too much for us and we withdraw. Level and severity impacts our decisions.

The fictional homicide detectives are divorced, alienated from parents and children, drink too much, sleep in their clothes and have few social skills with peers. But, they do their jobs, speak for the victim and are necessary in a society of the numerous dysfunctionals in the book.

While life is not a novel, reading can give you examples about how differently minded people deal with reality and disaster and those around them who may reflect the people we know who are beyond our help. Balancing your own systems going into meltdown is the number one priority for the exceptional elder. Put on your oxygen mask first.

92% functioning,

Joanna

 

 

 

The Size of Joy: Lady Bugs to Relationships

This past month has found me reading too late and starting too early and avoiding house tasks to read a bit more. The energy comes from trying to make my own definition of joy. As a usually happy person, my joy always seems to be a combination of gratitude and happy. I have been reading and rereading The Book of Joy ( not the Joy of Sex that was another decade) with discussions between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. I started it in January after my friend Jeanie gave it to me for Winter Solstice and I pick it up and read and underline and highlight and then think about it for the days needed to absorb the ideas.

As an Extraordinary Elder in training, the aspect of introspection always leads me to the need to read and study what other people think and to ask myself the same questions they have asked. The answers of the two powerhouse wisdom keepers mentioned above no doubt come more easily than mine. And then, in a work of fiction I was reading, a character asks, “what would be essential for you to bring to the house to make you comfortable”. The accumulation of stuff raises its overstuffed head again. How does that impact joy in a human being? I find it interesting that Marie Kondo, who taught the world how to fold underwear in her tidy book, named her second book ” Spark Joy”.

In her first writings she tells us that if an item does not create a sense of joy, get rid of it. While I get a sense of productivity and prevention from my toothbrush it does not bring me what I consider joy….but it does give me a sense of well-being on some level and gratitude that I have it and the dentist has not taken any money in several months.

Great pleasure or delight seldom comes and settles in when an object (even a living one) attracts my attention for a moment. I am happy to see a lady bug, but true joy will be more likely to come to me from the delight of time spent with a person with whom I have a relationship. Sharing the sight of a lady bug with a child would double the happiness and maybe joy for the moment in time with the two of us.

In The Book of Joy, the authors understand that exploring what makes the human experience satisfying is the task they wish to discuss. Please read the book so you don’t have to watch me regurgitate it, but know that one of the outcomes is that the ability to be joyful is work done from the inside out. Possessions and jobs and money and gold bathroom fixtures are not long-term joy producers. As elders we should know that by now, but occasionally get caught up in the anticipated joy of new kitchen cabinets .

The picture at the top of the page is of a baby celebration cake. A library book club to which I belong lost our facilitator to maternity leave this past week and we celebrated the coming birth with a cake and small presents for her. In the room was a sense of joy from our relationships with each other and to her and for being part of the joy she was anticipating. A small example of relationship and community creating a space for felicity in a world that can be full of fear and anger and sadness. But, it came from inside of all of us–even thought the cake was a success, it was the interactions that counted.

May you find joy in your life,

Joanna

 

 

 

Piece of Cake, Easy as Pie, A Walk in the Park, Easy- Peazy- Breezy….

And No Sweat! My life for the past two years has been full of adventure, new people, loving family and a couple of hundred people talking to me about aging and what their experiences in life have been. In the past year a number of these people have started a gratitude journal to help diffuse feelings of several unpleasant emotions: anger, narrow-mindedness, quick judgements, fear, social impotence, marginalization and confusion. The need to be introspective as an elder in order to feel centered is a common occurence.  The political climate and chaos of acts of terror urges an elder, who still wants to make a difference in the community and the world on a higher moral plane, to search in writing personal journals, reading, classes, lectures, deep conversations, prayer and generally reaching out for answers to hold onto.

Then we remember—-life is suffering with a few moments of joy beyond our dreams. And then there is the suffering. For me, the more my heart aches for the victims of storms, any human violence and the aftershocks of human trafficking or drug trade, the less I can function with positive energy toward the ills of the people or animals in need that can be helped. Trauma is trauma and the only thing that varies is the degree of pain and details. Letting the trauma of the entire population of the world overwhelm you is a waste of your extraordinary elder status and wisdom. Practice letting things go into a pile of events placed in a closet on a shelf wrapped in a soft blanket that contain people and places broken so badly you may not be able to help. They will wait for you while you make chicken soup for your neighbor next door who just gave birth. Work on what you can work on and be mindful about your energy and gratitude and focus on the now.

None of the above applies if you one of Nelson Mandela’s council, an editor of a national newspaper, a well-respected magazine or any of the richest people on earth. You, my newest friends, can come over for a cuppa tea and a piece of my chocolate cake so you can learn how easy-peazy-breezy it would be to help the suffering…for you all, a walk in the park I am sure.

Pecan Pie with vanilla bean ice cream please –easy.

Joanna

An Epiphany of Sorts

The definition used of epiphany is : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event), usually simple and sticking–so says Mr. Webster and the unsung typists who helped him.

My entire life, it sometimes seems, has been based on intuition. I wait for it. Bright ideas based on intuition have led me down many a garden path. But, no complaints here, my life has been varied and beautiful.

Now, strident  voices and painful realities are at the door after the November Elections and especially after the argument over “my crowd is bigger than your crowd” inauguration. Really?

My friends gathered at least a thousand dollars of items for the homeless in Denver and delivered them on inauguration day to spend their time in a more productive way than watching an administration come to power for whom they did not vote. The day after, several women in my circle went to DC for the march and another several groups went to downtown Denver to show their concern for women’s and children issues. The photos from all over the world were amazing, especially for the ones of us who have marched to protest before much world-wide coverage.

My support is with the loyal opposition, but my brain and heart have not connected into what plan I need for myself–until yesterday.

Let me start at the beginning of the day. As you elders know, if you have Medicare you have one free physical each year. Yesterday was my day and at 10:10 am my nurse practitioner, Kate, saw me to make sure I was still kicking. She had mentioned a few months ago when she was doing a routine check of blood pressure, that mental health issues due to election hysteria were almost overwhelming the practice. Yesterday she said the same thing, but in spades. They are referring people to therapy, meditation class, yoga, giving light/short doses of calming drugs and generally just listening to the populations that feel vulnerable. I told her my dilemma about not being sure where my skills should be put and she said, take your time to center yourself and then move forward.

My next stop was to see the staff and Colorado Free University to sign up for a class, and my friend Mary Jean and I were chatting about my opposition to programs that would hurt the refugee family where we had served as cultural mentors. She said the same thing. Wait until you are sure you know how you want to spend your energy. She knows I love to teach, but what and how can this be handled in a group of adults without shouting?

The last stop of the day was the book club at my local library. The book we read was, The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. Every woman in the room had spent a personal life time of insuring women’s rights and reading this particular book, put the fear of the circles of hell in our minds. Story after story from the various generations in the room of sexual harassment, rape, credit denial after divorce or widowhood, lack of freedom of reproductive rights and fathers and grandfathers and husbands who would not ALLOW them to thrive a human beings. They all have a similar situation now as I do–what can I do, how can I accomplish something and what do I let go?

For me to get to that point will require some quiet time, a spiritual search of myself and my options. Reflection on history, both mine and the various categories of the groups impacted by the change, moving the intuition to the formulation of a workable idea, and a support system of friends.

I can start with listing on paper the feelings I have, the angst that is around me and asking some of the elders around me for advice. The people in my age group have seen huge social changes all  of our lives, but also know that the work for equality that was so hard-won. can slip away too quickly with out us paying attention.

A few weeks from now, a plan will be shared with you all and your imput will be appreciated. Until then the blog will give you some quotes or stories to keep us going until we know where we are going.

Joanna

One last item. When I was out today, I read on sign on a “strip” club that stated if you were wearing a “pussy” hat like some of the women in the world-wide march, they would charge you double the entrance fee…….that would make a great place to picket!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Washing Out My Mouth

There are events in our lives that are so embedded in the folds of our brain that we remember them with all five senses and even that metaphysical clarity that comes occasionally. One of those events is the washing out of my mouth with soap by my mother.

Yes, I had a “smart” mouth. The best punishment might have been tape. For several decades my sarcasm was lethal and could be really mean. While there was often humor, the skill came too easily for me. So, after we had a season of vicious politics, looking at our personal culpability is paramount if we want to live in a world where people don’t use their first base instincts. Maybe to remember or learn how to speak truth without quick judgement of other’s belief systems? Too many times if you get the first jab in, you don’t actually have to listen–and listening with curiosity is a talent to embrace in any season.

Humans are meant to have conversation. We solve problems that way. When we first huddled in groups in a cave around the fire, we talked in some fashion about the hunt, the weather, the food and the people over the hill with the new furs. Moving fireplaces into bedrooms in castles and not just having one fire in the great hall for everyone, set up part of the social system for feudal Europe. Television and its voracious appetite for our time killed more than one relationship due to conversation stagnation or the clicking of the remote control .

For me, having a lively, intellectually based conversation, with people listening and talking and taking turns and there being a bit of chaos is a rare treat when it happens. It is why the two new groups that I joined in 2016 have excited me so much–conversation is expected. If you hear the same old same old around the fire, you are SO Boring.

But, and there is always a but, the talking that many people have been doing is full of angst or hate or fear or anger or righteous indignation. (one of my specialities).

Let’s figure out how to mitigate that national tendency and move on a friend by friend, neighbor by neighbor path to regain our conversations.  If you have time send me your suggestions for a small action we can all take to err on the side of humanity and not hate.

My class at Colorado Free University has one session left in January and after that I will be ready to tackle teaching people how to use their words.

Joanna, trying to practice what I preach