AHOY!

I came across a fascinating deconstruction of the notorious nursery rhyme, Row, Row, Row Your Boat. I hadn’t given it much thought prior; however, I have to admit, it’s been eye-opening!

Before writing this, I did just a bit of supporting research – chalk it up to 18 and a half years of schooling and 3 college degrees – to help substantiate what I’m going to state. Please understand that I’m also going to use a little bit of poetic license, as this is just a wild theory, taking these sing-song lyrics and injecting new life into them, and hopefully lightening the mood for one or two of you, now and again, as your mind wanders “gently down the stream”…

Outside of this being what I’ve already mentioned is a simple nursery rhyme, new information – theory, basically – points to the song’s representation as a motivational mantra. Line by line, I’ll break down the song, and show how a new and unique perspective adds a deeper dimension.

Let’s start with the lyrics themselves (I’m sure I probably don’t need to do this, but humor me!):

Row, row, row your boat

Gently down the stream.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,

 Life is but a dream.

 

 

Okay, let’s take this one line at a time:

Row, row, row your boat

A boat is a mode of transportation that is used when traversing a body of water, right?

What if that “body of water” is the boat itself? Revolutionary? Let me explain!

The human body is over 50% water, roughly. According to Dr. Jeffrey Utz of Allegheny University, humans, at birth, are 78% water, dropping to 65% at around age one. Adult men consist of approximately 60% water and adult females, 55%. (These percentages vary based on body fat mass, as well as other factors.) Water in the human body is necessary to facilitate digestion, it lubricates joints, it regulates body temperature, it helps deliver oxygen all over the body, it aids in the reproduction and survival of the body’s cells, and it acts as a shock absorber for the brain and spinal cord. As outlined by the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the brain and heart are composed of 73% water, the skin contains 64% water, 79% of the kidneys are water, and the lungs are over 80% water. Surprisingly, even the bones consist of 31% water.

 

So, taking this idea that “the boat” is, in fact, your own body, this song starts off by suggesting that we move through life with a certain amount of ease, in an effort to ensure a level of self-preservation:

Gently down the stream.

Now that we’ve established that this transportation vessel (i.e. the “boat”) is something of immeasurable value (our own bodies), taking caution on the journey seems to be a no-brainer! And this “stream” – what is that, exactly?

The stream of consciousness, maybe?

The voyage through life? (The mid-Nineteenth Century artist, Thomas Cole, created a series of art pieces, depicting four stages of life: childhood, youth, manhood, and old age, all taking place in a boat on a river, “the River of Life”, accompanied by a guardian angel.)

 

 

How about the idea of ‘going with the flow’… Hmmm… Let that sink in for just a minute…

Don’t fight against the current (unless, of course, you’re a salmon…), drumming up adversity and difficulties for yourself, risking possible damage and/or jeopardizing the safety of your transportation vessel. Instead, go with the flow

…moving on…
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

Cheerfully. Gleefully. Sweetly. Vivaciously.

More to the point, though, the converse:

Not maliciously. Not angrily. Not struggling. Not anxiously.

Chronic stress has been proven to damage the structure and connectivity of the brain. Neuroscientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have presented findings that suggest that young persons exposed to chronic stress are prone to mental problems including mood disorders later in life, as well as suffering from learning difficulties. Reduction in brain white matter has also been linked to continual exposure to prolonged stress, and such matter reduction results in a change of the flow of electrical signals between neurons and brain regions. The brain’s response to both excitement and stress can, physiologically-speaking, be very similar, some studies show that different subregions of the prefrontal cortex respond differently to negative versus positive stimuli. Furthermore, far too often, excitement stimuli appears to be acute whereas stress stimuli is more often chronic. Without the ability to fight or flee, the “fight or flight” response within the adrenal system becomes torment. I believe it was Shakespeare who said “A tragedy is a comedy misunderstood”. That’s not to say that any of life’s tragedies – the loss of a job, the passing of a family member, devastation due to a natural disaster, etc. – should be viewed as a misunderstood comedy; however, often we dwell more on tragedies than we do on comedies – mulling over the circumstances of a traumatic event long after it has occurred, but allowing a joyful and light-hearted moment to escape like a wave on the shore – and perhaps we should turn this behavior around… We all need to traverse this thing called LIFE more merrily, I think…

Life is but a dream.

This brings us back to the idea of consciousness (the stream of consciousness mentioned above)…

It’s time to wake up to the reality of things – this life is temporal! None of us is going to live forever! Regardless of how meticulous you maintain your transportation vessel – and I’m not saying it’s a bad idea; I’m just saying these human bodies of ours were not designed to last forever – or how gentle and pristine the stream you’re traversing happens to be, whether by careful manipulation or sheer luck, just about the only thing we have control over in this life is our attitude! Maybe that’s why “merrily” is repeated F.O.U.R. times – emphasizing the importance of adopting the right attitude as we travel down the stream of life.

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So, as you ponder these words in a new light, what will your response be?

“Good morning, God!”     or     “Good God… morning…”

Sunrise over river Val -d'Or region

Detail-Oriented

“The devil is in the details.”

I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase from time to time. Have you ever taken a moment to consider what it truly means? In truth, it depicts a situation that, on the surface, seems simple and uncomplicated, but when investigated further, the details bring to light difficulties or mysterious elements that may have been previously overlooked.
Pay attention, and you’ll catch a glimpse of subtle differences – minute details – that can tell quite a story. A wince of pain when someone thinks no one else is looking. The redness of the eyes that just cried a river of tears in solitude. Broken and bent blades of grass, hinting to soft footsteps nearby. Masked accents that creep to the forefront amid fatigue, anger, or excitement… The warmth of an item. The rate of breathing. Moisture – or lack of it. The tone of one’s voice. The questions asked, and responses given… All tell-tale signs, if we pay attention and apply basic logic.

I like to believe I have relatively sharp skills when it comes to observation. As a parent, it’s almost a requirement. As a single parent, being without the ability to survey the evidence beyond the “given” story can be quite a detriment! Of course, to err is human, right?

And here’s where I “err” most: reading people’s reactions to and perceptions of ME! Sometimes I really need subtle cues to take the form of 18-foot-wide neon-lit billboards on 20-foot-high poles or bricks being hurled in my general direction (read: at my head, basically) with colorful Post-It notes (you must understand – I’m a fiend for Post-It notes!!) taped to them, explicitly detailing one’s intent.

post-it_pinata-bluepost-it_pinata-red

Maybe it’s in an attempt to preserve a bit of mystery. Or maybe it’s because of failed attempts in the past, and a desire not to dramatically face-plant and risk public humiliation… Maybe it’s a truly broken filter when it comes to stepping beyond outlying details, inanimate objects, and observable conditions and into the vulnerability of interpersonal relationships. Maybe it’s in an effort to never again re-live the sensation of having all the mirrors within the proverbial Fun House instantaneously shattered in a blistering display of destruction, devastation, and chaos – a brief moment of exuberant light dancing off every small shard of deadly glass, rocketing through silent space, before having it all come crashing down to a final resting of irreparable carnage and utter darkness… But, I digress…

Just recently, in a rather embarrassing and hurtful scenario, the muttering “I can’t believe she can’t tell the difference between kindness and interest… That’s pretty sad!” could be heard just above the bustling of the surrounding crowd, the circulating melodies and harmonies of entertainment, and at the perfect pitch to shatter a fragile heart. Truly, it is sad when “kindness” is so rare a trait expressed that it is foreign in its exhibition among friends and strangers… So, how does one decipher the difference between “kindness” and “interest”? How deeply is the devil hidden in such details of one’s motives that those details may be so grossly misinterpreted? And is it a purposeful dance that leads some to engage, entice, prey on, and ultimately deceive others who may exhibit subtle cues of vulnerability and trust, begging that they fall victim, committing the egregious error of relinquishing their guard, throwing (social and emotional) caution to the wind, and rendering their hearts unguarded? What is to be gained except to see the anguish of another soul? Are there truly those out there so cold? So uncaring? So self-absorbed, that the carnage they leave in their wake is of no consequence?

I’m sure we can all answer – and maybe share a story or two to vilify – that question…

“The devil is in the details.”

The situation seems simple enough when first looked at. However, upon closer examination, there are elements that come to light that change the perspective and understanding. If one has encountered enough “devilish” scenarios, the factor of trust that accompany any new situation may be lacking, if it exists at all… Even if one struggles with carrying a diminishing remnant of hope – hoping beyond all desperation that, just once, there is a chance that this new-found rose will be without a thorn, and not cause impalement, pain, and some sort of soul-aching sorrow – the likelihood of acting on that glimmer of hope is so remote (the rationalization: if the rose is, indeed, without a thorn, it shouldn’t be touched, as it is most likely the only one of its kind, and therefore to steal away with it would be an act of pure selfishness).

Rose Border (Vintage)

So what is one to do when a new scenario is displayed? A new stage is set, and the play is unfolding, scene by scene, but a script is not available to outsiders – participation is voluntary, and the outcome is uncertain. Do you remain seated, near the rear of the theatre, observing the actors, the setting, the tone, the details… Do you seek out the devil? Or do you boldly walk onto the stage, secure in the knowledge that the timbers under your feet will sustain you throughout the performance, despite the unscripted nature of each scene to come? Is there a cautious approach with quiet, deliberate yet tentative steps, withholding commitment upon further inspection? The question arises: will waiting enhance or reduce the intensity of the scenario’s outcome? Will a “thornless” opportunity pass you by, or will you escape a moonlight tango with a sinister partner?
I’ve been asked to move closer to the stage, but I’m not sure if it’s an invitation to join the performance just yet… At least, I think it was a genuine calling toward the reserved seats   (I reiterate, this type of perception is where I am horrifically unskilled, inadequate, and definitely lacking in experience)! Kindness was on display; however, as not to suffer another earth-shaking, heart-shattering, and socially-awkward “face-plant”, with discernment, I’m leaving it merely as a kindness, for now – until something more concrete (like a brick thrown at my head with a Post-it note taped to it stating, “Hey You, Silly! I’m interested!”) becomes (unmistakably, painfully) apparent.

Live. On. Purpose.

“Life is full of intention.”

I overheard this admonition from a co-worker the other morning. Life is full of intention.

How very true!

boots-in-concrete It was humorous to eavesdrop on the conversation a bit longer – between the newly-hired receptionist and one of the business owners who, truth-be-told, is favoring the thoughts of retirement yet dragging his feet through every day of existence as if wading through wet cement. “You’re one of those” he accused her, as she practically danced from the copy room to the front lobby of the office.

Most would assume that an age difference between the two individuals played a large part in creating such a chasm, but they would be mistaken in this case; it’s purely a difference in attitude. And an attitude difference by choice! The business owner, whether intentionally or unbeknownst to even himself, chooses to go through his days with the most curmudgeon perspective while the receptionist looks forward to new opportunities, seeks out adventures, and views adversities as fortuitous contingencies for learning and growth. There is purpose and intent in the perspective chosen by each individual – in the simplest of terms: glass-half-full, or glass-half-empty.

pouring water in a glass collection isolated

Personally, I know there are days when the screech of the alarm ripping me from slumber and the peace I so treasure in the few blissful hours of rest I actually obtain each night sends me into a “wading through wet cement” state of mind, and I have to stop myself even before my toes touch the floor, petitioning for peace and grace, and I breathe in a prayer for the patience necessary to make it through whatever I may face once I’ve left the bed. But, then, I know there are also those days that I fail to recognize my inner curmudgeon, and burst into the storms of the day, a hurricane of emotion myself – ready to ravage peaceful villages and destroy whole communities with gale-force torrents! Where, on those days, do I place my intent?
umbrellas
Is there ever a situation when a drop in a still (not frozen!) pond does not create a ripple? Can purposefulness be left in the closet and only reached for when occasion calls for it, such as a rain coat, an umbrella, or a pair of sunglasses? Can intention be turned on and off like a light switch to suit a mood or circumstance? Or it is a fully-on, wholly-in commitment?

 

Life is full of intention.

I will have to “tattoo” this somewhere where I will see it and be reminded (by literal, visual sight, or merely by striking, uncomfortable metaphorical and/or physical pain…) that what I do, and how I act – and react – is a deliberate and intentional choice I make… Or rather, it should be!

ripple-water

Unique Boutique

I inquisitively peered beyond the façade today, and for a moment, felt my heart sink. Despite a presentable (at least I have been under the impression it was pleasing) storefront, I was awakened to disturbing details. Statistics… purely unhuman and infallibly cold calculations that do not consider ever being considerate, and stare back at the consumer, stone-faced but seemingly without malice or weapon, shattering dreams, hopes, aspirations, and tender hearts.

Twenty blog posts over the course of roughly twenty-two weeks (not counting this one). Over thirty followers now (and a most humble and sincere “thank you” to you all!!). But, in looking at my readership ratings, a most obvious and truly disheartening steady decline… My posting average still remains about 4 new blog posts per month; however, interest in what I am writing seems to have waned drastically. And I ponder if such significant lack of interest should predicate the captain’s call to abandon ship.

1425_3Now, of course, I could invoke the trusty ostrich philosophy, and bury my head in the sand, choosing to ignore the deafening silence played out in the melodic realism of the statistical evidence, as crystal clear and undisputable as any such findings. Conversely, I can fabricate rationalizations that support the finite statistics while leaving a glimmer of hope, such as: people have been busy with the timeliness of the holidays and all the effort, planning, preparation, and participation they entail, and leave blog-reading by the wayside. Another possibility is that some folks out there in the blogosphere, and beyond, suffer from the same two syndromes I too am burdened with: a reading disability that makes reading both incredibly difficult and time consuming (and after 10- to 12-hour workdays, eyes that just don’t want to focus anymore!), and simply, lack of free time to devote to pleasure reading! (I’ve been told that throughout the far reaches of the world, both ‘free time’ and ‘reading for pleasure’ are true events, and not merely works of fiction. I myself remain a skeptic; however, there is always opportunity for growth and a broadening of our understanding, right?)

Or, I can very well dim the illuminated open beckoning call, roll up the awning, shake the dust off the “welcome” mat, drop the window shades, and latch the doors secure amid a darkened dwelling place. Close up shop and proceed forward, or at least onward whatever the direction…

detour

A possible detour (as is often the case in my life)? 

I’ve been visited time and again (translation: haunted) by this quickly-spoken inspirational gem of wisdom, thinking it merely a bobble of whimsy, refusing to consciously allow it to penetrate to the inner depths of my consciousness. Why? Because it tore at my desire to be a people-pleaser, confounded my need for justification, and dispelled fallacies that acknowledgment and edification from others were the only signs of success. I was raised to believe without the praises of others, the conjoined trumpeting of the masses, one was nothing short of invisible; I’ve spent my entire life being invisible, and I was hoping that through my writing, at least one wayward beam of light would rest upon me – not fame and fortune, per se, but a hiatus from utter invisibility.

Specialty stores. (Hang on; this is the same post – I didn’t get lost!) Specialty stores: those small retailers that cater to specific needs and individualistic clientele. A vendor that specializes in offering men a wonderful shaving experience. The clothier that caters to infants and toddlers. Proprietors of anime collectibles. Comic book stores. A vegan bakery and café. A boutique that celebrates the craftsmanship and one-of-a-kind handmade goods of local artisans near high-traffic tourist venues.

I think you’ve got the idea.

But, truly, what is the point, and how does it all relate? Good question. Excellent question!

Let me explain:
One thing that these specialty shops have in common is their disregard for total and complete domination. Yes, they may strive for market position priority (that’s the three business degrees talking…); however, they are intuitive enough to not waste time and resources entertaining the masses while facilitating focused niche markets and boutiques that cater to a select clientele. They, instead, revel in those customers that enter, admire, and welcome with genuine interest the findings that adorn the shelves, baskets, racks, and display cases behind unassuming doors, foregoing the over-commercialized, mass-marketed branding that befalls the majority of retail reality. And those proprietors, those purveyors of fine-found treasures treasure those that have found them! They greet their guests, not worried about those other hurried shoppers looking for items that simply don’t exist within their havens – the vegan baker really isn’t concerned with flagging down a brood of motley teens, snacking on corn dogs and soft pretzels, because she understands her energy is better utilized baking delectable treats for her clientele, and pleasing their palates, nor will the children’s clothier aspire to make those same teenagers frequent visitors to his shop, as they, without need for children’s clothing, will be more of a distraction for the shop owner, whose attention, and heart, are with those who have come to partake in the boutique’s uniqueness, with intent.

summer-sea-glass2Point being (listen, dear inner self!): understand that I am unique. Understand that what I offer is unique. Do not waste my energy and resources (translation: my emotions) trying to please the masses, when knowing full-well it is genuinely more rewarding to celebrate and treasure those that have found me to be a treasure without any benefit of over-commercialized, mass-marketed branding.

This is all a learning process – seeing myself as good enough, without outward confirmation – that is nowhere near its completion. I hope that by sharing my heart and my thoughts, some others may come to the same conclusion about themselves (even if it may only reach 30+ wonderful, caring individuals – nay, cherished guests! – gracious enough to be following this ‘specialty blog’).

Here’s to heart-satisfying and thought-provoking “retail therapy”!

Temporarily Permanent

Perspective.

What is it exactly?

By definition, perspective is “a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view”. (It can also be defined as “the art of drawing solid objects on a two-dimensional surface so as to give the right impression of their height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point”, and although it is arguable that life is art, I won’t be addressing artistic perspective, per se, today.)

I find it interesting – nay, intriguing! – how perspective influences our opinion. Much like experiences having leverage and significant impact on the dimension of our focus (see post Finding Humanity in Winter), one’s perspective in direct relation to a situation not only predicates the response given, it often monopolizes it, regardless of any previous experience to the contrary. Basically, if we’re in the dark and darkness is all we see, it is unfathomable to see anything more than darkness despite having experienced ‘light’ and ‘bright’ in the past.

Extreme? Perhaps. But nonetheless not necessarily untrue.

Illustration: Think back to the last time you had a severe cold, or the flu (or, if not yourself, a loved one that you helped care for during that time). Day Two or Day Three into the experience, the wretchedness of sinus pressure, the shredding pain of broken glass shards tumbling down your constricted, raw throat with each swallow, feverish chills forcing you deep under the tonnage of fleece and woven cotton only to be marred by the beads of sweat on your brow, and the ripping ache throughout your joints, restricting fluid movement, draining every ounce of energy out of your listless frame. Even to partake in a cup of lemon chamomile tea with honey or bowl of chicken noodle soup is a monumental chore. You lay there, tissue in hand, dabbing your swollen, chapped nose and expel the simple words illuminating your current perspective, “this flu is killing me!”

But, wait!

You’ve had the flu before. And you’ve, well, survived… And, despite that present position, deep within the recesses of snuggle blankets and menthol throat lozenge wrappers, the predominant prognostication is that you, indeed, will again escape the clutches of Death in a week or so – with plenty of rest and clear fluids – but you can’t see beyond the mounting pile of discarded tissues, drawing on faded memory, to know that you will see the light of another day. Your feet will touch ground again, gleefully participating in retail therapy. Your tongue will relish in fantastical feasts and roaring repartee. And yes, your heart will languish in the thought of wasting another breath in the living tomb which is your office cubicle… But you don’t see that; you see death. You see permanence in the temporary – darkness in the midst of residing in the dark, casting aside the lucid remembrance of healthier days…

Point made?

So, how is it that we shake off this “permanence in the temporary”, and realize things for what they are – or what they could be? How do we change our perspective even if our circumstance has not changed? If the physicality of something remains the same, how do we redefine it?

Several of my current circumstances can easily lend to melancholy and the ambiance of defeat. That’s not to say that there aren’t times when I succumb to these jesters and lose sight of things beyond the temporary; however, as the past chapter’s song floats away on the evening breeze and providence crashes upon a new calendar year (Hello, 2017! Let’s be friends, shall we?), I’m determined to remain aware of my perspective, adjusting it as one would a manual camera lens, allowing in light and clarity of focus, distilling shortsightedness, and capturing inspiration, catapulting me through – beyond! – the darkness and into the warmth of glowing hope, where once before I drew breath.