No Man Is An Island

No Man Is An Island

No man is an island

Well, really, no one is an island.  I can’t say I fancy the gender specificity of John Donne’s poem, but I love his message.

Here are his insightful words:

“No Man Is an Island” by John Donne

No man is an island, entire of itself

every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less,

as well as if a promontory were,

as well as if a manor of thy friend’s

or of thine own were.

Any man’s death diminishes me,

because I am involved in mankind;

and therefore never send to know

for whom the bell tolls;

it tolls for thee.

You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of the teacher. Let’s dissect this poem, shall we? In this poem John Donne explores the idea of the connectedness of people. People are not isolated islands. We are all part of a larger thing. Take it apart:

“No Man Is an Island” by John Donne

No one is by [himself]. We are all connected to each other.

No man is an island, entire of itself

every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.

The “main” is the mainland.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

clod = small piece of dirt.

Europe is the less,

as well as if a promontory were,

as well as if a manor of thy friend’s

or of thine own were.

A promontory is a big rocky hunk of land that juts out into the sea. This line says that a piece of dirt is just as important as a huge mass of land or a beautiful home. Even people who seem “unimportant” to the world are just as important as anyone else.

Any man’s death diminishes me,

because I am involved in mankind;

and therefore never send to know

for whom the bell tolls;

Long ago, churches used to ring their bells with clappers signaling that someone had died. 

it tolls for thee.

When we hear the bells ringing, we don’t need to ask who it is. It is as if a part of us died as well, because we are all connected to each other.

People eventually wither when isolated from others. Of course there is variation in how much isolation people need or can tolerate, and people fall in different places on a spectrum of introverted → extroverted personalities.

Gadzooks!

There is extensive scientific evidence of harmful physiological and psychological effects of isolation and loneliness.  Feeling lonely is not the same as being alone. “For some people, even though they have what on the outside looks like a social world, their internal experience is loneliness.” (Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Emory University School of Medicine.)

What to do? What to do?

Un-isolate yourself. Seek others. Choose face-to-face encounters over social media. Attend a REC Retreats weekend retreat. REC participants are stunned at how quickly they bond with other participants, and many ongoing friendships result from meeting at a retreat.

We can never have too many friends. Will you be my friend?

This analysis of the poem is courtesy of “Mensa for Kids”.

For a good read on the negative effects of loneliness, check out this well-referenced article: http://www.everydayhealth.com/news/loneliness-can-really-hurt-you/

Be Happy.

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 “Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body.”  - George Carlin

 

Translated, collecting things in order to be happy is as ineffective as wearing a meal to feel full.

 

WHO doesn’t want to be happy?

Until fairly recently, the question of HOW to be happy has been left [scientifically] unanswered.

Fortunately, there is emerging research in the field of “Positive Psychology”. Positive Psychology is the scientific study of thriving individuals. Positive Psychology assumes people want to lead meaningful lives, maximize their strongest qualities, and have positive experiences in most aspects of their lives – work, relationships, and recreation.

Translated, people want to be happy.

 

HOW?

I’ve been reading about “how to be happy”. Unsurprisingly, I did not find sandwich wardrobes mentioned anywhere, although one message emerged loud and clear. Here are titles from just a few of the articles I read:

Glee from Buying Objects Wanes, While Joy of Buying Experiences Keeps Growing  By G. Lowery

The Secret to Happiness? Spend Money on Experiences, not Things by I. Pozin

Eight Reasons Why People Who Spend Money on Experiences Are Happier by M. Oppland

Seven Reasons Why Experiences Will Make You Happier Than Material Things by J. Beuker (What happened to the 8th reason?)

Spending on Experiences Instead of Possessions Results in More Satisfaction by K. Purdy

The Science of Why You Should Spend Your Money on Experiences, not Things by J. Cassano

Buy Experience, not Things by J. Hamblin

Why You Should Spend Your Money on Experiences, not Things by T. Bradberry

Dear reader, are you picking up on a theme, or do you need a translation?

 

WHY are experiences better?

  1. Experiences can’t be quantified. This makes it more difficult to compare oneself to the proverbial Jones’. Comparison can lead to feelings of inadequacy. Inadequacy = unhappiness.
  2. Material items lose their luster. The snazzy car doesn’t stay new and shiny forever. The biggest, fastest, most capable computer is gradually replaced by new technology. However, memories of a pleasant experience can be relived over and over again, often gaining emotional value over time.
  3. Adaptation. Initially, material purchases may feel novel and exciting. Eventually, one gets accustomed to the object, it becomes the “norm” and it emotional value is decreased.
  4. Material possessions describe “what we have”. Experiences contribute to “who we are”. Sailing the Northwest Passage influences who you are, but owning the boat describes only what you have. Our very identities are an accumulation of our experiences.
  5. Experiences are typically social and shared with others. Social experiences build interpersonal connections and strengthen relationships.

 

WHAT is the relevance here?

I established REC Retreats. I already know that participating in events at REC Retreats is fun. A lot of fun. Fun is good. But what is even more important than fun is helping others.

I want REC Retreats to enhance the quality of life of participants. I want participants to experience a sense of belonging in the supportive community at REC Retreats. I want them to try new things, learn new skills, and grow in a safe and accepting environment. I want participants to play and build joyful memories. All of this is accomplished through experiences at REC events.

I did this research because I needed to know that REC Retreats was providing more than a way to have fun. I wanted to know REC Retreats was helping others. Fun is good. But helping others is better.

 

There is a vast collection of happiness research.  One of the leading researchers, Dr. Thomas Gilovich, Cornell University, conducted a 20-year study on how happiness is affected by acquisition of possessions vs. experiences. For more information, see: https://www.scribd.com/document/270084557/Gilovich-Kumar-Happiness

Live Within Your Harvest

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Live Within Your Harvest

"Live within your harvest.”

I saw this saying on a plaque in JoAnn Fabrics, a sewing & craft store. This is an improbable place in which to be consumed by deep, philosophical thought.  However, I walked blindly all over the store thinking about nothing but that quote.

 

What does it mean?

The most obvious meaning to me is "don't overspend".  Although, a retail store would be unlikely to want to send that message. There must be more to it. Then I thought, "live within your harvest" must advise, “live and enjoy what you can within your financial means”. Closer, but still not right…

Then I thought, it must mean, "embrace life gleaning what you can from your situation, and do not pine for something that isn't there." (In case you don't know, glean is an agricultural term meaning to gather all the last remaining crops in the fields after the harvest.)

It was only at that point that I found it plaque-worthy.

 

How do I do it?

It could apply to a lot of situations for me personally, but here are two of the most significant:

I live within my harvest in regard to some of my relationships. I have been given these relationships and people as-they-are, and I seize the joy where it is to be found and I do not long for what they cannot give. I love these people deeply, and when I think and act deliberately, I revel in the gifts they bring to my life, but I do not expect anything from them that simply isn’t there. It isn’t easy, but I am getting better at this.

I've been given another place to live for the time being. It isn’t a permanent move, but it is a long-term relocation. I can spend the next several years resisting my situation like I have the first several years, or I can live within my harvest and embrace what there is to embrace until my living situation changes. This one is hard. Really hard. So far, I’m not succeeding. I need to repeat the saying, adopt it as my mantra. I need to move the plaque to a frequently-visited location where I will see it often. Maybe the inside of the refrigerator.

I firmly believe in changing what I can to improve situations for me, and for the ones I love. I make plans, take action, move forward. I am a changer, a do-er, a mover and a maker.

 

What if I can't?

There are times that we simply cannot change, do, move and make. Therefore, I also believe in the saying - “Live within your harvest”. Some may think that this suggests a defeatist, complacent approach to life. I think not... It doesn't mean we should shrug our shoulders and say, "that's the best I can do”. It means accepting what is, and what has to be.

Gleaning means working hard to get all the good stuff you possibly can, but the point comes when there is simply no more good stuff to gather, and we should recognize that point, and live fully within it. May you live within your harvest. Happy Thanksgiving.

Portuguese Upholstery

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Say what?!?

I compare it to learning how to upholster a wing-back chair by reading instructions in Portuguese.

Everyday, I have to complete difficult tasks that I have never attempted before, and I have to do them in a language I have never studied.

ReCAPTCHA. Pixel code. Permalink. Anchor text.  Bounce. Conversion. Backlinks. Plug-ins. Funnel. And my favorites - the acronyms: CMS. DNS. GIF. VR. LET. AR. SEM (not to be confused with SEO).

Learning Cliff

My learning curve has been steep - a friend of mine would more aptly call it a "learning cliff."  Running REC Retreats demands that I take on tasks that I have never, ever had to consider before now, and I am learning at a very rapid rate. The good news? I am safeguarding my brain and postponing age-related dementia. How?

Learning a new skill strengthens the connections between areas of our brains. Cognitive psychologist, Scott Barry Kaufman, explains that popular brain games are limited in that they improve certain aspects of short-term memory, but learning a challenging new activity strengthens entire neural networks.

Back to MY brain ...

Recently, my brain has been power-lifting. My neural connections are beefing up and building muscle. They are growing strong. How? I am learning at an unprecedented rate.

  1. I was a public school teacher ... how would I know anything about marketing a small business? (I had a full class of "customers" every fall, whether I advertised my services or not!) I'm taking marketing classes, talking to experts, and reading articles. I'm definitely learning.
  2. The closest thing I have ever come to designing and sending out newsletters is the annual-family-holiday-letter that would be on-time some years, late others, and yes, missing altogether occasionally. So, learning to manage email lists, to create and schedule automatic responses and to do so in a timely manner requires skills I have not (yet) mastered. But I'm learning...
  3. Websites are for visiting. Not for creating and maintaining. That's not the case for me anymore. With a tip of the hat, a hearty hug and a sloppy kiss, I say, "thank you" to the wonderful webmaster who keeps me from jumping off this particular learning cliff. She is a fantastic teacher and I'm trying to be the best student possible and learn.

Experts say that it doesn't matter so much what you learn as that you learn. Benefits are greater with more complex tasks, but learning something that you enjoy matters. Find classes, find tutorials online, read how-to books. (Or say now, attend one of the REC Retreats events.)

No tattoos for you!

As exercising helps keep your body young, learning helps keep your mind young. And both are less painful than getting a midlife-crisis tattoo. Not that there is anything wrong with a tattoo - my nose piercing was the result of a midlife-crisis moment! It's just that learning hurts less.

Is that a beanbag?

Currently, my wing-back chair upholstery project is resembling a bean bag, but as I learn Portuguese, it looks more and more like a chair every day.

 

On Finding Creativity

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The Collections

As I gaze around my garage studio, my eyes move over elaborate handmade birdhouses; a 1950's pink and grey sewing machine; a six-foot painted "Peace Pole"; vintage Bingo and Scrabble games (with a mysteriously disproportionate number of Ps and Os); a collection of license plates; big bottles of bright beads and buttons; rolls of kraft paper; art quilts; a rainbow of paints and a hodgepodge of paintbrushes; chopsticks, cinnamon sticks and popsicle sticks. All will someday adorn a future project. These supplies are housed in my treasured, antique oak cabinet that many moons ago housed merchandise in an old-fashioned "dry goods store".

Ten months ago, I would walk through the door from my kitchen to my garage and I would be met by a tangle of bikes; two lawnmowers; surplus rolls of toilet paper; empty canning jars; camping gear; recycling bins; and small hand tools sprinkled on every surface like confetti.

Transformation

My garage slowly transformed into a studio bursting with color and creative energy. As the garage transformed, so did I. Creativity bubbled to the surface as I wiped cobwebs from corners, painted trim, stained concrete floors and hung art. I love my garage studio. I love who I am in my studio.

Now I walk through the door from my kitchen to my studio and my heart lifts, my mind opens and my spirit soars. I am dazzled by colors that I would never dream of using in my living room. Thanks to my patient husband, my studio is bright with newly installed lighting and even brighter when I open the double garage studio door to look upon blooming trees and sparkling sun. Instead of two, I now have three "happy places"; the beautiful island I call home, my garden and now my studio.

Oz

The studio glitters, it is magic! A wall separates the spacious bay used for my "studio" from the smaller bay used for the "garage". Standing in the studio, one expects to find more magic on the other side of the wall, much like in the Wizard of Oz.

The Emerald City in the Land of Oz glitters, it is magic! On the other side of the castle wall, one expects to find more magic, for it is here that The Great and Powerful Wizard can be found.

Sadly, in the story, this Great and Powerful Wizard turns out to be a disappointment. He is short, somewhat insecure and not so powerful after all. On the other side of the studio wall, one is similarly disappointed. It is here that the tangle of bikes; two lawn mowers; toilet paper; canning, camping and recycling "stuff" now reside. I fondly call it Oz. Well, maybe not so fondly, but I still call it Oz.

True Magic

My wish for others is that they find a space to transform, then find that the place has transformed them. That really is magic.