The film “Network” debuted in 1976 and was nominated for multiple Academy Awards. If you watch it, you’ll sense its prescience. An aging anchor with failing ratings blows his top on the evening news, leading to his popularity surge among his audience. The network appropriates his wild style and uses it as a kickstarter to its resurgence among its competitors. The lasting image from the film which made its way into the lexicon was the anchor, rain-soaked and raving, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!” That line resonates with the public who in turn hurried to their windows screaming their frustration into the universe. Sound familiar? Our daily life has a remarkable resemblance to that moment in time. Over 45 years ago, the writing was on the wall…or in the screenplay. Definitely worth a watch if you’ve never seen the movie.
I haven’t done any shouting out my window but I’m certainly feeling overwhelmed by this mad world around me. I am definitely distracted. Uncomfortable. Cantankerous. Grumpy. Feeling scattered and somewhat powerless. I’m trying to remember what I learned in my class on Zen practices a year or two ago but the truth is, I wouldn’t say Zen is my natural state. Multiple situations, both global and personal, are distressing. I manage to find a few bright spots in this life but I’m definitely irritated. I’m obsessed with the word “umbrage.” I’m feeling umbrage about a variety of issues. In the midst of so many serious challenges I find myself appalled and offended by what apparently seems reasonable to others. So I’m going to unload a few of those and then squiggle my way back to a bit of good. I’ll begin with the soothing idea of forest-bathing, offered as an antidote to life’s stresses.
Forest bathing and forest therapy (or shinrin-yoku) broadly means taking in, in all of one’s senses, the forest atmosphere. Not simply a walk in the woods, it is the conscious and contemplative practice of being immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the forest. It was developed in Japan during the 1980s, and in 1982 Japan made this form of mobile meditation under the canopy of living forests a part of its national health program. Researchers, primarily in Japan and South Korea, have established a growing body of scientific literature on the diverse health benefits.
I would be the last person to argue with anyone who suggests that immersion in nature is good for physical and spiritual health. I try to experience the ecosphere for at least a short time every day. But these forest-bathing websites recommend 4-day experiences, destination events which I think are totally impractical for so many people. Everyone doesn’t have the financial means to drive potentially hundreds of miles to the Adirondacks, say from the middle of Kansas, not to mention the time to drop everything in daily life. Isn’t going to a park for an hour or two just as therapeutic? Or at least, doesn’t it have to be sufficient if it’s the best you can get? Being at a spa for four days would be great too, if you have discretionary money to spare. Massages, hot rocks, pedicures and cleanses? Sounds great. But why does living a healthy life which relieves stress have to cost so much? Bigger questions, I realize, but I find these suggestions just so annoying and classist. A lot of folks would just settle for a day off work.
This next article I read which truly annoyed me was from the New York Times. Grief is a part of the fabric that is me. I’m still grieving my friend Fern who died in 1988. I’m not incapacitated or unable to participate in life. But I feel her absence and I’m still sad about it. I miss her, always. And Michael? Anyone who has read one of my blogs knows that I am still Michael-bathing, my comparable forest-bathing experience, which I have magically twisted from a painful grief to one of solace. I have accomplished what I think is a healthy transformation from an initial zombie-like post-Michael absence state, to a dynamic relationship with the world, albeit a sometimes lonely one. Everyone simply cannot or will not, as in my case, fill an empty space with a replacement. In this world of sound bytes and one paragraph summaries, some of us are still in what we we’re in for the long haul. I’m sure the insurance and pharmaceutical companies are delighted to have an additional source of profits, even a narrow one from this new category of mental disorder. A guest author from the Washington Post, Devyn Greenberg, expressed her umbrage at this new definition of grief. Good on her. I’m sure there are some individuals for whom grief becomes a pathology. But this definition is just awful.
How Long Should It Take to Grieve? Psychiatry Has Come Up With an Answer.
The latest edition of the DSM-5, sometimes known as “psychiatry’s bible,” includes a controversial new diagnosis: prolonged grief disorder…
The new diagnosis, prolonged grief disorder, was designed to apply to a narrow slice of the population who are incapacitated, pining and ruminating a year after a loss, and unable to return to previous activities…Its inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders means that clinicians can now bill insurance companies for treating people for the condition.
Opinion: Grief is love, not a mental disorder
By Devyn Greenberg
The American Psychiatric Association recently updated its bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. For the first time, this highly consequential guide categorized grief as a disorder when it is “prolonged” beyond one year. One year? Soon, it will be two years since I lost my best friend and father, Garry Greenberg, to covid-19. He was 68 years old. I think about him every day. I’m pouring coffee and I hear his laugh; I’m running and I think of something I want to tell him.
For a little more of my umbrage attitude, I turn at last to this incredibly annoying email I received yesterday from a woman who evidently has her own blog site on my platform WordPress. I’ll be honest and state with candor that I spend virtually no time on my website. I write my blogs, post them and move on. Now in my fifth year of writing, I’d say I haven’t looked at most other blog sites except for perhaps half a dozen times. Because of what I’ve written, I’ve made contact with other bloggers, several of whose sites I’ve subscribed to as I’m interested in what they say. I’m actually haunted by the absence of one British woman whose blogs disappeared not long after the pandemic began. I’ve never been able to reach her and fear that she might’ve succumbed to Covid. Anyway, I started writing my blog as an historic tool for my family to have in their future, long after I’m gone. I have an entire book on my site that’s a description of Michael’s cancer called “Be 278” in multiple chapters. I know that there are bloggers who have monetized their sites and who have products to sell. But there’s zero evidence on mine that would give anyone a clue that my interest in blogging is economic in nature. So imagine my surprise when this woman pitched her idea about advising potential homebuyers, who might not be able to participate in the housing market for their dream houses, to instead buy a starter home? On my blog site. I was appalled. I answered with an unequivocal “absolutely not.” I still can’t understand the tone deafness of whoever this huckster might be. How did she ever think her business model had anything to do with me?
Now I’m squiggling back to the good, as I mentioned I would earlier in this post. The awful images recently emerging from Ukraine have been gut wrenching. Within my means, I’ve made what financial contributions I can to relief agencies. But it feels so inadequate, as do many of my efforts to make a difference in the dark places in the world. So I found a small way to bring light, which I hope helps a bit. I’ve been researching Ukrainian artists, and so far, I’m sure I’ve only scratched the surface of how many exist. I’ll step outside my irritated frame of mind to leave these beautiful images from the Ukrainian painters. I hope the ones still working in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Odessa and sites I haven’t yet found, are still alive and creating. Peace.