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BRICK

THE

OCTOBER 2019

MAGAZINE

ANN ARBOR

MEDICINE, NATURALLY WAKING UP EVERY DAY WITHOUT AGING CANNABIS FOR THE PEOPLE

PLUS! FIGHTING ALZHEIMER’S WITH FOOD AND FRIENDS

Dr. Sabiha Bunek

STAY ING ON THE CUTTING EDGE OF DENTISTRY


R E F L E C T YO U R L I F E ST Y L E . Birch Design Associates specializes in residential and commercial interiors. www.birchdesignassociates.com


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THE

BRICK MAGAZINE

SEPTEMBER 2019

Publisher

Sarah Whitsett

Assistant to the Publisher

Tanja MacKenzie

Art Director

Jennifer Knutson

Copy Editor

Angelina Bielby

Marketing Director

Steve DeBruler

Online Creative

Bridget Baker

Cover Photographer

G. E. Anderson, Maize House

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Contributors >> Kristen Domingue Suzanne Evans Madeleine Forbes Kellie Mox Marilyn Pellini

Bridget Baker Gail Barker Liz Crowe Morella Devost

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Lisa Profera Thersea Reid Stephanie Saline Maria Sylvester

Contact Us >>

The Brick Magazine, LLC 734.221.5767 Email: office@thebrickmagazine.com Visit us on the web at thebrickmagazine.com

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Advertising Inquires >> email office@thebrickmagazine.com or call 734.221.5767

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Find Us ... >>

Visit us on the web at thebrickmagazine.com to view our online digital edition, locations on where to find us, or subscribe to have THE BRICK MAGAZINE delivered directly to your home.

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CONTENTS

The Brick Magazine >>

THE BRICK MAGAZINE makes every effort to provide accurate information in advertising, editorial content and placement; however, we cannot make any claims as to the accuracy of information provided by advertisers or editorial contributors and will accept no responsibility or liability for inaccurate information or placement. No content can be duplicated without the permission of The Brick Magazine, LLC 6 | The Brick Magazine

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Staying on the Cutting Edge of Dentistry with Dr. Sabiha Bunek

16

If It Doesn’t Feel Natural, You Can Still Make It Second Nature

18

For Personal & Planetary Thriving: Returning to Nature...

22

Embracing Our Natural Gifts

24

Booze 101 with Liz: Craft Crawling in A2

28

Perfectly Imperfect

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Fighting Alzheimer’s with Food and Friends

34

Waking Up Every Day Without Aging

38

Natural Progression

40

Cannabis for the People

42

Medicine, Naturally

46

Woman On the Street The Do-Nothing Vacation

48

The Uninhibited Natural Self


PORTRAITS

HEADSHOTS

WEDDINGS

“The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.” –Andy Warhol @MaizeHouse

MaizeHouse.com


P UB LIS HERâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S Notes

8 | The Brick Magazine


A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. —Greek Proverb Dear Readers, If you are like most folks, when you hear the words “longevity in business” you likely think about fifteen, twenty, or maybe even fifty years in business.

of income. The same happens if you are working for someone else. If you stop working, eventually you will not be paid.

Those numbers are to be applauded. As many of us know, owning and running a business is not for the faint of heart. It is for the adventurer, the trailblazer, and the brave. Perhaps you count yourself as all of the above and more.

This is not real security.

While we are all thinking about what we could each do in fifty years of business, I ask you to take that thought a step further and ask yourself, “What could a business do for generations? What could a business do for your family for generations?”

Yes, some business owners are short-sighted and are not growing their business with longevity in mind. It’s similar to working your life away with a paycheck as the only goal. But I think most small business owners made the leap into entrepreneurship to get away from that mentality. The irony is not lost on me. Now, if you just read this and are thinking, “Um, my little business? Sarah, you’re nuts!”

If you own a business, your company is so much more than an alternative to a nine-to-five paycheck. It has the potential to grow into an asset that creates money and jobs, for you, your family, and everyone who works for it for generations.

I disagree. One of my core beliefs is that everything is “figure-outable.” If you have the desire and the nerve to build it with real wealth and longevity in mind, it can be done.

Not only that—the values that inspired you to start out on this adventure will continue to be shared with the world well beyond your lifetime.

This is one of the goals of The Brick Magazine. What gets us up in the morning is the drive to build a business and our community like we give a damn.

When people talk about being an influencer, they talk about market impact, followers, and revenue. I’m talking about creating generations of influence. It’s what I mean when I say “legacy.”

Creating content for our readers that resonates deeply and influences people towards their greater good is one of the reasons we feel passionate about what we do here.

I’m interested in changing the conversations we are having together. Let’s talk about real wealth and legacy.

Enjoy. Sincerely,

I always cringe a bit when I come across the oversimplified opinion that business owners should “just get a job.” It’s true that right now, the reality for most business owners is that ceasing to work would mean a loss

Sarah Whitsett, Publisher thebrickmagazine.com

October 2019 | 9


Photo by G. E. Anderson, Maize House

10 | The Brick Magazine


Staying on the Cutting Edge of Dentistry with Dr. Sabiha Bunek by Kristen Domingue

M

any of us dream about work so personally fulfilling that it provides more than a simple paycheck. Dr. Sabiha Bunek has created that for herself.

Passion in our chosen profession changes how we strive for our goals. For Sabiha, professional passion goes beyond her personal goals and extends into her industry. Throughout Sabiha’s story, we hear the reflections of a woman who is so dedicated that she’s transforming standards in dentistry. Read on to find out where such an infectious passion comes from, and how it also carried her through the pain of loss and the struggle of rebirth. My parents taught me at an early age that if you work hard, are honest, and always give 100%, you will be successful at whatever you do. I always knew the type of woman I wanted to be, but didn’t know until college that dentistry would be my platform. While attending dental school at the University of Michigan, I was invited to join a dental practice. Around the same time I joined, I started writing articles for a national dental journal called Dental Advisor. It’s like Consumer Reports for dental products, materials, and equipment. We have our own biomaterials research center on-site here in Ann Arbor. I began to practice dentistry within this group and fed my curiosity for learning and education through my work at the journal. After nine years, I worked my way up to

become the CEO at Dental Advisor. My role as CEO is mainly focused on driving the future and growth of what we need as dentists to give the best care to our patients. For me, the combination of research and clinical practice made dentistry come alive. Innovations and advancements in the field bring so much more to patient care; as materials and techniques evolve, care improves. Being part of Dental Advisor, I am fortunate to provide research data and clinical insights on products even before they are introduced to the market. The balancing act between group practice and the journal worked for many years, but as research inspired my personal approach to clinical dentistry, I knew I needed to transition to solo practice. Twelve years later, in 2018, I got started with a small team at Bunek Dental Studio.

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Over time, the work I did in my own practice and at Dental Advisor allowed me the opportunity to become an opinion leader for dental manufacturers. They would bring me into their factories and offices and say, “Look at all our materials and products; what do we need to do to make them better, what do our dentists need to provide better care for patients, how can we stay competitive?” It has been an honor and a privilege to serve our industry in this way. I am not compensated by manufacturers—that means I’m able to provide an unbiased opinion of the best products and techniques on the market. I do this through lecturing to other dentists, writing articles, and being an opinion leader for dental manufacturers. I practice what I preach, so you will find my office filled with the best technologies and materials, allowing my practice to be on the cutting edge of dentistry. Sometimes people ask me, “How do you run a family, dental practice, and a journal?” The truth is, I’m super busy, and there is no way I could do this alone. I have an amazingly supportive husband, Julius, who happens to be a periodontist at Michigan Implants & Periodontics in Ann Arbor. He supports my career and crazy ideas in every way. I also have two of the best teams in town at Bunek Dental Studio and Dental Advisor, who have become an extension of my family.

My first business, my first believer It all started when I was nine years old and my dad bought me pet rabbits. Little did we know the rabbits would breed and I would turn them into a business. I couldn’t keep all the rabbits and wanted others to be as happy as I was, so I brought them back to the pet store. Both my dad and I were surprised when they paid me for the rabbits. My dad and I would take the baby bunnies to the pet store three to four times each year and sell them back. He sat down with me and put together a business plan. This might be funny to others who don’t know my dad, but everything to him was an opportunity for a learning experience, even for a nine-year-old.

Photo by G. E. Anderson, Maize House

12 | The Brick Magazine

He wrote down the initial costs of the rabbits and their cages and food, and then we figured in the yearly costs. We figured out that with four litters of six per year, we would break even after only one year. This turned out to be one of my favorite bonding experiences with my dad.


But the opportunity to create a learning experience didn’t stop there. My dad had me do research on local charities, and we picked one each year to donate the proceeds to. It wasn’t a lot of money, but I remember it meaning so much to me and my dad. I didn’t realize until I was an adult how many hours my dad put into my small business and the valuable life lessons he was sneaking into each learning opportunity. I laugh now when I think about it. It just highlights the importance of surrounding yourself with good people from the start. I lost my father in my mid-thirties to a hit-and-run accident. That was probably one of the toughest times of my life. He was everything to me. It’s because of him and my mom that I am the woman I am today. As a girl, when I’d ask him “Dad, how much longer?” the kind of answer he’d give was typically something like “Well, Sabiha, there are ten pieces in a pie and we’ve used up six of those pieces in thirty minutes. You tell me how much longer.” Or if I’d ask “Dad, should I turn left or right at the exit?” he’d say, “Well, Sabiha, you’re heading east on I-94 and you need to head south, so you tell me which direction you should turn.” I’m pretty certain that I was one of the few children who went to amusement parks growing up and learned what g-force is at the age of five. I ended up having a very analytical mind as a result.

He was a beautiful person and always committed to our education. He especially made sure I did well in math and science. In our family, work ethic was always important, in addition to treating people right. He was frugal at home but very giving. It really showed at his memorial how many people came and said he touched their lives; we never knew much about that, he never talked about it. When I lost him, it was challenging. I was married, working, and had a daughter who was two at the time. I really had to push through a lot of emotions to make it through. I pulled up as much inner strength as I could to meet the challenge. It was tough, but as a family, we worked through it.

On overcoming bullying to build a team When I look back so far on my life, one of the things I’m most proud of is standing up for what is right, even when it was a hard thing to do. I’m a strong believer in women supporting women, but that doesn’t always happen. People can have jealous and competitive personalities. I was bullied late in my career by a colleague, but my husband, family, and

My dad was the eldest son of a high court judge in Mumbai, India. He became an engineer and married my mother. In the late ‘60s, there was a shortage of engineers in the US. He hadn’t planned to immigrate, but he was heavily recruited and he made the decision to move. At the time, he worked for a company called Phillips and ultimately settled in Ann Arbor working for a company called Bechtel in the 777 building on State Street. One of the motivating factors to move to Ann Arbor was because he loved the math system used in the public schools. I was the youngest of three and by the time I was born, he was slowing down from previously working a lot. We would spend weekends at Gallup Park, the museums, the petting farm, you name it. If he didn’t know how to do something, he was never afraid to ask. I’ll never forget it— he took me bowling one time and he didn’t know how to bowl. So he asked the guy next to us, “Excuse me, would you mind showing my daughter a couple of moves?” To this day, I use what I learned that day.

DENTAL STUDIO

October 2019 | 13


close friends were all aware of my situation and encouraged me to advocate for myself and to do what was right. I knew with their support I could do something about it. I stood up for myself and what I believed, maintained integrity, and through great adversity came out on top. As of now, there is no better moment I can think of than my nine-year-old telling me, “I’m proud of you, Mom!” My mom had a saying when we were kids: “A flower never thinks to compete with the flowers next to it. It just blooms.” I didn’t really understand what she was saying until later in life and I experienced bullying first-hand. From experience, bullies can be troublesome to others, but are a true detriment to themselves. My advice to those who experience a bully later in life is to stay focused on your path and your vision. Don’t let someone else’s negativity slow you down; keep moving ahead, and grow. Eventually, I used the experience as a springboard for my practice. My inner commitment to do the right thing attracted the right team and created a business that makes a difference in the community.

The guiding principles of my dental practice I love the space we’ve built. Being right across the street from the University of Michigan’s football stadium has been a treat. The space is open and bright, with a fantastic view of The Big House. The light-filled design allows the office to always have a sense of comfort and optimism. I wanted a space that allowed movement and flow but didn’t allow everyone to hear every syllable of every conversation. Our space achieves that. Everything here is the best of the best, chosen meticulously based on sound research, largely contributed by Dental Advisor. The field of dentistry has changed in recent years, with a heavy emphasis put on growing the size and profitability of a practice. This often results in a turn toward quantity and away from quality. I did not want to be a part of this shift in dentistry, as my vision involves personalized care and making sure my patients have the best service and products available.

Photo by G. E. Anderson, Maize House

14 | The Brick Magazine


I’m also a strong believer in nurturing and growing my team and including them in something larger than just working in a dental office. I want them all to feel and believe they’re doing something more important—that they’re not just employees, that they are a part of a team that improves people’s lives. It is impossible to get this level of accountability, motivation, and enthusiasm if you’re alone or just providing average dentistry or focusing on profit. Dentistry for me has never been about the money; it has always been about change. I’ve used my success in dentistry as a platform to play an even larger role as an advocate for improved dental care. More than anything, I’m excited to see where the field grows from here.

Sabiha won’t tell you, but her hard work and accomplishments in dentistry have not gone unrecognized. Just to name a few accolades, she has been honored as one of the top ten young educators in the U.S, and one of the top 25 women in dentistry; was presented the Distinguished Service award in Dentistry; was one of Incisal Edge’s 40 Under 40 in 2013; and in 2018, she was honored nationally at the Lucy Hobbs ceremony in California with the Clinical Expertise in Dentistry Award. Most recently, she was voted in as a member of the oldest and most prestigious academy in dentistry, the American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry, which promotes the integration of dental aesthetics into the total spectrum of oral healthcare. Photo by G. E. Anderson, Maize House

At Bunek Dental Studio, we don’t cut corners. I don’t use knockoff products from China. Our sterilization protocols surpass industry standards. I don’t take payments from the manufacturers I speak with. My motto has been ”Dentistry Done Differently” from the start. I didn’t think that improving dentistry was enough. When late 19th-century inventors decided they wanted a better light source, they didn’t improve on the candle or oil lamp—they invented a better and completely different light source, the light bulb. As a patient of Bunek Dental Studio, you aren’t just a number when you’re in our office; you are a guest. It’s my commitment that our patients leave wondering, “Why haven’t I ever experienced something like this before?”

It’s clear within Sabiha’s story how important passion and integrity are, and how they guide every decision for her practice. It’s also exciting to see her commitment to learning and its real-world application. Her work is impacting hundreds of lives within her practice, and thousands by ripple effect within her field. We’re excited to see where such a bright career will go next. Congrats Dr. Bunek!

Kristen M. Domingue is a copywriter and content marketing consultant in the New York City area. When she’s not delivering on client projects, you can find her cooking up something gluten-free or in an internet rabbit hole on entrepreneurship or astrology.

October 2019 | 15


If It Doesn’t Feel Natural, You Can Still Make It Second Nature by Bridget Baker Photo by Luca Bravo

D

ecluttering and keeping your home “tidy” have been trendy topics these days. Experts have written books on the benefits of simplifying your life and letting go of clutter. These passionate minimalists have posted videos on YouTube sharing items they’ve let go of, and in turn, what you should let go of. Knowing what to do may not make the difference, however. Having someone else telling you how to let go of a certain amount of items per day or month, or to only have so many items in your closet, may help you to get more organized, but it might also create frustration or feelings of inadequacy. You might know you need to do away with clutter to make your life simpler. It can nag at you, making you feel guilty for what you’ve accumulated. You drool over Pinterest-perfect

16 | The Brick Magazine

pictures of pristinely white kitchens with empty surfaces, and you feel like your own kitchen is so far from looking that way (and that you’ll never get there). Rather than feeling inspired, the comparison trap can leave you feeling like you don’t have enough time, energy, or money to get that organized. You give up and say, “Oh, those people are only so organized because they’ve got a nanny/personal assistant/staff of minions.” Well, that doesn’t mean you’re inadequate; it may just come naturally to them. It’s like having a naturally thin person giving you dieting tips, or a naturally outgoing person telling you to just “get out there” and have fun. It’s most likely not you–it’s them. For me, staying organized and letting go comes naturally. I was a little OCD even at a young age. As a kid, I took


out a permanent marker and labeled my dresser drawers (socks, T-shirts, underwear). I used to ask my mom to clean her room when my friends were coming over. I grew up idolizing the carefully-placed stick-on labels in Martha Stewart’s linen closet. I was an organizing geek, and I still am. For me, staying organized and cleaning feels like a meditation. I even love doing laundry! It has a start and an end, and I find folding warm clothes fresh out of the dryer to be soothing. It makes me feel productive, accomplished, and clears my mind to work, write, and play. Recently, I began developing a course to help others get and stay on top of their clutter, specifically as it relates to their email inboxes. I had bullet points, I had steps–I had a system! I thought people would feel like I’d helped to make their lives easier by tackling their inboxes and mastering their lives. I asked a handful of people if they wanted to be my guinea pigs and offered them the course handout for free in exchange for their feedback. After polishing up the PDF to send to them, I emailed them out and awaited their responses. I’ll admit, I had expectations—and we all know how that goes. Expectations often lead to disappointment. After not hearing back from any of them, I wasn’t faulting them, but I knew something was up. I knew they either weren’t benefiting from what I had sent them or they were butting up against some challenges, but didn’t know what to say. I decided to let them off the hook by following up with them to check-in. What I realized was that most of those people were all struggling with the same thing. They had read through it, and what I suggested sounded like great ideas. When they proceeded to the practical application of my process, however, they got stuck. To look at the thousands of emails in their inbox left them daunted, and they just ran the other direction. It was not out of a lack of willingness or desire to get more organized, but a feeling of guilt and of feeling overwhelmed at the current state of their email. They stopped at the beginning and never started. What I realized was that I was coming from a place of being a naturally organized person trying to help people who did not organically feel that way to simplify their

inboxes. It was so simple to me. Why weren’t they jumping on it? What was missing was my perspective, my compassion, and my understanding that something much deeper was running the show for them. I also realized that even though it came naturally to me, it would take work and effort to create the habit for other people. They could make it second nature, even if iit wasn’t their default way of doing things. We can make something a habit, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Step by step, day by day, with consistent effort and committed action, we can affect change. It all starts with the first step and a committed mindset. A great idea or a desire without action remains just that–an idea. If you find yourself feeling unable to take action, it’s important to check in with the “why” that’s underneath, why you’re feeling unable to move forward. There may be very valid concerns or fears or shame you’ll need to get past. After taking a look at what’s stopping you and validating the way you’re feeling, the “why” may no longer matter. You may not WANT to work it out—you may never actually get to a place where you want to—but with each time you show up to the gym, or get on the mat, or approach the running trail, you’ll start to feel benefits. Momentum will begin to build. After a few weeks, it’ll feel awkward if you don’t work out. That sweet spot is when a habit starts to form. That’s the place where doing the action can become second nature. If something comes naturally to someone, it’s easy for them. The real accomplishment is when something doesn’t come naturally to you, but you can see the benefits that are possible on the other side of it, that you can put in the work. When you make the effort and push past your edges, you can let go of your tendencies and can step into your true nature. You’ve got this.

Bridget Baker is a branding consultant, website designer, minimalist, digital nomad, and adventurer. For 10 years, she’s supported small business owners in branding, designing, writing, simplifying, and integrating their websites so that they can do what they love and have more fun in the process. She also lives full-time in a travel trailer with her husband and little dog, writing and speaking about minimalism, decluttering, and living simply. Find her at : bridgetbakermojo.com; travellightlife.com

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FOR PERSONAL

& PLANETARY THRIVING

Returning to Natureâ&#x20AC;¦ by Morella Devost, EdM, MA

Photo by Barron Noth

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I

t sounded like a freight train rolling above my head.

I never heard anything like it before. The roar of the windstorm swaying the forest trees surrounding my tent made me feel minuscule and out of place. As I longed for my bed, I was saddened to be one of the many humans whose lifestyle is so completely divorced from nature that we don’t even know how to live in it. That stormy night was the third in my five-day, five-night vision quest. I was alone, fasting, meditating, and simply sitting and being with the forest. It was a spiritual quest that culminated an eighteen-year journey. I’d always known I’d sit in the woods alone one day, and dreamt of the idea of being one with nature. But instead, I felt sorely an outsider; like I truly didn’t belong there. That was one of the biggest, hardest insights of my vision quest: how deeply lost from our natural state of being we’ve become as a human race.

want to leave NYC?” “How are you going to meet men?” (We were all single.) My response: “I don’t need that many men, I only need one.” And then: “I can no longer live in a place where I can’t watch a sunset or walk barefoot. I need to be close to nature.” “What about Central Park?”, they’d say. No offense to the creative eye and the foresight of Frederick Law Olmstead (who designed the park in the 1850s)—but Central Park has always felt like a glorified (though unquestionably beautiful) giant sandbox to me. The park is most certainly not nature, just as a sandbox is not a beach. My whole life, I’ve been moving closer and closer to nature—not just in my surroundings, but also in how I care for myself. Over the years, I’ve realized that the more we disconnect from nature, the less we know what constitutes a healthy lifestyle, or what we need in order to restore balance to the body. We are the only species on the planet that needs to be

“How did I ever become so disconnected from nature?” I wondered.

told what to eat in order to not kill itself! Have you ever realized that we are so profoundly disconnected we don’t even know what to eat? We don’t know how to co-exist

I was born foreign to it, to begin with. I was a city girl through and through. Born in Caracas, I lived in a high-

with the rest of our ecosystems. We seem to be on a quest to destroy them, and ourselves in the process.

rise until the ripe old age of twenty-seven. From there, I left Venezuela to go to grad school at Columbia, which meant I traded my relatively tiny city of three million to live in Manhattan. For the next six years, I lived the life of restaurants, apartments, and theaters, surrounded by the environment of sidewalks, subways, and enormous buildings. The hardness of the New York life wore down on me. One night, leaving work after a long day at my fancy corporate job, I told my coworker, “See you tomorrow! I’m gonna go tuck myself away in my box!” She laughed. I didn’t. The voice that told me I could no longer feel fully alive living a life that unfolded entirely within concrete landscapes was getting louder and louder. At thirty-three, I had had enough of city living. When I told my friends I was leaving New York to move to Burlington, Vermont, they were aghast! “Who would ever

I believe we’re living the ultimate consequences of the dark ages that rolled into the Industrial Revolution without much depth or wisdom. The short stints through the “Renaissance” and “Enlightenment” periods did little to balance the darkness. The ignorance of humanity turned into power-hungry and consumption-driven knowledge. In our industrialization, we left behind the last traces that connected us to nature through farming, herbalism, and foraging. But not all cultures detached from our natural lifestyles as completely as we seem to have done in the West. In China and India, their millenary wisdom and healing philosophies have always been rooted in a deep communion with nature. Both Chinese medicine and Ayurveda observe and understand the rhythms of nature, the qualities in different foods and herbs, and how they correlate with human health. In fact, healing in both traditions is all about restoring balance and harmony within the body and with

October 2019 | 19


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the environment. Both espouse that what you eat and how you move in the heat of summer must be completely different than what you eat and what you do during the lows of winter. In Japan, recent studies on the practice of forest-bathing are showing the significant health benefits derived from the simple practice of walking through the woods. It helps with all sorts of things—lowering blood pressure, reducing allergies, improving sleep and digestion, and so on. Oddly, the city girl in me has always dreamt of living at the foot of a mountain. As I write this, I still live in Burlington but have decided to move. A big part of me longs to trade the urban sounds and sights for those of nature. And there’s another part of me that wonders if I’ll find rural life completely isolating and freak out at the absence of conveniences and entertainment. Given our modern life, it’s unrealistic, impractical, and unsustainable for everyone to forgo city life for rural living.

But there must be a way to create better balance. How can we keep the best of urban life while returning to a more natural and integrated way of living? Whether it is through relearning the art of eating with the seasons, or rooftop gardening, or weekly forest bathing, we need to reconnect with nature. We must find our place again in the balance of our ecosystems, rather than being their biggest destabilizer. It is imperative, both for our personal health and planetary health, that we see ourselves again as intrinsically a part of nature…a return to a more natural lifestyle, naturally. Morella Devost facilitates profound transformation for people who want to thrive in every aspect of life. After receiving two masters degrees in counseling from Columbia University, she also became a Clinical Hypnotherapist, NLP facilitator, and Holistic Health Coach. Morella is a VenezuelanVermonter who works with people all over the world from her beautiful office in Burlington, Vermont. www.thrivewithmorella.com www.facebook.com/ThriveWithMorella

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Embracing Our Natural Gifts

by Gail Barker, B.A., C.P.C.C. Photo by William Moreland

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n the world of self-development, there is often a lot of talk about knowing and embracing your gifts. Those natural abilities and talents that you bring to the world? They are a source of power, strength, and identity. They are what make you, YOU. I’ve learned over the years, however, that as much as these unique qualities may be appreciated by others, I myself may be blind to them. It’s as though their very “natural-ness” renders them invisible to me, the bearer of the gifts. Take for example my ability to speak publicly. This is something that I do with relative confidence and ease in front of an audience of virtually any size. This ability isn’t one which I give a whole lot of consideration. It’s something I’ve always done, and always enjoyed doing. Sure, there have been times when I’ve blundered a bit (especially when I was younger and more focused on the judgments that might come my way), but because my ability to speak flows as easily as it does, it was decades before I saw this skill as unique in any way. It never occurred to me that others didn’t necessarily share that capacity until someone pointed it out. Their exact words were, “I wish I could learn to speak like you.” That stopped me in my tracks, because I just assumed everyone could. In your case, you might be someone with a natural flair for writing. Perhaps you are a great listener. Maybe you can teach complex subjects with ease. Your particular gift could be any one of a myriad of things—and you might not be entirely appreciative of the value of the gift that you hold. The thing about natural gifts and talents is they tend to sit in a bit of a blind spot. In light of this, it is quite possible to overlook the value of what it is we can truly offer the world, and because we overlook the value, we hold the gift back. We don’t share it as freely as we could. We don’t allow it to sit in the spotlight. We don’t give it airtime. Which is a crying shame, because our gifts are meant to be shared.

that our gifts are meant to be utilized as part of our professional identity or career. It’s time to lay waste to this idea. You might very well use your natural gift, talent, or capacity within your career. And you could just as easily share your gift as a hobby, or as a form of volunteerism. These ways of utilizing your gifts are just as valid as integrating gifts into your career path. When it comes to sharing what comes naturally to you, the gifts you hold, the strengths you harbor, it’s not about HOW you share them; instead, it’s all about the fact that you do. The second caveat has to do with a misconception around the ease of a natural gift. Folks tend to think that a natural gift is one that doesn’t require you to work at it. There’s only a modicum of truth to this. Just because a skill comes naturally doesn’t mean that you can’t improve it, better it, hone it with some effort. Those with a gift for singing? The ones who choose to share it? They usually invest resources—time, money, energy—in enhancing that gift. Skilled athletes? The ones who end up making it professionally in some way? They practice and focus on their natural skills. In other words, no matter what your gift, you have a responsibility to HONE that gift, even as you share it. Bottom-line: yes, you’ve got natural talents, and those talents are meant to be shared. Take the time to recognize those talents—those gifts—for what they are. Don’t take them for granted. Then take the time to develop that talent. When we each embrace, hone, and share the gifts that we own with the world, the world becomes a richer place for all. Gail Barker is a Certified Professional CoActive Coach. She specializes in supporting leaders to lead powerfully and meaningfully. Her company, Stellar Coaching & Consulting, was established in 2013, and through that platform she has supported hundreds of leaders in elevating their leadership game. A few of the additional hats she wears professionally are author, speaker, and radio show host. Personally, she is deeply committed to her family, loves to read, and finds deep restoration when walking along the beach (even in the winter). Website: www.stellarcc.com

That being said, I want to issue two caveats. The first is this: one of the myths around our natural abilities is

Facebook: www.facebook.com/stellarcc Twitter: stellar7

October 2019 | 23


Welcome to Booze 101 with

Liz

Craft Crawling in A2

by Liz Crowe Photo by Bobby Rodriguezz

24 | The Brick Magazine


D

uring my time as an ex-pat trailing spouse and mom of three young children in Istanbul, life could get interesting. The stark differences between being an ex-pat in Japan and in Turkey would make for a long list, both positives and negatives. But our landing (ex-pat speak for the first two weeks you live in your new country) was…a rough one. It’s a long-ish story and one I won’t get into as we must jump right to our boozerelated one. I bring it up though because it allows me to do this super cool segue by relating the Turkish national drink—raki—to my experience on a mini craft cocktail crawl through Ann Arbor.

indicates that is definitely not the case. It’s got a hefty bit of aniseed in it, which means it does this cool thing when you add water to it—it goes from tap-water clear to cloudy and, well, milky-looking. It’s meant to be consumed with meze or appetizers like white cheese, chickpeas, or almonds. Another one of its urban myths is that when you drink it, it doesn’t always get you drunk—sometimes you just get a big happy feeling. You know, happy drunk.

First of all, “raki” is one of those cilantro-like drinks. You know. You love or hate it, nothing in between. Me? I pretty much hate it, but that did not keep me from imbibing my fair share of it during the two years I lived on the European side of Turkey.

Luckily, when I drank one too many glasses of it in an underground restaurant in the Taksim area of the city, there was no such thing as Instagram or Facebook, so video evidence of yours truly dancing on a table will never go viral. Raki is strong. And frankly, given what’s going on in the cocktail environment these days, I’m kind of shocked that it hasn’t experienced some kind of a revival. It has the medicinal, liquorish-forward thing that I found in a lot of the drinks I consumed in my research.

It used to be made from what was left after wine was made, like its Greek counterpart, ouzo. It’s pronounced “rah-kuh” and while I was told it meant “milk of the lion” by some smart-arsed Turkish waiter, actual research

Let’s get right to that, shall we? There are several bars here in Our Fair City that subscribe to a sort of Speakeasy Revival—dark interiors, in many cases minimal windows, limited bar seating, vast swaths of obscure yet interesting-

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looking bottles of booze in front of mirrors surrounded by fancy carved wood. With one exception, they all serve food. And they all have top-notch experts concocting alcohol-laden potions that are not your usual daiquiris, g&t’s, or jack ‘n cokes. (Note: I am not dissing these drinks. I’m merely using them for comparison to what’s coming up next.) Raven’s Club, located on Main Street, is one of the more familiar places to get a creative glass of booze. They are a full-service restaurant with jazz on the weekends. Their bar is a popular place for locals and visitors alike and is suitably small, as befits what I found more or less across the board at these places. The menu is chock-full of interesting concoctions, many if not most made with things like “chartreuse” and “bitters” of every possible flavor. To kick things off, I got something called The Seelbach. Those of you who are paying attention know why (okay, sorry, it’s because The Actual Seelbach is a famous old hotel in Louisville. Plus it had bourbon in it. Now you all know why). I thoroughly enjoyed this combination of Old Forester bourbon, (not blue) curaçao, Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters, plus champagne. The carbonation from the bubbly cut the bitterness for me, which allowed me to enjoy the combination of bourbon and orange liqueur. When I challenged Charles (the bartender) to make me something off-menu, I was treated to a “modified Bijou,” which was gin, dry vermouth, orange bitters, and yellow chartreuse. The modification is in the choice of yellow versus green chartreuse.

A bit about chartreuses, which were featured heavily on all the cocktail menus I studied in my never-ending quest to bring you better booze info. It’s a French liqueur that comes in two shades: green and yellow. It’s one of those monk-made drinks with a deeply herbal flavor whose recipe is a super secret. The yellow and green versions differ slightly in alcohol content, and some people prefer it as an aperitif (post-dinner tipple). When at room temp, it’s decidedly medicinal, but I’m told that it balances (complements or contrasts with) other, harsher ingredients like lime, pineapple, thyme, basil, rosemary, coffee, vanilla, or absinthe. Also, that whole “shaken not stirred” thing is real with this ingredient. Shaking a chartreuse cocktail will highlight any citrus ingredients, while stirring it lends a viscous palate-coating mouthfeel. At NightCap, one of the newer additions to the Ann Arbor cocktail scene and the only one I visited that does not serve any food whatsoever, I had not one but two offmenu drinks. The first was called The Stark and carried on with the chartreuse/brown liquor theme. It was rye, yellow chartreuse, lemon, honey, and Angostura bitters. This last, ubiquitous ingredient is concentrated bitters made of herbs and spices by the House of Angostura in Trinidad and Tobago with extracts of grasses, roots, leaves, and fruits dissolved in alcohol. It’s a rather strong addition and hence is used sparingly. When I asked bartender Scott to “go nuts” with something for me, he delivered with something he totally made up that allowed me to try yet another newto-me ingredient. The “Cyvit” was my first experience with both Aquavit and Cynar, which is an Italian artichoke liqueur (yes, I said that). Aquavit is a flavored, unsweetened, neutral spirit. The dominant flavor is caraway or dill, but it can be complemented with almost any other herb, spice, or fruit. My special drink was made with a Detroit-made version of this ancient, Scandanavian liquor, Norden Aquavit. Aquavit means “water of life” and was, to me, like a funkier version of gin. Combined with the Cynar, fresh lime, honey, and a dash of (wait for it) house-made serrano bitters (as in the pepper), it was super funky and surprisingly refreshing, if a bit herbaceous, thanks to the artichoke liqueur. Night Number Two (look, I’m 52 years old, I can’t do four bars in one night!) found me and my drinking companion, Grace, daughter #1, at a place I’d never been to before: “Bar.” More formally known as The Bar at 327 Braun Court, this place is small, unfancy, and super cool on the second floor of the building, where trees surround all the windows. The bartender, Casey, was eager to assist me with my

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ongoing research. I really went for it this time, y’all, straight out of my comfort zone and into a drink I would normally avoid—which is to say anything with mescal, or “mezcal” if you prefer, tequila’s super smoky cousin. I’m not a fan of either of these particular alcohol options. Call it bad college experience if you like. However, when I saw that there was a “milk-washed mescal margarita” and got the story behind it, I knew I had to do this—for you, of course. Anything for you. Milk washing is an old process by which the cocktail (mescal, lime, Cointreau, agave) is mixed together then put into—you guessed it—milk. The fat extracts impurities, after which the drink is strained and served with a huge ice cube and a slice of lime. Call me skeptical, but I had to try it. And I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it made mescal consumable, and the drink was delicious. The smokiness was cut in half or more and you could taste all aspects of the drink, even the Cointreau (which in my experience is drowned out by mescal). Also worth noting was Grace’s drink: the Kentucky Maid (yes, there is a theme) that is bourbon, lime, mint, cucumber, and Angostura bitters, served up*. Kind of like if a mint julep and a Pimms had a party in a glass. Delicious, needless to say. “Bar” is definitely worth your trip—be sure and get the Szechuan wings. They rock. The final stop was at a bar on Huron Street that used to be Good Night Gracie’s when I was last there. The Last Word is a total speakeasy throwback with low lighting, close quarters, small plates, and the requisite short bar plus super busy bartenders. I loved it right off the bat since the menu was presented in “chapters.” When I asked for my “offmenu drink,” Gianncarlo went way off, using a gin that they don’t even serve yet, from a distillery in a city in Ohio that shall remain nameless because I’m here to tell you, the gin was amazing. Watershed’s rep was our fellow drinking companion and so we tasted, then got some incredible mixed drinks using both the Guild (citrus, nutmeg, rose petal crafted, then chamomile-infused) and Four Peel (low on juniper, high on citrus) versions of his brand. I got a “Saturn,” which is a typical tiki drink made with passion fruit and lemon and something else that quite honestly by this time of the evening I forgot to write down. But let me tell you, it’s delicious and quite pretty. Grace had something called “Mother’s Ruin,” a gin drink with Cynar (remember? The artichoke stuff?), fresh lemon, pineapple, grapefruit, and almond syrup, garnished with a sprig of fresh thyme.

After two days of solid hydration, I can safely recommend all these bars (Raven’s Club, NightCap, Bar, The Last Word) when you’re ready to experience the speakeasy, crafty cocktail life right here in Ann Arbor. As we say over our raki, şerefe!** *Neat: Right out of the bottle (see: Beer and a bump, which is how we ended both nights) Up: Chilled, and served in a cocktail glass. Straight Up: Usually means “neat,” but check first. Twist: A thin strip of citrus peel. Default is lemon. **Turkish for “Cheers!” Amazon best-selling author, mom of three, brewery founder, craft beer marketing consultant, and avid sports fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales, public relations, and fundraising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse, all of which provide ongoing idea fodder for novels and other projects. www.facebook.com/lizcroweauthor (fan page) www.twitter.com/ETLizCrowe

October 2019 | 27


Perfectly Imperfect by Maria Sylvester, MSW, CPC

28 | The Brick Magazine


“There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection. To me that is the essence of beauty.” ~Steve Maraboli

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tend to roll through my days so much better, and feel so much happier, when I concentrate my energy on being my perfectly imperfect self. Trusting in one’s natural flow, or way of being, doesn’t always come easy. You have to practice. Stay real. Accept your flaws. Your shortcomings. Embrace good enough! Mastering the art of seeing yourself as perfectly imperfect is at once extremely challenging and one of the most empowering ways of knowing and valuing yourself. Savoring the idea that I’m “perfectly imperfect” has become one of my favorite organizing principles and ways of existing in the world. To view myself this way—as innately fine with what is naturally created within and about me— feels great! It is actually easier to strive toward my dreams and goals when committed to my perfectly imperfect state. And I encourage my coaching clients to embrace a similar stance of glorious self-acceptance. It is quite a freeing and empowering way to experience oneself. Heck, if we are flawless in all of our flaws, we can settle into the comfort of just being ourselves. Imagine that. There is such magnificent energy and rich possibility in this. No need to always be striving to self-correct, change, alter, adjust, fix, or repair a broken self. Instead, you can confidently and easily move forward in life trusting that everything about yourself, and your choice of action, is in divine order. Let me say that again: divine order! Growth happens exponentially to the degree we believe in the okay-ness of ourselves. It’s quite an exhilarating experience to be able to be in each and every moment feeling plenty enough, despite one’s inevitable human blemishes.

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alone. Spontaneously, one is often drawn to this call of musical self-expression. Yet we get in public, and oh no, never! Singing in this format can easily become something believed strictly for the “experts.” Unless, of course, you have mastered the mindset of a perfectly imperfect you. Then, look out world! You’ll easily heed the call to burst forth in song. You’ll be in your element, feeling vibrantly alive and creatively self-expressed. And those within earshot will be blessed by the melodies, in or out of tune, that surround them. Imperfections are where we find our connection with each other. We meet there. We are downright approachable there. As perfectly imperfect humans. Our flaws are how we leave our mark of unique personal expression on the world. When we witness in another a fault, a struggle, mishap, or blemish, we find ourselves. Isn’t it comforting? This mirror of the other can indeed evoke compassion. We more easily see and get each other. We can truly relate to one another. We feel so much less alone.

Photo by Evelyn Mostrom

The perfectly imperfect framework offers additional perks as well. Taking risks, for instance, is much less intimidating when you don’t have to worry about being without fault. One is much more likely to experiment, try new things, or step out in new ways when imperfect outcomes are considered downright perfect! There really is no place for self-doubt or worrisome rumination when imperfection is valued or a natural state of affairs. In fact, conditions are ripe for grand exploration of a multitude of things when one can do so blissfully free of any pressure to be immaculate all the time. There is no place for, or need of, any judgements or criticisms under the glow of perfectly imperfect humans. Mistakes made are simply part of the essence of one’s existence. Consider, for example, the joy of singing. So many of us are innately inclined to belt out a tune or two, maybe even with an accompanying hip wiggle, when we are

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Even better yet, appreciation for ourselves and others grows as we expand our capacity to tolerate imperfections. Pursuit of perfection, on the other hand, can actually spoil attractiveness. Paralysis can set in as one strives for the unattainable. Relationships and connections flat-line, and can become boring amid the unrealistic striving for that which actually makes us less interesting and real. So stay in the land of appreciation, my friends. Treasure and cherish your unique, exquisite faults. Just be naturally you. Know you are beautiful, talented and wise. Stand unapologetically strong and confident in all that makes you perfectly imperfect you!

Maria Sylvester, MSW, CPC is a certified Life Coach in Ann Arbor, MI who loves empowering adolescents, adults, and couples to live from the HEART of what really matters to them so that they can bring their fully expressed, vibrant selves into the world. She has a special gift for helping women reclaim their feminine power, and embrace their radiant, sensual, sexy spirits. Their lives transform. They soar into their mid-life magnificence! www.lifeempowermentcoaching.com Instagram: @life_coach_maria Facebook: www.facebook.com/LifeEmpowermentCoaching


with Maria Sylvester, MSW, CPC

Get Unstuck. Be Unstoppable.

Soar!

Life Coaching that helps you get to the HEART of what really matters! Enjoy a Complimentary First Session as a gift to yourself! Maria Sylvester, MSW, CPC Life Empowerment Coaching, LLC 1785 W. Stadium, Suite 104 • Ann Arbor, Mi 48103

734-717-7532 • www.LifeEmpowermentCoaching.com


Fighting Alzheimerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s with Food and Friends

by Suzanne Evans

Photo by Jakob Owens

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couple of friends and I were chatting one day, as we often do, about how our brains are going down the tube. We laugh, but it has an edge. It is a short step between joking about forgetfulness and feeling the hovering spectre of Alzheimerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s, a disease that has sucked the life force out of people we cherish.

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Not one to wallow in fear for long, Heather demanded we muster a defensive line. On the list of protective life-style choices we know, including exercise, learning a new language, or playing a musical instrument, we thought the suggestions of eating well and socializing sounded like just the things to focus on. Surely these


activities could be pulled together and shaped into a cooking club. With the help of Heather #2’s genius sense of humor— yes, my culinary companions are both named Heather, making it extremely difficult for me to forget who’s in the club—we came up with a title for ourselves. Henceforth we would be the Anti-Alzheimer’s Silly Sisters Cooking Club. To clarify our professional image, Heather #1 bought us chef’s hats inscribed with our acronym, AASSCC. The Cs, she insists, are silent. We rarely remember to bring our hats to meetings, but we have them. Somewhere. The plan was to meet each month, alternating houses, and cook dishes based on a theme. We all have small kitchens, so we decided to mostly cook in our own homes and then finish off at the host’s house. To increase the level of mental exercise, we agreed to only try new recipes. Then Heather #1 declared that it was not enough to just socialize with each other; we had to meet new people to further stimulate our brains. So we lit upon the notion of the guinea pigs. Whoever was hosting would invite a couple of friends whom the other members didn’t know. Rather than cooking for their pleasure, we invite them, lovingly, as test subjects. It turns out sitting down to dinner with strangers is also a wonderful opportunity to open our minds to new ideas. For the inaugural dinner of the AASSCC, Amanda and Tim, seasoned theatre folk and writers of children’s tales, were our guinea pigs. As expected, they brought a sense of play and openness to the table. The theme, as for many of our dinners, was based on a national cuisine. As soon as our guinea pigs arrived, we swaddled them in bright-coloured kimono-like robes from the local second-hand shop in preparation for a Japanese meal. They stepped into their roles with humor and grace, and, we discovered, some first-hand experience and a literary interest in Japan. Tim had worked there and had written a Japanese character into one of his novels. As well, his father had fought in the Far East during World War II. We learned a lot that evening from the difficulties of making sushi stick together to the challenges of understanding the culture and history of another nation. Sometimes we branch out in our themes, like the time we had hippie food to celebrate Heather #2’s new hip. Great

idea, but where do you go after tofu, granola, and those brownies? Answer: health food. All the vegetables and unprocessed foods that were good for the hippies are still good for us, whether you have flowers in your hair or not! As our club matures we add to our traditions. Twice now we have invited all our guests from the previous year plus their partners for a blow-out feast. It is very satisfying to see all our guinea pigs dressed up in outrageous costumes and meeting each other for the first time. They are eager to bring contributions which we usually decline, but going forward we have decided to suggest that instead of bringing food, they make a small donation to the Alzheimer’s Society. I grew up with a mother who, while fully capable of serving magnificent meals, sweated the process. Only when all was done and she had taken her seat at the head of the table, ready to make the toast, would her face soften into a smile. Then her pride at gathering friends and family around her culinary creations would shine forth. At all too young an age, her smile and the character that went with it disappeared under the cloak of dementia. I have inherited some of her kitchen anxiety and who knows what else, but cooking for interest and education is both liberating and far less stressful than catering to guests at a regular dinner party. If a dish, or even a whole menu, doesn’t work, no worries. It was made for the challenge and the pleasure. Only once has this been an issue. While celebrating an Argentinian theme, we produced an unusual number of meat dishes. That evening our three delightful guinea pigs seemed particularly thoughtful as we described the method and all the ingredients in each dish. Then, one by one each smiled and gently announced, “I’m a vegetarian.” After we uncurled ourselves from our fits of laughter, we found plenty to fill their bellies. We haven’t forgotten that night, a suitable mark of success for a club whose aim is to make memories and hold on to them. Suzanne Evans has thought a lot about food and companionship, especially while writing her forthcoming book, The Taste of Longing, the story of a Canadian woman who wrote a cookbook while she was a starving prisoner of war in Singapore during World War Two.

www.suzannwevans.ca

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Waking Up Every Day Without Aging

by Theresa Reid Photo by Huyen Nguyen

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et’s look at a conundrum most of us face: we all want to live lovely, long lives, but none of us want to get old. How’s that supposed to work? This basic conflict causes all kinds of unnecessary human suffering. Unnecessary because we could actually

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embrace aging as a phase of the human condition—not just inescapable, but beautiful, necessary, life-enhancing. I’m no Pollyanna. Aging is also painful, loss-filled, challenging, scary, and sometimes terribly sad, along with being—potentially—a uniquely beautiful phase of human development.


I’m 66 (more on how to say that below!), older than most of you reading this magazine, and my path to embracing aging has been, let’s just say, circuitous. I clearly remember, in my early 40s, noticing the first vertical line under my eye, and calling Clinique in New York (no internet at the time) to demand my money back. I’m not proud of this moment, but that’s the kind of thing age panic can make you do. Think of me as the canary in the coal mine of the aging process, still singing. As I’ve developed my work in aging (which you can explore at agingforlife.org), I’ve come across at least two core insights that have helped shape my thinking.

INSIGHT #1 The first is from geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas (find him at drbillthomas.org), one of my few personal gods. In his fascinating book, Second Wind: Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper, More Connected Life¸ Dr. Thomas helps make sense of three possible approaches to aging. His categories are exceptionally useful for sorting the torrent of books, articles, products, and attitudes about aging that swirl around us all the time. His categories also help us assess—and evaluate, and maybe change—our own mind-set. Here goes:

Are you a Denialist? Denialists are so freaked out by aging they just pretend they can avoid it. They buy the argument that we can defeat aging in our lifetime, and funnel tremendous resources—time,

“Life Expectancy” vs. “Longevity” Thomas makes an important distinction (that denialist gurus often intentionally confuse) between “life expectancy” and “longevity.” “Life expectancy” is the average age a population of people can be expected to reach. Life expectancy in the West has increased dramatically because of great wins against early killers like infant mortality, infection, and communicable disease. “Longevity,” in contrast, is the maximum number of years a human being can live. Longevity—a mixture of genes, environmental factors, and luck—has not increased appreciably in the last couple centuries. Dr. Thomas writes, “Even if we make stunning breakthroughs in gene therapy or other medical advances, we will not alter the reality that aging is tightly bound to the experience of being alive.”

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money, and life energy—into finding ways to stop the clock until the “cure” for aging can be found. (See my blog post, “Do you want to live to be 1,000?” on agingforlife. org, for more on this work.) This hope is doomed, and is a perfect dark reflection of our viciously ageist culture. Denialism is widespread in the world population, like the blind desperation about aging it reflects.

Are you a Realist? Realists accept the fact of aging and death. They just think the whole thing is incredibly unfortunate. They’re all about sensible ways to stave off the ravages of age: fiber, sensible shoes, moderate exercise, sudoku, and so forth. Some current anti-aging research is designed to identify ways specific to your genetic endowment to live more healthfully rather than just longer. To be clear: there’s nothing wrong with any of these lifestyle choices. The realist mis-fire is the mood—the heavy-heartedness of it all.

Are you an Enthusiast? Here’s the Enthusiast creed: Aging is real, inevitable, and good. Enthusiasts—a rare breed, but growing in number—embrace the unique potential of the third stage of life—after childhood and adulthood, elderhood. Photo by Oren Atias

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American culture is so ageist it’s almost impossible to


conceive of true enthusiasm about aging. But it’s possible— and the only desirable path. Enthusiasm is joyful, kind, insightful, and growth-filled—the stance toward aging that is most rewarding and will win the most converts because of its generosity. Moving from denialism through realism and into enthusiasm about aging is a journey we all— hopefully—struggle through. Check out my books section on agingforlife.org to find some good guides for the process, including This Chair Rocks! by Ashton Applewhite; Prime Time by Jane Fonda; and Conscious Living, Conscious Aging by Ron Pevny.

INSIGHT #2 At an aging-enthusiasm/spiritual aging conference recently, I heard a life-changing question: How many years of life experience do you have? Not, “How old are you?” Or (shudder), “How many years young are you?” How many years of life experience do you have? Just a few years ago, when a girlfriend (older than me) asked me my age, I said, “I’d rather tell you how much I weigh.” She still laughs about that, and often repeats it to friends. I’m only a little embarrassed that I refused to tell my age. Such is the toll of epidemic ageism—like demanding my money back because Clinique’s Dramatically Different

Moisturizing Lotion didn’t prevent my wrinkles. In a culture that disparages the old, none of us want to own our years. The question, “How many years of life experience do you have?” turns this situation on its head—where it belongs. I’ve asked it of many people now, and always see a light go on. I haven’t had the chance yet, but I like to imagine saying to someone younger who’s patronizing me, “Excuse me, but how many years of life experience do you have?” When they tell me they’re in their 30s or 40s or 50s, I’ll say, “I see. Well, I have 65 years of life experience, so listen up!” Never before have I hoped someone would condescend to me because of my wrinkles and (newly—in a triumph of enthusiasm) gray hair! But I find myself looking forward to using this new strategy in a teachable moment. Aging is tough and beautiful and confounding. And hopefully a long, long journey. I hope you’ll be in touch with me to let me know how it’s going for you. I’d love to talk.

Theresa Reid, PhD, is executive producer and host of Aging for Life, an emerging interview show about many aspects of aging, not including how to avoid it. She can be reached at theresa@agingforlife.org

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Natural Progression

by Marilyn A. Pellini Photo by Mi Pham

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t is quite common for a little girl to want to act like a fairy princess, wear frilly dresses, and play with dolls. Not for all little girls, thoughâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;this is true. Boys usually want to climb trees, build a treehouse, make anything possible into a gun, and in general be aggressive. Not so for all boys in the world, however. Some children like quiet play, board games, painting, crafts, and read voraciously. Others want strenuous outdoor activities and team sports. Many kids are interested in music and art, and special talents can be identified at a young age. As kids grow up, they go off in many different directions. High school is an especially explorative time in all aspects of their lives. Before one knows what in the world has happened, our kids are off to college. Career choices loom on the horizon, and fortunately not everyone takes the same path. There are those who are successful from the moment they hit the job market. Others flounder and try

38 | The Brick Magazine

a bit of this and a bit of that. It seems given, however, that they all want to succeed enough to sustain themselves in at least a modest status. Some hope to be extraordinarily successful, but sometimes are unwilling to put in the effort to accomplish their goal. Hard work, with a little push and the luck of being in the right place at the right time, is a big part of the mix. When it comes time to pick a mate, naturally we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t all pick the same person. Our husband or wife needs to be attractive to us, and must mesh well with our personality and our likes and dislikes. In this area of life I advised my own children to choose a mate that likes the same type of home, food, books, activities, has the same goals, etc., otherwise you will spend an awful lot of time apart. Then again, some couples like and enjoy being joined at the hip, while others relish their own space and own areas they excel in.


Some couples want to have children and can hardly wait for this blessed event. Others think long and hard before bringing a child into our complicated world, a child they have to care for and put first every ensuing moment of their lives. That is not to mention the cost of a child. It is not just the food they eat, their clothing, lessons, trips, and ultimately huge education bills, but so many hidden and sudden expenses. So this requires much forethought, consideration, and decision-making. With all that parenthood encompasses, many opt out of the plan to become a family. They want to concentrate on each other, themselves, work, travel, hobbies, etc. Being a parent for these people is not a natural progression, but a major involved and difficult decision. Who is to say what is right, wrong, or even natural. The kids are starting to grow up, and the challenge of having teens is beginning to show on the married couple. Not always, but usually, the mom is the pushover while the dad digs in his heels and is the ultimate disciplinarian. My daughter’s very first boyfriend came to the house arriving with a red rose for her and a yellow one for me. I was so enchanted, as was my daughter. He was the catch of the senior class, handsome, smart, talented, and seemed mad about my lovely underclassmen daughter. I thought the gods were surely smiling down on her. But my husband commented, “He’s an operator.” Of course he did not say this to our daughter, but I was crestfallen, as I was totally in the kid’s corner. They did go together for a number of months, and when he went off to college he promised that he would bring her a sweatshirt from his school, which he did. Something went awry that weekend, and she had the strength of character to say goodbye. I have always wondered whatever became of him, but my strong daughter has become a pediatrician, married to a surgeon. He too operates, but in a whole different arena! His patients and hers are the lucky ones. Even the place we choose to live in is not a straightforward decision. We may have been raised on the east coast, but find ourselves out west because of an enticing job offer. We opt to buy a house, but just what style home and its interior décor is not a given. Some like a colonial-type home, or a ranch, or even a craftsman. Some tend toward modern open interiors while others prefer partitioned-off rooms and even enjoy plush, thick carpeting as opposed to bare hardwood floors. How we go about living our lives varies greatly. There are people who want and live the high life not thinking about tomorrow or old age. Others save and save and save, denying themselves the simple luxuries of life. They are fearful of having to be placed in a substandard nursing home because of a lack of money, and are very concerned

with making sure they provide some inheritance for their children and grandchildren once they are departed. Money is one area where arguments often ensue. If you and your partner are of the same mind, it makes planning for your long life together a joy rather than a battleground. Our likes and choices are easily tolerated when we only have ourselves to consider, but with a mate there is so much compromise needed in the blend. Money is such a big factor, and how and on what it is spent is often hard to negotiate. Even when the end of our lifetime approaches, our needs and desires all differ. Again, what seems normal for one person is not the same plan for all others. Quite a deadly subject I’m certain you are thinking, but an inevitable one nonetheless. My husband and I had seen our children grow and leave the nest in the state we had been transplanted to, when one day out of the blue my husband said that when he “went” (we avoided the word “die” at all costs) he wanted to be buried in the state where we both grew up. I was horrified, as that was three hours away from our present home. I explained how doubly lonely that would be for me to not have him nearby. I wondered how I would ever bring flowers to his grave site and care for the plot. I was concerned because of the long ride to the cemetery and that I would not be able to go often and bring one of his fishing books and a chair to read to him. That convinced him of my devotion, and he said the choice could then be all mine. Unfortunately, he did precede me in death, and it was a total shock as he was not that old nor was he sick. His demise was due to a bizarre fishing accident. I did bury him back in our home state, as I knew that was really what he would have wanted. In a way it was probably better for me too, as I can go only occasionally to the cemetery, which has forced me to develop a new type of life. What is natural and a likely progression for one person is often very dissimilar for another. After all, isn’t that what makes people and our world in general such an interesting, charming, vibrant, exciting place to spend our life? We just need to remember to live it to the fullest in a way that feels right for us, but does also take other’s feelings and plans into consideration too. Marilyn Pellini has recently published a grief book titled Dear Al, A Widow’s Struggles and Remembrances. Her other credits as a writer include recent articles in Brick Magazine titled “Memories in My Button Jar” and “Restructuring My World,” pieces in Westchester Parent Magazine, Bay State Parent Magazine, On The Water, Balanced Rock and others. In May 2018, she took the first place prize in the NY State Federation of Women’s Clubs writing contest.

October 2019 | 39


Cannabis for the People

by Lisa Profera, MD

40 | The Brick Magazine


I

t seems that CBD products are flooding the market now that the Farm Bill has passed. As of December 2018, any cannabis/hemp product that contains less than 0.3% THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) is legal. Everyone seems to be jumping on the CBD bandwagon. There are so many types of products, and it can be overwhelming. People are looking for more natural solutions to many chronic health problems. CBD may be one of the answers. CBD, or cannabidiol, is one of over a hundred phytocannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. Unlike its more famous cousin, THC, it does not get you high. CBD is considered safe and non-addictive. Phytocannabinoids mimic our own endogenous cannabinoids produced in our endocannabinoid system. What is the endocannabinoid system (ECS)? Think of it as a “master regulator” of all of our body systems. Our endocannabinoids are responsible for regulating many functions in the brain and body—body temperature, sleep, energy, pain, pleasure, stress response, immune function, digestion, and much more. When we are stressed from an injury or infection, our endocannabinoid system helps us “get back to normal”—back to a state of homeostasis. Deficiency or dysregulation of the ECS literally throws us off balance. When systems are unbalanced, we develop disease over time. Dysregulation of the ECS has been shown to play a role in almost all disease pathology. According to scientists Pal Pacher and George Kunos from the National Institutes of Health, it makes logical sense that “modulating endocannabinoid system activity may have therapeutic potential in almost all diseases affecting humans” (2014). Before 1990, not much was known about this. While studying the effects of THC on humans, researchers found that THC was able to bind to a specific receptor in our nervous system. If a receptor exists, then there must be a compound that our bodies make naturally that binds to it. This is how the endocannabinoid system was discovered. Our bodies naturally make two main endocannabinoids: 1.

AEA (Arachidonoyl ethanolamide) or anandamide, which binds to CB-1 receptors (as does THC). Anandamide is derived from the Sanskrit word ananda which means “bliss”.

2.

2-AG (2-Arachidonoyl glycerol) binds to CB-2 receptors. Cannabinol (CBN) and Caryophyllene also bind to these receptors.

CB-1 receptors are primarily located in the brain and central nervous system, while CB-2 receptors are mostly located in the peripheral nervous system, organs, and areas associated with the immune system. Take note that CBD does not directly bind to either receptor; it exerts its powerful beneficial effects by allowing the body’s own natural neurochemicals to be longer-acting. It is a master chemical that not only potentiates anandamide—it also positively influences the serotonin pathway (antidepressant effect), the PPAR-gamma pathway (regulating gene expression in cholesterol and inflammatory cascades), the TRPV1 pathway (anti-psychoactive effect), and the GPR55 pathway (anti-cancer and osteoprotective). An excellent resource for all things CBD can be found at Project CBD.org (https://www.projectcbd.org/). I like how they refer to CBD as the “multi-purpose molecule.” CBD is not a panacea, but it is certainly close. The market has been flooded with CBD products that promise to help with all kinds of ailments. There are even products for your pets. But not all CBD products are created equal. In my next article, I will help guide you through the CBD maze and help you figure out what is best for you. The science is finally catching up with what people have known and experienced for thousands of years. These are exciting times. Although CBD and THC are the most-studied phytocannabinoids, they are not alone. Research is being done on many others such as CBN, CBC (cannabichromene), and CBG (cannabigerol). Scientists in Israel are decades ahead of what is being done in the USA, so stay tuned. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Mention this article for a complimentary consult with Dr. Profera.. Contact Dr. Profera for educational events in the Ann Arbor area. Owner and Founder of PROJUVU MD Aesthetics and Lifestyle Medicine in Ann Arbor, MI BEMER Independent Distributor www.projuvu.com / 1.844.PROJUVU / drprofera@gmail.com FaceBook business page: www.facebook.com/projuvu/

Disclaimer: Please note that the information in this article or any of its references has been designed to help educate the reader in regard to the subject matter covered. This information is provided with the understanding that the author and any other entity referenced here are not liable for the misconception or misuse of the information provided. It is not provided in order to diagnose, prescribe, or treat any disease, illness, or injured condition of the body. The provider of this information shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss, damage, or injury caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by this information. The information presented is in no way intended as a substitute for medical counseling or care. Anyone suffering from any disease, illness, or injury should consult a qualified health care professional. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.

October 2019 | 41


Medicine, Naturally by Kellie Mox

Photo by Samuel Zeller

42 | The Brick Magazine


I

remember asking a lot of questions in school. The existence of God was suspect after studying the Bible as literature in ninth grade. I was always asking “Why?” in math classes, which I loved because the subject offered definitive right or wrong answers. Science, specifically medicine, drew me in because I wanted theories to be proven and people to be helped.

I’m not suggesting there’s one way to remedy these healthcare woes. I do, however, think that we all benefit from considering alternative perspectives and approaches, especially when it comes to chronic physical and mental ailments. One of my favorite authors and medical doctors, Rachel Naomi Remen, shares wise words on the topic of fixing as it relates to medicine and life:

Only now have I begun to understand the complexity of my early desire to be a doctor. There was the altruism— my 18-year-old self wanted to make a difference in the world and help others. Those intentions largely haven’t changed, although now, as a personal coach, I see myself less as a helper and more as a catalyst in service to others. Another component was the desire to control and fix that which seems uncontrollable or broken. However, I realized early in college that Western medical training wasn’t right for me, so I moved on to psychology.

“Helping, fixing, and serving represent three different ways of seeing life. When you help, you see life as weak. When you fix, you see life as broken. When you serve, you see life as whole. Fixing and helping may be the work of the ego, and service the work of the soul.”

Years of training and jobs in health psychology, health behavior, and complementary and alternative medicine followed. But it was my own healing process, along with other healing women, that taught me what I needed to know to make a difference and serve others. This school-of-life training showed me that we do not need to be fixed; that we are whole, mysterious beings who need to be cared for as such, and that we are our own best healers. This is our natural medicine.

Fixing or Serving? We gratefully turn to a physician to fix our bodies if we need stitches or shatter a bone. But what do we do about chronic physical or mental distress? Many of us look to our Western doctors, hoping they can fix this, too. It makes sense—they’re highly trained, and insurance companies will cover their treatment. This approach may be fine if it’s working. But is it? The rates of chronic physical and mental illness in our culture are remarkable and rising. Six in ten adults in the U.S. have a chronic disease, and four in ten have two or more. One in five adults lives with mental illness. Our children are increasingly plagued by chronic illness as well. Our healthcare system is, quite literally, a sick-care system that spends 3.3 trillion dollars annually on managing heart disease, cancer, autoimmune disease, diabetes, asthma, ADHD, and more. It seems that all our attempts at fixing might not actually be working.

What if we (and our healthcare providers) stopped seeing ourselves as weak and broken? That is, what if we stopped suppressing every symptom and started viewing them as messengers, here to shine light on the wounds that ask for our attention? What if we stopped avoiding pain at all costs and allowed it a place at the table so we can ask it questions? What if we, as Remen suggests, serve ourselves and others by strengthening wholeness instead?

Whole and Mysterious By my late twenties, I’d embraced some aspects of Eastern traditions—that we’re energetic, whole beings whose hearts, minds, bodies, and spirits are intricately connected to one another. Our life-force energy (otherwise known as chi, prana, or ki) is invisible and, in scientific terms, immeasurable. I had yet to tangibly feel this energy until I found myself dozing under the skilled hands of a masseuse in Mexico. Toward the end of the massage, I startled out of my relaxed state. It felt like something had been pulled from my abdomen. A lifting? A release of an emotion? I asked the practitioner what she had done. “Reiki,” she replied. I knew I’d felt this energy for the first time, and I marveled at it. This became one of many experiences that challenged my earlier worldviews and allowed me to see beyond what I could perceive to embrace all kinds of medicine for my own healing. Now I know, beyond what my degrees taught me, how the body stores emotions and trauma, how our feelings and thoughts impact our October 2019 | 43


You Are Your Own Best Expert Having decades of education and training might make another’s expertise seem more valid than our own. Certainly, it’s important to have trusted experts in our corner who can advise us and guide us. Yet too many of us have given away our power to those experts, and we don’t know how to trust our own inner guidance. In addition, our society loves the magic pill. Everyone wants a fix, but not everyone is ready to do the hard work required for deep and lasting change.

Photo by Antonika Chanel

physiology, and how our bodies, in turn, impact our minds and hearts. In Western philosophy, body, mind, emotions, and spirit are often viewed as distinct and independent of one another. Chronic indigestion, back pain, or migraine are physical symptoms or pathologies, often medicated and suppressed. Similarly, anxiety and depression are viewed as issues of brain chemistry. Pharmaceuticals may help us feel better for a time, but all too often they don’t address the underlying causes of our ailments—or even create new problems. An Eastern healthcare practitioner such as a homeopath, naturopath, Chinese medical doctor, or functional medical doctor will likely spend time listening and asking questions to learn about a patient’s diet, job, family life, social support, and emotions. Further exploration reveals that the back pain started after the death of a loved one, the indigestion began with a stressful job change, the migraines began six months after a traumatic car accident, and the anxiety is worse when eating certain foods. Treatment may consist of energy work, supplements, homeopathy, diet changes, emotional support, and trauma healing, to name just a few. When we view ourselves as complex, integrated beings whose health is built on the energy of mind, body, heart, and spirit, we can begin to see a breadth of opportunities for healing that strengthen all the parts of the whole.

44 | The Brick Magazine

We are the only ones who can tune in to our body’s signals, and when we do this, we live more in alignment with what our body truly needs. This is both good prevention and treatment. But if we’re stuffing our feelings down with food or medicating away our chronic headaches, our natural state of health can’t flourish. When that state’s equilibrium is disrupted—by toxins, infection, trauma, limiting beliefs—we must be the ones to restore it. We can embrace ourselves as our own healers. What if we surround ourselves with the wisdom and experience of trusted others while giving ourselves permission to make our own decisions about healthcare? What if we welcome the fact that healing is our own work, and that even the best doctor or alternative healer cannot mend our deepest wounds? I’ve learned that while there’s no one right way to heal, there are some critical components that will catalyze it. I’m still asking questions every day, but those questions are motivated less by my desire to control or fix and more by my curiosity about and appreciation for the mystery of our wholeness and healing capacity. We are our own best medicine, naturally. Kellie Mox catalyzes revolutionary healing for women through powerful conversations and whole-health mentoring. She is passionate about authentic, meaningful connections—to the self, others, and the world—and believes that healing flourishes when we strengthen these connections and embrace our wholeness. Kellie is a certified coach and a student of homeopathic medicine with a master’s in health behavior and health education. She works with women virtually and in-person from her home base in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Website: www.kelliemox.com Instagram: @kelliemox Facebook: www.facebook.com/kelliemoxcoachingandhealing


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WOMAN ON THE STREET

The Do-Nothing Vacation

by Stella Orange

A

t the last minute, my husband and I recently cancelled a two-week ocean vacation, giving us a whole lot of time at our landlocked house without much planned. My husband was working on a work project; I was determined not to turn on my computer. But other than that, I didn’t have anything in particular I wanted to do. So I decided to do nothing, which was both strange and liberating.

46 | The Brick Magazine

It should be said here that I’m not one of those people who always has a to-do list. There’s something hopelessly organized and productive about to-do lists. I know, I know—organization and productivity are generally thought of as things we should want. But as much as I enjoy the visceral psychic relief of list-making as the next gal, I’m also suspicious. There is something about writing down a list of tasks that takes me in a direction I don’t always want to go.


I don’t always want to be productive, for starters. My instinct is that too often, “being productive” takes me out of being present. Of listening for what is arising in the moment, and being with it as it unfolds. If I already have preconceived notions of what I intend to do, I’m not dancing with what is. I’m on autopilot. Which is how I found myself at the start of this vacation, deciding that I didn’t really want to do anything. Or, more to the point, what I wanted was to do nothing at all. When I say “do nothing,” I do not mean the negative space that’s left when you take away doing things. I mean giving myself room to watch, listen, be with, and relate with whatever is showing up. What showed up was that I was tired, overscheduled, and bedeviled by the idea that I needed to do things to top off my Enoughness. While it is true that part of my love of doing things is rooted in my love of life, it also remains true that part of the reason I do things is because I am still trying to plug an imaginary hole in the wall of my psyche. The more I do, the more Enough I am. Except that is not how Enoughness works. We are Enough, through grace and from the beginning. The rest is just imaginary hole-plugging. I didn’t go into this vacation with the intention of mending my imaginary Enoughness hole. It wasn’t a conscious thing. I just thought I was doing nothing. You know, sleeping ten hours at night. Reading a bunch of books. Weeding the garden. Walking the dog without hurry. Washing the dishes without time pressure, or feeling like I needed to rush to get to some more important thing. But at some point, it occurred to me that I didn’t want to be by the ocean. I didn’t want to be in an exotic country or staying at a luxury hotel. I wanted to be in my own house, doing the things I did when I wasn’t on vacation, with an attentiveness to the sensuality of my life that I didn’t always feel when my days were fuller. Which was weird, because all this time I thought that oceans are better than being at home. That foreign countries are more interesting than my own city. And that posh hotels are the best escape ever.

Only this time, I wasn’t looking for escape. I was looking to bring the delight and restoration of traveling into everyday life at my own house. My days of doing nothing morphed into doing things again. I fixed things in our house that had been bugging me for months. I repaired torn window screens. Patched holes in the plaster walls. Installed smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Painted our bedroom. Rearranged furniture. And I did all this imagining myself the proprietor of a world-class hotel. In the evenings, I took myself out for ice cream. Went to the theater. Rode bikes to the movie theater with my husband under a fat, orange crescent moon. Watched television. The whole time, I had to keep reminding myself: it’s okay, you’re doing nothing. This is great. Because somehow, I have grown accustomed to always doing something. I’m not sure how that happened. Somehow, in the last twenty years, I adopted the idea that productivity and accomplishment and doing are what counts. But where did I get that idea? And what if it’s not entirely true? What I learned from doing nothing is that it’s a muchneeded counter pose to modern life. On this vacation, I gave myself a break from doing things how I usually do them (“if someone texts me, I text them back immediately”). I let there be space in my days. I asked the question, “Why am I doing this?” and allowed myself the grace to wait until I found an answer that delighted me. I made room for pleasure, for quiet, and for reflection. There is a deep relaxation and nourishment that comes from doing nothing. I thought I had to go to the beach or get on an airplane to find it. But it turns out that this kind of restoration and replenishment is available wherever we are, when we let go of our plans and give ourselves room to follow our noses. Stella Orange is a copywriter and co-founder of Las Peregrinas, a business advising and marketing service company. Find out more about her work at www.lasperegrinas.org

October 2019 | 47


The Uninhibited Natural Self

by Madeleine Forbes 48 | The Brick Magazine


A

nyone familiar with growing things—plants, children, ideas—will understand the Greek concept of kairos time: the flow of things happening at their exact right moment. Naturally. The perfect ripeness of a tomato, telling us it’s time to be picked. The sudden emergence of an opening sentence for a piece of writing, or an idea just waiting to be breathed life into, that appears in your path like a feather. All miraculous, whole. We emerge into the world utterly unselfconscious about our desires, our sudden urges for immediate relief. Ask any baby, and it will tell you soon enough. I am HUNGRY. I need a CUDDLE. I have GAS. But as elders, mentors, stewards of the society we’ve learned to function in, we quickly become keepers of a different way of being. We do what we are supposed to do. Eat on our lunch breaks. Work at our assigned hours, and rest on our time off. The tick, tock of the schedule starts to feel reassuring. It’s a web that holds us, safeguards us from what we start to assume must be an innate tendency towards chaos. As a new freelancer, I decided part of my personal declaration of independence would include the decadent luxury of rising without an alarm clock. It seemed a simple shift, but the anxiety it caused me! Beneath my conscientious exterior, I felt sure I was a wanton layabout who’d surely lie in bed until noon and never be motivated to get her business underway. Many of us feel that same quiet panic when it comes to eating. We stick to the rules we’ve learned: when to eat, what to avoid, what constitutes a “treat.” Isn’t there an animal part of us that’d otherwise gorge, unchecked? Haven’t we seen her, been her, wolfing packets and inhaling handfuls of oil-laced crumbs, standing guiltily in the kitchen? Is she our truly uninhibited, “natural” self? As it turned out, after jettisoning my alarm clock, the animal instinct to wake up and start moving in the morning is one that applies as steadfastly to me as it does to you. (It makes sense to me that, as tribal apes, we’d spread our most alert times throughout the day, to ensure there

was always someone ready to sound the alarm when a saber-tooth tiger made an appearance.) You might be someone who’s up at 5am, naturally, or perhaps you swing more towards a leisurely mid-morning breakfast, and a second burst at 8pm. But the motivation to get up and get going is there. I really do believe, with basic needs met, all of us gravitate naturally towards some kind of contribution. It might be creative, imaginative, practical, helpful. The idea that without a structure to our time, without rewards and punishments for complying with a schedule, that we’d be lost or lazy? That I contest. Ditto when it comes to our instatiable appetites for, well, anything really–ice cream, alcohol, sex. Sure, we might swing too hard against the pendulum for a while, but our inner longing is always towards balance. That’s not to deny the existence of addiction, by the way. If anything, the fact that our natural state is to be fundamentally healthy, vital, and motivated underlines how important it is that we give every ounce of support we can to those of us for whom that’s not the case. And resist, with all our courage, those who seek to exploit it, whether through sugar-laden breakfast cereal or falselymarketed painkillers. But I digress... I’m starting to wonder if our obsession with restraining and controlling our “natural” impulses doesn’t cause more harm than it prevents. Doesn’t that sense that we’re constantly failing, inadequate, and incomplete characterize the relentless underlying anxiety of our times? It’s the impulse that has us frantically checking social media, leaping at the ping of a message, keeping one eye our inboxes at all times. What if I’m not aware of something urgent? What if I miss a message? What if I don’t know what’s going on? There’s no circadian rhythm to a Facebook feed or an Instagram story or 24-hour rolling news—it’s there, there, there, all the time. And that’s what starting to feel least natural of all. Part of my own process of unlearning and extricating myself from this trap, as I have come to see it, has been to immerse myself more fully in the hills. To see how the trees, plants, rocks unfurl in conversation with the happenings

October 2019 | 49


around them. In a dry year, there’s less water to fuel growth. Perhaps a hurricane wind tears off a branch or two; perhaps the wild boar root up the ribwort plantains before they’ve seeded. This way of living means being in constant reaction to closely observed, external circumstances, coupled with a steady, trusting inner growth. Mindfulness of being in each moment. Steadfastness of keeping to the path that we alone can tread. It’s one I think a lot about emulating. Ironically, it turns out to entail a different kind of work. There’s a conscious, deliberate attention required to begin unravelling the strands of messaging I’ve been raised with, whether they concern my innate inadequacy or superiority. Slowly, it begins to feel unnatural to spend my days clocking on and off, to ignore what my body’s telling me about when it needs to rest or move. As I learn, and read, and question, I start to wonder why I believe I am entitled to so many things—clothes made in faroff factories by underpaid workers; summer peaches flown in to me in the depths of winter; constant ego-stroking in the form of “likes” and “shares.” This is complicated territory. The idea of what’s “natural” has been co-opted so many times, in so many different ways, we’re all forgiven for having lost sight a little of what it really means. Personally, I choose to align what feels good with what’s right. I’m endeavouring to trace a line from the cycles and patterns I observe in the land I live on, through my own expression and evolution, to what might be the right way to live when it comes to healing the planet. Needless to say, I’m a blundering, stumbling work in progress. We all are. And I don’t think that exempts any of us from trying. Taking care of the world that sustains us—looking out for our communities, extending a hand to those in need. Aren’t those the most natural things of all?

Photo by Matheus Ferrer

50 | The Brick Magazine

Madeleine Forbes is a writer, walker, and unapologetic neglecter of her inbox. Born in London, she left city life in 2014 to start an off-grid life in the hills of central Portugal. She’s founder of The Seasoned Year, an online project to help us deepen our connection to seasonal cycles. Most recently she’s exploring a new response to the climate crisis, rooted in the cycle of the year and our craving for deeper connection. You can sign up for free Letters from the Land and follow Madeleine’s blog via her website; or follow her on Instagram or Facebook.


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The Brick Magazine Ann Arbor - October 2019  

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