Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Strange Metaphors

Greetings from my brand-new shiny Toshiba laptop. When I took Jack to gymnastics Saturday morning, George and Nick rushed out to buy it for me. An hour later, Jack and I walked into the house to find this little beauty up and running.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love my husband? Well, I do. Muchly. And not just because he buys me stuff. He’s cute, too.

I’m also feeling better, so thus ends Viruses: A Dramatic Miniseries. Don’t you love a happy ending?

Anyway, this week’s topic for questioning is negativity. Oh, my, aren’t we hearing a lot of negativity in the media lately? If you listen to the media, you might think nothing good ever happens, yet logic and reason tell us this simply isn’t so. Jon Katz wrote a lovely critique of the media’s contribution to our negative vibe
here. As he says, we shouldn’t bury our heads in the sand and ignore what’s going on, but too much negativity isn’t good for us at all.

As someone who once suffered from serious depression, I know that negativity feeds itself, grows large and invasive like cancer if left unchecked, and can kill you if you don’t fight back. The best way to kill negativity before it kills you is to put life into perspective. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you already know I’m a huge fan of healthy perspective. If you’re new to Questioning, strap on your seatbelt and prepare for long sentences with lots of commas because perspective brings out the punctuation in me.

Sorry about that.

Before we can fully appreciate perspective, however, we need to lay some groundwork and set my inner geek free to discuss the Law of Entropy, or, as I prefer to call it, the Law of the Mocha. Way back in tenth-grade chemistry, Mr. Harmon taught me that entropy is the tendency of the universe to move from a state of high order and energetic movement to low order and stasis. This is why my house won’t stay clean unless I put a lot of energy into keeping it that way. It’s also why our bodies disintegrate into dust after we die.

But I’d much rather talk about mochas. Wouldn’t you?

If you make a mocha with Ghirardelli hot chocolate mix (which is quite yummy and I highly recommend it), you must stir vigorously to mix the powder in the hot milk. The powder, however, doesn’t dissolve completely, and as the momentum of stirring dissipates, gravity drags the chocolate to the bottom of your mug, where, if left for too long, it will solidify and defy your dishwasher’s best efforts to remove it. Without the chocolate particles suspended in the milk-and-coffee solution, you get way too much bitter coffee flavor. To keep the mocha tasty, you must add energy to the system by periodically stirring it. This is the Law of the Mocha.

And it’s an excellent metaphor for what life is all about: you have to add energy to make life better. God didn’t put us here to sit around on our butts and not stir things up. Having a proper perspective is all about the well-mixed mocha. Life’s made up of good and bad…sweet sugary chocolate and bitter coffee. Balancing the two is key; don’t let one get the better of you. Too much sugar makes you hyper and fat and gives you diabetes, and too much bitter gives you wrinkles from constantly pursed lips and makes people flee at the sight of you coming down the street because you’re too dang negative…like the media.

The bitter is everywhere right now because as a nation we’ve let the sweet chocolate sink to the bottom of our cup. It’s time to stir things up and restore our perspective. Counter all the negativity with some positive movement to make your life…and maybe the lives of others…a bit sweeter. Here are a few random ideas:

Take up a hobby and throw yourself into it. People who actively engage in hobbies live longer, have fewer doctor visits, and consider themselves happier than people who don’t. I love paper crafting and usually make about 800 cards a year. This isn’t as freakishly obsessive as you might think, seeing as I send over 400 cards a year to the troops overseas so they have cards to send back to their families. Baghdad suffers a notable lack of Hallmark stores. Well, maybe 800 cards a year is freakishly obsessive, but hey, I’m having fun. Which is honestly the whole point behind a hobby. If your hobby can make other people happy (like the soldiers overseas), it’s doubly sweet.

Reconnect with long-lost friends. Consider Facebook or another networking website. I’ve had four voices from the past reach out and touch me through the internet in the last few months. How cool is that? Making an effort to stay in touch with others takes some energy, but it’s worth it.

Pray. The power of prayer is extraordinary. I’m not going to get all preachy here, but having a rich spiritual life helps give you purpose above and beyond making money and certainly helps keep things in perspective. If you feel so inclined, spend time regularly talking to God, listening to God, just being with God. If you don’t feel so inclined, try connecting with nature. Walking in the woods is as good a way to pray as any.

Listen to music. Music that makes you happy. Music that gets your toes tapping. Music that energizes you. I feel the need to listen to Jimmy Buffett right now. Excuse me for a minute…. Ahh, that’s better. Changes in attitudes, changes in latitudes. It’s all good.

Set aside differences and come together as a nation (at least for those of us here in America). You may or may not have voted for President Obama (for the record, I didn’t), but he’s our president now, and by golly, I’m excited about it. Who would have thought that America could have internalized Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech in less than 46 years to elect a African American with the middle name of Hussein as president? Honestly, it took us 92 years just to get from the Emancipation Proclamation to Brown v. the Board of Education. This is totally awesome, and we should feel really good about it.

Help other people. This can be as simple as sharing a smile with the server at McDonald’s or as big as regular volunteer work or as all-consuming as becoming a foster parent. You can even get really nutty and spend your vacation in a third-world nation helping build a dam. Most of us, however, can’t do the really big things, but we can all give someone a smile, or do a few hours of volunteer work a month, or donate a few dollars to a good cause. If you’re looking for an easy way to do a little bit to make the world better, subscribe to
Do One Nice Thing, a crusade to make Mondays more fun. My point is, helping others in little ways or big ways stirs up the sweet chocolate in the world’s mocha mug.

Did you know there’s a super-volcano under Yellowstone that could blow at any time and render all our problems—and they are undeniably serious problems—completely obsolete? This doesn’t keep me from flossing every day, if you know what I mean. The sky could fall at any time, but it’s not falling right now, this very minute. I choose to see that as a good sign.

Jimmy’s singing to me right now about searching for strange metaphors and quietly making noise to piss off the old kill-joys. I am so totally on board for this.

In keeping with my strange metaphor, what ideas do you have for stirring the chocolate? Please share them in the comments and let me know you're on board, too.

Edited for mathematical error...can't believe no one caught it before I did! George, you clearly aren't reading very carefully.


  1. What a great essay Susan! I love reading your blog.

  2. So many good ideas! Spending quality time with my dog walking or training or just watching ducks down at the river is a great sweetener. Also, this tea drinker cheats and uses Italian chocolate syrup to make mochas. Torani is my favorite.


  3. love your thoughts. I also wanted to let you know that I've been visiting your SCS blog and tried to leave some comments...but it wsan't working! nice cards!! wow you have been so busy :-)

  4. I tend to be a bit of a loner at times so my papercrafting hobby has definately helped stir up my life. I have met so many new people and new friends. I have organized a group at church and we make cards to send to people that need cheer. The greatest part for me is that our group ranges in age nine to eighty five!!

    My computer situation is still the same. I am using my husband's right now. The only problem is that he uses it a lot for his job so I have to wait a lot. Glad your situation is resolved!


Thanks so much for taking time to comment!