Tag Archives: health

“Strangers In Their Own Land”

“Strangers In Their Own Land”

“Anger and Mourning on the American Right” is the subtitle of this book by Arlie Russel Hochschild, a Berkeley sociologist. Based mainly on interviews with Tea Party Republicans in Louisiana, she delves into the “why” of poor white votes for Trump and other Republicans. Louisiana is one of the poorest and least-healthy states. It is heavily polluted because weak enforcement of weak regulations make it attractive to oil and chemical plants. Polluting industries seek the “least resistant personality profile” in the residents of the area they plan to poison (page 81):

  • Longtime residents of small towns in the South or Midwest
  • High school educated only
  • Catholic
  • Uninvolved in social issues, and without a culture of activism
  • Involved in “nature exploitative occupations” such as mining, farming, ranching
  • Conservative
  • Republican
  • Advocates of the free market

Hochschild develops a “deep story” to explain their traditional values of loyalty, sacrifice, and endurance. Polluting industries manipulate them into fearing the loss of their income if they don’t turn a blind eye to the secret pollution, the dying trees, the disappearing fish, the increasing illness. Church, state, and politicians tug their loyalty strings to believe in Capitalism at the expense of the environment. They endure the secret spillage into their waterways, staying close to home and their traditional values. They resent Liberals who point to the contamination and tell them they “are not feeling the right feelings.”

These white people work hard and they scorn the shiftless, no ‘count people below them in the social order who live on government handouts and never work. They identify with the white plantation owners, the 1%, and believe that through hard work, luck and family connections, they too will live in the white-columned mansions along the Mississippi River. But they don’t go to college and they don’t learn new technology or new ways of thinking.

They are resentful of affirmative-action types (women, blacks, refugees) who “cut in front of them in line” for the good jobs. They believe the government paid for Obama’s education, and for Michelle’s Harvard education, too. Because they never bought and read his books, they don’t realize that their education loans were paid for with the book royalties. They believe the government subsidizes this “line-cutting” that has stagnated their wages and lives.

They don’t want to feel like downtrodden victims like blacks, women and gays. They want to feel like the white 1%. Their endurance is a matter of honor. Honor is sacrifice. With their tight communities and limited education, their feedback loop is small and fed by Fox News.

Trump cashed in on Identity Politics for white men who felt trapped in 1950s ethics and values. The ones holding the KKK signs in Atchafalaya.

Death Rate Jumps 22% for Middle-Aged Whites

Death Rate Jumps 22% for Middle-Aged Whites

NYTimesDyingMiddleAge
The New York Times reported in a front page article that white Americans without a college degree are dying at an accelerated rate due to suicide, fast and slow.

The rising annual death rates among this group are being driven not by the big killers like heart disease and diabetes but by an epidemic of suicides and afflictions stemming from substance abuse: alcoholic liver disease and overdoses of heroin and prescription opioids.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman called it “Despair, American Style” in an op-ed piece today.

In a recent interview Mr. Deaton suggested that middle-aged whites have “lost the narrative of their lives.” That is, their economic setbacks have hit hard because they expected better. Or to put it a bit differently, we’re looking at people who were raised to believe in the American Dream, and are coping badly with its failure to come true.

About a year ago, two of my brothers drank themselves to death on opposite sides on the country. Dave (on the right in the picture below) died on Oct. 5 in Virginia and Greg died on Nov. 17 in Oregon. Both were in their 50’s, both had retired a few years earlier, neither retirement was completely voluntary, neither had finished college. Neither had a strong plan for retirement, both slipped in to spending a lot of time with their best friend, beer. This photo was taken one year prior, on a vacation in Florida.

DaveGreg

In the days following the publication of this alarming data, there was some pushback over methodologies, so Angus Deaton released this drill-down info.
chart

My brothers, who grew up in the 1950’s, rode the post-WWII juggernaut where men were men and drank to prove it. They lived their lives as if everything was going to take care of itself, which was the prevailing assumption in the days of Ozzie & Harriett and Leave It To Beaver. What was different about these two, however, is that they were musicians who became stalled at the “talented amateur” stage. They didn’t pursue enough training to focus their minds or to hone their talent. They never developed a commitment to their art.They never even learned to read music. But their artistic temperaments were difficult to live with, and they numbed themselves. To death.

blackoutSarah Hepola, author of “Blackout: Remembering the things I drank to forget” attributed alcohol addiction to heredity and culture. My brothers did not live in a culture that encouraged thinking in healthy ways. They did not see their father, another talented piano player, take an active part in creating healthier emotions, minimizing emotional suffering and maximizing joy. According to Debbie Joffee Ellis in a letter to the NYTimes, “To create healthy [emotions] requires willingness to think in realistic… ways and to recognize when we are catastrohizing, and then to dispute such thoughts. Don’t worry, think wisely, be healthier and happier.”

The New York Times review of her book says:

Ms. Hepola’s electric prose … has direct access to the midnight gods of torch songs, neon signs, tap beer at a reasonable price, cigarettes and untrammeled longing.

She may have squandered her early carreer
and now is back in Texas, finally publishing her first novel at age 40. I enjoyed the book and I think she is going to beat the odds in the charts above because she finished college, and knew she was a good writer. She made a living at it while she used alcohol as “the gasoline of all adventure.” Now she has sobered up and found her path. I’m so glad.

France: high fat diet, lowest heart disease

France: high fat diet, lowest heart disease

quicheAccording to Healthline, the French have the lowest heart disease rate in the world. This quote is from my friend RDS who just returned from two weeks driving around the provinces of France:

Much of the time it was just us and the cows. And the food really reflected that. Lots of meat, cheese, and cream. The only way to get a veggie in a restaurant was to order a meat or fish dish and get a veggie side dish. But as always, everything was beautifully prepared and presented, even in the smallest rural towns.

On the week-long boat ride from Paris to Normandy and back, we got very few salads or vegetables — meals were pretty much as RDS described them. Now that I am at the end of my ten days solo in Paris, I can say that it was a challenge to include salads in my diet, and forget cooked vegetables! But really confuses me is that 99% of the French are thin, many smoke, and based on what is in the stores, sugar must account for 40% of their daily calories.

Yet Americans get heart disease and the French don’t. What is different? For one thing, the French walk everywhere. I am planning to drag my suitcase for 20 minutes tomorrow morning along Rue de Opèra to the Roissybus stop because it is easier than dragging it DOWN into the subway and UP 3 stops later. I could take a cab, but it would still take 20 minutes from start to finish and I am afraid I would get pushback from the cabbie about such a short trip.

Shall I tell my no-oil Vegan friend, a heart attack survivor, that her strategy might be the opposite of what leads to a healthy heart.

No. My new resolution is to stop trying to improve others. Okay, I think I will just go eat some quiche now and wait for the nice French lady to pick up the key for my Paris rental.

I am so happy. It has been a great 10 days.

Stress Can Be Your Friend

Stress Can Be Your Friend
Stress Can Be Your Friend

StressIsYourFriend
People who feel that they control the events in their lives and believe that they can learn fast and perform well end up doing better on nearly every important measure of work performance, according to the team led by University of Florida psychologist Tim Judge.

When you can persuade yourself that you are in control, and you are confident in your ability to adapt quickly to life changes, you can be a top performer.

Ever noticed how you wait until the last minute to start a creative project? Our brains are hard-wired to need anxiety to get started. The chart they developed show that performance peaks and “flow” conditions are created with moderate, managed levels of anxiety.

Convert Anxiety into Excitement

The better you get at managing the anxiety, the better you will perform when facing uncertain or challengine situations. Some techniques”

  • What are the foreseeable pitfalls? Plan the action you will take.
  • Focus on positive actions you can take, turnout the fears of failure.
  • Re-write your script. We live our lives according to what we believe.

embracestress
Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D tells us in this TED Talk that people who view stress as an opportunity for courage or a chance at joy bypass the damaging cardiovascular effects caused by a flood of cortisol.

So, what can you do to regain your center and make stress your friend? How do you turn nervousness into excitement?
unplug

Yield to the Present – 10% Happier

Yield to the Present – 10% Happier
Yield to the Present – 10% Happier

“Yield to the Present” was the sign near the door when Dan Harris, the ambitious ABC reporter, arrived at Spirit Rock in Marin for his 10 day silent retreat in an effort to become “less of a jerk.” The book was a dishy read of behind-the-scenes at ABC news, which I loved, and had a lot of good information on his walk toward Buddhism

Dan’s teachers suggest using our native curiosity to train our Default Mode Network to move from Aversion to Compassion. To move from being a jerk, in his parlance, to a mensch. He shows the brain chemistry and meditation techniques to do it, including asking yourself, when you are ruminating on the same thought for the nineteenth time, “is this useful?”

One of his mentors, Mark Epstein, explains on page 164 discussion Dan could become 10% happier because of mitigation of misery, not alleviation. The waterfall of drama is still there, you gain the ability to step behind the waterfall, creating a space to witness what is going on. Instead of the kneejerk stimulus —> reaction, you have walked behind the waterfall of emotion and created enough space to move to stimulus —> response because you are less caught up in the melodrama that is unfolding. You are less attached to the outcome. You have space for a little insight because you are not clinging to success so desperately. Here the metta prayer he learned at Spirit Rock:

May you be happy
May you be safe and protected from harm
May you be healthy and strong
May you live with ease

My favorite part was in the appendix where Dan Harris mentions the research of Jud Brewer, MD, PhD, addiction psychiatrist at Yale. Here’s Jud’s TED talk shows how to calm the posterior cingulate — get it to “turn blue” in the fMRI.

Book: Playing Pygmalion

Book: Playing Pygmalion

galateaBarbara Hayes lent me her copy of Playing Pygmalion: How People Create One Another by Ruthellen Josselson. I finally finished it the weekend I went camping by myself.  It was hard to read because the writing was terrible (see excerpt below) and because the copy I had was heavily marked up in black pen with underlines, circles and stars by the previous owner of the book, not by Barbara.  This excerpt from page 137 is footnoted (12) which indicates that this theory is also found in Dicks (1962) Scharff (1991) and Sander (2004).

People are bonded through their mutual creations, each carrying a part of the other that the other either can’t recognize (in terms of positive aspects) or can’t bear (negative ones) in the self.

To me, this meant that I could consider taking back the parts of myself that I have been projecting onto another. For example, I used to believe that I could not go camping by myself. That is was unsafe and that if anything went wrong, I would be blamed for it (“she was asking for it”). How interesting that I was camping by myself, successfully, when I finished the book.

The copy on the back cover was much better written. “Psychoanalytic theory offers a wealth of understanding of how people unconsciously create what they both need and dread. Too often, therapists join their patients in overlooking their own role in creating the relationship in their lives, such that it seems that the patients were simply unfortunate to “have” an ungiving mother or to “find” an unloving spouse.” [image: Pygmalion and Galatea by Jean-Léon Gérôme (French, Vésoul 1824–1904 Paris) Metropolitan Museum of Art, used with permission]

Doran Beach Campout 2014

Doran Beach Campout 2014

Billy, Bruce, Accountant, Benn, Leanan

Billy, Bruce, Accountant, Benn, Leananin


Another great summer campout with SCPN, organized the the sensational Susan Small and Helen Hawk, who reserved Miwok Campground sites D and E for the best camping at Bodega Bay. Benn, in the turquoise tie-dye above, grilled marinated pork ribs and served up robust German potato salad and red cabbage. He even invited the motorcycling Germans at the next campsite to join us on Saturday night — they turned out to be a very engaging pair.
BennMcyBuddies600w
Helen Hawk wowed us with a fabulous apple cake on Friday night, and Artemesia serenaded us both nights, accompanying herself on the tin whistle and the melodica. A fun celebration of Mother Earth.
Susan and friends with Artemesia and melodica

Susan and friends with Artemesia and melodica

BillyTwoNames300wEarth-based religion connects members of this group and some resist new technology. Others embrace it and earn their livings through it. Billy Twonames is a technician in communications and he brought a Biolite, a tiny stove that folds up small enough for a backpacker, that burns wood and could charge his cell phone! You see him here on Saturday morning heating water in his kettle for morning tea. There were three kettles in this group! And three different people brought canned baked beans to the Friday night pot luck. So different from camping with other groups where I have the only kettle and I have never seen canned baked beans! Sunday morning three of us cooked bacon for the group.

bioliteChargingPhone300wThese folks love meat, too! I don’t really feel like cooking after a drive (55 miles round trip) and setting up camp, so I thought salmon steaks would be quick to cook and easy to share, but it was a miss. Several people arrived after 6 p.m. and the grill wasn’t fired up until then, so it was dark when we ate. Fish with bones, in the dark, is not good.

Next time I will assemble brochette (with white meat for Helen Hawk) for a fast cook dish. And I will bring washed and ready to serve crudités with dipping sauce for hors-d’œuvre. There was nothing to snack on as people were arriving except the celery and pheasant pâté I brought. I would have enjoyed a salad on Saturday night, so next time I will have that prepped in advance. Benn made red cabbage, German potato salad and he grilled Thermal’s chickens, but dinner was so late again on Saturday I couldn’t wait. I sneaked over to Susan’s table and heated up some frozen Malibu chili as she cooked a separate meal of delicious-smelling lamb and vegetables. Helen had brought some large russet baking potatoes (which she doesn’t eat) which went unused. I traded a cauliflower for them and brought them home. Next time I will prepare small organic potatoes for the grill: wash, dry, and wrap in foil before I leave so they can be dropped on the coals without fuss. The big potatoes take too long to cook and are too large for a potluck.

Benn invited the neighboring Germans to taste his potato salad which was rich with bacon bits. He asked the man if it tasted like potato salad back in Germany. The man didn’t know, and the woman asked, “Why do you ask him? He has never made potato salad!” So Benn asked, and she replied, “In Germany, potato salad has more eggs and more pickles.”

Sunday morning I had the beach to myself for yoga and meditation, maybe because of the 6.0 earthquake in nearby Napa at 3:20 a.m. It woke me up, but I thought it was a strong wind shaking my tent and I went right back to sleep. This was the beach at about 11 a.m. I think our RV neighbors might have rushed home on Sunday morning to make sure all was well. I am looking forward to camping with these folks next year — it is so much fun to camp with people who love the earth.

SelfieDoranearthquakemap

Loon Lake Canoe-In Camp

Loon Lake Canoe-In Camp

Another fabulous Sierra Club camp out led by Isabelle Saint-Guily and Carl Inglin. Howard took Friday off work and we left at 7:30 a.m. for Loon Lake at 6,400 feet in elevation near Lake Tahoe. We met the other 15 campers at the boat ramp and at 1 p.m. paddled to the first-come-first-served campsite that Carl and Isabelle had secured by coming in a day earlier. As you can see from the map, the boat ramp is at the bottom of the lake and the primitive boat-in camping is at the top. It took us about 90 minutes to paddle there because we were lucky and the wind was at our backs. We had a great trip, including S’mores on Saturday night. Click on a photo to see the gallery.


Campers included Lisa and Mitch who were with us at the Blue Lakes camp-out and my carpool-mate Lori from the Blue Lakes trip and her ride-along for this trip, Steve, who borrowed her silver kayak. We were joined by organic farmer Jennifer and her son Cody, Nurses Nancy and Ron, Carol from Berryessa and Liam who is planning an exciting trip to Italy. An interesting and active group!

The Chemistry of Conversation

The Chemistry of Conversation

Why do negative comments and conversations stick with us so much longer than positive ones?
conversationcortisol
Chemistry plays a big role in this phenomenon. When we face criticism, rejection or fear, when we feel marginalized or minimized, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that shuts down the thinking center of our brains and activates conflict aversion and protection behaviors. We become more reactive and sensitive. We often perceive even greater judgment and negativity than actually exists. And these effects can last for 26 hours or more, imprinting the interaction on our memories and magnifying the impact it has on our future behavior. Cortisol functions like a sustained-release tablet – the more we ruminate about our fear, the longer the impact.

Positive comments and conversations produce a chemical reaction too. They spur the production of oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that elevates our ability to communicate, collaborate and trust others by activating networks in our prefrontal cortex. But oxytocin metabolizes more quickly than cortisol, so its effects are less dramatic and long-lasting.

http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/06/the-neurochemistry-of-positive-conversations/