Monday, January 31, 2011


eldest doing what Mummy should be able to do but isn't

Jill Bolte Taylor (neuroscientist) states that a body's bio-chemical reaction lasts 90 seconds. What does that MEAN? Well, it's good news as it suggests that any emotional turmoil we may go through need last no more than that on a chemical level. The chemical reaction to anger for example begins and subsides within 90 seconds. That's it. Almost I would say the Answer To Life.

My eldest daughter nearly choked on some rice the other day and has ever since insisted on chewing everything and each bite at least 30 times (including yoghurt and soup) to avoid a re-run of the scary event in question. This results in dinner taking a very long time indeed and my nerves being frayed. My wrinkles are coming along nicely and my teeth (gnashing) are being slowly ground down almost to the same extent as her breakfast cereal.

So how come the other day when I absent mindedly crossed the road to find myself face to face with and uncomfortably close to the front of a fast car: the flash of the headlights, the noise, the fear, the driver swearing then my gratitude that today was not in fact "The Day". Not my turn yet. How come when facing a near death experience such as this with adrenalin and the likes coursing through my veins, after a minute or so my breathing had calmed and my heart beat was back to normal? And I was already thinking about what I had to get at the supermarket? Exactly BECAUSE I was thinking about what to get at the supermarket! Once the initial hormonal injection caused by the shock of nearly being hit by a car had subsided I decided to let it go. Go on to the next thing - the shopping. I didn't continue to chew the mental fat of what had happened, what might have happened, what would have happened to my kids, and whether my husband would have hitched up with the girl who works at the bakery. I just let it go giving the adrenalin the chance to disperse.

The same cannot be said for my daughter's chewing of the cud, or cod which takes forever to be digested both by herself and by me. Because instead of choosing to let it go I constantly remind myself how meal times are so hard and how little patience I have, and how I'm useless as a mother and .....ok I'll stop the list there before I go and throw myself under the car that had missed me.

So now I KNOW from "Near Death in Lambertenghi Street" that I can choose to let angst and upset go and when I do make this choice my nervous system is surprisingly quick and compliant. Yup -- 90 seconds seems about right.

If I can do it looking DEATH in the face I can do it watching my eldest taking an hour and 15 minutes to eat a bit if mash. I CAN. Whether I WILL or not is another matter.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Year New You?

photo di Giorgio Majno

The beginning of another year. New Year's resolutions anyone? Goals this year? What are we hoping to change? And why? I have no intention of dashing ones dreams but.....I have to ask the most important question of all, which is; what makes us think that by changing anything, we'll be any better off? WHO SAYS?!

It reminds me of this old Buddhist (I think!) tale;

A poor man and his son live on a farm, they have a plow and a horse to pull it, that is until the latter runs away.

That's terrible!" say his friends and neighbors.

"Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows!"

A little later the horse returns with a group of mares which it leads to their barn.

"That was lucky!" say his friends.

"Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows!"

Trying to tame a particularly frisky new arrival, the son falls from the horse breaking his leg.

"How unfortunate!"

"Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows!"

The army passes through the village to take the young men of the village to war, but seeing the son's broken leg they leave him behind with his father.

Good luck? bad luck?

Who are we to judge?

Actually there's a similar little nugget in the cartoon/ film Kung Foo Panda (which thanks to my kids I watched for the 56th time last weekend) when the bear(?)maestro comes up to the wise old turtle and says "I've got good news and bad news." The turtle replies; "There's no such thing as GOOD news or BAD news. JUST NEWS."

Anyway....back to wishes for the future......

We seem convinced that we all have our own a crystal ball. We gaze in and we know for sure that by changing diet, sport, partners, car, lovers, morals, jobs, city, name everything will be just great.

Good? Bad? Who knows!

I'm not promoting utter passivity ; a 20 a day, couch potato kind of existence. If you want to change habits ok (but at least concentrate on the new instead of obsessing with the old). But by simply acknowledging that we need to change we are planting the seeds of dissatisfaction. Of fear and of guilt - because by demanding change we are basically stating "I am not whom I wish to be" which may be a slippery slope to "I don't like who I am". Well....that's a shame. Good? Bad ?Who knows!

Perhaps there is more to be said for "acceptance" at least with what we see as our (mental) "defects" and current context in which we find ourselves.

Over the christmas holidays I went to Val Sesia where I attempted cross country skiing - you slip your skis into these little tracks in the snow (that wind their way through woods and around streams - wonderful!) and....(excluding up hill slopes) you let yourself go. You kind of glide forward and simply enjoy the view. The second you start trying to change the direction of the skis(useless and detrimental), the second you bring your attention to the possible danger at your feet, you fall. You find yourself with your face in the snow. Everything comes to a sudden standstill. The trick (I found after a few bumps and bruises) is to let the skis go exactly where they want to go. Perhaps we could say the same about life. We spend a lot of energy trying to go against the flow, trying to take another direction, without even knowing if the turn we're set on is any better the one taken before.

Alan Watts in his book "Still the mind" reminds us that genies always give us three wishes so after two attempts and with the third wish, we can always get back to where we started.

Perhaps we don't need the first two wishes in the first place. Enjoy what you have.