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False Memories

I had a dream the night before I was supposed to purchase a ticket to Australia.  I was floating on a log raft through Oceania.  The water looked like the ocean in pictures of Fiji — crystal clear and somewhat shallow.  I would have been waist deep if I climbed off the slow-moving raft.

Some of the islands had people standing on the shore, waving at me, and others were uninhabited.  I observed it all from my little, wooden raft, gently floating past places I had wanted to see for a long time.  Australia was just a little curve of land, New Zealand a quick swim away.

It has been 23 years, and I still remember this dream.

I woke up feeling like I had just been on the best trip of my life, and that the reality of Australia could never match the Australia that appeared in my dream.  Which is why, after I trudged through the slush outside to the travel agency, I heard myself ordering a ticket to Norway.  What was the point in going to real Australia when dream Australia was so much better?

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I’m back in touch with the friend I was going to visit in Australia, and we just spoke about that fateful ticket purchase.  I still haven’t made it to Australia.

I don’t have regrets — Norway was great — but the story is still sort of funny when I admit it aloud.  I gave up a trip to a place I had wanted to go just because I didn’t think it could match the dream version.  It probably can’t — that dream still makes me happy — and my fake Australia did not contain spiders, snakes, or anything that would freak me out during waking hours.

The Atlantic recently had an article about false memories; things we believe with all our heart to be true, but they never happened (or they didn’t happen like that).  We insist that we know for certain the order of events or who was there or what we wore.  It feels so real, and yet scientists can prove that some of our strongest memories still turn out to be false.  They have even been able to easily plant false memories or manipulate memories with just a few words.

Harrington, now a professor of literary journalism the University of Illinois, once said, “Truth is a documentary, physical reality, as well as the meaning we make of that reality, the perceptions we have of it.”

A true story is always filtered through the teller’s take on it.

I guess the article struck me, especially because I read it while I was thinking about the dream.  If I wouldn’t accurately recall the experience regardless, what was the difference between the dream trip and a real trip once we got beyond the logistics of travel?  After the trip was over, my brain would fictionalize my memories of Australia.  Was it worth messing with the perfect Australia in my dream if both dream and real Australia were going to end up as fiction?

There is clearly a lot of worth in travel (beyond getting to spend time with my friend), and I’m being tongue-in-cheek about our memories becoming fictionalized, but the article made me feel a little less embarrassed that I didn’t want to give up the warm, happy memory of my dream for a reality that could never match how I felt winding around the islands.

Does it bother you to think that some of your favourite memories may not be real?  Or are you so happy with the memory that it’s okay if it didn’t exactly happen as you imagine (as long as you never find out otherwise)?

January 18, 2017   8 Comments

Sherlocked (Spoiler-free)

I’ve heard both that the Sherlock episode that aired on Sunday was the last episode ever and that everyone would be open to continuing the series.  I watched it, waiting the entire time for the ending so I could judge whether things felt neatly wrapped up.  I decided that if things were neatly wrapped up, it would mean the series was over, and if there was a cliffhanger, the series would continue.

My mind only half-watched the episode.  The other half was worrying about whether things would be ending.

I think we’ve established over the years that I’m not good with endings — even when I am looking forward to whatever is next.  For instance, I start mourning books when I’m about midway through the novel.  I start thinking about how happy I am with the characters, and how much fun it is to spend time with them, and how it will be sad when it all comes to an end and I will never ever find characters that I like as much as the characters in front of me.  I think that even when I have numerous books lined up to read, all of which I am equally excited to tackle.  I think that despite having proven myself wrong between the last book and the current book.

I don’t know why I do this every single time.

Sherlock is a weird show because there are long breaks between the episodes.  The last one was last winter, and then the rest of the season unrolled over the last three weeks.  Before that, you got three episodes every two years.  So it’s not as if I’ve spent time with them, week after week, and now saying goodbye to them will mean an end to a routine.

Still, the idea of never seeing these characters come together in new storylines made me feel anxious through the whole episode.  Movies come and go, but book characters and television characters get under my skin and start to feel like people I’m Facebook stalking; unable to interact with them but enjoying trying to figure out their life from a few photos.

It was nice to hang out with Sherlock and Watson for an hour and a half at a time.

And I have no clue if that was the last episode or not.

January 17, 2017   6 Comments

#MicroblogMondays 125: King

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

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Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day (usually called MLK Day) in America.  It feels particularly poignant this year because we’re moving between two very different types of leaders.  Obama guided by pointing out the positive.  And Trump… well… I can’t say that we are being guided anywhere good.  Insurance companies will benefit greatly from his administration.  Individuals, not so much.

King wasn’t a perfect leader or a perfect person, but he showed up and he cared and he tried his best to guide the nation towards a better place where one group of people didn’t need to be down for another group of people to be up.

I think I miss him a little extra this year because we need leaders like that — leaders who can speak eloquently to express our hearts and energize us to keep fighting for equality.  There are strong leaders out there (Elizabeth Warren comes to mind).  We need them to get a lot louder now that Trump is leading us backwards instead of forwards.

To me, King is a great reminder that it’s not about perfection.  It’s about humanness; looking for the good in others and understanding that we’re all in this together.

What do you think makes a great leader?

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Are you also doing #MicroblogMondays? Add your link below. The list will be open until Tuesday morning. Link to the post itself, not your blog URL. (Don’t know what that means? Please read the three rules on this post to understand the difference between a permalink to a post and a blog’s main URL.) Only personal blogs can be added to the list. I will remove any posts that are connected to businesses or are sponsored post.


January 16, 2017   21 Comments

SuperBetter: What Are Your Power-ups?

Bleak.  That is the word that pops into my head when I listen to the news or read the paper or peruse Facebook.  Every new development about the incoming administration makes me want to step away from everything and everyone; huddle on the floor with Truman, count down the 1,460 days until the next term.  Except.  I know that the damage inflicted on the next four years will have repercussion well into the future.

See?  Bleak.*

When deep breaths don’t work — and I’ll be frank, I’m past the point of deep breaths — there are Jane McGonigal’s SuperBetter power-ups.  Power-ups are items in video games that give the player more energy or extra powers or additional time.  For instance, you may catch a bouncing star on the screen and suddenly be able to run through enemies without being affected or eat a flower and be able to spit fireballs.

McGonigal defines a power-up as any “positive action you can take, easily, that creates a quick moment of pleasure.”  So going to Disney World would definitely make me happy, but it isn’t easy.  And listening to music is easy, but it doesn’t make me happy.  This list is personal — it’s what brings YOU pleasure that is easy to access or do.

I’ve been struggling to come up with my power-ups in the face of this bleakness; things that bring me as much (if not more) happiness than the news brings me sadness.  Like I put a few apps on the list because they always make me happy: Shuffle Cats, Hay Day, Solitaire, Backgammon, Desert Golfing, Mini Metro.  They all make me happy, but do they make me happy enough?  If I’m being honest, they make me feel a little shallow, which brings down the pleasure factor.

[It doesn’t help that McGonigal’s are so virtuous.  Singing loud?  Dancing in the living room?  Eating a handful of almonds?  It’s hard to say, “Making a fake metro system on an app makes me happy for five minutes” when you notice other people are talking about getting out into the sunshine and going for a walk with their dog.  I don’t like sunshine, and I don’t have a dog.]

I’ve always kept a “like” list at the front of my bullet journal, so I mined it for my power-ups.  I like magic, so I thought about watching magic tricks on YouTube.  There are a lot of books I love, and I could read a chapter in one of them.  Coffee.  I am a big fan of coffee, and it would make me feel happy to have a cup of iced decaf in the middle of the day.  And I am a fan of chess.  I could play a game of chess.

The book helps you to think up power-ups with a list of questions on page 176.  What’s a song that makes me feel powerful?  “Forgotten Years” by Midnight Oil.  (Maybe?  I don’t know if powerful is the right word.  But it feels like we’re currently living the history that the next generation will claim as “these should not be forgotten years.”) Almost anything They Might Be Giants makes me feel happy, but that’s not the same as powerful.

Who makes me feel calm?  Josh.  What physical activity energizes you?  Nothing.  I’m an indoor kid who prefers to read and not run.  Is there a place that I can get to easily that makes me happy?  My bed.

This is sounding like a real downer of a power-up post.  But here’s the thing she points out: Happiness begets happiness.  When you are feeling bleak, you use a power-up and it barely does anything.  But you use a power-up and another power-up and another power-up, and at some point, you start to actually feel happy rather than using bits of forced happiness, and that real happiness begets more real happiness until you’re using the power-ups as a little burst from time to time instead of a way to get through the day.

I decided to put one power-up into effect every day: I am going to read for 20 minutes during lunch.  For 10 years, I’ve eaten lunch at my desk and worked through the meal.  I’m going to take two weeks to read mid-day and see if that changes the way I approach the news knowing I have that break to look forward to and energize me for the second part of the day.

What are five things that consistently make you happy or feel good?

* In my defense, if I had written this post when I originally wanted to write this post, I would probably have felt more energy for power-ups.  But I made the note to write about this on October 14th, back when I foolishly believed we’d spend the next four years moving things forward instead of backward.

January 15, 2017   6 Comments

629th Friday Blog Roundup

I just discovered Curtis Sittenfeld.  People, why didn’t you tell me about her books?  Okay, you probably did tell me about her books because she has been on my TBR pile for a long time.  I wanted American Wife because… well… it feels fitting at the moment, and I’ll get it from the library this weekend, but I ended up starting with Prep.

It is so good that I tried to hold it open with the edge of the microwave while I made popcorn on the stovetop, desperate to sneak in a single page.

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I haven’t gotten a chance to listen to this episode of Terrible, Thanks for Asking yet, but the sixth episode is about miscarriage and secondary IF.  You can download the MP3 from the site, though I can’t figure out how to embed the episode on the blog.

If you don’t know this podcast, the explanation on the front page of their site says it all: “You know how every day someone asks “how are you?” And even if you’re totally dying inside, you just say “fine,” so everyone can go about their day? This show is the opposite of that.”

A much needed conversation.

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It’s Friday the 13th.  Why do I have a compulsive need to mention that in the Roundup whenever Friday and the 13th collide?  I have no clue.

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Stop procrastinating.  Go make your backups.  Don’t have regrets.

Seriously.  Stop what you’re doing for a moment.  It will take you fifteen minutes, tops.  But you will have peace of mind for days and days.  It’s the gift to yourself that keeps on giving.

As always, add any new thoughts to the Friday Backup post and peruse new comments in order to find out about methods, plug-ins, and devices that help you quickly back up your data and accounts.

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And now the blogs…

But first, second helpings of the posts that appeared in the open comment thread last week.  In order to read the description before clicking over, please return to the open thread:

Okay, now my choices this week.

Inconceivable has an update about her absence, musing about the hidden stories we contain.  How you can carry infertility and loss with you every day, and no one around you has a clue what is happening in your heart.  It’s really a nod to all of our silent stories; everyone carries something.

River Run Dry has a post about the feeling of Not Enough that came to me at the perfect moment (so thank you for your words).  She captures crying in the car: “I feel Not Enough right now, and it’s only Tuesday, and all the days I need to get through are stretched in front of me, weeks and months and years and decades full of tasks and To Dos, and I’m so scared I’m always going to be To Doing and my heart will never feel full… I looked up and saw this gorgeous sunrise.”  I love this post.

Different Shores had to endure coffee with a woman who moaned on and on about her daughter who wasn’t producing grandchildren.  She had to sit across from her while she announced that she couldn’t think of anything worse, nor could she hear the possibility that there was nothing empty about living without children.  She writes, “Fear illness, fear poverty, fear dangerous presidents, but please don’t fear a life like mine.”  That is a rallying cry if I ever heard one.

Lastly, No Kidding in NZ takes the idea of people crossing cultures and applies it to different types of families.  In the same way that we go into other people’s cultures and enjoy them through travel or restaurants or celebrations, we can also visit each other’s lives and celebrate all that is good in our choices.  If you can see the benefit of getting to eat food from various cultures, surely you can also see the benefit from sitting and listening to someone tell you about a life different from your own.

The roundup to the Roundup: Just started reading Curtis Sittenfeld.  Podcast you may want to hear.  Friday the 13th.  Your weekly backup nudge.  And lots of great posts to read.  So what did you find this week?  Please use a permalink to the blog post (written between January 6th and January 13th) and not the blog’s main url. Not understanding why I’m asking you what you found this week?  Read the original open thread post here.

January 13, 2017   10 Comments

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