FOWC — CONTROL? WHAT CONTROL? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Control

If I thought that maybe I had finally gotten my online life under control, I was wrong. Again. It’s just getting worse and worse and there is no end in sight.

I just got this message.


Dear Marilyn,
As one of our registered users, we bring to your attention that on June 4, 2018, at 1pm EST we became aware of a data breach involving 92.3 million email addresses of MyHeritage users, and their hashed passwords (these are not actual passwords).
We learned about the breach when MyHeritage’s Chief Information Security Officer received a message from a security researcher that he had found a file named MyHeritage containing email addresses and hashed passwords, on a private server outside of MyHeritage. Our Information Security Team received the file from the security researcher, reviewed it, and confirmed that its contents originated from MyHeritage and included all the email addresses of users who signed up to MyHeritage up to October 26, 2017, and their hashed passwords. We made a public announcement about the breach within 8 hours of learning about it.
Your email address was one of the accounts in the data breach.
Immediately upon receipt of the file, MyHeritage’s Information Security Team analyzed the file and began an investigation to determine how its contents were obtained and to identify any potential exploitation of the MyHeritage system. We determined that the file was legitimate and included the email addresses and hashed passwords of 92,283,889 users who had signed up to MyHeritage up to and including Oct 26, 2017 which is the date of the breach. MyHeritage does not store user passwords, but rather a one-way hash of each password, in which the hash key differs for each customer. This means that anyone gaining access to the hashed passwords does not have the actual passwords.

That is more than 92 MILLION PEOPLE whose email addresses — at the least — have been breached. There is more to this information including that they are sure no one really got passwords. I’d like to believe them, but since this hack was way back last October and I’m only hearing about it NOW, I don’t know what to believe. At least they don’t store credit card numbers. I suppose I should be grateful at least for that … but do they now have my DNA results? They say not, but they could. AND my husband’s.

You want to know how we get hacked? This is it. Companies get hacked. Half the time, they don’t know they’ve been hacked until months later, after which they do everything in their power to cover it up.

Hackers don’t need to breach our personal computers. All they need is information they get from hacking the companies with whom we work. I’m beginning to wonder who has NOT been hacked. Which company I use has thus far been spared.

Has any large company been spared?

Anything that sounds too good to be true isn’t true. Anyone giving you something for free is lying. Calls from Microsoft or the make of your computer (Dell, for example, or Mac for another)?

It’s a hack.

I got a call from “Dell Customer Service” this morning. Although Dell hasn’t announced a breach, I’m guessing there has been one yet to be announced because hackers have my computers basic serial numbers– which unlike a password, are embedded in the computer. As are numbers for every computer made. That’s how we can identify where the information came from and to whence it is going.

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There IS no safety as far as I can tell. Don’t talk to anyone on the phone if you have no reason to expect the call. If you have not contacted them and asked for a return call and given them a code word so you know it is actually the real people calling, HANG UP. No conversation. Don’t be cute. Don’t play mind games. Hang up. Immediately.

On another — yet somehow parallel concept — Donald Trump, our erstwhile national leader, seems to think he can trust Kim Jun On to “do the right thing” vis-à-vis nuclear arms. Right.

It’s another hack. Our NATIONAL hack.

QUICK AND EASY STRESS CONTROL – PART 3

I ‘ve talked about breathing and visualization as relaxation techniques. This week, I’d like to add a third element – movement.

Human-Body-Muscles

Coordinating breath and movement can calm you down, center you, clear your head, and focus your mind, and help the relaxation spread to the muscles throughout your body.

Another benefit is that the physical movement gives your mind a focal point that can not only deepen relaxation but can also allow you to relax when you’re too restless, fidgety, listless or unmotivated for the purely mental techniques.

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When you are concentrating on moving your body in a certain way, it is easier to keep your mind off stressful thoughts that creep into your mind. However, thoughts will invariably intervene at some point when they do, just acknowledge them and immediately click the remote and switch back to the breathing channel. Then refocus on your movements.

One classic exercise that combines breathing and movement is Progressive Muscle Relaxation or PMR. This can be done standing, sitting or when you are having trouble sleeping, in bed. Body focus techniques not only help insomnia but also improve headaches and stomach problems if done for a period of time when you’re having symptoms.

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In PMR, you first tighten and then release major muscles, starting with feet and moving up your body. Doing this helps you learn what your muscles feel like when they are tense versus relaxed. It may sound strange, but most people don’t realize their muscles are tense until the tension gets bad enough to hurt.

You may need to learn how and when to relax your muscles. PMR not only helps you relax, it increases your awareness of muscle tension. Soon you’ll be able to prevent muscle tension from building by stopping it before it gets serious.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Start by squeezing your toes together as if you were making fists with your feet. Hold the squeeze and feel the tension in every foot muscle. Then let everything go, all at once, as you exhale.

Try to feel the muscles in your feet relaxing and loosening up. Next squeeze your calves and thighs, hold the squeeze feel the tension and then release it quickly, always on an exhale. Feel all the tension evaporating from your legs.

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Focus on the contrasting sensations of tension and relaxation, tightness and openness. Continue up through your body tightening and releasing, sequentially, your buttocks then your chest and shoulders, scrunching your shoulders up to your ears. Then move onto your arms and hands, making fists and squeezing them tightly.

Hold and release the muscles in your throat and neck and then scrunch your face together and squeeze your eyes shut, hold, and then release. Open your mouth as wide as you can and stick your tongue out as far as you can. Hold and release. Then bring your focus back to your abdominal breathing, perhaps counting out an exhale that is twice as long as your inhale. Gradually transition back to your day.

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Short Form PMR

There is also a short form PMR when you are pressed for time. Divide your body into three sections, from your feet up to your face. Then tense all the muscles in each section, hold them and release all at once with an exhale, as you did above. Then move onto the next section. For example, feet, legs, thighs and buttocks are one section, chest arms and shoulders are another section and neck, throat, face and jaw are the last section.

Once you’re comfortable with PMR, you can try a Mental Body Scan. As with PMR you can do a detailed body scan, or use a short form. Like before, begin at your feet and work up your body. This time, though, just mentally scan for tension. When you find tightness in your muscles, mentally release it. I like to visualize the tension floating away from my body, like steam, evaporating into the air.

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You can also imagine the tight muscle opening up, spreading a warm, heavy feeling as it releases all its tension. Then let this sensation spread slowly up your body. Scan every part of your body in as much detail as you have time for. For example, you can divide the face into scalp, forehead, eyes, nose, lips, cheeks, jaw and tongue or you can treat the face as a whole. Either way, make sure your jaw is loose and your teeth are apart, not clenched!

Mindful Walking

Another exercise that combines breathing and movement is Mindful Walking, which you can do it whenever and wherever you are walking. Start Abdominal Breathing with a 3 or a 5 count inhale and the same count for the exhale. Then count the number of evenly paced steps you take per inhale and per exhale, using only odd numbers for your count. This insures that you start each inhale on a different foot.

For 3-count walking, this means:

  • Inhale – left, right, left
  • Exhale – right, left, right.

A 5-count walk would be:

  • Inhale – left, right, left, right, left
  • Exhale – right, left, right, left, right.

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If you want to increase your relaxation, elongate your exhale and increase the number of steps per exhale. So, for example, you could inhale to a count of 3 and exhale to a count of 5 or inhale to a count of 5 and exhale to a count of 9 (remember to only use odd numbers and keep your steps steady and even).

If you want to energize yourself, increase the length of your inhalation and the number of steps per inhale while shortening your exhalation and the number of steps on each exhale. You could, for example, inhale to the count of 5 and exhale to the count of 3.

I find when I walk like this, I don’t get as tired or winded. I end my walk feeling more relaxed and centered as well as refreshed.

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Now you know some techniques that can help you circumvent your body’s stress response, reduce muscle tension and quiet your mind. This should help you get through each day feeling more positive emotionally and more relaxed and energized physically.

You shouldn’t have to get more stressed trying to find time for stress control. Do what you can when you can and you’ll find whatever you do, there will be definite benefits.

JOURNEYS

Nothing goes exactly as planned.

No vacation is perfect. Some part of every meal will not be ready when the rest of the dishes are served. Guests come early or late, leave too soon — or not soon enough. Complications, delays, bumps in the road are the companions to everything.

Then there are the things that almost happen. When I was recently back from Israel, I took a three-day weekend from my new job to visit friends in San Diego. I bought a new weekend carry-on bag. It’s still my favorite travel bag — and the bag was the best part of the trip.

I bought tickets to San Diego — not easy because most cross-country flights out of Boston go to Oakland, SF, or LA — none of which are close to San Diego.

I got to La Guardia airport, but the departing flight never arrived. After my connecting flight in Salt Lake City departed, there was nowhere for me to go. I asked for my money back. The perky young thing at the ticket counter explained, “These are non-refundable tickets. See? It says so right here. We can get you on a flight to Los Angeles tomorrow afternoon. How’s that?”

I was not feeling perky. “I took a three-day weekend from work. I won’t get those hours back. I’m not interested in Los Angeles or anything that goes anywhere tomorrow. LA is more than 3 hours drive from San Diego and I don’t have a car. By the time I get there — if I got there — I’d have to turn immediately around and come back. I’ve had to spend money on taxis and lost my holiday time. All I’ve gotten in return is a long afternoon in an airport waiting room. If you can’t get me to San Diego today — direct and nonstop — return my money.”

I got my money back. After which I took a taxi home. I spent the weekend having a mini-orgy of self-pity. I never went to San Diego. Eventually, I lost touch with those friends and life moved on.

Our fondest illusion is control, the belief we’re in charge or at least, ought to be. We spend a staggering amount of effort trying to wrestle life into our own shape. How else can we succeed? You’ve got to be in charge, right?

The promise we get as children is one on which we build a world.


No matter what you want, no matter how unlikely it is or how unqualified you are, just try harder and you will get it.

It’s the biggest lie because it establishes a fundamental belief that if we do all the right stuff, we will get what we want.

It’s got to be true because our teachers, parents — pretty much everyone — told us so. Good work will be rewarded immediately. Kindness will be returned in kind. If we eat right, keep fit, avoid drugs, cigarettes, and booze, we’ll be healthy. Forever. All the stuff that happens to other people will not happen to us because we are special. Mom said so. Dad said so. My sixth-grade teacher said so. My IQ test says so.

From all the little stuff that goes wrong — flights cancelled, vacations rained out, to failed marriages and jobs lost, life and time strips us of the illusions with which we grew up. Injustice shows itself in an infinite variety of shapes and sizes, from tiny indignities to incomprehensible calamities. No one is immune. We learn we are passengers on the bus we call life. We aren’t driving and don’t even know what road we’re on. Nor have we any idea of the destination or the stops along the way.

Finally, I got it. The bus is going where it’s going, but outside, it’s beautiful. We don’t have to drive. We don’t need to control the bus. Where we are going is irrelevant.


It’s about the journey.

 

CONTROL, REALITY, AND LIVING YOUR LIFE

You can’t control life. We think we are in control, especially when everything is moving according to plan.


It’s an illusion.

The first time your life-road takes a sharp turn and hits a big rock, it’s a crash. All of your firm belief that nothing can stop you doesn’t help — because there are things — many things — that can and will stop you. If you don’t die, of course.

I love it when people tell me nothing will stop them, that whatever they want, they can get it. All they have to do is want it enough. I don’t argue with people who talk like that. They believe it and who am I to ruin their dreams? I’ve personally hit a lot of rocks, ditches, unexpected  turns and had my “life vehicle” battered to a creaking hulk. I learned, painfully, slowly, when it’s time to give up control and go with the flow. To find a path in the life you are really living that works for you.

Life can change in a split second. As it did for Christopher Reeve. One minute, he was a big, handsome, strapping movie star. A dreadful split second later, he was someone completely different.

In other lives, it’s slower. For me, it was at the pace at which bones and joints calcify. I refused to pay any attention to the wreckage of my spine. It was mind over matter and I am strong. I would prevail. And I tried and for a while, it worked.

Turns out, mind over matter only takes you so far. Eventually, pain starts to take over. It’s not something that happens in an afternoon. More like a decade. Maybe two. I eventually found the best doctor who told me what I had heard before but hoped was not the real answer. He said: “Your back has got you through this far. It’ll take you the rest of the way. Pain control, gentle exercise. Recognize your limits. Don’t do anything stupid. No car crashes. No falling. No lifting.”

No horses, no hauling. Got that. And of course, this was before all the heart surgery, which further eliminated the likelihood of any of these dangerous activities. So. I’m not doing anything stupid. Okay, not anything very stupid. Maybe only a little bit stupid. Nothing that will break something more.

There’s no moral to this story. It’s just life. If you don’t die young, you will get old. Which means that parts of you are likely to hurt. Whether or not you are in a position to help fix the hurt with exercise or physical therapy depends on what’s wrong in the first place. The one thing you cannot plan is a controlled life where you are always in charge.

We all have some control, but ultimately, no one has full control. Ever.

When life throws you a curve, you have a choice. Spend your life fighting for something you can’t be or with a bit of grace, find your way to being who you have become. Now. In this time. In this place. It is not a tragedy unless you make it one.

Reality is not the worst plan in the world. Our lives are full of weirdness, lies, and illusion, but facing the truth can be uplifting. You don’t have to give up living. You do have to learn to live a life that makes sense. For you.

Life 101

Someone asked me what lessons I learned in life. It seemed like there would be a lot of answers to that question but actually, after I really thought about it, I realized there’s only one lesson. It comes in many forms and wears a variety of disguises and costumes. It seems, on first glance, a simple lesson yet it is the hardest to accept probably because it is a lesson we don’t want to learn. We resist it, fight it, wrestle until we are bloody, beaten and crushed. It’s not what we were promised. It is entirely contrary to what mom and dad told us when they said we could do or be anything if we tried hard enough.

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It turns out that we aren’t the drivers of the bus that is our lives. We are passengers and whether we get a window seat or find ourselves scrunched up at the back with lots of other riders, we are far from the driver’s seat. We have not been advised of the itinerary or destination nor do we know the schedule or even if there are stops along the way.

We are free to ask the driver to take us where we want to go. If the driver complies, we assume this shows we are in control. If the driver goes somewhere completely different, we blame ourselves, the world, our parents, fate, whatever. After all, when things go wrong, it has to be someone’s fault, right?

But no one is at fault. Life happens. If life treats us gently, we are happy to take credit for our great planning and skill in life management. If things go poorly, we look around to see who we can blame.

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Control is our fondest, most beloved illusion. As thinking beings, we are irrevocably committed to making a good faith best effort to accomplish whatever we set out to do. If our goals align with what life intends for us, we get to accomplish some of what we planned. Regardless, sooner or later, we learn – easy or hard – we are not in control, never were, nor ever will be. Life is not a course we plot on a map. It’s not a route laid out with appropriate stopovers along the path.

Life simply is.

That’s the lesson. Where life takes us, that’s where we should be and where we need to apply our efforts. Our greatest success won’t be the result of how successfully we manage our lives but how well we take advantage of the opportunities and challenges life throws at us.

Free will is a limited franchise. Our life takes place in a designated space within which we have some options: we can sit in this chair or on that sofa. We can look out the window or chat with whoever is sharing our space. But we are not moving to another room. That’s the essence of Karma.

Your real task is to find satisfaction with what life gives you. Otherwise, you will waste your days pining for what will never be, angry because it isn’t what you want, and depressed because you feel cheated. There is always some good stuff going on, no matter how difficult it may be to find. This is not the answer anyone wants to hear. It seems so unfair.

Fair or not, this is the answer and the lesson. You are not obligated to like it. You are required to deal with it.