Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I am curious, nosey, and interested in my surroundings. I have a hard time controlling it. Maybe you have that condition, too?

A man walks into a gated cafe area where I am sitting with a friend. Our food has just come. Lots of people are outside eating and enjoying the sun. I watch him walk through the unlocked gate and immediately notice that his face is severely scarred.

He sees me and makes a bee-line for our table. I see that everyone else is engaged in eating or talking. They do not see him or anyone else not in their line of vision.

I take him in: clean simple clothes, a folded newspaper and an empty Styrofoam cup are clutched behind his back. His hair is clean, but not quite right. Is he crazy or sane? Homeless or wealthy? I can't tell immediately. The cup is clean.

He walks directly up to my place and points at my sandwich. He asks how the food is. Okay. He responds that I chose well and almost touches my sandwich as he pointed at it. My thoughts were: can't I just eat this in peace? is he okay? am I safe?

I am aware that I look him in the eyes - a place where there is no scarring, a place to test his response. His doesn't look alcoholic or drug addled; he doesn't look wild-eyed.

He left and walked in the back door of the restaurant as if he did this every day.
I thought: why me? why do I always attract the crazies? How is it that he decided to talk to me?

Then I felt ashamed. His scars were scary looking. What if people ignored him or worse? What if this were me?

As an after thought, I wished I would have offered him the sandwich. But then, I realized that he never asked for it. Perhaps his dignity was left intact with that quick, simple interaction before I could do any harm.

Maybe, I was presented with another teacher on my path that I didn't recognize in the moment.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Daylight Savings Time and the Happy Accident

Sometimes there are happy accidents. Last week was one of those times.

My partner and I took a vacation last week - the first real vacation in years that didn't center around a family activity. This was a chance to move outside of the usual circles in life. There was no agenda except to enjoy the coast and head south.

It seemed that grey weather followed us. No sunburns. No glare from the sun either while driving. Spring was still barely emerging from a very hard winter.

This year, spring forward happened over our vacation weekend. Our elected officials seem bent on using Daylight Savings Time throughout more and more of the year. It seems so early to go to DST in mid-March! We had a very gentle adjustment as we slept in to accomodate to the time change.

Our little grandson seems to have more difficulty. I kept thinking: wait until he starts school. Memories of children acting a little grouchier and groggier during those bi-annual time shifts remain clear in my mind.

An aunt and uncle, long gone now, used to ignore the time change. They lived their lives on their farm firmly planted in the rising and setting of the sun. Sure, they worked around others' lives and schedules knowing about Daylight Savings Time. However, they were always home for their usual mealtime and bedtime.

Having worked at the National Institutes of Mental Health in 1979 in a research department called Brain Evolution and Behavior, I learned of the importance of circadium rhythms, sleep patterns, and other subtle biochemical patterns that interplay with our environment. I have often wondered what Daylight Savings Time means for people with sensitive responses to change?

The director of the agency never adopted Daylight Savings Time patterns and came in at 7:30 a.m. in the winter and 8:30 a.m. in the summer. His staff did not have the same option. I often wondered why. Maybe our rural family was on to something.

With our vacation accidentally centered around the time change, we got to adjust our sleep patterns a little more gently this week. My hope is that everyone gets the opportunity to adjust to this artificial construct and give themselves a wide berth for more naps and snuggling. What an opportunity for compassionate care for yourself and others.