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Saturday, April 20, 2013


I was all set to post a new blog post about this picture, but I woke up yesterday to the Boston lockdown, and frankly, I was riveted. I, along with almost everyone else, was relieved and happy that Dzhokar Tsarnaev was taken alive into custody.

Considering the way the week has gone, with two people being terribly successful at doing bad things, it's ironic that my previous post was about the powerful connection between doing good and being successful. Although last week I poked fun at overachieving Adam Grant for the potentially pathological origins of his urge to help others, I am really very happy to believe that humans tend towards the good, biologically speaking. If scientists confirm the existence of the rumored "altruism gene," I will be delighted. I was one of the zillions of people who shared the Mr. Rogers quotation about looking for the helpers in times of tragedy, because they are always there.

I also recalled listening to the Dalai Lama talking about how the newsworthiness of terrible events like the marathon bombing is proof that humans are inherently good. These horrific events shock and anger us - not to mention, make front page news - because they are rare. They are not the norm. They are extraordinary. Ordinary people aim for the good.

Nevertheless, the mug pretty well sums up how I'm feeling. Despite the capture of the Marathon bombers, the fact remains that overall the news has been bad. Shitty, really. Bombs in Beantown, bums in the Senate. Booms in Texas. And my arms, from those allergy shots: They are swollen, hot, and itchy.

But I didn't just post this picture of Grumpy Cat because I'm grumpy. I posted it because the mug makes me smile. Everything in the picture makes me smile, as a matter of fact, and while it may seem a stretch at times of national strife, one thing I've learned is that if you want to feel better, you have to smile. You don't even have to FEEL the smile. You can just use your smile muscles. The Buddha said so, and so did Daniel Kahneman in his incredible book, Thinking Fast or Slow. Studies show that just holding a pencil between your teeth - which activates your smile muscles - will make you trend optimistic.

I'm not a Grumpy Cat fan. Grumpy Cat is a meme, and I know what a meme is because my children have told me. The mug makes me smile, though, because I won it. When I say I won it, I mean I won it in a random drawing on a funny blog I read, so that makes me smile. And the box next to it, and the vintage pin come from excellent friends who visited from Boston last weekend, so they make me smile, too. The box, by the way, holds a musical egg timer. You refrigerate the timer with your eggs, then put it in the pot when you hard boil them, and the egg, which is painted to look like mini Delft china because it's Dutch, plays the Dutch national anthem when the eggs are done. Supposedly. My eggs weren't as done as I would have liked, but that is probably because they are fat American eggs, not slim, Dutch bicycling eggs. Still, the whole business was very entertaining. Plus, all the instructions are in Dutch, which is funny to try to pronounce, if you're me.

I put all those things together because they remind me that despite the bad news, I notice myself straining to find something good. Straining is the right word, here, because effort is involved. I'm no Pollyanna, but I do want to find a way back to good when something terrible happens. I don't think I've always felt this way. There have been times when I have been overwhelmed by traumatic events and pretty much pummeled by them. Readers, I believe this trend towards optimism in me is a result of my struggle to define success. I've changed. I think it's all the reading I've done about success, motivation, positive thinking, intelligence, and happiness, and meditation. Possible simply due to meditation, if what I've been learning about meditation's effects on the brain is true.

Whatever has caused this change, I'm grateful for it. I feel more resilient. If I didn't have that sense of possibility inside me somewhere, I might not be able to see those helpers. Sure, they're in the paper. But I mean, if I didn't have the little light of optimism, I would probably be overwhelmed by a sense of the helpers' ultimate futility.

So I am grateful, so grateful not to feel that way, not to feel that bad. I'm as grateful for that as I am for the helpers.

Thursday morning, I went to my NIA class, and the teacher, who is a friend, told the group that that day, instead of a particular body focus, she wanted us to have a focus on gratitude. Because of the bombing in Boston, about which she felt so angry and sad, she felt it was important to be grateful for our legs and feet and bodies, for the chance to move them around at will. It made me cry. Then I danced.


  1. I've found that if I let the national anthem play three times, the eggs are just about perfect.

    Also, you do realize that it plays two other songs before it gets to the anthem, right? And that it might play those songs more than once before progressing to the next one? Just checking.

    Aside from that, I'm glad to hear of your growing optimism. Having lived through the incredible events of yesterday, I come away with somewhat mixed feelings. I'm glad he was found, but I think it might have been a slight overreaction, and I am almost as saddened by the hateful calls for vengeance that I've heard as I was by the bombing itself. I keep going back to Governor Patrick's call for "justice without vengeance." That's what is needed, I think. I'll try to remain optimistic about the possibility of it being achieved.

    1. Well, Horace, I did recall your guidance about the anthem playing three times, and I am pretty sure it did. However, there was an awful lot of music happening out of the pot, and I am not all that familiar with the anthem. Howevs, I plan to try again, and before I do, to find the anthem on Spotify or YouTube. The yolks were almost perfect, so I think just a little fine tuning is necessary. It's not like they were soft boiled or something.

      Thanks again,

      And, yes, I was slightly alarmed by the extent of the reaction yesterday. I was wondering if they were searching for other bombs. It was really good that they found the second guy. I can't help feeling sorry for him (!). Let's hope for justice without vengeance. I am with you on that.

  2. I thought I was the only one who felt sorry for the younger suspect, and I was keeping it to myself. I thought perhaps it was because I am currently reading a non-fiction book set in the high school he graduated from, which has similar diverse demographics and issues as my child's high school (despite being called "prestigious" in an AP story). This kid could have been walking the halls in MY high school. It feels funny to have some sort of empathy for this person that most Americans are hating right now.

    1. I think empathy is always okay. (ducks from debris raining down on her as she types this.) I guess I'm counting on this kid regretting what he did later, in which case, he will prove himself not all evil, merely too credulous. Which is not to say that I think he shouldn't be punished - if proved guilty.

    2. Though I should say that part of my relief that he was taken alive is that now perhaps we will get information from him.