Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘mental health

Coping Mechanisms

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A speedy recovery from a day of dramatic events involves more than time alone. Humans can be very inventive about devising ways of coping with stress. Health professionals might commonly recommend meditation, exercise, or soothing music. Non-professionals might lobby for mind-altering substances, shopping sprees, or aggressive video games.

I am never shy about flaunting the marvels of forest bathing.

Most people agree that caring for pets brings on a wealth of mental health benefits. We have a fair share of creatures relying on us for sustenance, with chickens being greatest in number. Cyndie has figured out the trick to renewing their interest in venturing from the coop during the days.

While I pushed to let them figure out for themselves that they can walk the packed snow pathways to get to the dry earth under the barn overhang, Cyndie preferred to provide them a straw surface on which to tread.

They liked Cyndie’s plan much better than mine.

We’ve figured out a way to help the chickens cope with snow. The wimps.

As for my interest in controlling the amount of sugar in my diet, it is forever challenged by my passion for other carbs. Yesterday, Cyndie decided to cope with her residual stress by baking seven loaves of bread

There goes my diet.

Four of those loaves are breakfast bread. Enough said.

I’ll cope just fine.

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Written by johnwhays

January 8, 2021 at 7:00 am

Allowing Happiness

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We did it! We have arrived at the last day of 2020, bowing respectively for the sad number of others for whom the year would become their last.

There you have it, right there in the opening lines, my perpetual dilemma. It is time to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of a new one, but how can we celebrate in the depths of this disastrous pandemic? How did the people of downtown Nashville celebrate Christmas when the morning dawned with a terrorizing suicide bombing?

It’s not easy. But I’ve come to value the challenge of allowing for happiness amid a world of sorrow. Doing so is more worthy than the alternative of not cultivating joy simply because of all the things that continue to be wrong in the world.

I weep for those who are in pain, poverty-stricken, devoid of love, homeless, country-less, hungry, lost, forsaken, oppressed, unjustly imprisoned, or ill of health. Would that there comes a time when all people are free of the worst of possible situations.

It is reality that for every grand success of accomplishment worthy of celebration throughout history, someone, somewhere, was simultaneously suffering. For far too long in my life, I couldn’t reconcile the complicated mental gymnastics of untangling the two opposite realities that coexisted.

It has taken me a lot of practice to reach a place where I feel okay about allowing myself to be happy in the midst of an unhappy world. I don’t have any concise trick to offer toward how I achieve this milestone. I would say the primary factor is probably my developing a tenacity to repeatedly remind myself I am allowed to feel happy. Our happiness doesn’t automatically devalue the sorrow of others.

Maybe there is a trick. I would say it has to do with love. There I go again about loving others. If I am cultivating love for all people, my joy is not callously disregarding others who are hurting. I can feel their pain while experiencing my happiness. We are complex organisms, able to do more than one thing at a time.

We can celebrate the end of a difficult year, feel joy for our blessings, revel in the mysterious greatness of the universe, bask in the love of family and friends, and spread love to those who aren’t feeling it.

Bring on the new year. May it provide oodles and oodles more happiness for all!

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Written by johnwhays

December 31, 2020 at 7:00 am

Embracing Compassion

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When the day comes that somebody asks you which side you are on between love and hate, how will your choices align?

Seeking to become a more compassionate person is not rocket science. Learning to open our minds to concepts beyond our comprehension takes a little practice, but since we start practicing the expansion of our understanding from the moment we are born, it is something we know how to do.

Unless something stifles our progress or we let ourselves forget that we can do it.

Compassion: | kəmˈpaSHən | noun sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

If parents raise their children with compassion, demonstrate compassion for others, and nurture the art of practicing the expansion of understanding, generations of more loving people will multiply.

We all do better when we all do better.  – Paul Wellstone

There was a time in my life when I felt an unwarranted level of confidence about the way I perceived the world around me, and it involved a lot less grey areas than I am inclined to accept today. There was also a time when I could read small print without glasses. My understanding has expanded and continues to expand.

Sometimes, I find myself unable to understand things I see about the way people behave and the messages they convey, but I strive to become open minded enough to choose to love them as best as I can muster. That effort is a work in progress at times, I’ll admit, but the desire to be more compassionate endures.

Last night, Cyndie and I stumbled onto the CBS broadcast of “Play On: Celebrating the Power of Music to Make Change,” a benefit concert of music crossing multiple genres that radiated compassion and love. The pandemic and renewed push for social justice in the face of repeated police violence against people of color are igniting an energy momentum that deserves to burst forth with a new level of compassion throughout the world.

I hope people will choose to join the side of love.

Too many are facing hunger every day. The world needs more love and compassion.

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Written by johnwhays

December 16, 2020 at 7:00 am

More Thanksgiving

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During the three-day-weekend following Thanksgiving, we enjoyed leftover turkey sandwiches and some spectacular creamy turkey with wild rice soup that Cyndie whipped up from the remains of our feast. Saturday night, we were both looking for a change. A scrumptious homemade pizza from scratch more than fit the bill.

By the middle of the afternoon yesterday, neither of us had an appetite, let alone a craving for what to do for our Sunday dinner. I suggested we wait until either of us got hunger pangs and then we could revisit our options. Before we reached that point, Cyndie happened to notice we still had all the side dishes left over from the holiday meal that we shouldn’t let go to waste.

That made the decision for us.

When all the goodness was heated up and heaped on plates, it became the only thing I could possibly have wanted. It was a Thanksgiving feast all over again.

I am even more thankful than ever for all the blessings we enjoy.

  • For the culinary skills Cyndie employs daily to feed me better than I will ever deserve.
  • For our home and a warm bed.
  • The companionship of all our animals.
  • Family and friends who love us and make us proud.
  • Entertainers who work every day to bring laughter into the world.
  • That most people understand the risks of the pandemic and take healthy precautions.
  • That the majority of people in the world are good and would help others in need.
  • I have a job that gives me access to health insurance.
  • That the NFL football team I stopped watching yesterday didn’t quit when I did.
  • Jigsaw puzzles, a fireplace, books to read, and my lifetime collection of music to listen to.
  • That I saved 100% by not buying anything from much-hyped sales “bargains” over the entire weekend.
  • A car that safely makes my long commute tolerable.
  • Monday mornings, that make a prior weekend seem that much more precious.

Okay, I admit it. I turned off the game when the punt was fumbled. I had a puzzle to finish. Imagine my surprise when the score was flashed on an update of games later in the afternoon.

If you are reading this from beyond the Minnesota region, just disregard that part. It’s not really important.

Honestly, yesterday was a pretty dreary day for me. I suspect a large part of it was the harsh reality that the long weekend was ending and a return to the workweek was getting closer by the minute. The stark contrast of weather from the sun and warmth of Saturday to cold, cloudy, and windy Sunday didn’t help, either.

Ending on a high note of feasting in continued thankfulness is a pretty good way to break that spell.

Here’s to not letting a single dreary day become anything more than a temporary affliction and making a point to pay frequent attention to things we can be thankful for each and every day.

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Written by johnwhays

November 30, 2020 at 7:00 am

Keep Growing

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We are blessed to have a home in which we can comfortably stay. There is a pandemic raging out there in the big wide world. Home alone is the best place to be.

There is also a political calamity raging in the U.S. with incredible numbers of people holding opposing views about what is real. It’s frustrating to witness. I hold a view that human development doesn’t naturally progress without some energy to urge forward momentum. If there is no outside influence, people will tend to settle for far less than their ultimate potential.

We see what we want to see and we hear what we want to hear. Change is unsettling for the majority of folks.

Physical human growth is outwardly obvious with age but intellectual enlightenment and emotional and spiritual maturity less so. Some people’s development seems to stop at an adolescent level. There is a phenomenon of like minds coalescing around their common level of development.

It is uncomfortable to find oneself surrounded by too many others who function in a distinctly different stage of growth. Picture yourself as a toddler playing comfortably with your dolls or trucks when a gang of college students suddenly takes over the room to practice a debate.

Yesterday, Cyndie read to me from Fr. Richard Rohr’s book, “Falling Upward” about stages and steps of human and spiritual maturation. This excerpt resonated:

…from your own level of development, you can only stretch yourself to comprehend people just a bit beyond yourself. Some theorists say you cannot stretch more than one step above your own level of consciousness, and that is on a good day! Because of this limitation, those at deeper (or “higher”) levels beyond you invariably appear wrong, sinful, heretical, dangerous, or even worthy of elimination.

I don’t have any idea how to bridge that inevitable discord in appearance between people of distant levels of development, but at the very least, this helps me to comprehend what has been so incomprehensible to me.

I feel as though I have grown significantly in my perspectives about how to love myself and others, but the last four years have tripped me up in my goal to maintain a healthy perspective about those who appear so wrong and dangerous to me.

We might all be adults, but some would rather play with their toys while others seek to debate difficult concepts. It is understandable that two groups of such different levels of consciousness would have difficulty understanding each other.

No wonder it is so hard to get everyone to simply wear a face mask in public during a global pandemic.

May we all pause to see those with whom we don’t agree with fresh compassion for whatever level of human growth they have achieved. Each of our paths are unique. Offer a hand to those who are willing and open to lifting us, or being lifted by us.

No matter where each one of us is, don’t ever stop growing.

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Figuring Out

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The human race has made it this far. Maybe things will change for the better if enough people overcome fear, selfish greed, and exclusionary dogma to embrace love for all others equally. Think about it.

In the meantime, rational thinking must tolerate the rampant distribution of disinformation and innumerable groups of gullible people who allow themselves to believe any narrative that aligns with their versions of reality.

Long ago I became disturbed by ever-increasing reports of atrocities enacted by individuals who had themselves been abused. It was very obvious that those who had been harmed were eventually becoming offenders. Generations of this pattern were creating an expanding pyramid of misery.

This led me to visualize inverting that pyramid of dysfunction by breaking the patterns in some who could raise healthier children. With each generation, there would be fewer abusers and from the top down, the cone of an inverted dysfunction pyramid would be getting smaller with time. A reverse-pyramid scheme.

Of course, the opposite of that is the wonderful perspective of a pyramid of healthy loving people expanding with every generation.

I sought to break the chain of depression that I had inherited from my family tree and provide the knowledge and support for my children to recognize depression in themselves and those they love.

With the innovations of a world-wide internet and social media applications, the less rational portions of the human population have found a method to consolidate their numbers in frightening ways. I’m finding myself stumped for ideas to invert the pyramid of fear-based philosophies.

How much of my loving them will influence a change of thought? Why doesn’t rational logic override conspiratorial fears? How will non-religious spirituality ever compete with entrenched dogma of so many rival sects?

Will our dog and our cat ever figure out how to peaceably get along?

From history, we know that civilizations collapse. There is no assurance that there will come a day when all people eventually come together into a healthy, compassionate, inclusive, and loving society. Maybe if robots are programmed to take over our governance. Although, I saw a curious report that an AI (artificial intelligence) controlled camera mistook a referee’s bald head for a soccer ball and followed it for the remainder of a match.

Based on the last four years of backlash to the US having elected a person of color to the highest office for the eight years previous, our democracy doesn’t appear to be the beacon of hope it was once purported to be. Capitalism doesn’t deserve very high marks either, given the insane disparity of wealth distribution and environmental destruction it has achieved.

If the US survives the outcome of our election on Tuesday, we will have a lot of work ahead of us to overcome animosities and nurture more love for others than ever before. Freedom may ring, but the world will be a much better place if it rings with due respect for all others.

Let’s expand love to more people in the world than any generation before us ever achieved.

Amen.

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RS Interview 4

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Picking up where yesterday’s post left off, the Relative Something interview with *The* John W. Hays continues on the topic of love and more…

RS: Love seems like a worthy topic!

JWH: Love is my religion. It is one common theme woven through all world religious beliefs. Love is universal. When situations require a decision, using love as a compass to guide that decision will make the world a better place. No dogma required. Love doesn’t necessarily provide certainty, it accepts mystery. Love is all we need.

RS: Is this a change for you, the focus on love?

JWH: Well, I suppose there has been a transition over the years. I think the primary significance for me was learning to love myself enough to overcome negative self-talk. A secondary shift came about as I grew weary of the abuses and hypocrisies that were being exposed in organized religions. The way political parties wield religious beliefs like weapons. The fact that religious faiths would go to war against other human beings who worship differently.
Humans defining a deity seems like the ultimate hubris to me. And a horrible construct the powerful use to control others and gain wealth. Especially horrible because it is usually masqueraded under a veil of love. Love deserves better. The best response I see to that is to keep the love and leave the rest behind.
I’ve learned to love myself in a more healthy way and use love beyond the confines of organized religion to navigate my interactions with others in the world.

RS: What is something people wouldn’t know about you from reading what you write?

JWH: Not much. I’m embarrassingly transparent. Basically, they won’t know what I don’t write. For some reason, I haven’t been writing about the fact that it’s been so long since I last played guitar that I can’t remember when the last time was. And I probably haven’t written about it because I don’t really know why I stopped. I wonder if it has anything to do with the way I am aging, mentally, and physically, but the influences are too intangible to explain it with one simple pat reason.
Thinking about it, which is what happens when I try to write on the subject –and not writing about it has meant I could avoid thinking about it– I suspect it is related to the amount of time I have been commuting to the day-job four days a week. Exhaustion saps my creative energy. It also leaves less oomph to want to pedal my bikes up hills and into winds. I did not ride a bike at all this summer. When the pandemic canceled the annual June week of biking and camping, I lost that incentive to do conditioning rides. My attention defaulted to property maintenance on our acres. There is always more that can be done than there are hours and days.
The good news is that I have been incredibly happy to do that. I question myself about the health risks of not making music or riding my bikes, but maybe my version of aging is one of working on our property and then nestling inside our gorgeous home to type out my thoughts on a computer.
I have an inkling that a day in the not-so-distant future when that thing called retirement happens, my recreational pursuits could return with a vengeance. I think that would be absolutely lovely.

RS: Amen to that.

Thank you, JWH for agreeing to be the first interviewee in what Relative Something hopes will become an ongoing occasional feature in the years ahead. *This* John W. Hays’ take on things and experiences involves and is influenced by innumerable others. This will provide an opportunity to expand the narrative. Because, why not?

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Written by johnwhays

October 18, 2020 at 8:46 am

RS Interview 3

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Yes, there was more. The Relative Something interview with *The* John W. Hays meandered into the subjects of climate change and mental health. Are they related?…

RS: That’s enough of the namby-pamby rambling about pandemics and pets.

JWH: Uh-oh.

RS: What is it about your fascination with the weather every day?

JWH: You tell me?
I know, I know, I talk about the weather a lot. Doesn’t everybody? I mean, it SNOWED here yesterday! How can you avoid talking about that?

RS: Reading what you write, one might get the sense you are not a climate change denier.

JWH: [sarcastically] Well, it still gets really cold here and snows, so global warming might just be a hoax.
Some things in this world change gradually. I have been witnessing the constant increasing trend of fossil-fuel-emission-induced impact for my entire life. There were predictions made 30 years ago about the calamities the world is experiencing. Melting polar regions, rising seas, high-temperature records increasing, droughts, fires, floods, increasing intensity of storms. Honestly, simply seeing a graphic display of the atmospheric carbon dioxide levels during the industrial age compared to hundreds of thousands of years before should be enough for anyone to comprehend the reality. Human influence is changing the planet earth. What is the motivation to claim otherwise? At the highest levels of governance, corporations, and wealthy investors, I propose the motivation is financial. I can’t get my head around how anyone would be willing to risk our space ship for their greed to have more for themselves.

RS: Almost sounds like a mental health problem.

JWH: You brought it up. Dysfunctions of mental health could probably be viewed as the root cause of the majority of world problems. Wait… is stupidity classified as a mental illness? Sorry. Although, for me, education was a huge part of my success in dealing with my depression. My years of dysfunctional thinking were turned around in months after learning what was going on in my mind. Obviously, mental health issues are complex. In terms of addictions, we can educate someone about the harmful effects of smoking, but how many times has that knowledge been useless in getting someone to quit? Same challenge for every other mental affliction, I suppose. There are factors that go much deeper than just knowing. Maybe, more than simply having knowledge, there is an aspect of enlightenment involved.
Our thinking is intertwined with our physical chemistry. Our bodies are manufacturing and distributing mood-altering drugs. Our physical bodies are influenced by invisible forces around us. Moods are contagious. A well-educated person can be intelligent about a lot of subjects, yet be oblivious to how their anger is triggering chemicals in their body and how their angst is triggering people around them. That gap in perception can be narrowed by becoming more enlightened. More self-aware.
Increased self-awareness helps to open up the capacity to become more globally aware. An enlightened view would encompass equal cognizance of both self and others.
I don’t know if it’s obvious where I am going with this, but it has to do with love.

RS: Love seems like a worthy topic!

to be continued…

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Written by johnwhays

October 17, 2020 at 10:26 am

RS Interview

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Relative Something just landed a scoop interview with *the* John W. Hays delving into a variety of topics he was willing to discuss with us. Out of respect for his personal privacy, we are leaving out the questions he declined to answer. Here are some selected excerpts where we talked about the pandemic…

RS: How are you holding up under the stresses brought on by the coronavirus pandemic?

JWH: Hanging on by a thread? I say that as a question because, even though I am coping rather well, it feels a bit shaky much of the time. I am acutely aware of a diminished buffer between my sensible self and my flip-my-lid self as I go about my days. A total meltdown looms large on the fringes of every day. It’s just grace that has allowed me to keep from blowing a gasket over the simplest of foibles, like a napkin slipping from my lap or inadvertently catching my toe on a perfectly flat floor surface and suffering that universal “D’oh!” feeling.

RS: Have you heard of anyone in your immediate circle of friends and acquaintances who have tested positive for COVID-19 since the virus began impacting the United States?

JWH: Not at the closest level, despite several reported situations and symptoms that triggered reasons to be tested. None of those have become known positives that caused me concern about a need I should self-quarantine as a precaution. There have been some reports of second-person or third-person cases, and just recently dear friends in another part of the world who have the virus, so it doesn’t feel very far away from me. I still take my temperature every morning and log how I’m feeling on the COVID Near You site. So far, so lucky, is the way I interpret my days of being spared.

John & Mike socially distanced in the great outdoors, autumn forest bathing.

RS: Do you ever think about how the last seven months might have been different if there hadn’t been this global pandemic?

JWH: Maybe in a few fleeting retrospective moments, but really, that’s a luxury that serves no purpose. The harsh realities we are coping with every day leave little space in my head to go there. Equally, it has sapped much of my energy toward looking ahead to plan anything in the future. Despite my attempts to remain as positive as possible, I all too easily fall into a “what’s the point” despondency about making any plans until the virus is under control.
Luckily, I have Cyndie’s precious energies enriching my life with her willingness to make some things happen. With masks on our faces, we have achieved several socially distanced get-togethers with some key people who have helped to keep me from becoming a complete shut-in hermit on days I’m not at the day-job.

RS: Will the pandemic affect how you vote this year?

JWH: We already voted! So, no. For the previous election, Cyndie was going to be out of town, so she requested an absentee ballot. It was so flippin’ convenient that I ordered one for myself. It was a no-brainer for us to go that route again for this election, except, with the very noticeable disruptions in our Postal Service recently –including delaying the delivery of our chicks, which cost the life of one of them– Cyndie chose to drive to the home of our township clerk to hand-deliver our ballots.
I don’t know that they’ll be properly counted, but I’m satisfied that we did our part to get them there. We’ve been reciting a mantra of “Fifty-Blue-States” to envision a landslide so obvious that a certain person finally gets the message he has to accept the results. However, just last night it occurred to me that 50 blue states would be so unbelievable it would serve as a justifiable reason to question the results.
I just hope the popular vote is what determines the outcome and not an electoral college or the Supreme Court.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the Supreme Court could put an end to the pandemic? Declare the coronavirus unconstitutional!

RS: Hard to object to that.

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Written by johnwhays

October 15, 2020 at 6:00 am

Alternative Route

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I don’t know how long it will last, but on Monday I stumbled upon an alternate route to the “classic editor” I prefer and have used successfully for years prior to the so-called great [cough] “block editor” that became the WordPress default as of October.

Aah, the good old days.

This week we are enjoying an alternative October in the form of very summer-like high temperatures outside. It is strange to have the hours of daylight rapidly changing when the weather is so warm. The two phenomena don’t usually happen together to this extreme. Isn’t it odd to have weather behaving wacky at this point in the history of the planet?

Oh, I guess it’s not odd at all. Scientists have been predicting this for decades. Gee, if we don’t make significant changes in our reliance on fossil fuels, icebergs in the polar regions will melt, weather patterns of storms, droughts, floods, fires, and temperatures will become more extreme, and geographies and economies will be at risk.

Throw in a model of a global virus pandemic at the same time and you have the makings for a real stomach churner.

I suppose the insidious rise of extreme ideologies in multiple nations around the world touting white supremacy or fear of any diversity at all could be the icing on this growing mess of craziness.

The scourge of social media platforms enhancing the idiocy and ignorance could be viewed as the sprinkles on that icing.

Might there be an alternative route to love and enlightenment awaiting discovery by a collective of seekers?

It seems to me that a fair number of individuals find ways to grasp that golden ring, but can diverse populations of multiple nations ever make the bold leap en masse?

Cyndie and I practice an art of recovery from angst-producing situations that our horses helped to teach us by their ability to swiftly return to grazing calmly after a disturbance. When things appear to be spinning out of control, the vocalized phrase, “get back to grazing” helps us to put things in a healthier perspective.

It’s a way of paying heed to the bigger picture. Playing the long game.

Things might be out of control right now, but we don’t need to dwell in the worst of it all.

What I am wrestling with lately is the challenge of claiming my peace of mind in an immediate moment when so many others are enduring terrible suffering.

One alternate solution I experiment with is to fully embrace my good fortune of knowing infinite love, mindfully doing so in proxy for those who are not able.

To the innocents who have been unjustly confined, to those who have become prisoners of their own hate, to people who are victims of every manner of social injustices, I send love into the world in your honor.

It’s an alternate route that I dream someday might grow to become the main highway for all people of the world.

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