Monthly Archives: February 2022

The Other Side of the Couch – A Balanced Life

Bird Feeder

Today is the last day of the Great Back Yard Bird Count for 2022.  Sitting today at the computer I have a view of our bird feeders less than six feet away, and I have loved counting the familiar birds that appear.  Today house finches and mockingbirds have been the most frequent visitors, although an occasional pair of mourning doves have also consistently searched for spilled seed on the ground.  The mockingbird puffs up and acts like the king of the feeder, but the smaller house finches are fierce in their determination to reach the seeds despite his aggressive posturing.  Just now a Carolina wren has appeared – lovely rich brown with a yellow belly – so cheeky, and in love with the dried mealy worms.  The squirrels are in the mix as well, for though we have squirrel-proof feeders, those amazing acrobats have found several ways to defeat the trapping mechanism.  Oh well.  Squirrels must live, too.

The birds of the air live their lives according to the urges and instincts of their species, knowing when to eat, drink, find a mate, build a nest, raise a family, migrate or not.  I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be a creature driven by instinct rather than by plan or intention.  I do not think birds plan, exactly, where to find seed or find a mate.  For them it is not “tomorrow morning I will check out the feeders at the Whites – if they are empty, I will go across the green space to the people on the other side.”  They just go.

I do not know a great deal about bird physiology, but I do not imagine that they experience stress in the way that humans do.

What do I know about managing stress?  I know that rest is essential.  I know that being present in the moment is helpful.  Any kind of creativity – drawing, painting, writing, playing the piano – all of these are calming.  Meditating, quiet music, warm baths, cuddly blankets – all help.  Anything that helps the body move out of fight or flight (the activation of the autonomic nervous system) and into calm (the activation of the para-sympathetic nervous system) helps the body calm down.  An essential tool in this process is breathing.  A breath in – a longer breath out – repeated at least three times – signals that vagal nerve system to move into PSN – and the body responds with letting go and calming down.

What I am recognizing about myself, however, is that I am not always aware of stress.  I live my life, I think, in such a way as to be always ready for and thinking ahead into the next thing.  For example, cleaning up the breakfast dishes – group tasks so that all is done most efficiently with least effort. Going to the bedroom?  Find objects that are out of place and need to be picked up on that trip. Errands to run? List the stops and plan the most productive route.  I accomplish a great deal by living this way.  My question to myself, however, is whether leaning into the future is creating a problem with balance in my life.

I do not plan time to stop.  I do not plan time to rest.  I seem to be almost driven to do.  And so, I ask myself, what am I driving toward or pushing away from?  If I stop and rest, if I let myself meander a bit, if I take the longer way to go just because I want to see what is there – if I stay in the present moment and take those breaths – what could happen?

As I pause here to feel into those questions, the answer that surfaces is not a surprise.  I will grieve.  I will experience the losses of these past years yet again.

So, to find my balance I need to re-balance – a time of experiencing being in the moment that will include more tears, and more journaling, and more just being quiet with the memories.  No “to-do” list on grief.  It takes the time it takes and follows its own song.

If you find yourself caught in the cycle of never-ending doing, perhaps watching birds as they live in the moment could be a reminder of the power of now.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP
Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 35+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.
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Keep Banning Those Books!

Politicians in search of a chance to appear relevant so that they can justify their grift for PAC campaign donations are busy banning books.  Texas and Florida kicked off the latest round of book banning.  They’re going after books written by women, Jews, and African-Americans; covering themes like violence, racism, slavery, the Holocaust, and LGBTQ issues. 

Other states quickly jumped on the bandwagon.  A group of moms in Williamson County, Tennessee have been fighting to ban books on the grounds that their children might read something that makes them “feel uncomfortable”.  Can’t wait for their kids to grow up and get a gander at their first employee performance review.  Many bosses think making subordinates uncomfortable is the way to motivate them to work harder. 

The latest book banning in Tennessee comes from the McMinn County School Board which just banned a young adult book called Maus, by Art Spiegelman.  Apparently, in McMinn County, middle school kids need to be protected from reading a Pulitzer Prize winning story about how Mr. Spiegelman’s father survived the Holocaust.  I had never heard of Mr. Spiegelman’s book but now I can’t wait to get hold of a copy to find out what all the fuss is about. 

Years ago, I eagerly read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain after I heard it was periodically banned from school reading lists.  It turned out to be a story about a raft, a boy and his friend interspersed with uncomfortable satirical vignettes on American society’s racism and intolerance. Hmm….

Being banned is the greatest thing that can happen to a book.  It attracts attention.  Kids might actually set aside their sex and violence fueled video games to test their literacy skills.  Here kid, the electronic version of the book has the same forbidden stuff as the hardback!

The publishers of the banned books will thank the pols for the free marketing.  More profits!

The authors will thank the pols. More royalty checks!

Your local public library will thank the pols for driving people into their hallowed precincts in search of the banned books.  Look we have lots of other books you might enjoy!  See your tax dollars really working for you!

Amazon will thank the pols for helping them make another billion-dollar profit from shipping the banned books to individuals who can’t find copies at their local bookstore or who don’t want to wait their turn on the library’s waiting list for the banned book.  Maus is currently an Amazon best-seller. Don’t miss out, renew your Amazon Prime account now!

Everyone, google “lists of banned books”!  Time to get your hands on books that will outrage your sensibilities and make you uncomfortable!    

As for the pols and their enablers, why bless their little hearts!

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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Groundhog Day

Tomorrow is the day a rodent named Phil, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania peeks his head up from the snowy ground to find his shadow. If he sees his shadow, according to legend, there will be six more weeks of winter. Paradoxically (at least to me), if he doesn’t see his shadow, spring will come early.

Groundhog Day is also the setting for the famous film featuring Bill Murray as a TV weatherman who visits Punxsutawney, only to get stuck in a time loop, reliving the day over and over until he figures out how to break the cycle. Sounds a little too real, right?

For the last couple of years, I, like many people, have felt stuck in a similar loop. Wake up, work from home, watch TV, go to bed…wake up, work from home, watch TV, go to bed…and so on…and so on…Sprinkled in between, there are occasional errands to shop for groceries, doctor appointments, and other of life’s necessities. There have been brief periods where we’ve gone to restaurants and traveled, had glimpses of life beyond. But it seems even that is part of the Groundhog Day loop.

So here I am, on the brink of another year cycling round and round the pandemic. In the film, Bill Murray’s character decides that since he’s stuck, he might as well pass the time acquiring new skills. He takes piano lessons, he learns ice carving, among others. And in the end, he changes from an arrogant, cynical curmudgeon into a softer, more sensitive version of himself. With the realization that his actions have no long-term consequences, and the notion that this may be his fate forever, he is able to let go of the life he had and learn to live in the moment.

That lesson has been the hardest for me to learn. As a chronic planner I am most comfortable when I have things to look forward to and anticipate. I don’t think I’m a control freak, but I do like to have a goal. I can live in the moment only after I’ve planned for an executed the plan for the moment. So, it’s been a challenge to let go of plans, to reframe my goals, and to find pleasure in what is right outside my window. As for learning new skills, well, I started a new job in early 2020, doing something a bit different from what I’d done previously, so I’ve been learning as I go for the past two years. My husband and I have had to learn to navigate around each other as our house also became our shared “corporate headquarters.” We’ve had to set new types of boundaries, communicate differently, and manage new expectations.

Bill Murray’s weatherman finally breaks the cycle when the fates determine he’s learned enough, become a better version of himself, and can be open to the possibilities that are all around him. Obviously, a global pandemic is not a lighthearted romantic comedy, far from it. Hundreds of thousands have died, countless other lives have been irrevocably damaged, and our world will never be the same, regardless of the lessons learned. But perhaps there is a kernel of hope to be found in letting go of rigid expectations, learning things, living in the moment, embracing new ways of thinking, and being open to possibilities. I don’t know what Punxsutawney Phil will see, or not see, tomorrow. I always pray for a shorter winter. But either way, I’m good.

About Barbara Dab

Barbara Dab is a journalist, broadcast radio personality, producer and award-winning public relations consultant.  She is the Editor of The Jewish Observer of Nashville, and a former small business owner.  Barbara loves writing, telling stories of real people and real events and most of all, talking to people all over the world.  The Jewish Observer newspaper can be read online at www.jewishobservernashville.org . and follow her on Instagram @barbdab58

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