happiness

Living in a World of Contrast

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Welcome to Movember, peeps! It’s the month of inappropriate and unpleasant facial hair (unpleasant for those of us who might be kissing those mustachioed men). If I can be so bold as to ask — can we keep it PG, folks? No porn star stuff, okay? I cringe at that slimy look! Let’s go for the tasteful and moderate look of Col. Chris Hadfield (one of my personal heroes).

mustache_etiquette

2013-Participant-Facebook-ProfileDo you know what else happens in November? It’s NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month, which is actually international! So, I’m getting my creative juices flowing again and cracking my knuckles over the keyboard.

Speaking of reading and writing, I read something interesting yesterday. It was posted in response to a story about the latest troubles at the Fukushima nuclear reactors. Apparently, some radioactive water was spilled into the ocean. The article was extremely well-written and described what had happened at the reactor since the tsunami. The author explained that the radioactivity was nothing to be worried about, which was interesting because that’s the exact opposite of what many other people are saying. It makes me wonder how two opposite views occur — the scientist in me says that only one can be correct. Who has the real facts? The language barrier complicates the issue; for those of us who don’t speak Japanese, whatever info we get is always second-hand. The philosopher in me knows that both sides can be correct in some ways, and I can usually easily see both sides. I’m sometimes surpised when others can’t — everyone believes they have the facts and they are right, dammit!

What an interesting world of contrast we live in! So many issues have two opposite, arguing sides. We can celebrate men’s health issues, the freedom and thrill of writing a book, and spend time remembering those who laid down their lives in war, all at the same time. I wonder if Movember is as big a deal in the US, where the government seems intent on proliferating Remembance Day. Do countries at war still worry about the health of their citizens? Even if the US isn’t at war, it does have a much bigger war machine than Canada. How come we make heroic efforts to save one person’s life yet premeditate on taking others? How can we care so deeply about our pets and eat the meat of animals not cared for at all? How can one person passionately argue against the logic of voting while enjoying the benefits of a democracy? (Fantastic video here.)

Yes, it’s a world of contrast, and I’m still figuring out how to live in it. I have a sympathetic ear for conspiracy theories, but when I heard that sunscreen causes cancer, I just didn’t know what to do with that information. At times, I can ignore that sort of info, and stay happy in my bubble. (Those of you who know me well may have seen the bubble.) Other times, I have to take it in and try to process it. Do I have to choose a side on these contrasting issues? No. I don’t have to always be an activist, and I definitely want to disregard the things that are most fear-inducing. I don’t like the way they makes me feel — sunscreen causes cancer?!?! The bastards! Now what? UV rays cause cancer, too! So, I’m supposed to just stay in the shade? Or never go outdoors? Forget it!

So, perhaps it’s just me conserving the environment of my bubble, to ignore some things, but it’s what I have to do to maintain my happiness. I mean, why not ignore it if it can’t be proven either way? On the whole, I think all this contrast is caused by free will — we have a lot of it, and I wouldn’t want to do without it, so I guess I had better learn to enjoy the contrast. I really try not to get wrapped up in the drama of arguments with people who aren’t interested in seeing another point of view (which is a lot of people, I’m learning). In fact, I’ve created a new personal rule for internet usage:

Never read the comments.

This helps a lot — most comments, whether on Facebook or blogs, are just not worth the time it takes to read them! I can easily spend 10-15 minutes reading comments by strangers that neither enlighten me nor contribute facts to an issue. I appreciate free speech, but that doesn’t mean I have to read it all. Okay, yeah, sometimes I break the rule, but hey, you know what they say about rules… :)

So, grow some fur on your face and I will try to remember not to make fun of you! :) It’s your choice to do so, just like everything else you do, and I won’t belittle you for any of it. Free will, baby! Roll up your sleeves and get hands-on with your life — it will get messy — just keep your dirty hands off of others’ lives, please. Thanks! :)

If You’re Happy and You Know it… Grow Some Neurons!

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We’ve all heard and intuitively know that when you’re happier, you’re healthier. Joseph Campbell has been saying for ages — follow your bliss. Abraham-Hicks says it too — the most important thing is that you feel good now. Well, I recently came across a tidbit of research that tells me science is finally catching up!

I read this excellent article recently that explains how scientists have proven that serotonin — the hormone associated with happiness — helps rats grow new brain cells. Specifically, when a certain serotonin-receptor is stimulated, the rats grew new neurons in their Enteric Nervous System (ENS). The ENS is a complex system of about 100 million neurons that inhabit the “gut” which supervise digestion and have intricate ties with the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). This alone is quite revolutionary, that we have neurons, essentially brain tissue, in our gut and not just our brain. In fact, we have two “small brains” — one in our gut and one in our heart, which account for the nervous, fluttery or heart-poundy feelings we can get at times. As a fetus develops, all the neurological tissue starts out in one area, a sort of tube, which extends out to form clusters which eventually become the brain, the heart and the gut. The exact role of these “small brains” is unknown, but I can’t help but wonder if it has something to do with our intuition. This is another excellent article about the heart’s rhythms and how the heart is a “small brain.”

The results of the study on the rats was published in The Journal of Neuroscience in August of 2009. So this isn’t even cutting-edge research (it’s just new to me). Yet so many of us are taught that if you drink too much, you’ll kill brain cells, and that you were only born with a certain number of them and if you kill them, you’ll never get them back. This is only half true — you can kill brain cells but you can also grow them back. If you are happy, your brain is healthier, and you are able to regrow new brain cells and the health of your existing cells is maintained. Plus, you can grow neurons in places other than your brain, and keep your gut and heart healthy.

Rack it up with all the other evidence that being happy is the best way to be! Nourish your playful spirit! Don’t let anything get you down. You are 100% in charge of your happiness and you can never blame circumstances when you’re miserable.

Note: I don’t approve of animal testing in general, but these studies on rats are pretty revolutionary. I hope the rats were treated well.

Dancing with Joy!

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Check this out! As a follow-up to my previous post, this is amazing! It’s one of my all-time fav videos! A minute-and-a-half of pure joy! (Once their dance is over, you can stop the video.)

Now you can’t be bummed out watching that, can you!?! :) Have a great day everybody!

First Impressions of Wrigley, NWT

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I arrived in Wrigley yesterday afternoon and loved it immediately! I don’t think it had anything to do with the last twenty minutes of the flight being turbulent and my boss and I being gently tossed like la salad-du-jour. We chartered at Cessna 172 to fly us from Fort Simpson to Wrigley, a total flight time of about an hour for a plane of that type, depending on the wind. Yesterday, it was a tail wind for us, but it still tossed us around plenty as we came over the ridge, very much as our pilot, Serge, predicted it would. He let me fly for a while in the middle of the flight, and I had a tiny bit of turbulence, which was fun! We had the plane loaded pretty heavily, although not at its capacity, Serge assured us. I told him as we started to taxi, “if you think we are overweight, say so now and we’ll stop!” But no, he assured me, we were alright. My boss and I are both pretty slim, plus I had packed light — heck, I didn’t even really take all that much to Fort Simpson in the first place — but as it was, I had overestimated the size of a Cessna 172. It had room for 2 in the front, 2 behind, and then a “trunk” space about the size of the foot-well in my car. Serge, however, was not new to this game and really knew how to get the most out of the plane’s overall volume. We had to leave a total of 5 items behind, one being my bag of knitting stuff and another being my cooler, filled with frozen meat.

There is no store in Wrigley. Well, that isn’t entirely true. There is a very small store with limited stock, open for limited hours in the middle of the day (while I am at work). It may or may not only take cash — leave your plastic at home. You can leave your cell at home too, because the nearest cell service is about 120 km away, as the crow flies. I had wondered if there might be a tiny pocket of cell service, from perhaps a single tower, but no. That is the case for Fort Simpson, a village of about 1200 people, so a mini-village of 170 or so doesn’t even have a chance. Cell towers aren’t cheap, so no cell company would put one up in a place where they’d never make that money back. But I digress.

Wrigley, NT (NWT) Terminal buildingI absolutely fell in love with the terminal building the moment I saw it. It is so cute, well-maintained, and the CARS station is raised above ground level. It’s like the world’s smallest air traffic control tower, and I love it! The station itself was neat, tidy, sunny and warm. It had a nice, cheerful feeling to it, and I took to the place like a fish to water. My boss and I only had about an hour to spend before our ride came to get us, so we went through some of the paperwork left out, exclaiming how great it was that the keys we had brought worked perfectly and everything was coming together so smoothly. I didn’t tell him that things always go smoothly for me (but I think he is starting to see that)! I started checking out the radio equipment, wind instruments and altimeter. I was so excited!

The main reason I was there, and indeed the reason we had to fly in, was because the ice road had closed due to spring break up. As I mentioned in my last post, this doesn’t mean the ice was dramatically moving, but simply unsafe for crossing. So, Wrigley became a strictly fly-in community, and as such, it was more important than usual to have someone working in the CARS station to provide current weather observations and information for pilots inbound. The next day, just after I sent my second weather observation out on the internet, the phone rang.

“Wrigley Airport Radio,” I answered the phone. Man, it’s going to take me awhile to get used to saying that.
“Awesome!”
“You saw my weather, did you?”
Yeah, it’s awesome!” It was a man at Simpson Air, clearly tickled pink.
“Well, I’m glad you appreciate it”
“Oh, Teresa you have no idea!”

That made me smile, on the inside and the outside. I’m not sure I can describe how happy I feel being here. I will be staffing a one-person station. I have full run of the place, can do my own thing, keep the place exactly as I want, and enjoy its cozy, sunny view. The station faces the Mackenzie River, which is down the bank from the flat the airport is on, only about a quarter of a mile away. The runway is really just along the river! The river itself isn’t visible, due to being down the bank, but one day I plan to walk to the edge and enjoy the view. Across the river there is a lovely mountain range, starting about 4 miles away with Table Mountain and stretching off to the southwest to a distance of about 35 miles. The hills are high enough to be bare rock (and snow) at the top, and their white tops make me smile too! I have always enjoyed topography, perhaps because I grew up on the prairies, so mountains and foothills still hold a romantic attraction for me. They speak to my adventurous spirit, and they are so beautiful, my heart can’t help but smile when I see them. So, I am in a lovely spot, pretty close to the middle of nowhere, at 63 degrees North, and I love it. There is a second mountain range to the east as well, and foothills that are only about a mile away. Around my home and the airport, there is a healthy mixed forest, with two types of spruce (from what I can tell) and poplar. Some of the evergreens are so windblown, they have a swoopy look to them at the top. I haven’t seen any birch, but maybe they are there somewhere.
Camsell Range, the edge of the Rocky Mountains, Wrigley, NT
My living quarters are about 3 km south of the airport, which is itself about 1 km south of the village. We flew over the village as we were on approach to land, and wow, it sure is small. Wrigley doesn’t look like many towns and villages where the early settlers cut down every tree to build their house or burn for firewood — they have lots of trees standing. No roads are paved up here, and Wrigley is actually the end of the all-season road that is the Mackenzie Highway. Farther on from Wrigley, winter roads are built to Tulita and Norman Wells, but these have been closed for several weeks. (From Fort Simpson on, the Mackenzie Highway is all gravel, I believe. From the Highway 3 turnoff (to Yellowknife) the road is mostly paved with gravel sections. I think. When I came up, it was basically compact snow, and from what others told me, I have no right complaining about it (remember 2 posts ago?) because it only got worse once it warmed up.) I know, it doesn’t seem like a gravel road should be called a highway, but it is! It’s wider than a typical country road, but yup, it’s gravel.

I have a house trailer all to myself to live in! It is not particularly new, but it’s in very good repair. The last people to stay here, apparently, were women, so when we walked in, it was spic and span! What a nice sight to see! There were only a few coffee cups left in the sink to wash. The kitchen is quite well-supplied — I was worried there wouldn’t be any frying pans or dishes — and I have everything I need. I bought a Brita to filter the water, which is, like so many northern places, stored in a tank in the porch. There is a pump to keep the line pressure up, and the tub faucet leaks a little, so the pump goes on for about a second about every 3 minutes or so. It’s easy to just turn it off at night, though, and then it’s very peaceful here. This morning, my boss ran out of water twice — once because the breaker for the pump kicked off, and once because the pump overheated. So, I skipped the shower. I had one tonight and had the pump kick off right as I was starting to rinse my hair! Gads! But, before I could get out, all soapy and naked and run to the breaker panel, the pump came back on so I knew it had only overheated. Yay! It cut out once more and I had to wait a minute or so, but I managed to rinse off and finish the shower. I think tomorrow, I will try closing opening the window near the pump to vent it better and hopefully it won’t overheat. The furnace and all appliances work good, and the fridge was even spotless! No sticky gross stuff in the bottom of the crisper drawers! I am so impressed.

I live in what the locals call “the highways camp.” It is a fenced-in area where the NWT government keeps the snowplow, grader, a shop and various other equipment. There are three house trailers in the yard, one of which is empty, and then I have one and Albert has one. He is the highway and airport maintainer — the man who runs the grader to keep the road in good shape. As far as I can tell, he does an excellent job! I met him yesterday and he seems very nice. The yard sort of reminds me of home, as it’s a bit like a farm yard with tractors, tires, piles of wood, etc, scattered about. Apparently, there are quite a few bears around, but when my boss and I went for a walk along the highway last night, we didn’t see any. I have bear spray which I will not go walking without. Albert has a dog, too, so I might ask if I can take it with me. :) It looks quite cute but a bit forlorn, so I think it would love to go on a walk. Not tonight, though. It is almost bed time and although I slept awesomely well — it is a talent to be able to sleep almost anywhere? — I am ready for bed. Maybe it’s the Micheal Logozar album I am listening to, getting me all relaxed! It could also be that I’ve been on day shifts for 5 days now, so I’m used to getting up early and going to bed early. Which brings me to my last point, and one thing that makes working in Wrigley so great. It is strictly day shifts, no nights, and it is a short 8 hours, compared to 12 in Fort Simpson. Can you believe it?!? I feel like I have won the lottery! A cozy, sunny place to work, with a great view, in the North, and I don’t even have to work shift work. Monday to Friday, 8 to 4. Wow, I am in heaven!

Oh geez. I thought it was mildly funny that I was going to be saying “Wrigley Airport Radio.” But man, what is someone from Wrigley called? A Wrigley-ite? A Wriglean? A Wrigler? LOL :)

Looking Forward on September 11th

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Imagine getting into your vehicle, putting it into gear and then trying to drive while looking backwards over your shoulder. Wouldn’t work too well, would it? Instinct would tell you not to touch the gas pedal for fear of hitting something. If you forced yourself to go, it would be tough to keep it going straight. If you managed to go straight, you’d still be in trouble because you wouldn’t see what was coming or be able to avoid people who move into your path. Obviously, you can’t drive this way, yet this is how many of us try to live our lives.

You can’t move forward while looking back.

Today is September 11th. It’s the tenth anniversary of that fateful day — you know the one, I don’t need to tell you about it. All day long, we’ll be prompted to remember what happened. For many, the memories are so strong, they will be pulled backward in time to relive it. If you watch TV today, you will see lots of memorials and some messages of fear; you’ll be drawn into remembering the past.

Remembering is not an entirely bad thing, but it’s a form of looking backward, and if you want to move forward, you will have to limit your remembering. You’ll have to very consciously control your thoughts and switch to looking forward after you’re done remembering.

When you focus very strongly on your future, you rocket forward towards it, but when you think about the past, you move forward tentatively — slowly, hesitantly, shifting back and forth — like a person trying to walk down a pitch black hallway he or she’s never been down before. You can’t help but move forward — time doesn’t travel in reverse — but it will be slow and scary. If you focus on your future, with a clear picture of what you want it to be, you will move toward it very quickly. The more often you focus, the more quickly you will move.

So, I’m not saying don’t remember what happened today. I’m not saying to pretend it didn’t happen. I’m just saying, don’t get wrapped up in remembering and caught up in the drama of it all. Come back to the present. Dream about your future. Fantasize about a happier, more peaceful future for the whole planet, if you like. Believe it can happen. And look forward while you drive.

Love What You Do

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Do you love what you do? Almost everyone has times when they don’t love or enjoy what they have to do… but when you feel like this the majority of the time, what can you do?

Whenever you become aware that you aren’t enjoying what you’re doing, when you “own” your unhappiness, ask yourself these two questions:

1. Why am I doing it then? If you’re doing it out of obligation, why? Who are you putting before yourself? If you’re doing it out of fear — for example, you’re afraid you won’t be able to pay the bills otherwise — why? Face your fears and see if they have a leg to stand on. They probably don’t. Can you simply stop doing it? Can you replace what you don’t enjoy with something you do?

You might think the next question is “why do I hate it so much?” or “how can I stop doing it?” but it isn’t. You can analyze why you hate the thing so much, but that isn’t really helpful. You can fantasize about how you could stop doing it — so many people do this about jobs they hate! — but that’s not very productive either. So… in case there are things you can’t get out of doing, the second question is this:

2. How can I enjoy it? Have I lost touch with the present moment so much that I simply hate everything? Am I just annoyed with life? What can I do to help myself enjoy this thing? Maybe I need some time off, period. Maybe I need some alone time. Maybe I need to do more fun things. Maybe I need to remember what’s important in life. Have I lost sight of the million things I have to be grateful for? Why am I resisting my situation? Can I make this work into play? If yes, then great! If no, then you really should figure out how to do something you enjoy instead.

In our society, it’s pretty much accepted that we all have to do things we don’t like. It’s considered normal. Well, it isn’t. We should be able to live happy lives, enjoying everything we do… that’s how it should be. If you’re unhappy, it’s not a bad thing — it will lead you to make changes and grow. All your experiences and feelings are good and ultimately they serve you one way or another, but why not be happy now!

Do what feels right or good; don’t do what doesn’t feel right or good. Your feelings are your compass. Abraham has lots to say about this, so I hope you enjoy these videos!

And here’s a nice short one! Enjoy!

Balancing Act

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Major intersection in Beijing, after a snowfall

I still think about China sometimes… the friends I made there, what living in Beijing is like… how they can be so happy in such a crowded, busy place! How they can find time to think or have any serenity! They do it, though… not sure if I could!

Life is such a balancing act, isn’t it? I need enough sleep, but not too much. Enough food, but not too much. I definitely need more exercise, and I don’t think I’m in danger of getting too much, but some people are! A little caffeine is great, but some days, coffee makes me jittery. A little sugar is okay… some vitamins… enough free time, enough work…

What about my mental state? I’ve realized that it’s okay if I’m not happy all the time, but I wouldn’t want to be down and out very often either. A person has to think about money sometimes, but if you start to obsess, that’s going to skew your perspective. I like to be positive, but also a bit skeptical of what I hear — it’s easy to go too far and end up a nervous basket case (which sounds so much better than “paranoid freak,” don’t you think?). I don’t even believe the news on TV, because I think it’s usually over-summarized and often has a slant to it. Finding the balance between taking some things seriously and others with a grain of salt is tricky.

Life naturally has good days and bad, happy and sad, easy and hard, and if it didn’t, it would be like living in a monotone world. I think we all naturally need these contrasts; if you’re dissatisfied with your life, perhaps you have too much of something?
You could be stressed because of too much instability, or bored from too much security. It’s good to avoid certain extremes:

Too much instability Too much security
Too much routine Too much adventure
Too much stuff Too much nothing
Too much money Too much debt
Too much work Too much down time
Too much busyness Too much laziness
Too much loneliness Too much togetherness
Too much freedom Too much religion (or too many social expectations)

Look at the table above — what areas do you immediately relate to? If you think to yourself “well, I certainly don’t have too much adventure” then it’s possible you have too much routine. A balance of both makes for an interesting life! Maybe you immediately realize you have too much stuff… have you thought of getting more nothing? Giving things away, and not buying things you really don’t need? If you recognize you have too much of something, rather than simply decreasing it, try increasing whatever’s in the adjacent column. If you realize you don’t have enough of something, try decreasing whatever’s in the adjacent column.

Also, we all need beauty and creativity in our lives! Make sure you have a creative outlet, whether it’s creative cooking, building, a hobby, music or art.

That’s all for now! Okay, one more China pic!

Nope, it's not daytime. That's a huge LED screen! It's showing dolphins jumping out of the ocean, but it also plays a few other videos, like a space voyage! Wow!