This past week began with my needing to have my garbage disposal replaced and needing to go to the dentist to have two fillings attended to. It wasn’t all that long ago that I would have researched buying the garbage disposal online, watched a couple of YouTube ‘how-to’ videos, and set about removing and then re-installing the garbage disposal myself. It wasn’t all that long ago that I would have just Googled “local dentists” and called the first one on the list.

            Instead, I relied on local knowledge and referrals from friends. You, know, the way things used to be. The way I wish things could be again.

Problem Solved: Part 1

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To solve the garbage disposal problem, I called a family-run, local business, spoke with a live person, who then set about finding a garbage disposal (apparently, these are in great demand at present). After a bit, having successfully found one, she called me back and we set up an appointment for installation. All I had to do was express my gratitude!  And I did!

            Promptly at the arranged time on the scheduled day, her son (the installer) arrived, spent no more than 30 minutes all told, efficiently and competently installing the device. He left behind a grateful, satisfied, and quite impressed customer-for-life in his wake.

Problem Solved: Part 2

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            That very same day, I drove to my dentist’s office. After two years of covid, my teeth are in terrible shape. I had put off caring for them because I needed to find a new dentist. Knowing the consequences of waiting much longer, I called a close friend of mine who absolutely raved about her dentist.        

            When I originally called to ask if the practice was taking new patients, the phone was answered by a warm, pleasantly happy-voiced individual, who asked how she could help me and then actually helped me!  Appointments were set, reminders sent, and finally the day arrived for my appointment.

            My dental experience was beyond anything I had ever had, with procedures being explained, my comfort inquired of before, during, and after the fillings were in, and helpful and supportive front-office staff who answered questions and made phone calls on my behalf to my dental insurance company. The Novocain wore off without any lingering after effects, and I am now proudly smiling again.

Problem Solved: Part 3

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Thursday was St. Patrick’s Day. I had left my shopping for corned beef and cabbage to the last minute, but swung by my local Whole Foods planning on picking up the fixings and getting home with plenty of time to spare.

            The store was pleasantly empty of people and filled with fresh produce. I went to the meat department, but was faced with an empty spot in the cooler where the corned beef brisket should have been. I asked the closest Whole Foods staff member if he might know when and if more was coming. He assured me it would be there within 30 minutes.

            I must have looked doubtful, because he then took out his mobile phone and texted the delivery guy who confirmed he was 30 minutes out. I weighed checking out with what I had and coming back or just hanging out until the meat arrived. At that point, Augusto, the Whole Foods Meat Man absolutely floored me and said, “You have been waiting too long.  I can have the meat delivered, if that is what you would like?”  I liked!

            He walked me to the customer service desk, told the clerk there what needed to be done, and left me gushing, blushing, and totally in love!  I checked out and went home, trusting that my meat would arrive in time for me to fix the meal.

            I must admit, I was watching the clock and getting a bit concerned. When the doorbell finally rang, I was on the phone, so took a bit before I opened the front door. When what to my wondering eyes should appear, but Augusto himself, who had put the meat into a plastic bag filled with ice so that it would stay fresh!  Once again, the gushing, blushing, buckets of appreciation fell out of my mouth.

            All was well, dinner was fabulous, and I came home with such gratitude that I live among people in a community that cares. While I say this with local pride, I also know that such acts of common courtesy are not limited to my zip code. And I firmly believe that these demonstrations of integrity and kindness are more commonplace than rare.

Emotional Mind vs. Reasoning Mind

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            We are in volatile times right now. Predictability is in short supply. The narrative has changed in tone from idealistic naiveté to assured cynicism. It takes more effort to look over the landscape and search for friends instead of foes. The “reasoning” mind is quickly overridden by the “emotional” mind when threat is perceived.

            The emotional mind gathers its “facts” quickly and with little reflection. It is a reactive state of being. It is fertile ground for finding fault in others and predicting Armageddon. The reasoning mind gathers its “facts” with greater deliberation and more reflection. It is an observant state of being. It is fertile ground for finding subtlety and nuance and waiting for things to reveal themselves.

Diplomacy Is the Way Forward

            Diplomacy is the equivalent of the reasoning mind. Bullying and intimidation are the equivalent of the emotional mind. What we are currently experiencing on the world stage is a real-time struggle to see which mind will ultimately prevail. It is happening in Ukraine and it is happening in the U.S.

            It is also happening within each of us, sometimes on a minute-by-minute basis. My experiences this past week helped me gather facts that confirm my belief that the reasoning state of mind results in the most amazing acts of human kindness and service. I have also been around folks whose emotional mind is telling them that strangers are lurking in the neighborhood and people can’t be trusted and must be dealt with by some form of threat or punishment.

Pulling Back from the Brink

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I am having to pull myself back from the brink more often and just take a breath. I know the energetic high of righteous indignation, but I don’t want to succumb to it because I also know that it is short-lived.

            We are hard-wired to respond to the cries for help and the demands for vengeance. And response is needed, don’t get me wrong!  In times of distress, it is hard to sell the notion that we are in this for the long-haul. But reasoned response historically has a better track record.

            Waiting is the hard part. Accepting that discomfort is part of the solution and may be the only way out. Marsha Linehan, PhD, a brilliant and compassionate psychologist, author, and teacher, offers a set of core skills for times such as these. She calls this “radical acceptance”.

            Here are some key concepts that you can use to better manage the tension:

  1. “It shouldn’t be this way” – that thinking tells you that you are challenging or fighting reality.
  2. Reality can’t be changed. It is what it is. Name it and claim it.
  3. Understand there may be a multi-generational chain of events that led to this moment, none of which you had any say in, power over, or ability to influence. This is just how it happened.
  4. Pay attention to you; body sensations, disappointment, sadness, grief, pain. Acknowledge that you are familiar with each of these and have survived being under their grip or influence.
  5. Acknowledge the difference between willingness (the state of readiness to participate fully in life) and willfulness (the refusal to tolerate the moment).
  6. Make an inner commitment to accept reality as it is.
  7. Understand that choosing to accept reality does not equal acceptance. It just puts you on the path.
  8. Keep making the commitment to accept reality, over and over. Accept reality; accept reality; accept reality.
  9. Adopt a curious mind. Ask what lies beneath the feeling, what led to the thought, where did that thought come from and where did it go?
  10. Practice mindfulness.

            With effort, we all can find a way to fill our minds with kindness and compassion, be upstanding against evil, and be willing to accept what is in order to make it better. I know, it happened to me several times this week!