When the Chips are Down

 

American culture that does not like sick, or “in need.”

When something like Hurricane Harvey hits, one of the first news articles is about the stock market’s possible response. Let that sink in for a moment.

We have no time for illness or people that need help. While there are compassionate members, we are a compassionless society.

And this little fact, this small-until-it’s not notion, is perceived by all of us, either subconsciously or consciously. And rightfully, we are insecure about it. Somewhere inside, we know that sickness, old age–anything that keeps us from producing and appearing well–are classifications that are only just barely tolerated.

Even relatively well off Americans are one cancer diagnosis away from financial ruin, and nobody likes you when your chips are down.

America only has use for you when you’re well. Otherwise, best of luck to you.

 

On Happiness and Fleeting Moments

Over the past few years, I’ve realized that the moments where I feel the fleeting buzz of intense happiness occur when I am with my husband and dog, doing nothing particularly special.

Before we bought our house outside of Boston, we lived in a condo, and I wanted more than anything to give the doggie her own yard. Just the other day, I peeked out the kitchen window and watched her run free in the back, panting and happy while my husband threw her tennis ball around.

I am jolted, profoundly, when I realize, in these moments, that bursts of happiness are not the product of where we place our energy.

Yet, we continue to work, buy, consume.

There is something called a “blue zone,” a place where more people have longer life expectancies than, perhaps, nearby areas. These identified blue zones consist of Ikaria, Greece; Loma Linda, California; Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; and Nicoya, Costa Rica. A feature piece in The New York Times Magazine from 2012 sheds a lot of light on what, specifically, the lifestyles of these people consist of—particularly Ikaria, Greece.

Researchers cite their diets as being primarily plant-based and preservative free, but also draw attention to lifestyle habits, such as community connectedness, socializing, and living with a sense of purpose. Most of us try for some of these to one degree or another, but the author of the article brings up an important point: when you are an individual in a community that is not conducive to such a lifestyle, it is tremendously difficult to maintain it. Basically, the habits contributing to longevity are cultivated by being near others who practice them too.

I sometimes wonder if even a reduction in stress levels could do wonders for us. Sure, the standard American diet leaves a lot to be desired in terms of health, but we are all depressed, overworked, and anxious. Thus, when the numerous advertisements showcasing fast food and restaurants appear, well, it’s easy to see why many of us turn to food as comfort. (For what it’s worth, an ad about fresh mozzarella is the extent of food commercials that I’ve ever seen on Italian television.)

Somehow, we need to do better. We need to stop chasing happiness and just be.

“HAPPINESS.—A butterfly, which when pursued, seems always just beyond your grasp; but if you sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” —The Daily Crescent, 1848

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