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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

The Fear Factory

'Ello lovelies!  (Go back and try again in a British accent if you didn't do that the first time around.)

What a year so far, amirite?

It's been enough of a wild ride on the free-flowing, wavy scrolls of hoarded toilet paper, diving deep into the deepest depths of oceans of hand sanitizer for any of us to likely want to climb aboard the crazy train again any time soon.

I am sure that many of us have had significant time to ponder and reflect on many new things (including - but not limited to - what you might trade toilet paper for and if you were going to be adventurous enough to make your own hand sanitizer from your liquor cabinet).  There are a few things that I have been rolling over in my head and I thought to share one with you today.  Are you ready for a ride into my brain?  It's wilder than the life of a Costco toilet paper roll.

I think that if there was one emotion that could be collected and weighed across all of humanity starting somewhere in late winter, fear would come in first place.  In many of our lifetimes, we have never had to deal with something that had such a wide span, affecting so many all at once.  One day we woke up and schools were closed.  And then the next day, they were closed for the year (three months out).  The next day, people were afraid of airports.  The next day, people were working from home.  The next day, we watched Italy singing from balconies, locked in their homes.  The next day, we were locked in our homes and high fives and hugs were essentially declared illegal.  The next, they took away baseball.  The next, people started wearing hazmat suits and disinfecting their groceries.

There is absolutely no reason that you could have ever gotten to a hazmat suit and a pile of $37 N95 masks that you burn inside out in your driveway on the way in and tossing your Rice Krispies into a bathtub of bleach without being completely terrified of something.  Three and half months ago, if you would have done that, they would have called 911 and put you into a mental institution.  Today, you're asked for your bleach concentration recipe and stared at for your tremendously stylish hazmat outfit.

How did it get that way?  It was that a lot of people truly believed the worst of what they were seeing in the media, and not only that - they believed it was probably going to happen to them and to their loved ones.  Imagining dangerous things happening to you and your loved ones is probably one of the strongest catalysts for change and wild unnatural behavior that you could ever find on the spectrum of humanity.

As people dove in headfirst, the media felt the exhilarating rush of clicks.  They upped the coverage.  The clicks went exponential.  The media stood in their quarantined offices with their fingers spread out to the sky, eyeballs flickering, purple-blue electricity pouring out of their wrinkled fingertips,  voices suddenly strengthening, and erupting with, "No, no!  YOU WILL DIE! Unlimited power!" while launching Samuel L. Jackson into the sky.  In a few short moments of our life, all news turned into coronanews.  In fact, in the first few weeks, I saw an infographic that showed the amount of times a word had been mentioned in the news.  Ebola was in the millions over the course of the entire epidemic.  According to Sprinklr, a company that tracks language and trends and helps manage social media images and brands, just on one single day - February 28 - 6.7 million people mentioned the rona on Twitter and on social media platforms.

 Personally, I am not one who likes to submerge myself into the news machine.  I don't want to support the media getting ad revenue for their hysterical hype, leveraging the novelty of a pandemic to benefit themselves financially. As they play on people's vulnerability and panic, they push others into a downhill spiral, scouring the world to shock them daily with more terrors and horrors, digging up the most random one-off experience you wouldn't find unless you were on page 19 of a google search, and then making it front page news.

I don't know if you noticed this, but it seemed that all of the media everywhere only had about six stories to pick from to broadcast on any given day. No matter what news outlet it was, they were all saying the same thing.  It was like it was either completely lazy journalism (and I use that term very loosely) or otherwise a very united front to decide what stories were going to make it to your homepage.  Those headlines would sit on top, ready to be gobbled up by the eager clicking masses who had barely just opened their eyes for the day, and then re-spread in various degrees across social media, infiltrating every crack and corner of life, giving people the Next New Thing To Freak Out About.

(And then their cortisol levels from stress tanked their immune systems, and they worried more into a perpetual spiral, making themselves more vulnerable to the thing that they were most worried about. SLOW CLAP.  Awesome job.)

You can get people to do anything if you work up enough panic.  Rational, thinking, level-headed people will turn to bleaching their cereal boxes, turning their masked faces 180 degrees away from other's in terror, afraid to pick up a box of pasta without a gloved hand.  These small things are the proof that you can get them to do big things.

This is the place that we stand and wonder at society.  Where are you?  Is it possible that the media may have their own interest in mind?  Do you believe everything that you're told?  How much do you question?  What if you weren't afraid?  Wouldn't you like to feel that way again?  (I ask that knowing that there are some people who totally get off on panic, so even though it could be rhetorical, it isn't.)

You know what?  You don't have to watch the news.  You don't have to read the headlines.  You don't have to know every gory detail of what someone is putting out for you.  You don't have to wake up and throw yourself into panic and depression.  You can just do your thing.  You can avoid any scrolling through facebook.  You don't have to open it up at all.  You don't have to argue with those who disagree with you.  You don't have to read the news before you go to the grocery store.  You can just go.  You can go outside.  You can call your friends.  You can smile at people at the grocery store and interact like they are a human being instead of the Black Plague personified.  You can refuse to drown in it.

Do you know what happens when you do?  You feel a lot better.  You're not fueling people who don't have your best interest in mind.  You're not giving them power over your day and your emotions, creeping into your subconscious, prying one thing after another away from your once much happier life.  When something wild happens, you will be clearheaded enough to react appropriately to it, and not with a knee-jerk survival mode.

I just thought that you should know that you're not obligated.  Maybe you could try it for a day and see how you feel.  Or don't.  Whatever.  It's a free country.  Kinda.

Peace, love, and take back your brain,

Ms. Daisy

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Watch Your Language: "Social Distancing"

Hello lovelies!

Have you heard the term "social distancing" before?  If you haven't, it is likely because you've been in a coma for a couple months or have just flown down from another planet.  Welcome, by the way!  You've landed in the middle of a story nobody could have believed even six months ago.

The first time I heard that phrase, I immediately thought, "That isn't the intention at all.  They've missed it completely!"  Isolation, yes.  Physical distance, yes.  But social distancing?  No.  Absolutely not.

We are social beings and thrive in community with one another.  That is why it is so harsh and repugnant in our souls to hear of those who have to live out a term of their life in solitary confinement (even though it may be warranted, we still furrow our brow at the thought of the experience).  That is why when we watch movies and see the hero in a dungeon, our guts wish him or her out of there as quickly as possible.  It is why the phrase "fomo" is a thing.  It is why we do so much of what we do (yes, like shave - the poor razor companies never saw this coming, either).  It is how new parents get through those first weeks without completely losing it.  It is why when researchers study "blue zones" (areas of the world that have a population that lives significantly longer than the average), they find that they one of the main components of longevity and quality of life is connectedness to others. 

Language is a very powerful thing.  As some of you know, I have a Finnish heritage.  Finland is a unique place - for many reasons.  The history of Finland is rife with attempted takeovers from Russia and Sweden, both of those countries battling to absorb little Finland into their empires, nearly taking turns to do so at every opportunity.

How did Finland withstand and persist in their own independence and freedom in spite of being attacked perpetually by much larger countries with much larger armies?

There are two reasons, and both are practical lessons for us today.

The first is sisu.  Sisu is a Finnish word with no exact English equivalent.  It embodies the philosophy and idea of persisting through what would have otherwise have been thought to be impossible, tenacity, grit, resilience, digging deep and defying the odds, and hitting the wall of what is thought to be possible, moving through it, and continuing to move forward, despite the physical and mental cries against doing so.  It is often referred to as a "second wind" - when one is certain that they cannot go one step further or endure one second more, and gritting their teeth and sustaining it anyway at whatever cost. 

Simo Häyhä
One of the most famous Finnish warriors was Simo Häyhä.  In the Winter War against giant Russia (the Soviet Union at that time) that started in 1939, Finland began with ten working tanks against Russia's 6500+, 114 aircraft (100 of which were unfit for war), and 300,000 soldiers against Russia's 760,000.  The soviets hoped to mop up Finland in a week or less, and with these numbers, they seemed that they had a good chance to do just that.

What the soviets did not have, however, was sisu.  When the Finns realized the odds that they were up against, they did not back down.  Instead, they dug deeper than ever to fight for their homes, for their families, and for the country and culture they deeply loved.  Dressed all in white, Finnish daredevils on skis would deliver Molotov cocktails - glass bottles filled with incendiaries, covered in tar, lit on fire and launched - shattering against soviet tanks and destroying them one by one.

Simo Häyhä was a one-of-a-kind warrior, however.  Instead of launching Molotov cocktails, he was a sniper.  He preferred not to even employ the use of a scope on his bolt-action rifle (as the light from the glass may have given away his position), he shoved snow in his mouth so that his breath in the cold would not be noticed, buried himself behind a mound of snow, and earned himself the nickname "The White Death" from the soviets.  In the four hours of Finnish winter daylight, he totaled more than 259 kills in just over 3 months.  He was awarded a medal for his sniper kills (which lasted from November 30 to March 7 - when he was injured by being shot in the face and having half of it blown off.  Spoiler: he lived - he regained consciousness a week later and lived until he was 96 years old.).  In his personal diary found in 2017, he admits a much higher number of kills, counting over 500 on his self-titled "sin list".

Besides possessing immense amounts of sisu, Finland won those wars and preserved their independence and freedom by guarding their language.  The Finns knew that any country that tried to overtake them would try to absorb their culture.  When your culture is absorbed, you may as well consider yourself truly annihilated.  In one generation, you can clear the whole of history - imagine traditions eradicated (like the sauna and ice swimming), and entire ways of life ceasing to be, only to be read about in history books and wondered over.

Finland knew that one of the strongest ways to preserve their culture was to tightly hang on to their language.  Minority societies can be much more easily overtaken if they give up their language and allow for it to be lost to a majority primary language in the area in which they live.  Language parallels power.  We see examples even today - Norway and Sweden are (rightly!) fighting to push back on English as it has begun to overtake academia and business.

Language is the construct of our communication and shapes our thoughts.  For this reason, we need to be careful and intentional in saying what we truly mean. 

Do you truly want to discourage the aspect of socialization?  Do you want to live in a way that is disconnected from your friends and loved ones?  Do you intend to socially isolate yourself?  That is what we imply as we regurgitate the phrase "social distancing".  I know that it seems like a small thing, but perpetuating that rhetoric is having a tremendous impact on our mental state, our culture, and our way of life. 

Have you ever seen so many people outside in the history of your life?  What are they doing?  What are they looking for? 

They are looking for others.  They are looking for connection.  They do not want to be alone, isolated, and cut off from their tribe.  They are looking for a smile, for eye contact. 

I would encourage you to deeply consider your language as we navigate this strange event.  We need others more than ever.  We need help, we need connection, we need to feel support, we need to feel that we are cared for.  Perhaps instead of using the term "social" distancing, we call it "physical distancing" or "physical isolation" or "separation".

You are not alone and you are not intended to be alone.  You have your community, those who love you, and those who are on your "ride or die" inner circle list.  Disconnecting from the human social fabric is not the new normal and it never will be.  Reach out to your people.  Even if you are physically separated, you are not socially removed.  We are not going out like this.  Hang on tight!  Have sisu!

Peace, love, sisu, and sending ridiculous amounts of double-armed, tight squeezing illegal hugs,
Ms. Daisy

Monday, April 20, 2020

How to Increase Your Covid Risk of Death Tenfold

I really did not want to write an article about covid.  

The simple act of reading the word for a lot of people piles on anxiety and contributes to a disruption in mental health.  The media has never talked about another issue as much as it has with this one; it is ultra-saturation overboard and I did not want to contribute to any of that.  Most of the articles that are scrolled across are full of panic, fear, death, OCD-handwashing, isolationism, potential poverty, job loss, economic collapse, and political fights.  It is no wonder that people are stressed out and on high alert, living around the clock in fight-or-flight mode.  Something as simple and seemingly benign as a trip to the grocery store has people behaving as if every other human being is a threat to their life - strangers hiding behind masks, gloved up, and eyeing each other suspiciously or not at all. 

As the weeks and months have crawled on at a snail's pace, we have thankfully been able to gather quite a bit of data regarding many things surrounding this issue to understand it a bit better.

I have recently come across some information that may be initially a little scary for some of you, but I intend to give you a workaround and provide you with some hope.

Here's the thing, lovelies - we're not afraid of a regular virus.  We're not afraid of the flu, we're not afraid of a cold.  

We are, however, afraid of a virus that we think is going to kill us haphazardly.  We don't want to die.  We don't want our loved ones to die.  We don't want to be a statistic.  We don't like the thought that just going to the grocery store could end our lives.  Many are paralyzed with fear that they could be carriers and kill of their parents, their children, and all the old people in the grocery store, out on the streets going for a walk, and all of our neighbors.  What seems like a random chance of a very unpleasant death alone in a hospital bed is a nightmare that none of us want to participate in.  Nobody wants to play Russian roulette with this.

This is understandable.  

But what if it's not exactly that way?

We have read the numbers about how it significantly affects the elderly population more strongly than the youth.  This is still not a relief, of course, but with this we are able to see a pattern.

New information is coming out that is showing an overwhelming and shocking link to the severity of covid with several underlying comorbidities.

Data from the first 2204 patients admitted to the National Health Service in Europe revealed that 72.7% were overweight or obese.  That is an incredible number!  This number speaks only of obesity, and not even of age.  (Please note that this number is the percentage of those who were admitted to the hospital, and not of those who died.)

Those with type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome have a ten times greater risk of death than those who are metabolically healthy. 

Because this virus strongly affects lung function, it is no surprise that a study from China found that smokers were fourteen times more likely to get severe disease than non-smokers.   

Other staggering comorbidities reflected that hypertension (high blood pressure) was a prevalent partner in those who were dying from the novel coronavirus.  

With only 12.2% of Americans metabolically healthy, how could this ever be hopeful?

It is hopeful because of something called nutrigenomics.

Nutrigenomics is the study of how our genetic expression is affected by the food we eat and how the food we eat affects our genetic expression.  This branch of science, biology, and medicine offers a tremendous amount of hope to all of us, but especially to those who are living in fear of death by "the rona".  

Here's the deal.  Food is the language of our cells.  Every single bite is information to our bodies.  Every single bite delivers information that turns on or turns off genetic expression.  Maybe you are among those who are suffering from type 2 diabetes or obesity - right now, your body has those switches flipped on.  But it doesn't have to stay that way!

When we think of making a difference in our bodies by changing our diets, many of us think that it takes months or years of nonstop suffering and kale to see effects.  We think with targets out that far away, it's not even worth it - there's no hope.  It will take too long and it will cost us too much joy.  Weight loss may be something that does take a while, especially if you don't have a lot of testosterone and if you are over 40.  But weight loss is not the same as genetic expression.

All of this means that you can do something about it.  It means that you can drastically cut (or increase) your risk of death by the novel coronavirus.  It is not an unknown monster hiding in the closet.  It is not Russian roulette.  You have access to actions that can decrease or increase your risk of death.

Every single bite you take makes a difference.  Every. Single. Bite.  Within two weeks, your body will begin reflecting significant change in genetic expression.  You may not see that in weight loss and you may not see instant toned abs and a six-pack, but at a level that you cannot see, change is happening and it is drastic. 

Type 2 diabetes and obesity can be changed drastically with diet.  It is a wonderful, glorious, and hopeful fact!  It is not easy and there is no magic pill to take, but it will bring results that you will be thankful for.  

If you find yourself in this position and you want to make change, I urge you to do a few things that will significantly affect your genetic expression, pushing you farther and farther away from risk in each bite that you take.

1.  Only eat real food.  

This sounds dumb, but most food in the grocery store isn't real food.  I mean that you should be eating only fruits, vegetables, meats/fish/poultry, and very minimally processed dairy.  You should not be eating food that comes out of a box.  You should not eat foods that have bright colors.  Eat food that grew on trees, grew out of the ground, walked on the ground, swam in the water, and is recognized in nature.  

Cereal is not real food.  Tortilla chips are not real food.  Granola bars are not real food.  At least, none of those are real food for this purpose.  Eat only real food that you put together to make other food, not food that a factory made for you. 

Yeah, I know.  I lost you when I spoke disparagingly about tortilla chips, but since this is a life or death kind of thing, I'm going to tell it to you straight because you need to hear it and because you really can change your life.

2.  Avoid sugar and carbs like the plague.

You already know this, especially if you have diabetes - sugar cranks up your levels like crazy and makes you get into a downward spiral for insulin sensitivity.  That's the problem and that pushes you deeper into metabolic syndrome, type two diabetes, and obesity.  

The other thing is that sugar destroys the good guys in  your immune system and paralyzes them.  That's the last thing you need when there is a psycho virus on the loose.

This includes liquid sugar (which is the absolute worst of all) - soda, juice, energy drinks, and coffee drinks that pretend to be coffee but are actually just dessert.  It includes cookies, cakes, pies, candy, ice cream, and every single thing that you love.  (I know.  I'm just going for it all today, aren't I?  Sorry, not sorry.  I will risk hurting your feelings if it will save your life.)

Bread?  Nope.  Not right now.  Not for you.  Pasta?  Sorry, it's not on your team, either.  I wish they were.  I get it, I really do.

If you don't hate me yet, I'll get you with this - alcohol.  You probably should significantly limit that, also.  

3.  If you have type 2 diabetes, you should consider looking into intermittent fasting.

That looks like eating within an 8 hour window in a day.  This helps regulate insulin levels significantly. 

Here are some things that you should be doing:

1.  If you're not taking zinc, you're out of your mind and you need to get on that immediately.  Research is coming out solidly showing how zinc works with your immune system to fight covid before it can even get in and cause damage. 

2.  Drink your water.  Hydration is huge for helping your body work optimally.

3.  Get outside and get vitamin D on your skin.  This is huge for fighting this virus.

4.  Exercise at least 150 minutes a week.  Go.  This is not for vanity anymore.  This is to save your life. 

5.  Take and eat probiotics.  This includes naturally fermented foods like brined sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, miso, tempeh.  You can also take it in supplement form.  These not only help digestion and weight loss, they boost your immune system.

I know that many of these things are hard.  I know that reading through this might feel like I am a huge jerk who is raining on every fun party that ever existed in the history of the world.  I understand why you would think that - these changes are difficult! Not drinking wine and whiskey while simultaneously having to suddenly homeschool your children is for some a rather monumental task.

But lovelies, difficult is not impossible.  You can do this.  And with the risk that is out there, you owe it to yourself and to your family to have a fighting chance and to get yourself out of those categories that push you much closer to death.

Feeling out of control and hopeless is a very disturbing place to be.  Certainly life comes with wild things and we cannot control everything, but with what we know and understand of this virus, there are some helpful things that can be done to mitigate significant risk.

Let us not panic.  Take charge and do something about it.  If you are concerned with the death rate, begin taking action that will separate you from being a person of high risk.  

Do hard things.  We're in this together and I'm cheering for your success.

You've got this,
Ms. Daisy

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Locker Defense and New Year's Resolutionists

This morning was the first time this year I had to defend my locker space at the gym, but I was prepared.  It happened a few weeks ago for about 6 out of ten days.  I came back from the pool intending to stash my wet swim bag and water bottle in the top locker to find that someone had put a lock on it.


Initially, I thought, "Surely this will not happen again.  Who would want to stand in the same square footage as another person coming straight from the showers?"  Alas, I was mistaken.  Someone apparently did really want to stand on the same 1x1 foot square of ground as my very freshly showered self.  It happened again, and then again, and again.  I was significantly perplexed and disturbed as all of the other lockers in the section were empty and had no locks, and yet this person chose to select the locker that was directly above mine - the one I've been using for nine years almost every weekday. 

**Side note**
People who wake up at 4:50 a.m. to jump into a cold pool to swim for an hour to start the day and use the same locker for nine years in a row aren't usually people who are generally characterized as those who are laid back and go with the flow.

Obviously, I considered buying another lock and locking the top and bottom locker, but then I decided that probably wasn't necessary, and I could just spread out a bunch of random weird things in there that nobody else in their right mind would want to touch instead and solve the problem just the same.  Since that day, I've tossed in an empty bag, shampoo, a towel to save the spot while I was swimming and today it paid off.

Today, I returned from swimming and the brass lock adorned the neighboring top locker.  SAFE!  WINNING!

(Although, still perplexed.  Why do you insist on being this close to me?  All of the other lockers are available.  Personal. Space. Please.  Thank you.)

Although moderately disturbing, this is not something that is new to the landscape of January at the gym.  It is a magical thing that happens.  In the last few weeks of December at the gym, the parking lot in the morning looks like a barren wasteland.  You could do your entire workout plus cartwheels up and down the parking lot without any concern of being run over or killed.  You could mimic the entire movie of The Sound of Music (complete with all dancing scenes) without bumping into a car. 

And then it happens.  The magical fairy dust of the calendar flips and the first working Monday in January bestows all gyms everywhere with plethoras of swarming humans in the exact places you have been for approximately the last 3,287 days.  You turn the corner into the parking lot at exactly 5:19 a.m. (and 20 seconds) and make the same left and right turns as you have done for forever (so much so that you can do it in your sleep - and half the time you actually are still asleep), and then gasp in abject horror when you see that a non-authorized vehicle has taken your spot.  Your spot - one row back and two places over from the lightpost - is being violated by a random car that you've never seen before.  You close your eyes and breathe, reminding yourself it is too early to commit crimes.  You see all of your friend's cars and they are all out of sorts also, scooched around like this is some kind of sick survival game.

But you are a survivor and you know what you must do - you must summon enough tenacity to bravely face what is ahead of you: the Return of the Resolutionists.

You sling your backpack off to one shoulder to beep yourself into the gym, saying hello to the front desk person who knows you by name.  The man who walks toward you with his towel on his left shoulder on his way up the stairs to walk the track at exactly the same time every morning nods in your direction and you nod back.  You glance at the elliptical machines and every single one of them is whirring as if we're trying to power the entire midwest from the output, and make your sharp left turn toward the locker rooms.  You swing the door open and take the thirteen steps to your locker.


There is a lock there.  There are a bunch of strangers spread out everywhere and you're trying to smile in a friendly way, but you have to squeeze past them, and you're really just trying not to cry from having to think about what to do next because you are not programmed to do so this early in the morning. 

You pull your coat and clothes off, grab your towel, swim bag, water, and conditioner, and lock up.  You stand in the same place you do every single morning at 5:27, holding up the wall and saying good morning to your fellow teammates.  They all are standing in the same place as they always do and arrive in the same order that they do every day.  There are more people here today, though, and they are punctuating the open spaces that are there every other day of the year.  The aquatics manager appears at the end of the hallway and all of us move in a Pavlovian manner to bend down and grab our swim bags.  She arrives with the holy grail at 5:29 and 40 seconds - the key to let us in. 

You enter the natatorium and grab a kickboard and hop up onto the bulkhead to walk to your lane.  And then the worst thing in the whole world happens - someone else that you don't know is standing in front of lane 4.  Half of your soul dies immediately on the spot.  You consider leaving, but remember that perseverance only comes through difficulty.

All swimmers know that we swim in assigned lanes.  You have a primary lane and a secondary lane.  You would never swim in anything but those.  You would never swim with people you don't swim with because you know exactly how the people you swim with swim. You know when they will turn, where they will push off the wall and how far over you need to be to not have a head on collision, and who is most likely to take out the back of your hand with a paddle on a long set, or swipe your butt on backstroke, and who you will 100% of the time one-arm duck under on a returning fly so you don't die.  You know exactly what to do if they might lap you - you've choreographed it every day for years (Is it a wall pause with a foot grab or will you split until they pass?  Will they pass you on the left or will you flip turn and go under them?  And it will change if one of you is swimming stroke, so you know that, too.).  You know who will split and who will circle.  You know the pecking order and how to adjust for pulling and IM and a sprint set.  You know the hundreds of nuances of swim etiquette and who leaves 3 seconds early instead of 5. 

As a result of the invader, everyone is bumped around and the Not Very Laid Back people are pretending we can be flexible, but now we don't even know how to swim anymore and are considering giving up on life in general or starting a war in the middle of lane 5. Two of the very vocal people are making statements aloud that you only barely thought of in your head. 

Somehow - thankfully - we survive the day.  And the week.  Barely.  But not without deep trauma.

Soon enough, equilibrium will return.  Until it happens again next year.

Peace, love, and chlorine,
Ms. Daisy