Upward Spiral

Your ability to understand and empathize with others depends mightily on having a steady diet of positivity resonance, as do your potentials for wisdom, spirituality, and health.” – Barbara Frederickson

On Monday Mr D and I went to the grocery store between dropping Miss O at school and dropping him at daycare. While its our special time together, I also love to get some things done and he gets to ride in an elevator so it works all around.

As we were going down a narrow aisle, two boys from the nearby middle school or high school passed us and I thought to myself about the one with the blue hair, “What a nice kid!” I can’t put my finger on exactly what he did – maybe it was the way he looked me in the eye or moved his body to the side to give us extra space, but it was a noticeably pleasant passing.

Two mornings later, we were in the same store, doing the same thing when we came upon the blue haired boy in the self-checkout section. He was asking the attendant to cancel his purchase because he didn’t have enough money. But before they could do that, I stepped across and put my credit card in to pay for the $5.46 purchase. I suspect the boy had $5 and hadn’t counted on the extra cost.

He thanked me, no big deal, and went on his way with his friend. It was a beautiful full circle moment.

It feels like several things I’ve read and listened to lately have had a similar theme – the science of how much our bodies respond to the people around us, even strangers at the grocery store. That our nervous systems are wired to pick up signals from others. The more that we focus our minds on what our bodies already know which is that even our small connections to other people matter, we create an upward spiral of positive resonance.

With the mask mandate lifted in my state so that I see more faces, it feels like I’ve been noticing so many delightful moments of connections with strangers. It’s amazing how wonderful they feel when I make an effort to notice them, recount them to others or remember them and feel the little zing again.

So I pass this one on to you and the upward spiral of positive resonances continues!

(featured photo is of Mr D in a grocery store at a younger age)

Crossing the Chasm

Beautiful days do not come to you, you must walk towards them.” – Rumi

Yesterday was the first day that my daughter could be in school without a mask on. I found it to be a trepidatious experience. As a single, working parent, one of my biggest concerns is for school to be able to continue in-person. If I had to send my child in a full haz-mat suit, I would happily comply.

But broader than that, now that our state mask mandate has ended, is the question of whether I would continue to wear a mask when going into a store or resume activities like an in-person meditation class now that we seem to be transitioning to endemic mode from pandemic mode.

I’m not an epidemiologist so I don’t have an authoritative answer on mask wearing so I’m happy to follow their advice. But some of this return to normalcy feels like taking a big step to cross over the chasm.

Crossing over the chasm makes me think of some of the scariest things I’ve had to jump over or traverse when I was climbing mountains – like crevasses on Mt. Rainier. In most cases, I was lucky enough to have traversed them the first time going up the mountain in the dark. That way I couldn’t see the pit we were walking over on horizontal ladders with some plywood on them while wearing crampons our on boots which made the balance on top of metal spikes feel even more precarious. (See featured photo of my friend preparing to do this).

When I saw the full scale of what we had to do to cross back over in the light of day, that ladder was between me and the parking lot. That I had something to get back to was big motivation to conquer the fear and discomfort of crossing over.

Looking for the lure to other side of going back to pre-COVID practices and it reminds me of a Ten Percent Happier podcast that I heard with Professor Barbara Frederickson about positivity resonance. Our bodies and minds benefit greatly every time we experience a positive emotion in concert with another human. It could be as simple as a smile exchanged at the grocery store or being interested in the same topic with another person.

The more of these positive resonance interactions we have, the more we are buoyed by them and the benefits extend to our creativity, openness, willingness to get out of bed in the morning and on and on. Her two caveats for these to be possible – we have to feel safe and we have to be face-to-face. (She did say we can get somewhat of a boost on screen or over the phone but it’s harder).

There is a boy in my daughter’s class that she is particularly fond of. In Kindergarten, he was one of the two and a half boyfriends she’d told everyone about. (The half boyfriend talked too much to be a full one). Miss O was so excited yesterday to go to school to see his face which she has only really seen fully at his birthday party without a mask on. That in and of itself helped me get over my fear of this new phase of our public school lives.

May we all reap the benefits of more positive resonance.