Friday, August 13, 2010
We took a little break last weekend to travel to the southernmost part of Canada, Point Pelee. This is a peninsula jutting into lake Erie which extends below the 42nd parallel -- more southerly than Rome or Barcelona.
As a bird and butterfly sanctuary it reminds me quite a bit of Sanibel Island off Fort Myers -- except with a north/south rather than east/west orientation -- and no shells, dolphins pelicans or manatees!
I particularly enjoyed the boardwalk through the marsh on the east side -- the soothing sighs of wind in the cattails, the explosions of brightly coloured warblers in the willows, the swamp milkweed full of Monarch butterflies, the herons stalking frogs.
The west side has some great sand beaches, and the tip of the peninsula is sculpted by currents and riptides which it's easy to see are very powerful: visitors are warned not even to wade into the waters.
Interior areas are forested with Carolinian species that don't grow elsewhere in Canada -- tulip trees, a semi-tropical oak, lots of jungly vines. And there are cacti too!
Specialty fish in the area include yellow perch and pickerel. At a nearby restaurant we enjoyed a fish fry under a loggia smothered in trumpet vine -- a creamy orange variant which I've never seen before.
Wish our camera had been working . . . I'd have liked some pictures. Although those warblers were way too fast for me! We'll have to try and get back for either the fall or spring migration, which is apparently quite spectacular, with Pelee functioning as a funnel: last resting place for departing species in autumn, first landing for arriving species in spring.
Point Pelee was all laid out for cottage development in the 1920s. Some 300 cottages had been built before the government purchased it as environmentally protected parkland. All the cottages were removed and strenuous efforts were made to restore the natural flora and fauna -- including flying squirrels. I'm so grateful this special place was preserved.
For now, the monarch caterpillar I'd found locally about 10 days ago has made its chrysalis -- an elegant pale green with shimmering gold spots -- and I'm just waiting for it to turn transparent and reveal the butterfly inside. A summer tradition for me since I was very small . . .
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
"Watermellen knows motivation happens AFTER the workout -- not so much
Motivation gets a lot of air time on SP blogs and message boards, And that's a recent status for me -- which kinda hit me all of a sudden. But having posted it, it felt right, and so I've been thinking about motivation a lot.
Because I'm realizing that motivation isn't something I usually experience until I've already done whatever it was that required the motivation in the first place -- which has got to be bit perverse.
But true to my experience. And true for both big and small "motivation-requiring" events.
Working pretty hard at my job, for example. When I have to motor through a weekend (as isn't uncommon in my line of work) I can't say that I wanna do it, ever!! A large part of the motivation for the career focus is what it cost me (money, effort, time, absence from family) to retrain and to acquire the qualifications to get back into the workforce after an absence to raise kids. So I can't waste all of that-- especially not if clients are counting on me to try my hardest. That's after-acquired motivation!
Getting along with my DH and my kids: I'm not a saint for sure and so don't always feel motivated to "bite my tongue" at the time one of those inevitable irritations of living with other people (yes, even well-loved other people) happens to arise. But: a large part of the motivation to do so is reflecting back on 31 + years of generally very happy marriage and family life. Much of it the product of previous judicious tongue-biting. Which quickly helps smooth things out and put that temporary annoyance into perspective. Sunk costs!
Work and family are the big stuff. What about smaller stuff, then? Do I feel motivated to go to the gym? Never -- until after I've been to the gym. Before I go to the gym, and while I'm slogging away at the gym, I have to remember how good I'll feel after I've been to the gym. And in addition, with a recent memory of how hard it is to burn off even 100 calories on the cross trainer, it's post-gym that I'm most motivated not to grab just anything and stuff it into my mouth. I've got the "sunk costs" of the workout I've just done to motivate me.
But if I work out, will that generally sustain my motivation not to overeat? Nope. Not reliably enough. It helps that I've also got the "sunk costs" of the size eight wardrobe, which I acquired after pretty arduous not overeating over the past nine years. And I want to be able to continue to wear those items. And I know how very quickly any relaxation of the eternal vigilance will result in 10 or 20 additional pounds. So again, "sunk costs": the monetary cost of acquiring the clothes, plus the effort costs of exercising/nutrition tracking.
In general, I don't have much motivation to do anything I don't want to do. But it helps to have the pragmatic realization that a whole lot of my life has been (and will continue to be) doing a whole lot of things that I don't want to do. Preferably without too much drama or self pity. Because I can remind myself that I will be enjoying the benefits of having done them, after the fact.
People tell me from time to time that I look like a highly-motivated self-disciplined person.
When actually not so much: I just do an excellent imitation of a reasonably motivated, reasonably disciplined person. Mostly because I don't want to waste all the effort I've already expended. So this is an approach that may work for me: but I don't fool myself that I'm particularly virtuous. What's going on is a pragmatic calculation.
The action comes first. If I waited to "feel motivated" I'd . . . still be waiting.
For me, motivation is after-acquired. It's generated by the "sunk costs" of gritting my teeth and making myself just get on with it !! Worrying about motivation, how to get motivated, why am I not motivated etc. etc. for me tends to be a dead end. I'm manufacturing an excuse, telling myself not very subtly that I don't have to do it because I'm not motivated, or at least until I'm motivated.
So when I catch myself doing nothing because I'm not feeling motivated? I'm going to have to remind myself from here on in: for me, motivation is after-acquired. AFTER I've done it!
Sunday, August 01, 2010
A recent blog by PUDLECRAZY got me thinking about an article I'd read on new research in neuroplasticity: our brains have huge potential to to grow and change, even as adults.
If you are interested in reading the whole article, here's the link.
We worry about Alzheimer's disease and cognitive decline as if it were inevitable. Well, maybe it's not.
The physicial fitness movement is important: almost all of us here at SP believe that to be true (even when it's tough to roll out of bed at 5 a.m. and head to the gym, we know it's a good thing!)
But: brain fitness is important too.
Brain fitness isn't just about sudoku or repetitive drills. Because it's not just memory (cognitive retrieval of facts and information) which can be protected as we age through brain fitnesss.
The new research indicates that well into middle age and even later, we can actually develop new neuron pathways. We can use brain fitness -- trying on new thought pathways -- to physically enlarge whole sections of our brain, selectively. Just like we can increase bicep muscle mass through bicep curls. And cardio capacity through running.
Amazing! Changing up our thinking is as effective for brain fitness as changing up our strength training or adding cardio intervals is for physical fitness.
(When I went back to school in my forties and pursued three quick degrees in a whole new discipline there were lots of days my head hurt: but yup, I probably did learn how to think in some weird new ways! My brain definitely felt "fitter" at the end than at the beginning!! No noticeable swelling of the head, either . . . )
Way more valuable than mere intellecual prowess, this new brain research even suggests that we can deliberately train our brains to become more compassionate. And we can actually use brain fitness to change and expand the structures of our brains in ways that make us experience greater happiness.
The release of endorphins through physical fitness often lifts mood: but neuroplasticity research indicates that brain training offers more than that temporary effect. The parts of the brain that signal happiness get bigger and stronger the more we use them.
For me this suggests that even though we cannot always choose what happens to us, we can often choose our attitudes in response to what happens to us. Wilfully choosing a positive attitude isn't only simple-minded Pollyannaism, then: not if choosing a positive attitude can change our very brains to offer such huge long term benefits.
Because deciding to be happy often enough, deliberately enough and stubbornly enough seems to actually increase the brain's very capacity to experience happiness.
Spanx might be a temporary fix for flabby abs when I decide at the last minute to slide into a too-tight cocktail dress for one festive evening-- but Spanx can't provide anything permanent. And Spanx are not the optimal choice if I also plan to walk, breathe and enjoy myself!! A whole whack of crunches and planks plus some nutrition tracking would have been a much better solution.
Real physical exercise, real physical fitness.
Ditto real happiness exercise, real happiness brain fitness?
What a happy thought!!
Sunday, July 25, 2010
A recent comment on WALKINGANNIE's Spark Page, following up on my "Ambrose the hero hound" blog:
"I often think to myself that there tend to be coffee people and tea people; dog people and cat people; book people and movie/TV people: and I'm primarily in the first category for each of these dichotomies!!"
What do you think?
And -- are there any more "great divides" you'd add in?
Clothes/Home Decor? (for me, it would be clothes quite definitely).
And yes: I DO have dear friends who are tea/cat/movies/home decor types: yes I do!!
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