5 Weekend Reads
Like everyone else (particularly in the Midwest), I've reached that point in winter where it feels like it will NEVER BE WARM AGAIN. Even when it's sunny out, it's still freezing and there is snow on the ground. I'm tired of wearing boots and a coat. I'm bored of television and reading indoors. I'm done talking about how awful it is outside, weather-wise. And then good ole Phil had to go and predict six more weeks of it! I was reminded last week, however, that I'm lucky to live someplace that is more than equipped to deal with nasty weather--as opposed to the South. Check out these photos.
I'll admit, at first I was like, "Two inches resulted in this? How is that even possible?? We get a foot of snow and ice and it's below zero and I still go to work." My best friend lives in South Carolina and had the same reaction when her friends panicked about their pipes freezing despite seemingly fine temperatures; she assumed they were overreacting... except they weren't, because the pipes in houses there are not the same as the ones in Illinois. So even though winter becomes tiresome in Iowa, I remained thankful that it doesn't completely disrupt life.
Still, I've had to work hard to avoid the seasonal depression that comes with dreary days and cold temperatures. This sweet post by Kate Conner, referencing a phrase by another writer, Shauna Niequist, pinpoints exactly how I've been feeling lately for all sorts of reasons. Conner says, "You know how puppies in a box sleep? In a big snuggly heap, all piled on top of each other and nuzzled in?" (Tell me that doesn't immediately sound DELIGHTFUL.)
Well, according to Niequist, change is like that, it's like being out of your puppy box, when everything feels cold and lonely and you just want to be safe and warm again. I love this description, so much, in fact, that thinking of it made me tear up a few times last week as I faced various challenges in my day-to-day life at the moment. Being out of your puppy box sucks, and it makes you want to whimper. I think as humans, we forget that we need each other, we need to be nestled up against each other with love and kindness and connection. And when we are lacking some of that, among other hardships, it puts us entirely outside our comfort zone. (Also: I'm puppy-sitting a pug this week and that fact combined with this article makes me want a pet like no other.)
When I'm feeling down and out of sorts, I also try to read as many stories as possible (like the one below), because that helps me remember that my life is pretty damn good, all things considered and gets me out of my own head. Paul Kalanithi, a chief resident at Stanford University, wrote the most beautiful reflection on having cancer at age 36.
He's a physician, so he knows up close and personal how to talk to patients about a diagnosis... except, of course, it's different when it's his life on the table. He says, "The path forward would seem obvious, if only I knew how many months or years I had left. Tell me three months, I’d just spend time with family. Tell me one year, I’d have a plan (write that book). Give me 10 years, I’d get back to treating diseases. The pedestrian truth that you live one day at a time didn’t help: What was I supposed to do with that day? My oncologist would say only: 'I can’t tell you a time. You’ve got to find what matters most to you.' I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed both nothing and everything. Before my cancer was diagnosed, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. After the diagnosis, I knew that someday I would die, but I didn’t know when. But now I knew it acutely. The problem wasn’t really a scientific one. The fact of death is unsettling. Yet there is no other way to live." Kalanithi's words are powerful, hopeful and honest in the face of disease and the unknown.
Countless articles exist right now on the theme of our collective addiction to technology, but this one is great because she details how different her choices are without a cell phone at her side. She says, "Without wondering whether anyone was e-mailing, or texting, or calling, or @-ing me, I had nothing to do but be where I was." Ha. And isn't that what we want? Sometimes nowadays I leave my phone at home on purpose, and I'm always horrified/amazed at how quickly I'm reaching for the phantom device to . . . do what? Call someone? Text? Look at social media? Really, I don't need it with me all the time. If I'm going out to dinner, I don't bring it with me--because I don't need to talk to anyone but the person I'm with. When I go to yoga, I don't bring it with me--because I need to reveal in the stillness before and after, not clunk myself up with distractions again. Lately, I try to leave it at home whenever possible, and I think of a cell phone as a compliment to my daily life... not the be-all, end-all. It's surprisingly hard, but a good exercise. You see, hear, think and feel much more when you aren't glued to a tiny glowing screen.
And finally, ever since I started writing for Silicon Prairie News, I've started paying closer attention to the world of entrepreneurs, start-ups and mobile applications. (It also helps that some of my dear friends in Des Moines are incredibly computer science-savvy and work at companies focused on changing the world, one technological advancement at a time.) Have you heard of ORGANIZE? It's an app created by Greg Segal to "dramatically increase the number of organ donors in the U.S. and create the first central organ donation registry."
This cloud-based app could streamline organ donor registration across states, decreasing complications upon signup and for families dealing with donation decisions in light of a death or serious disease. Their passion revolves around the waiting period for organ donors, and the logic that if there were more donors, the waiting period could be decreased. I'm not sure if that's actually true or not, but as an organ donor, I love that one guy took it into his own hands to make an important system more efficient.
All in all, be thankful for your health, cuddle a puppy if you own one (or a friend works, too), set your phone down a few times a day and know that spring is just around the corner.