Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Wednesday's Words, by Morgan Ashbury

Sometimes, I have trouble with the concept of keeping the main thing, the main thing. The everyday living of life can be overwhelming at times, with some occurrences taking on more importance than they need to. This is especially true, at least for me, when things don’t do the way I hope they will—or maybe the way I count on them to go. Let’s face it. Crap happens in life to all of us. Sometimes dealing with that crap can be a challenge. I mean, who can think when unexpected glitches arise?

Do you ever listen to Ted Talks? Have you heard about them? These are a series of “talks” or mini-lectures, most of them under twenty minutes long, by experts in varying fields. Arts, sciences, religions, social issues—there are more than a thousand “talks” and they can all be found here, for free: TED: Ideas worth spreading

This past weekend I listened to one given by a neuroscientist entitled, “How to stay calm when you know you’ll be stressed.” It turns out there’s a medical reason why I can’t keep the main thing the main thing when I’m having one of those days. It’s a chemical called cortisol, it gets released by your brain into your body when you’re stressed, and one of the things it does is to cloud your thinking. You chemically can’t be logical and concise in your thoughts with that stuff floating around free inside you.

The scientist’s suggested solution to the situation was to conduct a “pre-mortem” for any upcoming special event—that is, to sit down and try to think of all the possible things that could go wrong in the upcoming situation, things that if they occurred would stress you out. Then, he said, think of a solution for each possible problem. He reasoned that you could think clearly ahead of time when not under stress, and then if one of those situations did arise, you’d not be hampered my muzzy thinking. You’d know what to do. In my thirties or forties, I might have rolled my eyes, hearing this suggestion. Now I’m sixty-one, and I’m thinking that his idea has merit.

I can totally see myself doing this. I already have an edge on anyone else who might have heard this talk at the same time I did and decided to incorporate the good doctor’s advice. I already make an extensive clothing list when I’m going on a trip!

As I’ve explained in a few past essays, I make a list of the days I’ll be at an event, list the activities I’ll be participating in, and then assign an outfit for each day. Sometimes I might have two activities on a single day, and there might be a wardrobe change required. I’ve even, in the past, after finalizing my list of outfits, gone ahead and picked out my accessories, put them in individual baggies, and assigned them a number or two, so I would know which outfit or two they’d match.

It would appear I was already doing that whole “pre-mortem” thing with regard to my clothes without knowing that was what I was doing. So I suppose that taking the process to the next level – making a list of all the things that could go wrong on a trip, or in the event of some other special occasion like throwing a dinner party, or attending a special function, and then coming up with a solution to each problem is a great idea.

There are actually only two potential problems I can see with this system, and likely both of them are connected to the fact I’m not as young as I used to be. The first is, will I remember, in the moment of crisis, that I had done the exercise and come up with a list of well thought out, and logical solutions to the unexpected problem?

And the second is much more to the point: if I do, will I be able to recall exactly where that list might be?

Love,
Morgan

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