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Monday, March 23, 2015

Agency March 23, 2015

The word AGENCY in psychology or sociology or philosophy means the ability of a person to act in the world. Even a baby has agency when he cries to obtain help, food or relief from pain. The baby is using its capacity for agency when he or she smiles at the caregiver. Very young children often learn to bat their eyelashes and seem to "flirt" to obtain  their wishes from adults.

Babies and young children can do very little for themselves. They depend on parents and teachers to guide them and to protect them from harm. But already by age two, they learn to say "no" and exert their influence on their caregivers. Parents and teachers need to use logic and reason to convince a child to act appropriately. Sometimes rewards and punishments are used to mold a child to the adult's way of being.

By the time a child becomes an adolescent-whenever the change occurs from young adolescent to responsible adolescent, the adults are resource people to whom the young people come for advice, before making their own decisions on how to act in the world.

When the balance in a relationship of adults shifts, we say the husband is "henpecked" or the wife is "submissive" and one or the other exerts more or less control over the relationship. Even in those rellationships, a balance is achieved, with each person deciding to accept or reject what is being offered.

Then if Alzheimer's disease enters their lives, the balance shifts again and one person becomes dominant in the relationship. For a previously submissive partner to be in charge is, at the beginning both a challenge and a power trip. It feels good to be able to care for a previously very independent person. Of course as the disease progresses and the personality of the loved person begins to change, the actual care work is more difficult and the rewards are fewer and fewer.

And now it seems as if my Alzheimer diseased spouse loses all agency, no longer smiles or speaks or demands to have his needs met. He just accepts whatever life offers, passively. He permits himself to be led, he sits, he walks. He recognizes no one. I am grateful his caregivers are kind and anticipate his needs.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Finally a List of Fish that We are Safe to Eat March 14, 2015

There is so much mercury in fish and so many toxins as well as many fish that have been overcaught and are near extinction, that the variety I like to choose from is limited.
If you are lucky enough to have line caught freshwater fish, enjoy. Those of us who depend on fish that is commercially caught, restaurant-served or bought frozen at the market, now have a list of fish we can   choose from without concern.
  • Snapper from the Gulf of Mexico
  • Rockfish caught by hook and line
  • Atlantic Halibut
  • American Eel
  • Pacific Halibut
  • Yelloweye Rockfish
  • Yellowtail Rockfish
  • United States Haddock
  • Widow Rockfish
  • Sablefish (California, Oregon, or Washington)
  • Black Cod (Alaska and Canada)
  • Vermilion Snapper
  • Whiteleg Shrimp
  • Tai Snapper
  • Black Sea Bass
  • Freshwater Eel
  • California Halibut

Remember that all fish contain mercury, but you can still have your fish and eat it too if you make your choices from the list above.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Yoga and Trust March 9, 2015

I drive to the gym to take a yoga class as I have been doing four days each week since last September. I know I will be there to relax and stretch as this is the Monday routine. I get out my mat, set my block upon it, take off my shoes and socks and begin to lie on the block stretching my shoulders, my core and my hips.
After a while I begin to feel anxious; the time for the class to begin must have passed. I sit up and yes, the instructor is late. My muscles immediately tense, the thoughts of the day run through my head. My mood has changed in an instant.
I feel the same has happened to the other 30 people in the room. Conversations begin, first in whispers, then louder. One person leaves. Finally, five minutes later, although it seems like fifteen, the instructor enters as if no time has elapsed and begins to move us into position to begin the class. A few people clap. She begins "Listen to your body. This is your practice. Try to stay in the moment for the next 55 minutes or so." My head is saying "Only 45 minutes left now."Slowly, my body responds to the cues and I follow along with the class.
Part of me feels as if I had been lying on a hammock and one of the strings broke. In reality I am lying on a yoga mat on a carpet on a concrete floor of the gym, but in that slight delay, my trust has been broken. Not forever, but it was so immediate it surprised me.
Trust is so fragile. We awaken each day with expectations and if we are disappointed in our assumptions, we become anxious.
The yoga instructors intone "Yoga is here to heal us, not to hurt us. If a posture feels uncomfortable, back away from the posture, modify it to suit your body's needs today." So I don't feel anxiety if my  body won't move the way it did before. I am comfortable making my own decisions about my practice.
But if the instructor is late, or if the instructor is unsure of the routine and hesitates between suggesting the next postures or apolgizes for forgetting something in the routine that I am not even aware she has forgotten, my equilibrium is lost.
The same of course is true with parents and teachers as with local police and world leaders. When we place our trust in others, which we must do as students, as workers, as citizens of a democracy, we expect consistency, a certain confident tone of voice and a routine positive presentation. We want to be held in that protected hammock, our values supported, our bodies and our possessions safe, encouraged to continue to do our best, knowing we are being led in the right direction. We are so often disappointed, we are so often in a state of anxiety, feeling lost. It becomes difficult to continue to feel confident in our choices about our own lives. Recognizing the source of our anxiety can help us stay in touch with our own reality and modify our responses to meet our goals.