A Long Life. Living in The Blue Zone has its rewards

A long healthy life is no accident. It begins with good genes, but it also depends on good habits.” — Dan Beuttner A favorite aunt of mine turns 100 in February. She was born in 1917– the same year the U.S. entered World War I, women suffragettes fought for the vote and a first class stamp cost three cents. She’s lived through a lot, including the roaring 20s, the Great Depression, World War II, the moon landing, the turning of the millennium – times of trial and times of celebration. She remembers it all clearly. My aunt is still in … Continue reading

Managing Stress in an Impaired Culture

John Driggs

“You are not entirely your circumstances. Work on your own life and happiness. Never give up. For starters, embrace the miracle of love, love strong enough to guide or drive one into the great estate of maturity, or, to put it another way, into the apprehension and acceptance of one’s own identity. Do this with everyone you meet, where possible and with cautious respect where impossible. Your worries will be birds that take flight and unburden your shoulders.” Adapted from a quote by James Baldwin, 1964 In case you haven’t noticed it already, we’ve just had a very traumatizing presidential … Continue reading

Can I Leave my Partner After Years of an Unfulfilling Relationship?

John Driggs

Our greatest life decisions are always made on the basis of incomplete information. ~Sheldon Kopp, psychoanalyst and author Probably the most difficult decision we’ll ever make in our lifetime is deciding to stay or leave a life partner when the relationship has been continually unfulfilling. Certainly the right decision is generally unclear to us. Most of us can’t even stand the thought of ever separating from a loved one even when we are continually unhappy. We automatically put our own happiness on the back burner and stay loyal to the bitter end. We deny how bad things really are. This … Continue reading

Keeping an Eye on The Big Picture

I very much enjoy my new home group, and I don’t particularly mind that they wind up with The Lord’s Prayer instead of the Serenity. The sound of human voices in worship is always stirring, and the prayer is poetic, its rising cadence leading up to the climactic phrase about power and glory forever and ever. I can’t, however, make myself say The Lord’s Prayer, because it’s a Christian prayer and I am not, either culturally or spiritually, a Christian. I understand that we are human, and live human lives, so our spirituality is likely going to be determined by … Continue reading

How was Your Harvest?

The law of harvest is to reap more than you sow. Sow an act, and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny. James Allen Late autumn has me in the garden bringing in the last of the vegetable harvest, clearing out the profligate remains of annuals and the overflowing growth from perennials. I reap several garden carts of dried stalks, soggy leaves and sprawling roots. The tiny seedlings I planted became full spheres of blossoms and now return to the soil via my compost bin. This is … Continue reading

Do I Really Need to put up with my Crazy Family

John Driggs

It never fails. About this time of year every year I start getting a pain in my gut and dread with no clear explanation why. Upon later reflection I realize why. It’s because I have to see my family — who are incredibly crazy… and the holidays are coming. I feel guilty thinking this way. Shouldn’t I feel grateful for even having a family? Doesn’t everybody have to put up with relatives they don’t like? Am I not responsible to love them all no matter how they act? After all, my relatives are family. They are the only family I … Continue reading

On Finding Forgiveness

“When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.” Bernard Meltzer Why is it so hard to forgive? We can carry our hurts and injuries like precious gems in a velvet pouch, admiring their many facets, their high cost, how they refract the light of what once was. We recall their origins, their rarity, how durable they are. How could I ever manage without them? Who would I be? Over time these gems take on a life of their own. As we protect them, they grow in power and value. We … Continue reading

Hidden Shame: A Curse and a Blessing

John Driggs

Hidden shame is a powerful emotional and physiological reaction. It fills our being in covert ways. It can cause us to become violent or withdrawn from life and it can prompt us to bring out the better parts of ourselves in ways we never expected. It is both a curse and a blessing. Typically we may have some glimmer of how it operates in our lives but mostly we’re unaware of how much of our existence is driven by shame. It is often the obscured answer to such questions as: “Why did he murder all those people? or “Why can’t … Continue reading

Restoring Resilience

“Resilience is our essential nature, woven into our being as a natural capacity to restore and recover so that we can experience the joy and well being that are our birthright.” Dr. Henry Emmons, MD What is resilience? Is it strength, persistence, courage? Do you think about your resilience or another’s? Is resilience acquired or innate? “Resiliency is the rapidity with which we recover from adversity,” according to Richard Davidson, founder of The Center for Healthy Minds at UW-Madison. It is a learnable skill. By strengthening that skill we can recover from adversity more quickly. We cannot, however, avoid it. … Continue reading

Is it Time to Retreat?

Retreat. Withdraw. Pull back. When armies retreat they fall back, de-escalate, leave the frontline for a place of safety and rest. Me, too. I go on retreat to regroup, refresh, rejuvenate. Our frenetic lives leave us fewer and fewer quiet places to retreat into. Electronic devices have marched into every room of the house. They ride with us, walk with us, sleep with us. News is broadcast all day. Phones ring, beep, vibrate incessantly. Even out-of-doors, too often machines swallow the stillness. It takes much more effort to retreat. And we need it more than ever. I contacted several retreat … Continue reading

Stepping into Life

Emily Roiphe Carter

When I hear the word retreat, I tend not to think of meditation, cedar scented cabins, or even a prettily situated lakeside bench. I think of troops of traumatized and malnourished shoulders slogging through mud to get back from the front lines, I think of standing in the doorway of a party and seeing some bad decision I’d made making his way to the front of the buffet line; I think of retreat as something to beat hastily in order to get somewhere I can I can let out that breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding. Like most people, … Continue reading

The Importance of Character and Why we are Blind to it

John Driggs

Good characteris doing the right thingwhen nobody elseis looking. When I first met Jamil I didn’t know what to think. He is a charming, funny and intelligent man from Somalia who is active in his community here in the States. He helps many of his own country persons to make it in America as he has done well himself and has a good civil service job. He came across as somebody I would like to know, particularly because I hadn’t known any Somali people before. I would often tease Jamil about his adjustment to our culture as he would with … Continue reading

Dry in the High Desert

At the age of 55 one should be running out of “re-boots,” the do-overs, the “new starts,” the major moves should be done with, and instead one should be beginning to observe what one has made of one’s life, using amassed experience in a new way, approaching what’s called “wisdom.” Then there’s the economy. It’s the economy, that implacable arbiter of who gets what and when, that decides when enough is not yet enough, and it’s that same economy that’s decided that I should move to Gallup, New Mexico for my husband’s new job. It’s a place that’s new to … Continue reading

Cultural Savvy, Staying Healthy in an Often Unhealthy Culture

Most of us don’t think about our circumstances. We are like fish swimming in a body of water that is getting ever more poisonous. We don’t see how sick we are becoming simply due to the toxicity of the water. Wea adapt to living with environmental hazards and minimize toxicity. After all, other fish swim in the same waters we swim in. When we eventually do get sick we blame or pathologize ourselves and don’t see the option of jumping to another pond. Few of us take seriously the harmful aspects of our culture and how we are poisoned by … Continue reading

Virtue Revisited

“Freedom works only in a culture already committed to virtue; it cannot work otherwise.” Aristotle Freedom is a word we Americans like to bandy about. Freedom to carry guns, to practice our faith, to speak, to assemble, to pursue happiness. Our freedoms are many; any attempts to limit them are met with strong resistance. While we are committed to our freedoms, I wonder if we are committed to our virtues. Even the word virtue has a quaintness about it, smelling a bit like rosewater as it sits upright on a straight backed chair, drinking tea from a hand-painted cup nested … Continue reading

Like Dolphins Made of Silver Light

This weekend I was scrolling through the video playlist on a field biology site I like to visit when I came upon a warning, “Elephant Calf Eaten Alive by Lions: Not For Sensitive Viewers.” I make myself watch these videos for two reasons: First, I have the irrational need to convince myself that it is not as bad as I fear, and second, because my father once told me that if one loves the world, one must love it with open eyes, accepting its horror as well as its beauty. I had briefly wanted to be a field biologist and … Continue reading