John on top of a pohutukawa tree having just cut off a few branches that were blocking OUR SUN! An optimistic fellow, waving that saw about way up there.
Yesterday I wrote my monthly Psychology Today blog post, and this one was rather different from my usual on brains. It was titled “How to be happy living off-grid” https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/trouble-in-mind/201512/how-be-happy-living-grid and was stimulated by a “home page special topic” which will be launched on the Psychology Today website on the 22nd January. How could I not write for this, given our off-grid lifestyle? And anyway, I’d run out of brain inspirations. I have had a sudden flurry of twitter shares/favourites for this post, probably because it has reached some new readers under the category “Environment” rather than “Neuroscience.” (Apparently the PsychToday website has over one million unique visitors a month and is amongst the top 100 most visited websites in the United States. So now there is a picture of our house with its scruffy odd-sized solar panels out there somewhere…). My off-grid rave so far has garnered just one actual comment on the website and this is it:
“You're welcome to it.
Sooner or later, an event will come along to burst
your pretty balloon. Until then, enjoy yourself.”
I didn’t reply of course, but thought of a few ways that I could! (“And happy holidays to you too” or “Lovely to connect with a fellow optimist” or more seriously “Well good luck to you going through life feeling hard done by and gloomy/grumpy/pessimistic. Perhaps if you enjoyed the good things (surely there is something good in your life?) when that terrible event struck you may be better able to deal with it.”
The only other time I got a negative comment was when I wrote a post titled “The Sacrosanct Second Amendment: Safety is a gun a under the bed?” following the Connecticut school shooting in 2012. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/trouble-in-mind/201212/the-sacrosanct-second-amendment
“Dr. Ogden - sorry, but I don't really care what other people think of us, especially from other countries where they would think the First Amendment is crazy, let alone the Second.
Our country is unique, special, and has been (or should be) one for others to emulate, not the other way around. Our freedoms give us a special place in the community of nations that no other can take. But with that freedom comes not only responsibility but also risk. The more freedom you have, the more risk you take. The less freedom then the more control from "somewhere" and the less risk you have.
If we worry so much about what other people in other countries think of us every time an event like this happens then we are so narcissistic that we don't deserve the freedoms and rights that we have.”
Fair enough, we are all entitled to our opinion, and he was very polite. I love my country too, although not so much the actual current government… The comment about the US being the country to emulate (regarding guns in particular) was more than balanced by comments from US citizens agreeing with me (thank goodness). We don’t personally know a single American who seems to believe that the Second Amendment is sacred or who wants Trump for President(!) I guess they are out there somewhere but not amongst our numerous friends from that country.
I’ve been called an irrepressible optimist and I think I’ll stay that way at least until that terrible event happens. Perhaps it will never happen in my life. I know plenty of people who have remained staunchly positive through difficult times, especially emotionally draining struggles with ill-health. Everyone in New Zealand knows Christchurch residents who continued to think positively (mostly) through thousands of earthquakes, anxiety-inducing insurance claims/assessments/re-assessments and so on.
But these events in NZ are miniscule of course in comparison with the terrible things we hear on the news every night about the refugee crisis; a horrific event on a scale impossible to imagine way down here at the bottom of the world. It is hard to stay positive about solutions when considering the overpopulation, climate change, ethnocentric politics, political and religious extremist doctrines, and terrorism that has forced these people to flee with their families of innocent elderly and very young to countries they may well not be welcome in. It is grossly unfair, and in stark contrast to our own lucky lives. We and all of the people we know personally are very very fortunate. None of us have answers although John has been writing and lecturing about world overpopulation and the destruction of our environment since at least 1968, and climate warming for nearly as long.
So really I have no idea why I am happy almost all of the time, but I guess I believe that being gloomy doesn’t help.
So on that jolly note, I hope every one of my readers and everyone they care about have a wonderful holiday season whichever festivals they choose to celebrate, and that in our own small ways we each do our best to change things by having that quality time with family and friends with as few arguments as possible (!). Simplistic I know, but it all starts with individuals caring and holding the sorts of values most “modern” religions (none of which I belong to) believe in, as did my mum (bless her heart).
Now here is a review of a memoir by someone who knows what it is to deal with real personal long-term stress but gets through it with the support of her family, and shines. Lene Fogelberg is one of my fellow writers from She Writes Press, and she and many others in the supportive community of women writers of SWP are the greatest plus of being with this Press. We are all in this together. Lene’s memoir is doing incredibly well (#3 best-selling non-fiction e-book on the Wall Street Journal best books list at the end of November). I could have chosen 1000 books to review here and I chose this one because it is special, and not because I now call Lene my friend. You may think you don’t like memoirs about being sick but try this one. It is a page turner. And will warm your cold cold heart.
By Lene Fogelberg
This is one of the most moving memoirs I have read; also one of the most remarkable, both in topic and writing style. Lene Fogelberg is a poetic, honest writer with a strong voice to match her strong spirit. It is frightening how neglected her medical care was in Sweden; almost unbelievable that she could go all the way into adulthood and through pregnancy without a proper assessment of her heart murmur. Clearly if circumstances hadn’t sent her husband and their family to the US, Lene would not have survived to write so eloquently about her long and emotionally terrifying journey, through the medical system in America, through double open heart surgery, and out the other side. It is a love story. It is a story of a courageous family; a story that probably would not have had the happy ending it did without Lene’s husband, Anders, who never failed to believe her when no one else seemed to, and supported her through multiple grueling decisions and procedures whilst caring for their daughters. Not easy in a strange country, where everyone speaks not only in medical lingo but in a foreign tongue.
Lene’s skill at showing, not telling, was the golden reason this memoir stands head and heart above most others for me. For example: I have heard many descriptions of the experience of being injected with contrast dye before undergoing a CAT scan, both from radiologists and from patients. Lene’s is by far the most evocative and the one that I am sure is closest to the truth. The difference between her experience and the experience of other patients in a similar situation is simply that Lene captures it in words.
At first I feel nothing. Then it comes. The rushing, the heat, in all my blood vessels, large, small, arteries, veins, rushing, rushing, a waterfall in my body. In my head, my brain, someone creeping into my brain paths, a small electrician pulling wires, everywhere at the same time, the heat, the rushing, in my eyes, my neck, my arms, stomach, legs, feet, and I wet myself, I can’t help it.
The voice of the technician comes out of a speaker:
“It’s all right, you’re not wetting yourself.”
The rushing is over. (from Chapter 32, p183-184).
Lene and her family, homesick for Sweden, returned there where health-care reform has thankfully now improved the situation for future patients. And as Lene writes in an Author’s note, she will always carry a piece of America in her heart.
Absolutely a memoir to savour.
And from a struggling new novelist (me, not Lene!):
Thank you for your support you great friends, and carry on conning more mates or enemies into subscribing to my e-newsletter! http://www.jenniogden.com/newsletter.htm