by Anne O'Connor
I am grateful…for the loving little black pup who took my heart with him to his permanent home.
And for video calls with my mother, who also took my heart with her to her new west-coast home.
For the general tenor among my friends of beauty-seeking and finding.
For the rigor of my MSW classes and for the seat among people who care about the world and do the tricky and careful work to make it better.
I’m grateful for the soul-deepening songs you write, record, and send me as you work them out.
I’m grateful for more support of people born in a body that doesn’t match their gender, even as hate and fear continue.
For 10 pm tennis-court forays. And rough drafts and collaboration.
For you showing me the world in a new way. For your ability to sauté and spice veggies into an incredible meal. For your love of cooking.
For the soft light aglow through the fall leaves—brilliant and warm.
For exquisite friends who are so good at seeing and...
by Anne O'Connor
I laughed wryly when I heard one friend’s definition of women’s reality: In order to gain respect, a woman has to do more than a man and better. And sometimes, with blood gushing down her leg.
It’s tempting to define women by biology: our biology is so present and obvious. We have breasts that form visibly. We bleed every four weeks. Some get pregnant, we become round and we build new life. We bring forth that life into the world. And we sustain that life through our breasts, sometimes exclusively, for months.
We may repeat these cycles—one or the other—multiple times. And then another hormonal hurricane stops the bleeding as we move into the crone years.
There’s not a developmental stage that isn’t filled with profound biological changes in the female body. Being in a woman’s body takes a lot of time and attention and work.
But our biology is just one part of our reality. And sometimes, while we’re living with...
In the face of all that’s happening in our world, sometimes the most reasonable response is to break down and cry.
But while crying is a healthy human response with multiple health benefits, we still resist.
We “almost cried.”
We “had tears in our eyes.”
We say, “I’m not crying, you’re crying.”
I get it. Crying is vulnerable and of course there’s a time and a place for full-on sobbing.
My concern is that many of us aren’t making that time or that place. That too many of us are missing out on the incredible benefits of crying.
In this video, I talk about why crying is a fast and easy way to release stress and build your well-being. Check it out and then give yourself the very human experience of a good cry.
Ten years ago the It Gets Better campaign launched and became a powerful voice of support and perspective for LGBTQ youth in a time of deep crisis. Across the country, young people were dying by suicide and being beaten, harassed, and intimidated during their adolescence—a critical time of self-discovery.
At the time, I ran a small community newspaper that I co-founded in the Driftless region of Wisconsin. In November 2020, we ran a package outlining the issue and listing resources for help. This was my editorial in that issue under the headline: “Will you make it better?” I am republishing it today because the question is still so relevant.
I can see my blind spots and omissions in this piece—I’ve decided to leave them in for transparency. I’ve also added an addendum for a couple of the key points that could have been better connected here.
Some things have changed for the better in the past decade—the U.S. Supreme Court victory for...
by Anne O'Connor
This week I wrote a love letter to my community.
I wrote about missing you all so much during this wild time. And I posted it on my private Facebook page. You can read it below this post.
Some wondered if I was missing a particular person—a lover who was at the center of all the things on the list.
Let me just say this now: If such a man exists and he’s single, will you introduce me?
Reading my letter as a romantic tribute to a lover I long for makes sense. We are so prepped for that interpretation. And that isn’t wrong. It just wasn’t the whole story.
What I wrote is a collection of all the love that I have or have had in my life. And yes, part of that is a longing for a particular lover. People heard my heart.
I have been and am well-loved. That is a treasure I hold with tender and careful hands.
Love, though, has as many lines as there are on your palm. Some are deep and long, some are hard to even see. Some lines run the whole distance....
For some people, our new world of pandemic-required isolation has meant more time with loved ones, a welcomed slowing down, and maybe a little more sleep.
And for others, the strain of trying to work from home with the kids around, working on the front-line jobs, the loss of connection, or watching loved ones suffer is taking a toll.
Maybe it's all true at the same time. Which can lead to feeling happy and grateful one day and weepy and worried the next. If this sounds familiar, you're not alone.
This week, I start a new video-interview series called "Better than Surviving: How to Stay Emotionally Well in the Time of COVID-19. I'll gather experts who are steeped in the research and work focused on thriving and what it takes: yes, even in a pandemic. Through these interviews, we'll bring you practical ideas along with emotional support and a big dose of inspiration to get us through this time stronger and ready for whatever comes next.
by Anne O'Connor
A key strategy to staying healthy during the Coronavirus pandemic—keeping six feet apart from one another—can also have an unintended side effect: limiting the healing properties of touch.
“Touch has significant effects on health and well-being,” said Tiffany Field, director of the Touch Research Institute, in an email interview. “Touching, as in hugging and back rubbing, stimulates pressure receptors under the skin that in turn increase vagal activity—the vagus being the largest cranial nerve. This touching slows the nervous system by, for example, decreasing the heart rate and the production of stress hormones.”
Field said she hopes that people who are isolating together get more touch, now that many people are together more. And if someone is alone, she said there’s plenty that person can do to create the benefits in their bodies as well.
Field is the founder of the Touch Research Institute at the University...
Although I am socially isolating, I'm doing my best to stay in touch with people. More than one person has said that they were kind of feeling cozy and enjoying being at home. In such a difficult time, there’s a bit of guilt that goes along with enjoying this time of isolation. Because although isolating can be challenging—even harrowing—the truth is that for some, it's not all bad.
Let me acknowledge that it is quite bad for many. Some who isolated folks are working with depression and anxiety and isolation is the wrong recipe for being well.
And the people who are suffering with the actual virus and their families, times are tough. Also, for people who are not able to socially isolate because we need them. We can all send our gratitude and our support and our care to the sick and the people on the front lines, especially in health care. But all over, people are working in jobs because we need them, and they cannot...
by Anne O'Connor
Sleep solves so many problems. And the more irregular and infrequent your sleep, the more problems you have.
I'm not just talking about sniping at the people you love and being unpleasant to be around—although I am talking about that. Don't sleep and your relationships are going to stink. That's the real deal. If you find yourself regularly cranky, irritable and short-tempered, you may want to consider more sleep. Your people certainly want you to.
It's more than our relationships that are affected though. Not getting enough sleep can contribute to all kinds of other problems—everything from being overweight, to lower libido, a host of illnesses and car crashes. Plus, people being sleep-deprived has been linked to some of the most serious accidents in memory—Chernobyl, the Exxon Valdez crash, and the space shuttle Challenger accident. Some research shows that people who sleep less die earlier. With...
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