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On Mindfulness, Light Therapy Lamps, and Being a Human Houseplant

A desk lamp shining down on a houseplantMy name is Lydia, and I’m a human houseplant.

Or at least that’s what it feels like at this time of the year. You see, I get the winter blues. While other people are outside revelling in the snow, ice, and cold weather, I’m inside quietly counting down the days until spring.

If winter in Ontario included as many bright, sunny days as spring and summer did, this post might be quite different.

But our winters include months of long, dark nights that make me half-forget what it’s like to feel warm sunlight on my face.

And having access to enough bright light is important for my mental health. It boggles my mind that some people on this planet live in places that don’t see the sun for months on end. I wouldn’t be able to cope with that well at all unless someone invents a way for humans to go dormant for the winter like real plants do.

Luckily, there are light therapy lamps for wilted houseplants like myself. I’ve been basking in the glow of that artificial sunshine this winter.

Sometimes I sat there and surfed the Internet on my cell phone. It was an especially good way to pass the time when I first accepted the fact that I needed to use one of these lamps but was skeptical about if it would do any good.

If actual plants had opposable thumbs, they might look at cute animal pictures while soaking up light, too, so they didn’t have to count down how many weeks left until spring or how many weeks after that it will take the weather systems in Ontario to shift from cold, wet, and slushy to anything that bears the faintest resemblance to true spring weather.

Then it started to work.The sadness began to lessen. I could concentrate better, I felt less sluggish, my energy levels slowly began rising, and my quality of sleep improved.

Am I back to my old self yet? No, but I’m doing better. That’s something to celebrate, especially as we inch into the time of the year that is the most challenging for me to get through.

For now I sit next to my lamp and chuckle at the fact that I react so much to the lack or the presence of sufficiently strong light. I am entirely human-shaped, and yet somehow I still need to bask in light like a plant to function properly.

When that thought passes, others don’t take its place. In this moment, I am surrounded by light. I breathe in and out as it shines onto me, the desk, the chair, and the floor.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

It’s that simple.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Types of Exercise I Enjoy

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews.

Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year.

There are quite a few types of exercise I enjoy.

  1. Weightlifting
  2. Swimming
  3. Dancing
  4. Power Walking
  5. Canoing*
  6. Hiking*

Animated Figure lifting weights*Although I haven’t done either of these in a long time and definitely would need to recondition my body for them. That is to say, let’s pick the easiest versions of these things if you want to do them with me.

What all of these activities have in common is that they’re non-competitive, fairly easy on the joints in most cases, and can be done solo or in a group.

When I was a kid, the vast majority of my exposure to exercise was team sports.

I’ve never liked team sports, so it took me a while to realize how many forms of exercise are out there that don’t require competition, keeping score, or having winners and losers.

Kudos to those of you who thrive on competition and being the biggest, strongest, and/or fastest person in a group.

But to me, exercise is most enjoyable when it’s about doing something cool either by myself or with a few other laid-back people.

Top Ten Tuesday: The Last Ten Books That Gave Me a Book Hangover

Hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

Person reading a book.I’d never heard of a book hangover until Jana mentioned them in this week’s prompt.

Most of the strong attachments I formed to books happened when I was a child or teenager. It was fairly rare for them between that point in time and my current age until pretty recently for reasons I haven’t figured out yet.

So this list is a short one, but a few years ago it wouldn’t have existed at all. The links in this post will go to my reviews of these books.

1) The Deep by Rivers Solomon

The imagery in this book was so strong that reading it made me feel as if a movie were playing out in my mind. I sure hope this gets made into a film or TV show someday. We’re overdue for an aquatic show, especially one that tackles as many important themes as this one does.

2) Patient Zero by Terry Tyler

There’s something about reading about pandemics that comforts me every flu season. I still need to read the rest of this series, but, wow, was this a good introduction to this universe! Jumping around among so many different characters really drew me into this world.

3) The Testaments by Margaret Atwood 

I’ve been a huge fan of The Handmaid’s Tale for many years now. It was immensely satisfying to finally get a sequel to it. I can’t wait to see how the updates on so many characters from the first book are integrated into the TV show based on this series, too.

Hopeful Science Fiction: A Theory of Flight

Click on the tag “hope” at this bottom of this post to read about all of my suggestions for hopeful science fiction. If you have recommendations for future instalments of this series, I’d sure like to hear them. Leave a comment below or send me message about it on Twitter.

Recently, I discovered the Better Worlds series, a science fiction anthology of short stories and films about hope that was published at The Verge two years ago.

A Theory of Flight

Justina Ireland’s “A Theory of Flight” is the first instalment of this series. It was about a daring plan to build an open-source rocket could help more people escape Earth. Click on the link in the first sentence of this paragraph to read it for free or scroll to the bottom of this post to watch the short film version of it. There are mild spoilers in this post, so reader beware after this sentence.

Photo of Earth taken from space. The largest continent in view is Africa.

When I first began this series, I talked about  my expectations for hopeful science fiction.

This type of sci-fi isn’t about creating a utopia or brushing aside the very real challenges people face. It’s about finding hope and fighting for a happy ending no matter what the circumstances are.

Carlinda was no stranger to conflict or struggling. She was a black woman who’d grown up in a low-income neighbourhood. This may have been set in a future version of Earth, but the obstacles she faced were the same ones that people from all of these groups face today.

The big difference between her time and ours had to do with how much the environment had degraded thanks to climate change. Life on a hot, polluted planet was beyond difficult, especially for people who didn’t have the money or social clout to get away from Earth.

Cooperation

Carlinda had some money saved up from a well-paid job building spaceships for the wealthy folks who were fleeing Earth for safe colonies on Mars and Europa.

Her funds weren’t enough to get her to either of those places, though, much less help anyone else to join her. This futuristic version of society was so economically stratified that the vast majority of people were doomed to live out short, painful, poverty-stricken lives on Earth.

Or were they?

The beautiful thing about Carlinda’s open-sourced plans for rocket ships was that they could be built out of trash. Very little money was required to create them. All you needed were some workers who understood how to follow the plans and build something that could safely bring a few hundred folks to Europa.

There are some plot twists related to the political ramifications of this plan that are best left up to new readers to discover for themselves. Still, I loved seeing how the small percentage of humans who were wealthy and politically powerful reacted to the idea of ordinary folks taking their own fates into their hands.

Not only did it add a layer of urgency to the plot, it gave Carlinda and the people working with her even more of an incentive to keep building and to share their knowledge with as many other poor folks as possible.

A better world is possible, and it all begins with regular people banding together to creatively solve problems that are too big for any one person to fix on their own.

A Theory of Flight