Monday Required Reading

1. What Happens When No One Invites You to Their Pandemic Pod?

“We have lost the everyday distractions — the small talk at the school drop-off and pickup line, the banter at the office, the often tedious networking events. ‘We were able to avoid the fact that we were lonely before this because we could stay busy with a whole bunch of people.'”

2. Trends in anxiety among adults in the United States, 2008-2018: Rapid increases among young adults.

“The results from this study suggest poorer mental health in the US in terms of increasing anxiety overall and among most sociodemographic subgroups over the past 11 years. These findings should be considered in conjunction with other data that show increasing mental health problems of other types (e.g., depression), as well as the role of anxiety as a precursor to or indicator of severity of co-occurring mental health problems. Focusing resources on reducing anxiety, especially among young adults, is a cost-effective clinical and public health approach to stemming the tide of this problem; this would set the foundation for a healthier society in the future, as young adults age and adolescents reach adulthood.”

What resources mores specifically? 

3. Sea swimming is ‘amazing’ for mental health and menopause. Thanks to the Good Wife’s example, in the spirit of that video, I floated on my back in the Salish Sea near dusk last night despite less than ideal conditions. I can attest to the mental health assertion at least. And shouldn’t it be womenopause?

4. 8 Strategies to Improve Participation in Your Virtual Classroom. Teaching on-line makes me anxious! One week to go, wish me well.

 

We All Have Fears

The Rev. Melanie Wallschlaeger, Director for Evangelical Mission for the Southwestern Washington Synod.

“We all have fears of some kind. We can also have these fears in our lives as congregations. . . . We can have fears about the future, fear that our congregation will die, or not be relevant. Do we fear what our congregations might look like if they become more welcoming to our neighbors? Do we fear what our congregations will look like after the pandemic? Do we fear what our congregations might look like if others come and join us and help make decisions, and bring their gifts?

When we think about our congregational ministry, when we think about worship, will an openness to gifts of diversity in our congregations change what I feel is most precious? Will it mean we sing songs I don’t know or like? Does it mean I will lose what I know and hold most dear or value? Will I lose my place of privilege if we welcome others? Am I afraid of the future at this moment because it’s largely unknown?”

My sense of our congregation is yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. Major props to Wallschlaeger for asking the exact right questions.

Related. Last night on NextDoor (please remind me, why am I still a member?) someone reported on a Black Lives Matter protest. Since NextDoor has no journalistic standards, a certain hysteria quickly set in. Some of the numerous commenters said they regularly check the online County police scanner to learn what bad things are happening before leaving their home.

Let that sink in.

One of two things is true. A mostly unfounded epidemic of fear has descended upon the land or I’m dangerously naive of the many risks to life and limb.

Tuesday Required Reading

1. What if Some Kids Are Better Off at Home? Some will criticize this as an out-of-touch example of privilege, but that would be a mistake. Every educator should reflect on the “silent misery” of which Schroeder writes. More broadly, there’s a “less is more” outline for meaningful educational reform in her stories.

2. Watch Olympian Katie Ledecky swim with full glass of milk on her head. Hard to find a more dominant athlete in any sport. If I tried it there’d be broken glass on the bottom of the pool.

3. I’m Traveling, Even Though I’m Stuck at Home. What happens when Rick Steves is grounded?

“Travel teaches us that there’s more to life than increasing its speed.”

4. Money, Morality and What Religion Has to Do With It.*

“Some of the most interesting variations emerged when divinity and morality were juxtaposed with wealth. As the chart below illustrates, those living in advanced economies were less likely to link morality with divinity than those in emerging or developing economies. For instance, in Kenya — which had a gross domestic product per capita of $4,509 in 2019 — 95% said that belief in God was integral to being moral; in Sweden, where the GDP figure was $55,815, only 9% felt the same.”

I dig Kenya, but I’m siding with Sweden on this one.

5. Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny Explain QAnon. I cycled with Ben and Brandy Sunday evening. I dare anyone to listen to them and then argue the (dis)United States is not in decline. Are we even trying anymore?

6. Extra credit vid on epistemic trust. For the educators among us. And parents. And anyone that seeks to help others. I use “perspective taking” for “mentalizing”.

Thanks to DB and LG for #4 and #6.

Tuesday’s Required Reading

1. Eddy Binford-Ross, a high school journalist, reports on protests in Portland.

2. Whales Get A Break As Pandemic Creates Quieter Oceans. Silver lining.

“The drop in noise could be helpful for endangered killer whales that live in the area, known as Southern Resident killer whales, which rose to national attention two years ago when a mother orca carried her dead calf for days.

The whales use sound to hunt Chinook salmon through echolocation, much like a bat does. They also make a wide array of social sounds. Each pod actually has its own distinct dialect of calls. But ships make noise at some of the same sound frequencies as the whales.”

3. Why Some Young People Fear Social Isolation More Than COVID-19.

“It might be tempting to think that FaceTime and Zoom provide substitutes for in-person social outlets, especially for a generation of digital natives who grew up with smartphones. But, therapists say, talking by small screen offers no replacement for a calming hug and can miss the subtleties of a compassionate expression.”

All is not well. Eight percent of American teens attempt suicide each year. Is there a more telling, damning statistic?

4. An FBI hostage negotiator explains how to persuade people to wear masks. His insights are highly relevant to bridging most of our intensifying divides. Don’t you think?

We’re Too Optimistic?

That’s AC Shilton’s sense in “Why You’re Probably Not So Great At Risk Assessment”.

Shilton closes this way:

“Our brains may sometimes be too optimistic. While that isn’t always bad (going through life thinking constantly about every bad thing that could happen isn’t healthy either), in a situation like this, your brain could expose you to unnecessary risk.”

AC Shilton’s bio* says she’s a two time Ironman finisher and a chicken farmer, so what’s not to like, but I think she gets this wrong. Most people’s challenge lies in the parenthetical note—constantly thinking about worse case scenarios.

Where’s that essay?

Coronavirus deserves attention and we should beat it back through proven mitigation strategies. But I’m not going to fool myself. I’m four months closer to dying than pre-pandemic. Could be skin cancer. Could be someone texting while driving who takes Blanca and me out this afternoon, could be heart disease, could be a tree during tomorrow’s run in Priest Point Park.

I use sunscreen, I wear a mask when inside or unable to maintain proper distance, I eat healthily and exercise regularly, I use seatbelts; but I’m not going to fool myself. I am going to die. The humble blog will be no more. Guessing whether ‘rona or one of the other myriad possibilities is gonna get me, it ain’t even close.

*Screen Shot 2020-07-02 at 10.23.36 AM.png

Being Twenty Something

A few months ago I wrote about all the challenges with “Being Twenty Right Now“. Fast forward to today, and I could add to the list.

Since writing that, I’ve heard lots of people talk about how miserable they were in their 20’s. So much so, it sounds as if people are writing off the decade. “If you can just hang on until 30,” their moto seems to be, “it gets much better.”

This idea is unfortunate. Life is way too short to write off any decade.

Being twenty something doesn’t have to be miserable. Why wait to make friends, do socially redeeming work, and build healthy habits?

The Lonely Majority

How loneliness could be changing your brain and body.

“A  2018 study. . . found that 54% of 20,000 Americans surveyed reported feeling lonely. In the span of a bit more than a year, the number rose to 61%. Generation Z adults 18-22 years old are supposedly the loneliest generation, outpacing Boomers, Gen X and Millennials, despite being more connected than ever.”

Wowza. The silent, underreported epidemic.

“Loneliness might conjure images of being apart from friends and family, but the feeling runs much deeper than not having plans on a Friday night or than going stag to a wedding. Evolutionarily, being part of a group has meant protection, sharing the workload and increased odds of survival. After all, humans take a long time to mature. We need our tribes.

‘It’s very distressing when we are not a part of a group,’ said Julianne Holt-Lundstad, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University. ‘We have to deal with our environment entirely on our own, without the help of others, which puts our brain in a state of alert, but that also signals the rest of our body to be in a state of alert.’

Staying in that state of alert, that high state of stress, means wear and tear on the body. Stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine can contribute to sleeplessness, weight gain and anxiety over extended periods of exposure, according to the Mayo Clinic.”

What to do? Doug Nemecek, chief medical officer at Cigna:

“‘We need to reach out to some friends and make sure we maintain those connections and have meaningful conversations. It’s important for all of us to be comfortable asking other people how they feel.”

And for the lonely majority to risk being vulnerable when asked.

Being Twenty Something Right Now

Empathy for our young adult friends and children is in order. Imagine being them and trying to:

  • cultivate a sense of purpose
  • find a job that contributes to the common good, pays a livable wage, and comes with medical benefits
  • find an affordable place of your own to live
  • afford a car or other forms of reliable transportation
  • get out of debt
  • save some money each month
  • develop the self discipline and knowledge to smartly invest for future expenses
  • find a caring, loving, compatible partner with whom to be intimate
  • decide whether to marry and have children
  • decide whether to commit to a faith community, if so, finding a compelling one
  • contend with friends and acquaintances inauthentic, curated selves on-line
  • create a close circle of friends who aren’t so overwhelmed with all above that they have the energy and desire to spend time together
  • worry about growing social inequities and the fate of the natural world
  • cultivate the discipline to eat well, exercise, and maintain decent physical health
  • manage your anxieties about all of the above and maintain good mental health

In the context of a global pandemic about which so much is unknown. How bad will it get? When will it end? How should we “reopen”? What exactly will the “new normal” be?

This pandemic presents unique challenges to many twenty somethings, whom for whatever reasons, already struggle with anxiety, depression, and related mental health challenges.

Extra patience and kindness with our young adult friends and children are in order.