Category Archives: Observations

How Do You Remember?

After many years together, I’ve recently discovered that my dear husband (DH) and I have very different ways of recalling events that have happened to us. This isn’t about what we remember (or block out, as the case may be!) but how we recreate those situations in our minds.

DH, who is an artist, remembers as if he were watching a movie. It is completely visual.

I, on the other hand, remember as if I were reading a novel; that is, while I might visualize certain aspects of the story, the narrative is generally descriptive and verbal.

I found this quite fascinating, and it makes me wonder how you, my dear readers and bloggers, remember things. SInce most of you are writers, do you also imagine a story being told to you? Or do you conjure up vivid pictures?

Dreams are quite different, I think, as they seem to always be visual, whether we are involved as characters or as onlookers. Is this true for you? Do share!

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

The Nature of Friendship

With some of my favorite people about to move out of the neighborhood, I’ve been realizing that friendship is largely situational.

In childhood, we make friends through chance commonalities. We may live on the same street. Go to the same school — where we often become friends with the person who sits next to us because their name starts with the same letter — or play the same sport. Or fidget through the same religious services.

As adults, we might meet because our children know each other. Become friends with our co-workers. Live near each other. Volunteer for the same causes; attend the same church, mosque or synagogue; chat on a trip; or detest a common enemy.

Many connections fade without the proximity that is friendship’s oxygen. And that’s ok: they enriched our lives while we shared common experiences.

But if we’re lucky, a special few survive geographical separation because our deeper interests and affection forge a long-term bond.

So, in honor of all our besties, some wise quotes:


“An old friend will help you move. A good friend will help you move a dead body.”
Jim Hayes

“It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The holy passion of Friendship is of so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring a nature that it will last through a whole lifetime, if not asked to lend money.” Mark Twain


“There is nothing like puking with somebody to make you into old friends.”
Sylvia Plath

“Friends give you a shoulder to cry on. But best friends are ready with a shovel to hurt the person who made you cry.”
Unknown


“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like ‘What about lunch?’”
A. A. Milne

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Marriage: Live, Learn, and Prosper

For my stepdaughter’s upcoming bachelorette weekend, attendees have been asked to offer a piece of marriage advice. Below are some observations to ponder, serious and otherwise.

Photo by Tara Winstead on Pexels.com
  • “A wedding may require a team of professionals; a marriage only requires two amateurs.”
  • “It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.” ~Rita Rudner
  • “In olden times, sacrifices were made at the altar. They still are.”
  • “Marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.”
  • “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards.”
    ~Benjamin Franklin”
  • “Marriage is the bond between a person who never remembers anniversaries and another who never forgets them.”
    ~Ogden Nash
  • “The best way to get most husbands to do something is to suggest that perhaps they’re too old to do it.” ~Anne Bancroft
  • “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.”

On a less-snarky note, the following is a good checklist for how to get along in any long-term partnership. Condensed here, so click for the full article.

Remember Your Commitment
Life is busy and unpredictable. You both signed up to ride together during whatever comes your way. A foundation of love and caring helps you get through the tough times.

Assume the Best of One Another
Unless you’re married to a total rotter, your partner probably means the best. Even if they piss you off — and they will — their intentions were likely pure. So, as a general rule, assume you both have each other’s best interests in mind. (Unless proven otherwise.)

Don’t Ever Stop Trying
Make the commitment to keep being generous, showing appreciation, and saying thank you more than you probably are. Being taken for granted is never sexy.

Stop Stonewalling
This is the act of shutting down during an argument. The person stonewalling stops responding and maintains a calm exterior, which tells their partner that they don’t care at all about what they’re saying. What to do instead? Ask for a break. Then return to the discussion — sooner rather than later — when you’re ready.

Communicate Respectfully
Argue and attack the issues at hand without getting defensive, digging up the past and throwing it in the other’s face, dismissing a partner’s experience, or any other caustic habit.

Always Be Flexible
Life’s full of surprises, not always pleasant ones. A couple’s ability to ‘go with the flow’ – especially when it’s dramatically different from what they expected – gives them the opportunity to learn new skills and get to know each other in ways they might never have known before.

Curiosity Saves Couples
Your partner will likely change over time, so being open to the ways in which he or she changes can allow you to identify the ways you’ve changed as well. Shared curiosity — learning a new skill, hobby, traveling, etc. — creates new opportunities to bond.

Be Willing to Grow and Learn
Everyone screws up, says dumb things, gets stuff wrong. It’s all about how people react that defines a relationship. Being willing to admit mistakes, and apologize sincerely, is an important key in creating a deeper bond with your partner.

Stop Invalidating
This type of belittling can be incredibly destructive to a relationship, implying that what they’re doing or saying means they must be either crazy, stupid, or some combination of the two. It can happen in a quick, almost casual manner (“That’s ridiculous”), or it can be passive-aggressive, telling a partner how they should react before you even speak (“Don’t freak out, but I have to tell you something…”). Marriages thrive on mutual trust, respect, and security. Without this, the relationship will eventually corrode.

Prioritize Sex and Date Nights
When you’re busy, this means putting it on a schedule and sticking to it. Like other self-care activities (e.g., going to the gym) if you don’t block time out in your schedule, it’s not going to happen. Especially if you have young kids.

Get on the Same Page
Whether it’s how and what involvement the in-laws will have, how many activities the kids should participate in, or even when/if to have children, having the same priorities builds trust and reduces stress.

Learn How to Move On From Arguments
Disagreement is unavoidable in any marriage — as are spats, snipes, and all-out fights. “It’s important to talk about what happened afterward and own your part,” says one marriage and family therapist.

Laugh it Up
If you can laugh together, you can survive anything.

Always Be Validating
Having your partner listen, appreciate, and understand you speaks to a basic need for connection. It’s okay to disagree, as long as you respect each other.

Stop Obsessing Over Who Wins
When couples respect each other, they can accept not being right in favor of maintaining a healthy balance. Successful couples choose their battles, knowing that closeness can sometimes be more satisfying than being right.

Make Time for Self-Care
Don’t just take care of your spouse; look after yourself. That means exercising regularly, eating well, getting enough sleep, and making regular doctor and dentist appointments. Investing in yourself and your own well-being shows your partner that you want to be at your best for them.

Pay Attention to the Little Things
For couples who have mutual respect, small gestures are second-nature. A simple love note, a slightly longer hug or kiss goodbye can make your partner feel validated and appreciated.

Give One Another Space
It’s important to be supportive and engaged with your spouse. But you also can’t hover over them and try and solve all their problems for them. Have enough faith in each other to know when to step back and let them handle something on their own.

Do You Have PPSD*?

(*Post-Pandemic Survival Dysfunction)

Even as daily life seems headed towards recovery, it’s hard to relax. This insightful analysis explains why “burnout” only begins to describe what so many of us have been feeling.

[by Soo Youn, The Washington Post]

Why burnout won’t go away, even as life returns to ‘normal’

For Marcia Howard, the Cheez-Its were a breaking point.

At her son’s first in-person school event this year, she realized she forgot to bring the class snack.

“I just broke down in the car and I started crying,” she said. As a class parent, she was torn up about forgetting the crackers. “It turns out everything has been overwhelming. And there’s no shaking it.”

Howard started a new job at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic working as a creative operations director at a Fortune 500 company.

“I’m a Black woman. Between the pandemic and everything that happened to George Floyd and the summer of protests. . . . I had that first wave of, ‘Oh, gosh, I’m tired. I don’t feel like I can do anything. I stay up all night, looking at my phone and just really can’t focus,’ ” she said.

Then the fall came around, and it became clear many schools wouldn’t fully reopen for in-person learning.

“I’ve never thought about quitting more,” said Howard, who lives in New York City.

She’s been told by her company that she can take time off as she needs, but it’s just not that simple for her, she said. “It is all really wonderful to hear. But trying to prove myself in a corporate environment as the only Black leader, can I?” Howard said.

In February, she says she was told by her therapist that she was on the verge of depression.

“I feel like everyone is starting to think the world is getting back to normal, and I just can’t even bring myself to be hopeful about it,” Howard said.

With vaccinations initiated for half of Americans over 12, and guidance on masking and social distancing easing, the triage stage of the pandemic is lessening for some in the United States. Yet external progress markers can disguise – or even induce – a flurry of conflicting emotional, physical or cognitive states. Like getting sick right after turning in your last final, for some women who bore the brunt of domestic burdens while juggling work pressures for over a year, the breaking point may come with the breathing room.

As the country races toward a “normal” summer, for women like Howard, the picture doesn’t match up with her reality. She’s still struggling through a burnout unlike any other.

“Traditionally, we think of burnout being a state where someone is increasingly overwhelmed with the tasks in their lives, feeling a markedly decreased sense of accomplishment and effectiveness in what they are doing, and feeling like the things they loved to do now feel like just additional tasks. After a time, there can be mental health consequences,” said Maureen Sayres Van Niel, a Boston-based psychiatrist.

The pandemic magnified that condition exponentially.

“We had women with and without children managing situations that had life and death consequences in their daily lives: how to provide food for their families when the deadly virus was omnipresent or they were suddenly without an income, how to care for an elderly mother without physical contact,” she said. “Burnout in the traditional sense doesn’t capture the sense of the past year’s events.”

By March 2021, 1 in 4 Americans adults suffered the loss of a close friend or relative to the coronavirus, according to the KFF coronavirus vaccine Monitor; about 1 in 3 knew someone who died. And for those with family and friends in countries where death tolls are mounting daily, there is little relief.

“By mid-summer many will likely be feeling conflicting emotions such as relief that they are protected against the virus and happiness to see friends and family again. But having these new freedoms allows us to reflect on what we just lived through, what we endured, and what we lost. We will then be able to really feel our burnout, to let it surface,” said Stanford University sociologist Marianne Cooper. “People will need time to process what they have lived through.”

People are also mourning the loss of jobs – as well as routines, health, opportunities and time.

Baltimore-based psychiatrist Kimberly Gordon says burnout isn’t an adequate term. She treats patients from underserved communities and has lived and worked through traumatic events like Hurricane Katrina. She frames the current conversation as one of moral injury, a term referring to “the strong cognitive and emotional response that can occur following events that violate a person’s moral or ethical code.”

“Burnout suggests that the problem resides within the individual, who is in some way deficient. It implies that the individual lacks the resources or resilience to withstand the work environment,” according to a 2019 study published in the journal Federal Practitioner.

That’s impossible, the authors say: “While there is nothing inherently wrong with any of those practices, it is absurd to believe that yoga will solve the problems.”

The problem with using the term burnout, Gordon said, is that people equate it with a failure of their own, compounding the issue.

“You take these people who are really passionate and energetic, who want to do a good job, and they lose their motivation,” Gordon said. “Moral injury addresses the systems issues that lead to burnout, and calls for systems to address those issues.”

For some, the moral injury felt like betrayal by employers, the government and neighbors.

Jennifer Casaletto, an emergency physician in North Carolina, remembers one of the lowest points in the middle of the pandemic, a period she refers to as “backstabbing.”

“That was one of the hardest humps to get over, realizing we’re still going to work risking our lives and the lives of our family, and our friends telling us ‘This is completely overhyped.'” She recalled an incident during which a neighbor brought their child to Casaletto’s house to get stitches, then told her they were going on vacation to Mexico and were hoping to get around having to mask on the plane.

While the pandemic has been hard on everyone, women are bearing the physical and mental load of burnout unequally, emerging data shows.

In March, the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index found 30% of women said they felt “overwhelmed or burned out” over the past year, compared with 21% of men.

“The pandemic has also laid bare the ways in which the society and its institutions were not created with the biology of women workers in mind,” Sayres Van Niel said.

Mental health professionals suggest telling employers about what you need to be more productive at work.

“We think of ourselves as passive participants in our workplace but we can actually have an active role in the culture,” Gordon said.

For example, say you can work until 7 p.m. but you need child care. One of Gordon’s patients recently told their manager they were manic depressive, and they were able to come up with a more flexible schedule.

“It’s really important to find workplaces or create workspaces, where people can have courageous conversations,” she said.

She also recommended making small changes in everyday life, like exercise or watching a comedy special. Little daily tweaks can be more effective than a week-long vacation over time, she said.

Howard, the Fortune 500 director, says she tries to work in a daily bath and is focusing on a renewed exercise routine. There’s still plenty for her to be stressed out about: an upcoming minor surgery for her son, family reunions with mixed vaccination statuses and a recent emergency room visit for the family cat.

It can feel like the rush to reopen is happening too fast, she said, putting her at odds with others who are thrilled to take off their masks and return to “normal.”

“I’ve just realized that I don’t have to be there. . . . I don’t emotionally have to get there. I can take my time recovering from the past year and a half. I’m sitting with my feelings and it’s still normal to be unable to focus.”

– – –

This story first appeared in The Washington Post’s The Lily publication.

Good News Monday: Something In Common

In recent years, our little community has sadly become increasingly polarized, what with strongly-held opinions on such crises as “LollipopGate” (did the former head of the vegetation committee instruct landscapers to trim certain trees in unnatural shapes?),”GateGate” (did the front gate close on a neighbor’s car through malfunction, or was this an error on the part of the driver?),”PoopGate” (did a neighbor deliberately not pick up after their pet, or did the outraged complainant mistake a clump of mud for dog poop?), and “SnoopGate” (did a neighbor repairing storm-related damage to his home knowingly violate The Rules? And could the “concerned party” have asked the owner directly about his repairs? Or — gasp — maybe offered to help rather than contacting the Powers-That-Be as a first resort?) Deep breath.

There seems to be no shortage of time for people to complain, yet little interest in listening to the other side. And it’s all gotten notably worse since the last US election, with the endless repetition of bs about “stolen” votes. I swear we have grooves in our roads from everyone digging in their heels!

So it was with great interest that I read the following piece on studyfinds.org. Perhaps there’s reason to be hopeful after all.

U.S. Politics - Democrats and Republicans, donkey and elephant on flag
(© Victor Moussa – stock.adobe.com)

(© Victor Moussa – stock.adobe.com)

Political polarization study finds liberal and conservative brains have one thing in common

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — There seems to be no end in sight to the political divide splitting America in two right now. While political polarization is not a new phenomenon, researchers say they still know very little about what causes people to see the world through an ideological bias. Now, a team from Brown University reveals liberals and conservatives actually do share some common ground — they all hate uncertainty.

Their study finds the brains of “political partisans” on both sides of the spectrum show an inability to tolerate uncertainty. These individuals also have a need to hold onto predictable beliefs about the world they live in.

Examining a group of liberals and conservatives, researchers discovered watching politically inflammatory debates or news coverage exacerbates each person’s intolerance of the unknown. Liberals began to display more liberal thinking and conservatives moved further to the conservative side. Despite their ideological differences, the team finds the same brain mechanics are driving this behavior.

“This is the first research we know of that has linked intolerance to uncertainty to political polarization on both sides of the aisle,” says study co-author Oriel FeldmanHall, an assistant professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences at Brown, in a university release. “So whether a person in 2016 was a strongly committed Trump supporter or a strongly committed Clinton supporter, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that an aversion to uncertainty only exacerbates how similarly two conservative brains or two liberal brains respond when consuming political content.”

Political views not to blame for polarized society?

Study authors used fMRI scans to measure brain activity while participants watched three different programs. The 22 conservatives and 22 liberals viewed a neutrally-worded news report on the very polarizing topic of abortion, a fiery political debate segment, and a completely non-political nature show.

After seeing the videos, participants answered questions gauging their understanding and opinions of the different segments. They also completed political and cognitive surveys measuring their intolerance of uncertainty. According to study co-author Jeroen van Baar, the results show political polarization is less about what people think and more about how their brains cope with the world around them.

“We found that polarized perception — ideologically warped perceptions of the same reality — was strongest in people with the lowest tolerance for uncertainty in general,” says van Baar, a former Brown researcher now at Trimbos, the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction. “This shows that some of the animosity and misunderstanding we see in society is not due to irreconcilable differences in political beliefs, but instead depends on surprising — and potentially solvable — factors such as the uncertainty people experience in daily life.”

“We used relatively new methods to look at whether a trait like intolerance of uncertainty exacerbates polarization, and to examine if individual differences in patterns of brain activity synchronize to other individuals that hold like-minded beliefs,” FeldmanHall adds.

Birds of a (political) feather flock together

The study also reveals brain activity and neural responses in partisans diverge between liberals and conservatives. Researchers say these differences reflect each side’s subjective interpretation of the content they’re viewing. People who strongly identify as liberals processed political videos in a very similar way to other liberals in the study; a trait called neural synchrony. Study authors discovered the same thing when examining the brains of conservatives.

“If you are a politically polarized person, your brain syncs up with like-minded individuals in your party to perceive political information in the same way,” FeldmanHall explains.

The results also show people displaying a higher level of intolerance for uncertainty are more sensitive to politically polarizing content. Surprisingly, the news report on abortion with a completely neutral tone did not exacerbate the group’s polarized perceptions.

“This suggests that aversion to uncertainty governs how the brain processes political information to form black-and-white interpretations of inflammatory political content,” the researchers explain.

“This is key because it implies that ‘liberal and conservative brains’ are not just different in some stable way, like brain structure or basic functioning, as other researchers have claimed, but instead that ideological differences in brain processes arise from exposure to very particular polarizing material,” van Baar concludes. “This suggests that political partisans may be able to see eye to eye — provided we find the right way to communicate.”

The study appears in the journal PNAS

How to Impress a Date

Though long out of the dating “scene”, I thought this was a fun read, courtesy of StudyFinds.org.

James Bond was right! Americans say ordering a martini will definitely impress your date

by Chris Melore Share Tweet

NEW YORK — Will a bad choice at the bar sink your budding romance? Three in ten Americans say they’ve ended a date early because of what their date ordered to drink, a new study reveals.

The survey of 2,000 Americans over 21 who consume alcohol finds the first drink on a date makes a lasting first impression. Sixty percent of men in the poll agree a bad drink order would be a “deal-breaker” for them. Just 32 percent of women, however, said the same.

Top shelf dating advice

Drinks Dating Impressions

Want to win someone over right away? Take a page out of James Bond’s playbook. Three in five said a martini will make the ultimate good impression. The other drinks that leave potential partners impressed include gin and tonics (46%) and Manhattans (45%). Forty-two percent would look favorably on a date who orders a Cosmopolitan or a Whiskey Sour.

On the other hand, the drink most likely to make a bad first impression is a Long Island Iced Tea, with 22 percent saying that’s a dating deal-breaker. With so much pressure on that initial drink order, it’s no wonder over a third (37%) order a “fancy” drink while on a date.

The survey, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Jack Daniel’s, also reveals 62 percent think a person’s drink of choice says “a lot” about their personality. It’s for that reason two in three respondents (65%) think people should order their drink of choice on a first date to showcase who they “really are.”

The results also find four in five (79%) have a “go-to” drink that took them three years of experimenting on average to finally find.

With age comes (drinking) wisdom?

It’s not just about what goes in the drink, though, as 71 percent claim to be experts who know how to prepare their drink “the right way.”

Drinks Dating Impressions

Over half the poll actually consider themselves a “connoisseur” in their spirit of choice, but that wasn’t always the case. The average person “graduated” from low to top-shelf taste at 27 years-old and needed three years to become truly knowledgeable about their favorite spirit.

“Your drink of choice says a lot about your personality and it’s no surprise to us that classic whiskey cocktails have never gone out of style. However our friends choose to enjoy our Tennessee Whiskey, we want them to do so responsibly,” a spokesperson for Jack Daniel’s says in a statement.

The company commissioned this survey in honor of International Whiskey Day and wanted to find out just what Americans love about the spirit. Three in ten named whiskey as their favorite type of alcohol.

When it comes to whiskey-centric cocktails, drinkers say simple is better. Whiskey-colas come in as the top choice for a third of respondents. Whiskey Sours (31%), Irish Coffees (23%), and an Old Fashioned (23%) followed closely behind on the menu.

“Whiskey has always been a staple in any home bar. All of the classic whiskey cocktails that were identified by the respondents can easily be perfected at home and with the seasons changing it’s the ideal time to experiment with new recipes,” the spokesperson for Jack Daniel’s ads.

Boredom: The Flip Side of Anxiety

An interesting parenting column in today’s New York Times has me thinking about whether boredom is just another name for stress dressed in sweatpants. Although not a parent of small children anymore, I can certainly relate to the excruciating sameness we are all experiencing. It’s also combined with the inability to meet some of our basic human needs such as anticipation, order and control, and touch.

Wherever possible, it’s helpful to search out little ways to feel happier. Could be planning a trip, varying your routine even if only to get takeout from somewhere new, moving some furniture around, calling a friend rather than emailing, etc. But let’s not get all Pollyanna about this — the seemingly-endless pandemic sucks. Read on!

Credit…Moritz Wienert
Jessica Grose

By Jessica Grose April 7, 2021 Updated 2:57 p.m. ET

Before the pandemic, I found comfort in the routine of my life and the rhythms of my family — what Nora Ephron once called the “peanut-butter-and-jellyness” of days with children. I liked the morning thunderdome of getting the children dressed and fed and breaking up some fights along the way, dropping them at school and taking the 20-minute walk to the subway. When I got off the subway, I had an array of coffee shops to choose from, which at the time did not seem exciting, but after a year of pandemic isolation would probably feel like bungee jumping.

At this point my commute is the five feet from my bed to my desk, and I am somehow both tired and agitated when I start work each day. My kids never leave the house, except when we go to the same three parks in our neighborhood. Sometimes when I go running outside, I fantasize about just … not stopping, my eyes thirsty for some new horizon.

In other words, I’m so freaking bored.

I’m not the only parent — or nonparent, to be sure — having trouble with the monotony of this moment. A study conducted early in the pandemic of more than 4,000 French people found that though respondents felt an increase of stress and fear, they mostly experienced a “slowing down of time” that was attributed to boredom and sadness.

“I’ve particularly struggled with boredom this year, in fact it resurfaced so many of the mixed emotions of maternity leave for me, feeling lonely and bored but simultaneously guilty for not treasuring every moment with my daughter,” said Jenny Brewer, the mom of a toddler in London. She said she feels her brain cells “ebbing away,” and like she’s not achieving anything at work. “I am so used to organizing days out and time with friends and family, that when it was taken away I was at an utter loss for how to kill the hours,” she said.

The way Ms. Brewer describes boredom is actually very close to the way boredom researchers — yes, there are boredom researchers — have defined the emotion. “‘Feeling unchallenged’ and perceiving one’s ‘activities as meaningless’ is central to boredom,” according to a study by Wijnand Van Tilburg, an experimental social psychologist at the University of Essex in England.

Or, as Leo Tolstoy put it, boredom is “the desire for desires.”

“The bored person does want to do something quite desperately, but does not want to do anything in particular,” said John D. Eastwood, an associate professor of clinical psychology at York University in Toronto, and co-author of “Out of My Skull: The Psychology of Boredom.” Boredom is distinct from apathy, because if you’re apathetic, you don’t want to do anything at all — but if you’re bored, you’re both restless and lethargic, Dr. Eastwood said.

Even in normal times, boredom is a very common emotion — a study of almost 4,000 American adults found that 63 percent felt bored at least once in a 10-day sampling period. While most cases of boredom are mild, chronic boredom can metastasize into depression, poor health behavior like drug use, or risk-taking behavior, said Dr. Van Tilburg. The causes of boredom are multifaceted, but a lack of control over your situation is a common one. He added, “There’s research that shows when you’re limited in your control over the situation — that intensifies boredom.”

Parents of very small kids may find our pandemic lot particularly stifling because it’s both repetitive and involuntary — we have no choice about keeping up the routines for our little ones, who cannot do things for themselves. Emily Lyn-Sue, a stay-at-home mom of two in Miami, said that while her husband and older son have outlets outside the home with work and school, she feels isolated and bored at home with her 3-year-old. “We speak an entirely different language that no one else understands. We are literally on an island alone, together — he is my Wilson and I am his Tom Hanks,” she said, referring to the relationship Hanks’ character develops with a volleyball while shipwrecked in the movie “Cast Away.”

Knowing that many of us may not be able to have much control over our movements for at least the next few months, how do we try to alleviate our boredom? First, the researchers I spoke to said it’s important to acknowledge there’s no easy fix for our doldrums — so much of what is happening right now is beyond our control, and the vaccines are just beginning to be tested in children under 12, so we may not be able to make big moves just yet.

That said, there are small changes you can make to break the monotony. James Danckert, a professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo in Ontario and the co-author with Dr. Eastwood of “Out of My Skull,” said that because boredom can result from a lack of control over your life, finding even small ways to assert your agency can make you feel more engaged. For me, that means sometimes walking to a restaurant in the neighborhood to pick up lunch rather than making myself the same sad desk salad every workday.

Dr. Danckert also suggested finding some joy in the minutiae of a regular activity; he quoted Andy Warhol, who said, “You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.” To be honest, I have struggled with this approach. When I took my younger daughter to a place we call “toy park” — a park filled with discarded and half-broken toys, which she loves — I tried paying close attention to the interactions of the children and the interplay of light from the spring sun breaking through the trees. But boredom won out, and I ended up looking at Twitter.

One bit of advice that resonated more with me came from Dr. Van Tilburg, who emphasized that boredom doesn’t just have to be a negative thing — it can also be a wake-up call encouraging you to find activities that are more meaningful.

I am by nature sort of a hermit, but pandemic isolation has stretched the limits of my introversion. This weekend, we saw relatives I adore for an outdoor Easter egg hunt. Just 90 minutes of warm interaction with these beloved adults made me feel so happy and alive that I was smiling for the rest of the day.

As the weather gets warmer here in the Northeast and more of my peers are inoculated, I am planning more get-togethers, with and without my kids. Whenever I drop back into the doldrums among those discarded toys, I will think about all the walks and dinners and hugs on the horizon.

The Ingrate

This was a first: a Dear John letter from our landscaper, a vendor with whom we’d had a cordial, mutually respectful eight-year relationship.

To paraphrase: “Dear ___ (yes, a form letter), this has been a challenging year so we’ve decided to cut back on the number of clients we service. Unfortunately, you are among them.”

What he doesn’t bother to mention (because it’s a form letter) is that for the past 14 months we have been paying our monthly contractual fee EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVEN’T DONE ANY WORK. Sorry, am I shouting?? In what universe is it ok to accept over $1000 for services not rendered and then not even have the courtesy to acknowledge our loyalty or pick up the phone to work out a solution?

So much for trying to be supportive of a small business. You know that old adage, “No good deed ever goes unpunished”? ARRGGGHHHH.

Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

The Pandemic Oscars

I see the Oscars are coming up next month, and I’m baffled: Did anyone actually make any movies in 2020? I know I didn’t set foot in a theater all year.

Well, hats off to whichever intrepid souls did any filming. Here’s my list of nominees:

Home Alone: 19

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Toilet Paper Story

Apocalypse 2020

The Unsocial Network

The Adventures of Han, Solo

The Do-Over

CasaVacia (The Empty House)

Big Night In

12 Billion Angry Men

Sleepless in Seattle, London, Paris, and Barcelona

Raging Bulls***

The Six-Foot Journey

What are yours, dear readers?

What’cha Thinkin’, Dudes?

File this under “Dumb da dumb dumb”…. oops, sorry, my politics are showing.


Almost Half of Republican Men Say They Won’t Get the Coronavirus Vaccine

By Marisa Sarnoff

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Almost half of Republican men say they will not choose to be vaccinated if given the chance, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll.

According to a survey taken March 3 through March 8, when asked whether they would choose to be vaccinated “if a vaccine for the coronavirus is made available to you,” 49% of Republican men said they will not get the vaccine. More than one-third of Republican women (34%) also said they will not get vaccinated, along with 36% of Independent men.

Nearly half of Trump supporters – 47% – said they would not take the vaccine.

While Republican men and Trump supporters are the biggest group that would refuse a vaccine, 37% of Latinos also said they will not get vaccinated; similarly, 37% of people younger than 45 would also not get the shot.

The poll also measured approval of President Joe Biden’s handling of the pandemic, which currently stands at 62% approval, and 30% disapproval. Thirty percent of Republicans and 22% of Trump supporters are among those who approve of Biden’s actions on the pandemic so far.

According to the survey, two-thirds of Americans say have either gotten the vaccine or will get it, and overall, only 30% say they won’t, down from 44% who said they would not get it when asked the same question in September 2020.

While the CDC hasn’t yet determined how many people need to be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity in the U.S., Dr. Anthony Fauci recently said the number might need to be 75 to 85 percent of the population, up from earlier estimates of 60 to 70 percent, according to a New York Times report.