Thoughts on My Grandfather’s Passing A Year Later

It is hard to believe that today marks one whole year since my grandfather’s passing.

I won’t lie it has been a very hard year for me with the pandemic, the onset of my panic attacks, the passing of my grandfather really hit me hard, and unable to say farewell, with a wake and funeral didn’t help matters.

Over the past year I’ve really had some time to think about my grandfather who he was as a man and this one makes me laugh the most. Whenever he would watch a New York Yankees game he would start yelling at the TV like the players could hear him like he was the manager.

To help me cope with his loss I’ve started watching the New York Yankees more than I ever have this season and I laugh every time I do because I find myself yelling at the TV just like he would. I find that it has helped me with missing him because when I do that I feel as though he is sitting there on the couch with me watching the game yelling at it with me.

My grandfather and I as a baby.

What is the most difficult for me in this past year is I still miss him very dearly and I would give anything to have one more hug from him (his hugs were the BEST, and to hear him call me squirt one more time.

I still have so many questions for him that will never be answered, I miss hearing stories about the old Troy days, even if he changed the names.

I will forever miss him but I do know that he’s no longer suffering as hard as it is I know that he is in a better place and he will always be with me.

It is hard to believe that it has been a year since he passed I still remember that day like it was yesterday and I always will because my bond with my grandfather is hard to explain but we were very close.

Shortly after his passing about a week later a cardinal showed up in my Rhododendron bush In my backyard and I see him there every single day staring directly at my house. They say that cardinals are representative of a spirit that has passed on and I do believe that.

I believe that he is still with me and always will be. I will always be his squirt, always and forever. Happy Anniversary on getting your wings Poppa, if anyone deserved their wings it would be him.

What Happens When Americans Can Finally Exhale

About this time a year ago, the United States Seemed stuck on a COVID-19 plateau. Although 1,300 Americans were dying from the disease every single day, the states began to reopen in a patchwork fashion, and an anxious nation was looking ahead to an uncertain summer. Twelve months later, the situation is very different. Cases are falling quickly. About half as many people are dying every day. Several vaccines were developed faster than experts had dared to predict, and proved to be more effective than they are dared to hope. Despite a shaky start, the vaccination campaign has been successful, and almost half of the country has received at least one shot, including 85% of people older than 65. As the pandemic rages on elsewhere in the world, the US Is eyeing a summer of reconnection and rejuvenation.

But there is another crucial difference between May 2020 and May 2021: people have now lived through 14 months of pandemic life. Millions have endured a year of grief, anxiety, isolation, and rolling trauma. Some will recover uneventfully, but for others the quiet moments after adrenaline fades and normalcy returns may be unexpectedly punishing. When they finally get a chance to exhale, the breath may emerge as sighs. “People put their heads down and do what they have to do, but suddenly, when there’s an opening, all these feelings come up,” says Laura van Dernoot Lipsky, the founder and director of the Trauma Stewardship Institute. Lipsky has spent decades helping people navigate the consequences of natural disasters, mass shootings, and other crises. “As hard as the initial trauma is,” she said, “it’s the aftermath that destroys people.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a singular disaster — Every turn series of traumatic events that have eroded the very social trust and connections that allow communication to recover from catastrophes. Even now, with COVID-19 cases in the US falling and vaccinations rising, many people whom Lipsky works with are struggling. Things are getting better, so why don’t they feel better? “A lot of them are really confused by it, because they feel like they made it through and 10 see a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said.

If you’ve been swimming furiously for a year, you don’t expect to finally reach dry land and feel like you’re drowning.

A brief note on the word trauma: psychologists and psychiatrists still debate its definition. Some feel the word is used to loosely. Others argue that the official definition — Which requires actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence — Inappropriately it excludes serious life events such as divorce, unemployment, or some chronic illnesses. Some argue that you cannot be traumatized by watching news coverage of disasters, and others say you can. Jessi Gold, a psychiatrist at the Washington University School of Medicine, in St. Louis, thinks in terms of “big-7 trauma” (the officially defined term) and “little -t trauma” (its colloquial cousin). Both meaningfully affect one’s mental health. “We can be too nitpicky about where something ends and something else begins,” she said. “If someone feels bad and it affects their day-to-day life, it’s a mental health problem, and I don’t really care what you call it.”

Even in the more restrictive big-T sense, The pandemic has produced trauma at an enormous scale. Millions of COVID-19 long haulers spent months with debilitating symptoms, and many are still sick. And one study, 30% of people with lab confirmed COVID-19, most of whom have not been hospitalized, We’re still experiencing symptoms after an average of six months. Many are struggling with the boys in town world of disability benefits and long-term diagnoses such as myalgic encephalomyelitis. Many Americans who were hospitalized with COVID-19 will still be affected too. At the height of the winter surge, 132,000 people filled US emergency rooms. Based on evidence from Italy and from the past coronavirus epidemic’s about a third of those people — And the hundreds of thousands more who are hospitalized before and after that moment — will develop PTSD.

At least 580,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, and this official tally probably omits hundreds of thousands of Unaccounted deaths. Because each the leaves in average of nine close relatives bereaved, roughly 5,000,000 Americans have been grieving parents, children, siblings, spouses, or grandparents at a time when funerals, bedside goodbyes, and other rituals of mourning and loss have been disrupted. Some may feel guilty about surviving, as the New Yorkers who narrowly missed the 9/11 attacks, Or gay men who were “spared at random” by HIV during the 1980s. Some grievers may not heal for a long time. In normal circumstances about 10% of bereaved people develop prolonged grief, but coming in capacitated by interns all consuming grief that persists for more than a year and flattens their life. About half 1 million Americans will likely feel this way — Which is roughly the population of Atlanta. Grief will germinate across the Sims for sale cracks that the pandemic exploded and widened: indigenous, pacific islanders, Latino and black Americans were men were more than twice as likely to die from COVID-19 than white Americans, And are therefore more likely to have lost loved ones to the disease.

Medical traumas were compounded by social stressors including unemployment, isolation, the rigors of full-time parenting Without childcare, and a year of lost opportunities. Against the trauma backdrop, other tragedies unfolded: the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and many other Black people by police officers; a record wildfire season; the insurrection at the US Capitol; The Texas power of crisis; and machines in Atlanta and elsewhere. “There’s has been in the ongoing set of test stating collective traumas that Have really not abated,” says UC Irvine’s Roxane Cohen Silver, A psychologist who has studied trauma for decades.

The pandemic itself has not fully abated, either. Even as Americans ponder “post pandemic” life, 600 people are still dying from COVID-19 every day. Do you spite the historic success of the vaccination campaign, the rate of vaccinations is slowing, and is the lowest among the most socially vulnerable communities. COVID-19 is burning with renewed ferocity through India, much of South America, and other countries. Globally the pandemic is set to kill more people in 2021 than in 2020.

A sweeping and continuous process produces to almost paradoxical phenomena. First, people become inured and apathetic from suffering at a mass scale, experience with psychologist Paul Slovic, of the University of Oregon has called psychic numbing. But people are also becoming sensitized to further traumas in their own life. Silver has repeatedly found this pattern among people who experience successive disasters, such as 9/11, Hurricane Sandy, and the Boston Marathon bombings. Many didn’t habituate: each new blow brought more stress, not less. “Around the one-year anniversary of COVID, a number of journalist asked me, ‘It’s been a year; why are we adjusted to this?'” Silver said. “I found that question very unusual.”

The pandemic hasn’t been a one off disaster but “a slow, recurrent onslaught of worsening things,” adds Tamar Rodney, From the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, who studies trauma. “We can’t expect people to go through that and for everyone to come out the other side being fine. People have suffered in between, and those affects must be addressed, even if we’re walking around maskless.”


In 1969, the psychiatrist Elizabeth Kubler Ross wrote that people with terminal illnesses go through five emotional stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. This influential model H did self into the public consciousness and has been applied to every flavor of grief and loss, including that of COVID-19. But it is deeply misleading, and always has been. Grief is unpredictable. It doesn’t involve clearly defined stages. It doesn’t unfold linearly. It doesn’t necessarily and an acceptance. And grief takes long meandering and varied paths that popular myths do little to prepare us for.

People who endure long bouts of stress often collapse when they get a chance to be calm. Soldiers who returned to the every day world “describe it as boring, which gives him more time to think about what happened in the theater of war,” Steven Taylor, a psychiatrist at the University of British Columbia said. Similarly he predicts that in the quiet moments after COVID-19 infections Wayne, healthcare workers may remember the patients they lost, or the Morley challenging decisions I had to made about appropriating care. That if they did quiet moments between dealing with surgeries that were rescheduled during surges and patients who are coming in sick or than usual because they deferred care. “You’re just frayed but you have to do everything that didn’t get done,” Saskia Popescu, an infection preventionist at George Mason University, said last summer. “You don’t get a mental break.”

Even Americans who were spared the big-T traumas of the emergency room still experienced a year of fear, uncertainty, and disruption. They too might experience during moments of unexpected reflection, even as the national outlook begins to brighten. “When you get a chance to realize that your safety or your family safety is no longer at rest, you think, What was that experience like for me?” Said gold, the Washington University psychiatrist. “Your answer could be I haven’t slept in months, or I feel miserable, or My kid is really angry and upset all the time. I think the curve [of mental health problems] is likely to go up exponentially once people have time to even realize that mental health is part of the equation.”

Such problems can be especially disquieting at times when people are expecting to feel renewed. Lipsky, the trauma specialist, said she has worked with many people who are “struggling with the struggle.” They might be nurses, doctors, judges, activists, or parents — hypercompetent individuals who are used to handling a constant baseline of stress, and you act as bad rocks and caregivers for their teams, communities, and families. The added burdens of the pandemic to overwhelmed them, and rocked their identities. “People don’t recognize themselves,” Lipsky said. “They say, ‘Are used to be the person who dealt with really hard things.’ I had parents questioning whether they were even meant to be a parent.”

Not everyone will feel this way perhaps most Americans won’t. In past work, Silver, the UC Irvine psychologist found that even communities that go through extreme traumas, such as Years of daily rotted fire, can show low levels of PTSD. Three factors seem to protect them: confidence in authorities, isn’t a belonging, and community solidarity. In the US, the pandemic wrote it all three. It reduce trust in institutions, separated people from their loved ones, And why didn’t political divisions. It was something of a self reinforcing disaster, exacerbated by the conditions that make recovery harder.

“I don’t feel that we’re doomed,” Silver said. “I do still believe that we will get through this.” She and other experts I’ve heard speak noted that people are resilient, and often more so than they realize. But they also agree that the rhetoric of individual resilience can often do you use to plaster over institutional failures: the shortage of mental health care providers, the labyrinth of insurance system, The lack of support from employers, the stigma around seeking care at all, and the societal tendency to bottle up grief. “I don’t know anyone who looks to the US as a model for grieving and mourning,” Lipsky said. “We don’t talk about loss. By and large, it’s all about consumption to help numb you out.”


Lori Peek, a sociologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said that recovery from disasters is usually gaged in terms of dollars regained, jobs restored, and infrastructure rebuilt. Mental health is harder to measure, and so easier to ignore. She is worried that the understandable societal desire to move past the pandemic will further alienate people who are still dealing with grief or symptoms. “What if someone is truly suffering and reaches out for help six months from now, and is told, ‘What are you talking about? The pandemic was ages ago?'” Peek said.

Loss can linger longer than expected. The time frame for recovering from disasters “is measured not in months, but in years or decades,” Peek said. In many cases last been on the lifespan of human compassion. In late 2005, the people who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina initially found an outpouring of support, including meals, clothes, furniture, money, and music. But by early 2006, goodwill Dave way to watch disaster relief workers called Katrina fatigue and what the evacuees just called discrimination. “People were like, ‘Aren’t these people going home?'” Peek said. “And they had no homes.”

Similar tendencies are a parent now, as commentators wonder why many Americans are still anxious and risk averse, even as the US begins to wake from its pandemic nightmare. “I think some people believe we pressed ‘pause,’ and we’ll go back to the way things were before, as if we didn’t have all the intervening experiences, as if 2020 didn’t happen, as if getting a vaccine erases your memory,” Gold said.

Consider the latest phase of the ceaseless discourse around masks. The SARS-CoV-2 Virus spreads primarily through shared indoor air, the vaccines are extremely effective, and breakthrough infections among vaccinated people are rare. It’s reasonable, then, for the CDC to advise fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks outdoors. (The agency’s surprising move to extend those guidelines indoors is more debatable.)

But it is also reasonable for people to want to continue wearing masks, to feel anxious that others might now decide not to, or be dubious that strangers will be honest about their vaccination status. People don’t make decisions about the present in a temporal vacuum. They integrate across their past experiences. They learn. Some have learned that the CDC can be slow in its assessment of evidence, or confusing and it’s proclamations. They watch their fellow citizens rail against steps that would protect one another from infection study time in the US had already weather deadlines of a road in social trust. They internalize the lessons of a year in which they had to fend for them selves, absent support from a government that repeatedly downplayed a crisis that was evidently unfolding. “We had no other protections all year,” gold said. “We had masks. No one else protected us. It’s understandable that the people would be hesitant about taking them off.”

For some people, taking of a masterful mean just exposing the bottom half of their face. But for others, it signifies that they must reevaluate their understanding of versed in danger yet again, with fewer emotional reserves at hand. “I feel more cleaning towards the routines I’ve established,” Whitney Robinson, a social epidemiologists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said. “Summer feels like an unknown, and kind of exhausting. [It means]’s navigating new situations, reestablishing relationships, and deciding on COVID norms. It feels tiring.”


Nicolette Louissaint, Is the executive director of Healthcare Ready, and non-for profit that works to prepare for disasters by strengthening medical supply chains. She and her team started working full tilt in January 2020, well before most of the US to COVID-19 seriously. The world has taken a toll, and isn’t over. “Our personal lives are stabilizing, but there is still this fatigue from our professional lives,” she said. “And we are less than a month from hurricane and wildfire season.”

Those who work in emergency preparedness talk about panic neglect cycles, where people and politicians lose interest in a crisis once it abates, With drawing attention and resources that are needed to prevent the next one. Louissaint Where is that the US is set to go through that cycle again. “There is a sense the political world and energy is now there, and might not be in a year,” she said. “At some point, no one’s going to want to hear about this anymore, so will be fighting for infrastructure and investment, and we’ll be right back here to where we are. Even now, when we do our normal trainings to get communities prepared for natural disasters, the feed that we often get is ‘Oh my God, I can’t even think about that right now,'” Louissaint said. “So what happens when we have to face it?”

Louissaint was asked what she says to people who have just had enough, who feel they’ve maxed out on their quota of catastrophe, who just want to move on from the pandemic, or who equate tired of preparedness with fearmongering. “I think there’s a difference between sitting around fearing that the worst will come and actually understanding the things we must be prepared for,” she said. “If we are more prepared, we wouldn’t have to worry as much.”

“If you don’t want to have this conversation anymore, I understand. I don’t either,” she added. “My challenge is: how do we get to a position where we can afford not to?”

Toxic Myths About Success

Everyone KNOWS the game of Monopoly, right?

About ten years ago, The University of California ran an experiment on wealth and privilege. They rigged a popular board game in favor of one person. They gave these privileged players:

  • 2x more start up money
  • extra dice
  • extra bonus cash each time they went around the board.

They recorded the games to see how the players with advantages treated everyone else. The theory was that the advantaged players might admit their luck and try to help their opponents.

Well, that didn’t happen…

Instead what wound up happening was the players who had the advantage:

  • Got louder
  • Taunted the other players
  • Body language became more exaggerated
  • Started moving other players pieces for them
  • Within minutes, every trace of empathy and respect vanished.
  • Some of these players even started explaining their “strategies for success.”

Sound familiar?

We see this behavior everywhere now. As wealth consolidates among the top 10% of the world’s population, they are getting more and more aggressive towards the rest of us. They’re pushing for laws that strip away that last bit of opportunity we’ve got to act more like them.

At best, this advice is worthless. It had NOTHING to do with their success. At worst, it sets people up for failure, and encourages them to punish themselves for factors beyond their control.

It’s time to debunk. Let’s go.


You have to wake up at 4 or 5 am

The super wealthy & their guru army have been selling this bad advice for years now. It’s time to drive a stake through this advice. Waking up that early works for some people. For others, it won’t.

It can actually hurt.

There’s no science behind the myth that waking up before sunrise makes anyone more likely to succeed. In fact, psychology has found the opposite. The human population falls into different chronotypes and sleep patterns. Some of us are wired to wake up early. Others are wired to stay up late. Some of us reach peak productivity and creativity before lunch. Others hit their stride later. You can force yourself into a dominant chronotype in order to please your bosses – but usually at your expense.

So, let’s be blunt. When Rachel Hollis or someone brags about waking up at 4 am and then tells you to do that, she doesn’t have a clue what she’s talking about. She hasn’t done any research on chronotypes or circadian rhythms. She doesn’t even know what those are.

She’s simply a Monopoly player who started out with extra cash and dice, and now she’s made a fortune off advice she thinks worked for her, because she read it in a pamphlet.

Obviously, she’s not the only one. There’s hundreds of influencers and gurus out there promoting the 4 am myth. It’s worthless advice. You’re better off doing some research and experimenting to discover your chronotype. Do what you can to build a career around it. Advocate for yourself. You might have to conform to other peoples work hours at times, but you don’t have to beat yourself up about it.


You need self discipline or grit to succeed

Psychologists are finding out the ugly truth behind success. It doesn’t have nearly as much to do with hard work as we thought. That is jagged pill to swallow, because it’s hard to keep going if you except that life is entirely rigged and you’re doomed to indentured servitude.

Well, ask yourself:

Are you any better or excepting the lie that if you work hard and don’t fight the system, then eventually you’ll become a millionaire? That’s been the dominant message for half a century now, and poverty is only getting worse. That is worse. Healthcare is worse. We’re sitter and more miserable than ever. Americans work harder and longer than any other developed country. We have almost nothing to show for it.

Environment plays an enormous role in our success.

Some of us can modify our environment to some extent. Once you scape poor inner-city’s and rural towns, your odds skyrocket. Opportunities rain down on you. Not everyone t can escape their surroundings. Some people succumb to them, and it’s not their fault.

It’s not completely hopeless.

We just need to wait up and start speaking the truth: hard work and self discipline pay off when we also possess the right environment and social conditions, and nobody enjoys extreme advantages.

That’s the entire problem lately. A handful of mediocre players hold most of the monopoly money, and they aren’t sharing.

They’re taunting us.


You just have to believe in yourself

The whole notion of “believe in yourself” is a staple of self-improvement culture. It’s a duh statement, And a cosmetic believe held largely by those who grew up in loving, supportive middle class families.

The truth is much more complicated than that.

Social psychology has shown us poverty breeds an insidious self-esteem problem That’s incredibly Difficult to overcome. Kids who grow up in safe neighborhoods with plenty of food are more likely to “Believe in themselves” than students from poor community’s with tired, overworked parents. They’re also more likely to delay gratification. They appear better at problem-solving. They appear more self-reliant.

Why?

Turns out, household were tired and overworked parents did irritated at her kids more often. They say “no” more often instead of using phrases like “not now” or “maybe later”. They’re more likely to say hurtful things by accident, and less likely to spend quality time with them. They’re less patient, and actually more likely to just do things for their kids instead of taking the time and energy to coach and encourage them.

It makes a huge difference.

Even worse, studies have also found the teachers attribute kids from Logan come household with lower ability. In other words: if you’re poor, you get stereotyped is dumb. You get treated as dumb, and punishment you start acting the way you’re treated. You stop trying to solve problems yourself. You don’t even asked for help.

You give up.

We learn to believe in ourselves because other people believe in us first. Not everyone in our lives is going to believe in us, but everyone needs a handful of people in their corner rooting for them.

Some people never get that. Their parents trash Their dreams instead of crafting them into something achievable. At inner-city schools, you can get harassed and even beaten up for doing well in school, or carrying your books home to study. What people don’t believe in themselves, they don’t believe in each other. They teach others down. A feedback loop forms, and it doesn’t help when leaders And politicians keep using bad advice from privileged players to justify their conditions.

Believing in yourself isn’t enough. You need tools and resources. You need allies and support. If you have those signs, then don’t hoard them. Share them. Tell someone you believe in them.

Even better, show it.


Everyone can be exceptional

By definition, exceptional means “not like everyone else.” We need exceptional people, and they deserve rewards.

They just don’t deserve everything.

A tiny handful of people can always work their way up from nothing. They were tired, but they also get lucky. There’s no denying it. The problem is that everyone wants to tell the story of their own exceptionalism to justify their wealth and explain away their advantages. They say they’re the exceptional one, but anyone can do what they did. They come up with endless reasons why most people don’t “succeed,” and then they ramble about what they did to get where they are.

Well the monopoly experiment prove that a bunch of bullshit. We don’t need everyone to be exceptional. Turning everyone into a super human isn’t going to solve our problems. Will wind up with the same inequalities as before. Will have a population of homeless people with IQs above 180 who can lift a train, and it still won’t be enough.

Most of the advice floating around out there won’t help anyone succeed. It’s not backed by research or even genuine reflection it’s a bunch of platitudes people used to explain away their bonuses.

The real answer is pretty simple.

We need to level the board game, by supporting laws that make it actually fair for everyone to succeed again. If we don’t, then it won’t be long before nobody can succeed anymore. In the meantime, those who succeeded can try not to be such spoiled winners. We can stop giving lame advice that sets other people up for failure.

Regardless Of Chauvin’s Guilty Verdict We Need More Dramatic Changes

As I am writing this, Derek Chauvin, an ex- cop was found guilty on all three charges against him for murdering George Floyd, in May of 2020. Had he not been found guilty on any of the three charges against him there would have been some serious riots happening across the United States. But he has been found guilty.

But let’s hypothetically say he was found not guilty or received a mistrial, the outrage would be A TIDAL WAVE. Our justice system would have demonstrated YET again that a cop can kill a black man with impunity, even if there were witnesses on the scene and conclusive video evidence seen by lens of millions.

I felt in my gut that Chauvin would be convicted. Chauvin is to simply put it a sacrificial lamb, the cost of doing business. Chauvin will be regarded as someone who dug his own grave, unnecessarily kneeling on the neck of George Floyd in front of witnesses he could see were recording his vicious act of murder.

In the eyes of too many police and political leaders, Chauvin’s actions were NOT a moral failure, but a failure of optics. Even in 2020, when we had seen numerous police shootings captured on cell phone video and posted to YouTube or Facebook where they went viral, this was extreme. It went on for a long, long time; eight minutes and forty-six seconds to be exact. It sparked protests and uprisings not only across the country but across the world.

So Derek Chauvin may be sacrificed for the benefit of a white surpremacist policing system not because he abused his authority but becausee he displayed utter contempt for Black life too brazenly, in front of too many eyes.

What does his conviction change?

In the three months after George Floyd’s murder, cops killed about 288 people in the US, and there was a slight uptick in the already disproportionate number of those killed who were Black and/or Latino. As of April 18, cops had killed 319 people in 2021.

George Floyd’s murder changed nothing.

There has been a lot of work done by Black and Brown people, Black and Brown-led coalitions, and anti-racist allies to finally change our barbaric system of policing and imprisonment.

But in the end, we have seen a hashtag, a whole slew of platitudes, and some words. But change has been meager at best.

Maryland recently passed what many termed “sweeping police reform.” But despite the kicking and screaming of police associations and Maryland’s own backward governor, Larry Hogan, the changes did very little. Penalties were increased and civilian review strengthened, but fundamentally, nothing has changed.

Yet, Maryland is FAR ahead of the rest of the country. Some police departments have seen small reductions of budgets. In Congress, bills meant to stop the sale or transfer of military-grade equipment to civilian police forces have been facing tough challenges. In some cases, there have been responses that diverted some resources from police to social services, along with some of the responsibilities that police should have had in the first place. But these have been isolated instances, and the pushback has been strong.

There have certainly been discussions about the deep, inextricable relationship between racism and policing. This focus has been built on a deep and rich body of work that has demonstrated the roots of policing as a means of maintaining the power of the ruling classes, using both police violence and racism as tools.

Yet now, after we watched the police murder one person after another, and then witnessed the overwhelming violence cops have employed against protesters, often unprovoked, we cannot help but conclude that nothing has changed.

Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo made headlines in just the past few days. But since the testimony in the trial for George Floyd’s murder began, police have killed an average of three people a day.

And with Derek Chauvin convicted, and sentenced to life in prison, what will change?

Cops will continue to kill people. Those people will come from all races, but they will be disproportionately Black and Brown. They will be overwhelmingly poor and worki-class people.

Still, it is important — especially so for me as a white woman — to understand that many people, particularly people of color, need to see Derek Chauvin thrown in jail. It matters to many that Chauvin be convicted, that retribution meted out.

People feel that way not only because of George Floyd but because of the constant, interminable pressure of being Black or Brown in America. Living with police harassment, or the fear of it, feeling a shivers of fear when you drive past a cop car, the feeling of danger if you see it behind you and the terror of actually being pulled over is a terrible thing to live with. Walking down the street is NO different. Breonna Taylor and Botham Jean, among too many others, show that you can’t even leave that fear outside your own home.

So, yes, the burning desire to see George Floyd’s murderer go to jail is perfectly justified and understandable. And, given the system we live in, it’s also the only kind of Justice that can be offered — the retributive kind.

But in the end, it will change nothing, and it can even make things worse. Politicians and pundits will use Chauvin’s conviction as proof that the “system works.It will be a tool used to shut down calls to Defund the Police and to end political pressure for all but mildest police reform.

And George Floyd will still be dead. As will Duante Wright, Adam Toledo, Laquan McDonald, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and so, so many more.

The justice their memories need is the justice we all need: a society that respects all life, that recognizes that violence does NOT solve our problems, but treating all of our communities and every individual within those communities, with respect could.

Police, it should be obvious by now, do not prevent crime. Incarceration is expensive, it is inhumane, and worst of all it is NOT only ineffective, it actually reinforces people’s disenfranchisement and lack of connection to each other, thereby bolstering, or in many cases, creating, the very conditions that lead to violence.

We can honor the murderered many, we can honor their memory and, yes, we can bring at least some justice to this country. We do that NOT by taking vengeance, although accountability and a reckoning are going to be necessary to heal wounds. But we bring that justice by building a better world.

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, and all the othersdeserve better than vengeance. They deserve to be the symbols of a country, of a world, reborn. One where we live up to our promises of dignity, decency, and respect for all.

We can do that. But it will NOT come out of the trial of Chauvin, no matter how the trial ends.

Making Changes

Warning there is use of vulgar language because I use it to show examples and set premise.

I love structure. As much as I try to be hip and flexible, to just go with the goddamn flow, I’m wired differently. I like routines, schedules, and knowing what’s coming down the pipeline. I get the same thrill from new planners that I do from old books.


About the eighth month of the lockdown, I started looking at the other side of my personality pendulum and things started looking really intriguing. I was an introvert who would avoid groups, a secluded bookworm who wanted group movie nights, and a homebody who wanted to be a wild child. The ‘as-long-as-everyone’s-happy’ person and the ‘never-say-no-to-an-authority-figure’ child didn’t live here in the eighth month of lockdown (Sidenote: she has still not returned) Brutal honesty all the way.

Being out of practice with standing up for my needs, it wasn’t pretty. Picture if you will for a moment a toddler who just overheard a parent say “motherfucker” and is now jovially repeating it everywhere. Burned bridges barely held together due to my complacency. Blew up foundations. Exposed creepy-crawlies under the rocks then sat in the mud muttering to myself ‘who cares? the world is on fire.’ Family, friends, acquaintances, internet peeps, didn’t matter: they all got the most wishy-washy, wobbliest version of myself I’ve ever been.

Sometimes change can be a fickle visitor blowing in and out like an ocean breeze. 2020 was NOT one of those times.

About two weeks ago I decided to look back and re-read some of my older pieces and I couldn’t connect with what I had written. I remembered writing the words, thinking those opinions, but they weren’t me… at least they weren’t me anymore. As I read these pieces I felt a confused fondness like I’d feel for a stranger. As if the lockdown illuminated the-whole-and-real-person and showed that I’d been suppressing far too much of her. Reading back through them and comparing my writings from 2020 was like have a weird conversation between two people who remembered the same events very differently/

On and on it went. Without my writings, I don’t think that I’d have realized how drastically my worldview and perspective have changed while living through Groundhog Day (good movie, imo) monotony. The big hearted compassion is still there. The grace is still there. The feistiness of going to bat for the underdog is still there. I’ve simply learned to extend and demand those things for myself as well.

The world is still on fire. Life as I know it is still short and fleeting. I am still struggling with some of the same apprehensions. I’ve still got a few of the same longings. There’s no wrong way through feeling trapped in a rut you didn’t even make. No shame here if you’re burnt out, sick and tired, stretching for a small amount of “pandemic normalcy” with warmer weather.

Some days, you find all the beauty you can carry in your hands and hoard the happiness in your pockets. You hit all your goals, get a speck of novelty, or make your own adventure. Other days, you’ll ding through another day of fatigue and self doubt, thinking that “nothing’s changed.”

Yet, you have. You’ve changed.

You learned that you are not as strong as you think and stronger than you ever imagined. You’ve learned to cherish the people you needed during a certain version of yourself and let them go when they wanted to leave. You’ve learned that love comes in multiple ways, and you’ll miss it under your nose if you’re constantly chasing the horizon.

You’ve imagined and daydreamed countless worlds and acted to make your corner of this beat up country a little bit better than you found it. You’ve imagined the possibilities of everyone feeling safe enough to relax their fists. You’ve daydreamed about a country where every person is safe, seen, and loved.

2020 was a barefooted-untouched luggage-unfilled yearning-slow soil growth-waiting wanderlust year. 2021 might be a little different but don’t lose the stillness. The good bits of the various versions of yourself. That human ability to mourn huge losses and celebrate small wins. The recognition that the lights will come back on, and the lows won’t stick around forever.

Nothing’s permanent.

You’ve marveled at the creative problem solving of your neighbors. You’ve mourned countless dead and those who are dying. You’ve made so much progress just by accepting that personal progress isn’t linear and hustle culture progress isn’t an urgent priority.

Everything changes eventually. Even and especially you change. Believe it or not, change may be a crazy chick, but she has the best of intentions.

7 Months Later

It’s been seven very long months without you here. It still doesn’t seem real to me that you are gone. I keep picking up the phone wanting to dial your number just to hear you on the other end say “Hey squirt, how are you?” The past few times I have gone to see Nana I am always looking forward to one of your hugs.

They say it gets easier… but when does it?

It hurts so much not to have you here. There have been too many nights where I cannot sleep, and I lay in bed thinking about you and how I miss you at family gatherings, especially the family camping trip every summer. Or when I lay there and wind up crying because it still really hurts ALOT

With the holidays behind us I wish I could say that it’s gotten easier but that would be a lie. I missed you stopping by around midday on Thanksgiving Day. I miss your smile and most of all I miss your hugs.

If anything I wish I could give you one more hug, tell you how much I love you, hear one more story about you growing up, and your south Troy days. Missing you has been the hardest thing I have ever done. When you left this world behind you took a big piece of my heart with you.

You may be gone, but I will make sure the memory of the amazing man you have and always will be will never die.

It hurts knowing there will be no more hugs from you, there be no more watching you make your pizzas claiming to be the original Poppa John, or watching you prepare your oatmeal with the strawberries, blueberries, and bananas all in a perfect circle, no more being mesmerized by you spreading cream cheese so perfectly on your bagel, and the hardest one is no more seeing your beautiful smile.

You will always be in my heart forever, whenever the day comes that we shall meet again just know that I love and I can’t wait for one of your hugs.

I love you now, I love you forever, I love you always you will forever be in my heart.

Irish Queen

20/20/20 Rule of Productive Mornings

How to not waste the first hour of the day

You lose when you snooze because sleep fragmentation hurts your body’s ability to recuperate.

Every time you fall asleep, your body starts going through a 5-stage sleep cycle. The later the stage, the deeper the sleep — and the more restorative it becomes.

When you wake up at 7 AM after 7 hours of sleep, you’ll be closer to the end of the cycle and in a state where your body is already preparing to wake up.

If you hit the snooze button, however, your body starts going back in the opposite direction. It’ll gear up to sleep more — and it really won’t like being rattled 9 minutes later. As a result, you’ll feel more tired than before, even though, technically, you slept longer.

When it comes to good sleep, getting up after one consistent stretch is more important than how long that stretch was. This is counterintuitive, but it’s true.

Similarly, if you “take excellent care of the front end of your day, the rest of your day will take care of itself.” That’s Robin Sharma’s thesis in The 5 AM Club, a book he wrote to share his morning routine of 20 years.

The idea is that if you invest the first hour of the day in yourself, that hour will pay returns for the remaining 23. “Own your morning, elevate your life,” Sharma says.

The book teaches via metaphor — a fictitious billionaire helps a struggling artist and a young entrepreneur. Here are 3 lessons from the story that’ll help you wake up earlier, start most mornings productively, and get as much as you can out of every single day.

1. Your brain has a creative edge early in the day.

In a classic student-teacher move, the billionaire tells his two disciples that he holds the key to their success — and in order to receive it, they must meet him very early the following morning.

When his students arrive, the master explains: “You have already received the key by waking up at 5 AM, because in doing so, you’ve given your brain an advantage in succeeding throughout the day.”

The scientific concept behind this edge is called transient hypo-frontality. When in this state, your brain is more likely to go into “flow.” You’ll be less prone to worry and over-analysis, more daring in your choices and ideas, and better able to focus.

You can trigger transient hypo-frontality in different ways, for example by taking a walk or exercising, but the early morning environment is also conducive to it. You brain is just “booting up,” and the extra dopamine and serotonin from daybreak tranquility will make you feel energized and peaceful at the same time.

2. Balance your mind, health, heart, and soul.

After explaining the mindset advantage of waking up early, the billionaire explains there are three other “interior empires” the students need to master.

Your “health-set” is your physical health. Use the emptiness of early mornings to get in a little exercise to reduce stress, gain energy, and be happier, all of which will, in turn, help you live longer.

Your “heartset” is your emotional wellbeing. Journaling in the morning can be a space to express feelings you can’t share elsewhere — the insights of which you can later use to communicate better with others.

Finally, your “soulset” is your spiritual balance. We all believe different things, but whatever we do have faith in allows us to connect with ourselves and the world at large. Writing down your values and briefly looking at them each morning will help you remember why you’re doing what you’re doing.

For a balanced, successful life, ground yourself in mindset, healthset, heartset, and soulset every day.

3. Productive days begin with the 20/20/20 formula.

When the students ask him what exactly to do at 5 AM, the billionaire shares his formula: The 20/20/20 rule divides your first hour of the day into three equal blocks of exercise, reflection, and learning.

Exercising for 20 minutes will not just get your blood flowing, it’ll also make you sweat. Sweating decreases cortisol, a hormone related to stress and fear. It also releases BDNF, which helps create new neural pathways faster and repairs brain cells.

20 minutes of reflection will plant your feet firmly on the ground, no matter what the day ahead brings. You can use them to meditate, visualize your big goals and to-dos for the day, or journal and write down any ideas or inspiring thoughts. Quiet in the morning makes for patience later in the day.

Lastly, 20 minutes of real, interested learning go further than hours of social media, news, and mindless entertainment. Read a book, study someone you admire, or take a free online course. Whatever you learn, make sure it’s something you’re really interested in, something that’ll make your brain shoot sparks rather than go numb.

20 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes of reflection, and 20 minutes of learning. The 20/20/20 rule will maximize your chances of having a productive day, every day.

Summary

The 5 AM Club will motivate you to get up earlier, build a morning routine, and prioritize the internal work that’ll lead to external success.

Here are 3 lessons worth remembering:

  1. Waking up early gives your brain a competitive edge because it makes it easier for you to get into a flow state.
  1. Balance your mind, health, heart, and soul for true self-mastery.
  1. To not waste the first hour of the day, use the 20/20/20 rule; dedicate 20 minutes to exercise, reflection, and learning each for productive days.

Recommended Reads

TitleAuthor
The 5 AM ClubRobin Sharma

Sources & Links For This Post

TitleLink
Does sleep fragmentation impact recuperation? A review and re-analysishttps://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1046/j.1365-2869.1999.00161.x
The Transient Hypofrontality Edgehttps://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/the-edge-peak-performance-psychology/201703/the-transient-hypofrontality-edge
Flow Summaryhttps://fourminutebooks.com/flow-summary/
The Way You’re Communicating Might Be Messing Up Your Relationshipshttps://forge.medium.com/the-4-ears-model-of-good-communication-bf46c39cdf50
How My Values Give Me Direction in Lifehttps://medium.com/mind-cafe/the-12-values-i-live-by-aba9e7d5cb73
Brain-derived neurotrophic factorhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain-derived_neurotrophic_factor
Learn Proper Meditation in 2 Minuteshttps://medium.com/@ngoeke/learn-proper-meditation-in-2-minutes-e7d1b63bfb14

Life As We Know It Will Forever Be Changed

Here’s a tiny question. What is the lesson COVID is trying to teach us? As much of the world now enters the second wave of lockdowns, thanks to the second wave of the virus –– or, in America, faces the grim situation where the first wave never really crested, and became a tsunami of death –– what should we be learning?

I think of COVID as a message backwards, from the future.

And it says something life as you know it is now over. The future is now going to become a bitter and bruising battle for the basics. The basics. Air, water, food, medicine, and energy. Things that many of us took for granted, would simply be around as if by magic.

That age is now coming to an end. Did you ever think that breathable air would be in short supply? It’s already being marketed as a luxury in (where else) California. The very same California which is on fire, on the one hand, and wracked by COVID, on the other. Result? Air itself has become a luxury in a collapsing America. That is what the future looks like, except for all the basics.

Another way to say that is that a certain way of life is now coming to an end.

To make that point, let me ask the question: why have Eastern countries done better on COVID than the ones in the west? What does this teach us that money, power, and history are no guarantee for success in this battle for basics that the future is now about. Maybe the rich and 1% can buy clean air –– but what about society as a whole? Forget it.

People have to work together to provide one another the basics.

And that is where the western response to COVID has fallen down. Western nations are still fixated on the illusory notions of freedom. But freedom itself is what is going to change radically in this age –– if not by choice then by force of nature’s revenge.

Consider the example, as usual, of America. Americans wouldn’t cooperate with lockdowns. Governors revolted and made it illegal to make people wear masks. Meanwhile the red states–– states that are republican led –– became the world’s worst COVID belt, because people refused to stop… going to bars… having barbecues… eating at restaurants. Their President –– who’s now been hospitalized for COVID –– encouraged them NOT to take it seriously. The result was that COVID exploded, and has probably become a permanent fact of life –– another dystopian one –– in a collapsing America, hence, even air itself will be a luxury for the rich.

Americans in other words, were obsessed with “freedom.”

One certain idea of it.Freedom is an individualistic exercise in consumerism, in status and pleasure seeking. What Americans don’t tend to understand is that the “old” list of American “freedoms” is now badly obsolete.

What good is it carrying around a gun… when a tsunami or megafire is approaching?

What good is it being able to battle over whose God is stronger… when you can’t breathe the air anymore?

Life as the American set of freedoms is over now.

Let me enumerate a few of those. The freedom to waste and squander. The freedom to believe in any old malarkey you like, no matter how ignorant. The freedom to abuse and exploit. The freedom to make the point of your life as shallow, foolish, and stupid as you may want to, like just making more money. None of these this were ever really “freedom.”

What such freedoms really were and are is the toxic hangover of centuries of brutality.

Americans think they should be free to waste –– while half the world still goes without decent food, water, or sanitation. They imagine they should be free to carry guns to Starbucks – while much of the world has been enslaved to pick those coffee beans. I’m not trying to moralize, just making a point. The world largely thinks of the American idea of freedom as a folly and a bewildering form of self-destruction.

COVID is trying to teach us, in no uncertain terms, that we are not really free in these old ways – and never were.

They’re just paths to self destruction. When we waste and squander, we pollute the skies, and the planet heats up. When we abuse the natural world, it bites back in the form of everything from pandemics to wildfires to floods.

Let me summarize what I am trying to say here. The economist in me will put it this way. The global economy has been predicated on one simple transaction. The west and north –– and particularly America –– overconsumes, and the east and south is who and what is exploited to make that possible. That transaction is now over. The age of western overconsumption is now at an end. Even the west is starting to suffer shortages of the basics –– beginning with air. By the next decade, water, food, and energy will be in shortage, there, too.

The west can continue to pretend it can overconsume –– by which I mean spend too much on consumerist toys which cost the reefs, rivers, forests, animals, skies, not to mention the potential of people in the east who are mostly stuck in assembly lines making stuff for it. Since that stuff is artificially cheap, those in the east are exploited –– never fighting climate change, mass extinction, ecological collapse themselves –– or even to give themselves decent food, water, sanitation, and medicine, which means pandemics that then affect the globe erupt at an increasing pace now.

That is why the whole world is coming to a standstill.

This fatal bargain is now coming to an end. One great economic age is ending –– the age of western overconsumption. In hard terms, that means the west is consuming more than the entire planet can provide sustainably. Which is precisely why catastrophes from climate change to mass extinction to pandemics are now ripping our lives apart.

So where do we go from here?

Well, we must ask the question: how did that age come to be, the age of western overconsumption? If we want to fix it, that is. The answer, though, is ugly and difficult, and many people don’t want to hear it, much less understand it.

The age of western overconsumption is really a consequence of a simple, brutal, dismal truth: 20% of the world is rich and white, the other 80% is poor and not white. The 20% of the world that is rich and white is precisely that portion which enslaved, brutalized, and colonized the part that is 80% poor and not white.

Those centuries of abuse and exploitation led the rich and white societies to enjoy a generous surplus.

You can think of that as everything from gold in bank vaults to all those hundreds of kinds of coffee, tea, and sugar that you can find today in the aisles at Walmart. The age of western overconsumption is the product of the previous age of western slavery, colonialism, and empire. That age allowed the west to get rich –– and the west then spent its riches on consumption.

Economists once upon a time argued all this was a good thing. That buying stuff from poor countries would allow those countries to prosper, too. And that has been the case to a minor degree –– there have been some successes, like South Korea and Japan, and some half-successes, like China and Malaysia. But “externalities” dominated even this effect. What that means in plain English is that while the rich westerners buying stuff from poor easterners might have balanced back the scales of empire and slavery –– hey, at least they were being paid now, right? –– nobody much noticed the effects on the planet.

This central transaction of the global economy, rich westerners buying stuff from poor easterners, was flawed in one central way. It was artificially cheap.

Because it was still OK to exploit poor easterners –– to pay them the least that rich westerners could get away with, instead of enough, say, to have decent water, food, sanitation, medicine, income –– why wouldn’t it then be perfectly OK to abuse and exploit nature too?

The east lost wars, and ended up enslaved. Nature has never really fought back at all –– until now. And finally we are seeing how terrible its fury can be. Even the west can’t outrun an age of catastrophe like the one we face now –– like I said, it’s already doing worse than the east when it comes to COVID.

So how do we fix all this? Well, the truth is that “we” probably can’t.

I can tell you how but westerners by and large aren’t interested. What they seem to be interested in is never changing. In ways to be able to go on living in wasteful, harmful, toxic, abusive, exploitative ways, like Americans are –– if you tell them how to do that, they will admire and respect you. Gentle and wise Europe has made some progress, it’s true. But mostly when you tell people like Americans that they must change NOW, and change fast, they give you the look: their eyes go dead and their jaws tighten. They’re holding in the anger of having to hear something that they don’t want to, aren’t equipped to, can’t handle.

“We” aren’t going to fix the age of western overconsumption.

What it would take is something like this: the rich west agreeing to pay nature. After all, nature works hard for us –– it provides us everything from water to air to food to medicine. If the rich west were ready to agree to pay nature for the work it does –– instead of exploit and abuse it –– then treaties could be made to compensate eastern countries and their people. To pay them living wages for doing things like caring for rivers, reefs, forests, oceans, animals, and so forth, instead of just toiling away on assembly lines to make cheap junk for rich westerners.

But that is not going to happen, probably. I say that for a simple reason.

One topic nobody much in the west wants to hear about is fixing the future. They say they want to hear about it. They are constantly asking what to do about the state of things but when people talk or write about it, only a handful truly listen. Not even a handful. So what I think the majority of westerners mean when they ask what to do is: “tell me a way to never have to change. I want to live the old way –– the wasteful, exploitative, abusive way.”

Having a serious discussion with westerners, especially with Americans in particular, about fixing the future has become impossible.

That should be self-evident, though. They are not willing to change their lives even when a lethal pandemic is ripping through their societies.

And yet the rich west is the only part of the world with the money to really allow the future to be fixed. What does that tell you? It tells me it won’t be. And so what will happen probably is this. The world will go on spiraling headlong into the new Dark Age its entered. The fools and fanatics and extremists will go on rising to power, because the average person is incapable of change, but the old way of life is collapsing, and in that vacuum is where EVERY fascism is really born.

Life as you know it really is coming to and end, my friend.

The problem? Not enough of us can face that simple fact with courage, grace, truth, kindness, love and goodness. And so what do you expect to happen? If change can’t, then only collapse is left.

My Grandpa, John “Poppa” Tracey

Grandpa & Me

Yesterday, was a very difficult day for me as I said goodbye to my grandfather, my Poppa, John Tracey. He lived 84 beautiful years and raised 6 incredible children, including my own father. His nicknames for me were Carrot Top- I was his first redheaded grandchild, or Squirt- because I was short as child.

We developed a bond that is really hard to explain, as a child when I would sit on his lap I would just trace his panther/jaguar tattoo – and I did the same as I said I love you to him for the last time I saw him I chose not to say goodbye to him because it was too hard for me. He has always called me Squirt– all the way to the end I will always be his Squirt.

I remember him telling me stories of his days growing up, we shared a love of westerns– African Queen, we loved doing the crossword puzzle together, and when attending family parties- inside or in the backyard I always kept my eyes out for Poppa because I loved his hugs they were always warm, tight (not too tight), and full of love; he always gave the perfect hug. I could go for one of those right now.

He loved family, fishing, golfing, New York Yankees, and talking about his Troy days. I loved watching him tinker, every summer he and Nana would come visit us during the Tracey Family Camporee, our annual 3 day camping trip on Saturday they would bring fresh bread and the clams for our big cookout that evening, and when I moved into the place I live now he brought over some stuff to seal up my driveway its still sitting in my basement. Poppa always loved to help out.

Seeing him at my college graduation in 2013 with a smile on his face I could tell that he was proud that through my disability I succeeded – he always had a smile on his face, that is what I loved about him is even when he was hurting or not feeling well – he was smiling.

He was a soldier for the US Army, in the Korean War came home and married my beautiful grandma, and raised 6 incredible children and 13 grandchildren.

It is the hardest to lose those who loved and nurtured us, and who we loved and cared for most. I have a treasure trove of memories that I will hold on to forever, that will make me laugh and smile. I will miss him so much but I will never forget his beautiful smile. I keep hearing his voice. I miss him terribly, I miss his hugs and will love him and miss him for a long time.

RIP Poppa 1936–2020

From left to right: Uncle Matt, Uncle Jay, Aunt Jude, John (Poppa), JoAnn (Nana), my father, Aunt Kris, Uncle Mark

Letter to A Younger Me

Dear 6 Year Old Me,

Right now life might not make any sense and you might be thinking that you are crazy reading a letter from yourself when you turn 30 years old, but I am about to drop some knowledge on you. You have soo much life left to live… enjoy it.

You are 6 years old –– so the year is 1996 your going have a new baby in the house– a little sister in a few months time. You have a little brother– he’s 3 and cute as a button. Your mom and brother walk you down the street to school

You still live in the house that you were brought home from the hospital to. Your bedroom is Barney- purple and you love to read –– EVERYTHING… which is a good thing, never stop reading– ever.

Your mom is awesome and she will always help you don’t be afraid to ask for it no matter what and if she asks you to go do something go it will be fun because when you get older you will be more like her than you will ever know.

Ask your dad if you can go with him to the grocery store –– whenever you can because he loves you, wants to spend time with you and cares about you. He believes in you more than you will ever know. Take time to help your parents, you may be a kid but you are awesome.

When your sister arrives you to will eventually become the best of friends be there for her, she will be there for you too.

Love,

30 year old you