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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