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Did You Miss This? Through the Fog (Chapter 34)


wading naked into my stream of consciousness

the sky is grey instead of blue that’s one thing here, the sky is almost always blue but that’s because it’s too hot for clouds they burn away before they’re born borne on the wind to somewhere else past the mountains snagging on the peaks leaking leaks we do get rain maybe even some later this week but it’s a desert after all so not much eh and let’s face it july through october it’s just too hot seriously any time the temperature is over 120º that’s not okay and the ac chugs and chugs but hey it still costs less than it did in Sacramento eight years ago half as much if only we could balance the upstairs and downstairs the music room is too too hot and it’s not good for the instruments but if I shower four times a day and we keep the air on and now that I have shades for the three hottest windows maybe four hottest windows and I’ll do the fifth maybe this summer it’ll be better because one way or another I’ll make it better we’ll make it better together


Dry Heat

at least it’s a dry heat

crematoriums, or would it be crematoria?
they use dry heat

so does the oven in the kitchen
unless you’re using bain marie
which is French for boiled with wet air
a common cause of insanity and death in east Texas

fire
fire is as dry as heat gets
but we don’t want first responders to say “at least it’s a dry fire”
at least it’s a dry fire

that frying pan you left on the stove top after you rinsed it
when you remembered it and took it off the burner and you forgot how long it had been on so you didn’t use a potholder
that’s a dry heat

in Seattle
or San Francisco
or Milwaukee
they don’t say, when it rains, “at least it’s a cool wet”
it doesn’t help
thank you
thank you very much for reminding me that instead of being cold and wet, I could be hot and wet
because knowing things could be worse always makes the pain go away
worse things happen at sea
possibly to children starving in China
I don’t know
but I still won’t eat liver
so don’t tell me they’re hungry
it doesn’t help

temperatures should have 2 digits
I’m flexible
the first digit can be anywhere from 2 to 7
and the second digit can be anything you like
any number at all
I’m flexible

but when the temperature has 3 digits
no matter what they are
I know it’s a dry heat
I’ve used an oven
and a frying pan
and I’ve been to Seattle
and San Francisco
and even Milwaukee
not China
not yet
and nobody says “at least it’s a cool wet”
nobody says that
anywhere
and there’s a reason for it
it doesn’t make sense
even to those hungry Chinese children


Change Your Perspective by Reframing

When we’re stuck it can be helpful to find a different perspective, see ourselves or our challenge from a different angle. It’s called reframing, and in Dave Gray’s excellent book Liminal Thinking he points us to this tool at thnk.org. (Yes, it’s missing the vowel. Maybe some team-spirited person said “There’s no I in think!” and it stuck.)

You don’t have to think hard to use the tool. It’s mostly a mechanical process, which helps keep emotional Resistance out of the way.

Here’s how it works.

Overtly Challenge Your Assumptions

The tool asks you to write down the belief you’d like to change. Then you write a number of supporting statements for that belief.

Now the trick: you write the opposite of each statement.

I call it a trick because you’re not asked to understand, believe, trust, or otherwise engage with these opposites. Just write them.

Based on those opposites, you write a final statement reframing your original statement differently: as an opposite.

Nonsense. Piffle. Balderdash. Tomfoolery.

You’d think, eh? Not so.

I’ve said before that reality doesn’t exist out there, it exists in our minds. The physical mechanical act of writing those sentences changes your brain’s perspective.

Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you. I don’t believe me either.

Get Out of the Kitchen

I can’t stand the heat. For family reasons, we moved from northern Wisconsin’s glorious invigorating 6-month winters to southern Arizona’s perpetual blistering blazing boiling summers. Last summer, I was miserable in a way you’d have a hard time imagining if I wasn’t a skilled writer capable of composing that last sentence.

This summer, determined to Do Something About It, I used the Reframe tool.

Here are my initial statement and supporting beliefs:

Here, the opposites:

And a text summary:

Toward the end of the text summary is the secret.

We Choose What We Believe

Yes, another thing that doesn’t feel true, but it is. We think our beliefs are simply the factual conclusions we’ve drawn from the reality around us. If you’d like to challenge that misconception, read the aforementioned Liminal Thinking and Kathryn Schulz’s Being Wrong. Between them they upset my apple cart a skosh. Not that I’ve fundamentally changed what I believe, but they convinced me of the difference between what we know and what we believe and why both have value.

When I finished using the tool, I thought the resulting statements were ridiculous. I put it aside for later when I’d have more time to either studiously ignore it, or actively ridicule it.

Didn’t happen.

In the past month, with days reaching 118º yes one-hundred-eighteen degrees I have been far less unhappy about the heat. Sure, we live indoors, using air conditioning like it was cheap (because comparing Phoenix to Sacramento it is; we’re paying 40% of what it used to cost us in Sacramento 7 years ago.)

Still, my attitude about the heat changed. And with it, some behaviors.

What Really Changed

Up north, you do everything midafternoon when it’s warm and sunny. When we moved south, I never changed that habit.

Shopping at 3pm in Phoenix is stupid. Because I already knew I hated the heat, I did what I did and hated it even more.

Did you know you can go shopping at 6am? Or 9pm?

The tiniest openness to new beliefs about the heat opened a crack into my psyche which turned into new actions, greater awareness, and less angst and whining.

You’ve heard it; you’ve said it: focus on what you can control, not what you can’t.

This tool was the catalyst for new thinking that’s making my life measurably more comfortable, physically and emotionally.

You Thought This Was a Writing Blog

Your turn.

Use the Reframe tool about your greatest writing challenge.

Come back here and share the text summary in the comments. Not later, when you see whether or not it works. As soon as you’re done.

Then come back in a month [I’ll post a reminder] and tell us what happened.

I’ll be doing the same thing in the AntiResistance forum. If you’d like to see my angst on full display, join me there. (Forum members, here’s that post: http://somedaybox.com/forum/general/reframing-a-writing-challenge/.)


Coffee, 2 Weathers, Please

People make funny assumptions.

Because I (usually) drink decaf, apparently people think I like weak coffee. One place I worked, my morning ritual was to dump out the watery half-strength muck someone had just made and make a pot of strong-and-a-half decaf. At home, my coffee is the strongest you’ll ever taste. Not kidding. It will punch you in the tongue. I love the taste of coffee. What I don’t like is the caffeinated shakes.

When we were traveling, everyone we stayed with or even drove with assumed that because we were from California, our preferred temperature was somewhere around 80ºF. It’s closer to 65º, thank you very much. We’d sweltered our way through two experiences as guests when we realized what was going on.

Having moved from far northern Wisconsin to southern Arizona, it is only natural that every single person we meet comments on how nice it must be to finally see some decent weather. I’ve learned to respond that it sure is sunny here, oh ho oh ho.

We hate the heat. We love the snow. Since we work from home and don’t have to go out if we don’t want, two feet of snow overnight is fun for us. We all prefer sweaters to short sleeves, and a roaring blaze in the fireplace to living cooped up with a/c for six months.

Also, apparently from the way I talk, everyone assumes I love bacon.

Got that right.


The Caravan at Alssikin

Trickles of sand crept into the boy’s clothes as he lay peering over the crest of the dune, down at the caravan below. He told himself he could ignore the sand just as he was ignoring the sweat, the heat, his hunger and thirst, his fear.

caravanLess than a mile to the east the caravan would pass through Alssikin, a narrow defile appropriately named for the long thin knife even young boys in his village carried. Only a thousand yards long, Alssikin was the right spot to launch an ambush, were a band of brigands so inclined.

Continue reading “The Caravan at Alssikin”