By now the readers of this blog are aware that our beloved co-Founder, Margaret Tuchman, died this past December 2018. It was always her mission to give the people in the Parkinson’s community all the tools possible to make their quality of life as good as possible.
For many years I had the honor of working with Marge on a variety of projects, including writing this blog. I am very pleased that I, along with The Parkinson Alliance, will continue writing posts and sharing with the community the very things that would interest and excite Marge.
In the later years when Marge spent most of her time in her office, which had a huge picture window that overlooked a gorgeous garden that fronted a large lake, I’d read from our favorite websites. One treasured site was brainpickings.org. It’s run by Maria Popova, and Maria was on the top of our list of people that we’d imagine one day having over for tea and conversation. Just recently as I was pursuing articles on that site, I came across a post that I read to Marge called “Simone de Beauvoir on How Chance and Choice Converge to Make Us Who We Are.” I smiled remembering how much we enjoyed the line, “To be alive is to marvel — at least occasionally … at the Rube Goldberg machine of chance and choice that makes us who we are as we half-stride, half-stumble down the improbable path that lead us back to ourselves.” Yes, we did look up and learn from Wikipedia that a Rube Goldberg machine is a machine intentionally designed to perform a simple task in an indirect and overly complicated fashion. My simple task of reading to her often became complicated by our bouts of laughter and side journeys of commentary, questions, clicking around to find answers, and making more discoveries. I always admired that laughter and discovery, despite the growing toll of her Parkinson’s, were always Marge’s primary choice.
That article did allow us time to reflect on our lives, the choices we made, and the circuitous routes we each took that resulted in our paths eventually crossing and merging into a close bond. Margaret took a chance by diving directly into the Parkinson’s community and making roads where there were none, and she made the choice of giving it her all. I took a chance by answering an ad I saw long ago only because a friend was late to lunch. That chance later resulted in my choice of working with Marge, a time I will always treasure. I marvel that she never complained about her Parkinson’s or what it continued to take from her. Instead she used it as a focal point to shine light on — light on research, on education, and on an ultimate cure. While Marge did not live long enough to see that a cure, we can take tremendous pride in knowing we have the choice of blazing that road until there is one.
Our lives are about chance and choice. Marge’s memory reminds us to take a chance and make the choice to laugh, to discover, and to carry on her mission. The Parkinson Alliance and I hope you join us.
We recently came across this Ted Talk on joy, and it seemed a perfect supplement to our post on happiness. It’s by Ingrid Fetell, who states in part, “Each moment of joy is small, but over time, they add up to more than the sum of their parts. … Joy isn’t some superfluous extra. It’s directly connected to our fundamental instinct for survival. On the most basic level, the drive toward joy is the drive toward life.”
Our patient-centered research report on resilience and Parkinson’s Disease focused on how the ongoing challenges of having Parkinson’s can impact your life. It defined resilience as a dynamic process whereby individuals cope with and exhibit positive behavioral adaptation to stress, challenge, and adversity. The report noted that resilience seems to be more of a personality trait and is independent of physical function in PD and does not necessarily decrease over time as the severity of the disease worsens. Going hand-in-hand with resilience is a sense of happiness. Thus, a recent article by Adam Sternberg called Read This Story and Get Happierimmediately caught our attention.
Mr. Sternberg reported that the most popular class currently being offered at Yale University by Pofessor Laurie Santos is on happiness, called Psychology and the Good Life. Like resilience, happiness does take practice. The class teaches what happiness is, why are you’re not happy, and what you can do about it.
The takeaway is simply this: We are inclined to assume that circumstances play the biggest role in our happiness, when research suggests they play the smallest role ( … this is only true if your most basic needs are met) … we grossly underestimate the extent to which changing our behaviors, rather than our circumstances, can significantly increase our well-being.
Happiness, in the end, is a mind-set to be cultivated, not a condition to be imposed.”
Luckily for us, you no longer need to be a Yale student to benefit from Professor Santo’s class. There is now a free version of this popular class called The Science of Well-Being offered on Coursera that you can take online. The class teaches not only about the psychological research and “the annoying features of the mind that lead us to think the way we do,” but on activities that increase happiness and build better habits.
We forwarded Mr. Sternberg’s article to Dr. Jeffrey Wertheimer, our chief research consultant and also is Chief of Neuropsychology Services at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in LA, for his opinion on it. He replied saying it’s a topic of great interest to him. He added:
I integrate some of the content into the Growing Resilience and CouragE (GRACE) curriculum I facilitate. There is definitely a trend in contemporary “l, psychology” highlighting research on happiness. U Penn is the home of Dr. Martin Seligman, one of the contemporary father figure of positive psychology and the one who coined the term Authentic Happiness (the title of one of his books).
Dr. Seligman is also the author of The Hope Circuit, which is featured on the The University of Pennsylvania’s website entitled Authentic Happinesss. This website includes a wealth of resources, including videos on topics such as happiness, gratitude, and compassion.
If you simply want to listen to some music to make you feel happier, it’s hard not to smile while watching the world’s first 24 hour music video of “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. The music video features people, alone or in groups, dancing and singing to William’s infectious song. You can view the 24 hour video here. We smiled at the two guys in tuxes in front of a Starbucks at 2:20 pm.