• Jody Kussin

#79 Family Matters Tao of Pooh

#79 Family Matters

In These Times by Dr. Jody Kussin, July 30, 2020

It is just about 40 years since I met my husband, and 35 years since we married. One of the first gifts he ever gave to me was a philosophy book that sits next to my bed still today. Ok, maybe ‘philosophy’ is too high-falutin a term. But it is for sure philosophical. It is Benjamin Hoff’s THE TAO OF POOH and if you have not read this, and you are any kind of Pooh fan, it is a must.

Hoff beautifully captures Pooh’s voice as well as those of the rest of the gang from the Hundred Acre Wood.

In these times where we clearly are confronted, daily, with the fact that we are not, as it turns out, in control over our lives, we can learn a lot from Christopher Robin and his pals.

For instance: “Things just happen in the right way, at the right time. At least when you let them, when you work with circumstances instead of saying, 'This isn't supposed to be happening this way,' and trying harder to make it happen some other way.” (Benjamin Hoff)

I think we have all been saying THIS ISNT SUPPOSED TO BE HAPPENING THIS WAY, lots of times, over many days and weeks and months. And of course, we are correct. And yet, this IS what is happening. Whether we like it or not (and of course, we do not.)

What is in our control? Not much. We live with the illusion we have lots under our control, and that illusion has been not only cracked, but definitely smashed to smithereens.

Turning back to Hoff’s Pooh:

“The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple: you can't save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.”

How are we spending this time, these times? Wisely or foolishly?

Some of us used to have impulse control. Lots of us have found that our impulse control powers have flown out the window like illegally throwing trash on the 405 when previously stuck in traffic for hours. We see that controlling impulses has gotten increasingly hard for us, for our teens, for our children. Weight is up. People have surpassed the ‘freshmen 15’ with the ‘covid 19’ and some are careening toward the covid 25, 30, 35…. Drinking is up. A nightly glass of wine is now two, or three, or wine starting at 4pm followed by a few whiskey shots at 7, 8, 9 pm. Some of us used to have nicer tones of voice with family members, only to discover accidentally (because our kids now video tape our ever move to post on their hidden Instagram account) that we are now yelling, or even screaming, more than once a week, even more than once a day.

The virus is beyond our control. Many political and economic decisions are beyond our control (although if you want to ‘do something’ there is a nice thank you note letter writing campaign to Fauci taking place that is uplifting and of course, continued participation in local community activism, however you define that, is healthy and empowering.) Schools are making the best decisions they can, given the constraints facing them. And is always true, there is no ONE RIGHT ANSWER nor is there ONE WISE PERSON who holds all the answers for us seekers.

“You'd be surprised how many people violate this simple principle every day of their lives and try to fit square pegs into round holes, ignoring the clear reality that Things Are as They Are.” (Benjamin Hoff)

Things are as they are. Ignoring the clear reality will not work. Things are as they are. Thank you, Pooh Bear.

We can handle this with a little help from our friends, with bearing in mind that at this point, six months in, ‘less is more’ when it comes to food, alcohol, and anger. And more is more, when it comes to social connections, lists of gratitude, whimsy and humor, and time spent in the water…. pool, sprinklers, ocean, lake, shower, river, tub….

Ground control to Major Tom. Take your protein pills and put your helmet on. So sang David Bowie, back in 1969 in “Space Oddity.” The lyrics describe the fictional Major Tom who blasts off into space, but then loses connection with ground control and gets lost. By the way, years later Bowie released his own sequel to "Space Oddity" in 1980 called "Ashes To Ashes," where Major Tom reestablishes communication with Earth. So even when floating untethered around in space, there are things to be done. Take your protein pills. Put your helmet on. “I’m stepping through the door and I’m floating in a most peculiar way. And the stars look very different today.”

Yes, our lives look very different today. So let’s make sure to get outside at night and check them out.

“Do you really want to be happy? You can begin by being appreciative of who you are and what you've got.” (Benjamin Hoff)

I’ll close with a note from an actual spiritual guide and leader, Buddha, who said, “You can only lose what you cling to.” He was no Winnie the Pooh, to be fair, but, let’s hold onto those words, at least for today: you can only lose what you cling to – let go of the thought that we are entitled to be in control of our universe, and make room for the thought that within a time of chaos and fear, we can gather up our sense of hope and make space in our minds for our inner coaches and cheer leaders to shout out to us: “You got this. You can handle this.”

This is not what you thought it would be, but you can handle whatever this is. Appreciative of who you are. Appreciative of what you’ve got. The stars/our lives look very different today. But, they are still there. The stars, the sun, the occasional comet, our children, our friends, our neighbors, our community.

We’ve got this.

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