Bribes de confinement 2 [fr]

Bien au chaud dans mon petit cocon, je me sens libre comme jamais. Les autres et leurs besoins se sont évaporés, les miens petit à petit montrent quelques feuilles. 

Dans ce monde arrêté, moi aussi je peux m’arrêter. Enfin. La chape d’attentes s’est envolée. Le besoin désespéré de rester dans le train, aussi.

J’essaie de ne pas trop penser à l’injustice contre laquelle je ne peux rien, à la douleur qui traverse tant d’autres et qui m’épargne jusqu’ici. J’écoute ma respiration, j’essaie de tout oublier. 

Liberté mon privilège, que j’essaie de goûter avant que la culpabilité ne t’emporte.

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Letting Go [en]

For pretty much all my life, I have struggled with how I react to people being wrong. “Wrong” meaning, here, “wrong according to my beliefs/knowledge“. The frontier between beliefs and knowledge is murky, and we would all fancy our beliefs to be knowledge, but in some cases we can more or less agree on what is belief and what is knowledge.

I have a really hard time with people who are wrong. Wrong, of course, as described above. I have my beliefs and values, and do my best to accept that not everybody shares them. I don’t believe in any god, some people do. That’s fine, as long as beliefs are not construed as facts or knowledge.

When debating, I have very little tolerance for the “well, it’s my point of view/opinion” argument – systematically offered as a justification for something that was initially presented as fact. You can have opinions and beliefs, but if you present them as facts in a debate, prepare for them to be challenged. But as I said above, the frontier is sometimes murky, particularly as seen “from the inside”, and that is where trouble lies.

Take vaccines. I’m taking that example because it’s easy. I believe things about them. I consider those beliefs pretty rational as they are, to the best of my efforts, based in science. So I know they are safe, I know they work, I know they do not generally offer 100% protection, I know there can be a tiny risk of bad reaction, I know they have helped eradicate some illnesses and control others so they do not rip through society like Covid-19, I have a decent understanding of how a vaccine is built, how and why it works. So, of course, I think that people who believe different things about vaccines, like that they are harmful or even dangerous, are wrong. The problem is that in their “web of belief” (read the book, it’s wonderful), their beliefs are perfectly rational and therefore, knowledge.

We could say that each side of the argument here sees their belief as knowledge, and the other’s as belief.

Faced with somebody who believes something that contradicts something I know, my initial impulse is to explain to them that they are wrong. Because who doesn’t want to be right? I bet you can see how that strategy doesn’t really work out well.

So, over time, I have learned to bite my tongue, accept that what people believe (including myself, though I hate the idea) is never going to be completely objectively rational, and remember that nobody (first of all me) likes being told they are wrong. The tongue-biting is more or less successful, depending on the topic in question, my mental state, and who is facing me.

The current pandemic has given me a golden opportunity to work on not only my tongue-biting, but acceptance of differing viewpoints. Accepting that people see things differently doesn’t mean I believe every point of view is equivalent. Quite the contrary. It’s more about accepting that people will believe what they believe, that they aren’t rational (me neither, though I try my best to be), and that it is normal and OK.

I do my best to share accurate information. I’m not perfect or blameless, but I try to exercise critical judgment and be a reliable source of information for those who choose to dip into my brain, though facebook, this blog, or conversation. I also try to correct erroneous information, and that is where things get slippery. It goes from setting the record straight when people share obvious hoaxes or urban legends (generally by instant messenger), providing critical sources when others share scientifically wobbly information (hydroxychloroquine) or scare themselves needlessly (what use masks really serve, disinfecting groceries). And I’ve had to learn to back off. To keep the peace, to preserve relationships that I otherwise value, and also to preserve my sanity and inner peace.

One milestone was when I realised it was useless trying to tell people who were convinced a certain French scientist had found the miracle cure for Covid-19 that the scientific evidence for it was flaky at best, dishonest at worst. People are scared and will believe what helps them. We tend to want to ignore the emotional dimension of our beliefs, but it’s there, and much more powerful than our rational brain (as anybody who has ever tried to reason through emotions knows).

Some people are more comfortable dealing with uncertainty than others. Some people understand logical fallacies and cognitive bias better than others, and are more or less able to apply that knowledge to the construction of their beliefs (critical distance). But we all have emotions and they colour what we are likely to accept as fact or not, whether we like it or not.

So I tried to drop hydroxychloroquine. That meant I had to accept that (according to my knowledge) false information was going to do the rounds, in my social circle, that people were going to have false hopes, and spread misinformation, and I wasn’t going to do anything about it. Not an easy thing to let go of. I feel like I’m skirting responsibility. My therapist would certainly tell me that fixing other people’s beliefs is not my responsibility…

I’ve been doing the same thing for some time now with people who believe vaccines aren’t safe or efficient. I know facts don’t change people’s minds. Worse, debate reinforces beliefs. I know! But I don’t really believe it, and keep on wanting to try. So I bite my tongue, remember that for the person facing me their belief is perfectly rational, remind myself that telling them they are wrong or debating them will not change their belief, and try and get on with my life. But for vaccines in particular, I seethe, because these beliefs have an impact on actually lives and public health. And I have to say I dread them moment when we will finally have a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2, and people will refuse to use it. It’s going to be a tough exercice in emotion management for me.

Anyway, I’ve reached a point now where I try to provide the information I feel is the best for those who want it, and I’m getting better at feeling OK that somebody I value or appreciate believes something I think is plain wrong – without trying to change their mind about it. I’m getting better at identifying the point where a discussion stops being an exchange of ideas in the search of truth or satisfaction of genuine curiosity, and starts being a standoff between two people with firm beliefs, each trying to shove theirs upon the other.

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Bribes de confinement 1 [fr]

Les jours avancent comme une douce brume, glissent les uns sur les autres et les uns sous les autres, s’embrassant langoureusement, et moi au milieu je me laisse porter, bercer même, dans la douce chaleur du soleil d’avril. 

Mon nid est fait de fleurs qui n’ont pas compris l’hiver, de lianes folles qui ne savent plus où grimper, d’années de vie qui se cachent dans tous les recoins. Deux chats m’accompagnent de leur présence ensommeillée. Tout est paisible, ici, dedans comme dehors.

Il n’y a plus d’attente, car le temps a perdu son sens. Il y a juste le chant des oiseaux et le silence du ciel, dans ce monde sans hommes qui m’observe, immobile et patient. 

Alors je me contente d’être. Être dans ces jours dont je ne sais plus le nom mais qui m’enrobent de leur sérénité, dans cet espace infini qui est le mien, et ce corps qui n’est que moi. 

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La texture du confinement [fr]

Ce qui a changé, c’est la texture du temps qui passe. Ce n’est plus un temps qui me file entre les doigts et que je cherche désespérément à retenir. C’est un temps bien plus immobile, qui ressemble un peu à celui du premier mois après mon opération, où il n’y a pas grand chose d’autre à faire que d’attendre qu’il passe, en tentant de vivre agréablement son quotidien. C’est un temps sombre, et au bout il y aura de la lumière, donc ce sera bien, après, mieux, probablement, mais si, un jour, plus tard.

C’est un peu le temps de l’attente, l’attente peu agréable d’un futur qui va nous en libérer.

Et dans ce temps un peu étrange, bizarrement, je me trouve fort capable de vivre.

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Notes du chalet [fr]

Je suis au chalet. Pour la première fois depuis un an à peu près (sans compter une petite visite sans nuit il y a peu). Mon vieux Quintus, 19 ans, aveugle et chancelant sur ses petites pattes arthritiques, a du mal à retrouver ses marques – mais ça va aller. Oscar a fait le tour sur ses trois pattes et a déjà tenté de s’installer “à la place” de Quintus. De 11 degrés, la température est maintenant montée à 14. Le poêle à bois est à fond et le brûleur à mazout aussi. Il fait moche.

Mais bon, je suis contente d’être là. J’aime la montagne, et cet endroit en particulier. Aujourd’hui je ne bouge pas trop, demain je dois déjà retourner à Lausanne pour des rendez-vous (qu’est-ce que c’est qu’une heure de route, au final), vendredi je prendrai peut-être la cabine pour aller voir à quoi ça ressemble en haut.

Il y a maintenant plus de cas de COVID-19 identifiés dans le canton qu’il n’y en avait dans le pays entier lorsque j’ai écrit la semaine dernière. Plus de 600 cas en Suisse, ça nous paraît énorme mais ça va encore grimper, grimper. L’Italie a placé tout son territoire en “isolement”. Ici, on cesse de tester systématiquement, on cesse aussi de remonter les chaînes de transmission. Les symptômes sont souvent trop peu marqués, et puis bon, il faut se rendre à l’évidence, le virus est maintenant “partout”, donc à quoi bon. Mieux vaut concentrer les ressources sur maintenir le bon fonctionnement des hôpitaux et du système de santé, communiquer auprès de la population pour que les mesures de précaution continuent d’être appliquées (car ralentir la progression a encore un sens, et ça, c’est dans nos gestes du quotidien à tous que ça se joue), que les personnes vulnérables se protègent et qu’on les protège.

Enfin, c’est comme ça que je comprends les choses.

Pour ma part je ne suis ni plus ni moins “inquiète” qu’il y a une semaine ou dix jours. Mes nouvelles habitudes de lavage de mains commencent à devenir, justement, des habitudes. J’essaie d’éviter les transports publics si je peux. Je me demande si la petite toux que je traine depuis 2-3 semaines justifie que je me mette en auto-isolement. Elle date “d’avant”, c’est courant pour moi d’avoir ce genre de petite affection respiratoire, et je n’ai pas de fièvre, mais vu qu’il semble de plus en plus clair que le virus se propage également de façon asymptomatique ou peu symptomatique, je me pose des questions. Mais j’hésite à engorger la hotline pour ça, j’avoue. Coronacheck me dit que oui, mais coronacheck n’a pas mon contexte. Si c’est ma toux “normale”, ça peut durer des semaines et des semaines…

Bon, du coup j’ai appelé la hotline. Et non, petite toux superficielle (je toussote en fait), ça ne justifie pas que je m’enferme. Par contre si ça s’aggrave, si c’est une toux qui commence à m’empêcher de respirer, là oui. Ce qui me mène à la réflexion suivante: vu qu’on a des porteurs asymptomatiques ou peu symptomatiques… est-on plus contagieux si on a de la fièvre et la super-méga-toux? Vu qu’on n’isole pas les porteurs sains ou peu malades (il faudrait tester la population entière à tour de bras et souvent pour les identifier tous), quel est le sens d’isoler les “gros tousseurs”?

Sur ce, le chalet se réchauffe et le soleil est sorti, je vais aller faire un tour au jardin avec Quintus!

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So You Know My Users and Community Better Than Me? [en]

Sometime back I joined a pile of “Group/Page Admin Help” support groups on Facebook. As you may or may not know, I manage a rather busy and intense support group for diabetic cat owners on Facebook. One thing I would love to be able to do is identify members who haven’t posted in a given time-frame to check in on them.

We screen people who want to join the group through welcome questions, so every person who joins the group has a sick cat (a few exceptions). The thing with diabetic cats is that if you don’t do things right, you run the risk of ending up with a disaster. When those disasters happen at night or on week-ends (as they do), the group ends up having to deal with panicked owner and sometimes dying cat that the on-call vet doesn’t want to see (I guess they have their reasons). So in addition to wanting to be helpful to our members, we have a vested interest as a community in making sure that our members are actually using the group to follow best practices, keep their cat safe, and therefore avoid being the source of a midnight crisis.

This is just to give you a bit of background.

So what we do in my group is each member gets a personalised welcome publication when they join, with instructions to get started and pointers to our documentation. At the end of the week. all the people who joined during the week get a “group welcome” publication with some more info and links. (Think “onboarding”.) Two months later, another message (the first six months after diagnosis are critical, so two months in is a good time to get your act together if you haven’t yet). I used to do a “you’ve been here six months, wow!” group post too, but now I’ve moved it up to a year (the group turned two years old last January).

When I posted in these “admin support groups” to explain what we did and that I would like a way to identify inactive members, I was immediately piled upon (honestly there is no other word) by people telling me that they would quit a group which mentioned them like that in publications, that people should be allowed to lurk, etc. etc. I was Wrong to want to identify inactive members and Wrong to actively onboard new members.

I have to say I was a bit shocked at the judgement and outrage. Why do these people assume they understand my community better than I do? Anyway, it was a very frustrating experience.

For the record, there isn’t a way of identifying inactive members in a Facebook group.

Yesterday, somebody else posted the same question on one of those groups. They also wanted a way to identify inactive members to encourage them to participate, in a group based on active participation. Again, the onslaught of judgemental comments regarding the group’s rules and philosophy.

Seriously, what is wrong with people?

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Trouver un équilibre [en]

C’est pas facile la convalescence. Même quand on se sent mieux, on n’arrive pas à faire “comme avant”. Il faut doser l’effort et reconstruire petit à petit la résistance – physique comme mentale. Parfois j’ai l’impression qu’un rien m’épuise.

Pour sortir des limbes il faut construire les marches que l’on empruntera, l’une après l’autre. S’assurer de leur solidité. Ne pas vouloir se précipiter au risque de tout dégringoler.

J’apprends à écouter mes limites (je dis ça mais… ça fait 20 ans que je dis ça… le travail de toute une vie?), à non seulement avoir conscience de mes besoins mais leur donner sciemment la priorité (pas une mince affaire, et j’échoue encore souvent), à avoir de l’indulgence avec moi-même. Ça prend le temps que ça prend.

A part ça, je me sens “mieux” que je ne l’ai été depuis des années. Pas physiquement, ça c’est clair, mais mentalement. Je retrouve le sentiment que j’avais perdu je ne sais où de gérer ma vie, même si ce n’est pour le moment qu’imparfaitement, au lieu de lui courir après. Mon cerveau fonctionne. Mon état émotionnel est plutôt stable, même si je dois rester vigilante. Ça me fait vraiment plaisir de me voir “fonctionner” à nouveau comme ça.

Maintenant, le challenge est de consolider tout ça et de le rendre durable. Un jour à la fois. Une chose à la fois.

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Quelques mots du jour [fr]

C’est jamais facile de remettre en branle quelque chose après une longue pause. Lundi, je suis retournée au dojo où je pratique le judo depuis 25 ans, j’ai mis mon judogi et je suis montée sur les tapis pour la première fois depuis une année. Une année d’arrêt (et c’est pas fini) après une bête blessure à laquelle s’est enchaînée un accident de voiture et une opération.

Alors je ne peux pas pratiquer le judo, clairement. Il faut encore que je patiente de longs mois avant que mon poignet soit prêt à “faire du sport”. Mais je m’installe sur un coin des tatamis, je fais ce que je peux de l’échauffement, puis je m’étire, je fais un peu de “physio” pour mon poignet, quelques vagues exercices de condition physique qui me laissent catastrophée par mon état de larve sédentaire, je regarde les autres pratiquer.

Déjà ça, ça fait du bien.

Ici aussi, ça a été la pause. Pour tout dire (si je ne l’ai pas déjà dit), ces dernières années, ça a été un peu la galère dans ma tête. A trop courir sans avoir de bonne direction. C’est en train de changer, là, et pour la première fois depuis longtemps, j’ai l’impression que ma tête fonctionne comme elle doit et que me vie n’est pas en train de m’échapper. Et je recommence à avoir envie d’écrire. De me donner le temps pour le faire, parce que j’aime ça.

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Things I’m Learning [en]

It’s been a long time without writing, amongst other things because of surgery on my right wrist a few months ago. I’m doing good now. And a few pieces of my life puzzle seem to be falling into place.

Here we go, in no particular order (well, maybe a bit).

  • Doing nothing whilst recovering from surgery or illness is not doing nothing, it is recovering – taking care of myself.
  • If a key component to procrastination is anxiety, then reducing my anxiety will help me procrastinate less.
  • Even though my procrastination rarely gets me into very deep trouble, it generates a lot of stress, and I am now more than fed up with spending whole days feeling awful before I actually manage to snap out of it and act.
  • As with many things, the solution is not “understanding” but “doing differently”.
  • Two things I can do to reduce my anxiety around “doing stuff”: create habits and plan ahead.
  • “Self-discipline” doesn’t have to be something we’re capable or not capable of doing. It can be a decision, a choice. “I am going to do this thing today because I decided to do it, to this end.”
  • Creating daily to-do lists with only the things I can guarantee I will do on that given day, rather than what I want to do or feel I should do avoids setting me up for failure and sets a virtuous circle in motion. Even if there is just one thing on my list.
  • Sleeping is something we do to feel good the next day. So going to bed when tired doesn’t have to be “stealing from today”, but “investing in tomorrow”.
  • Me first, then my cats, then other people (family and close friends first).
  • Even if you leave a big mark on the world, you still die and you’re still gone.
  • Fear of death? The ultimate FOMO.

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Post-Funk [en]

Yesterday I was in a bit of a funk. Went back to sleep after breakfast (literally collapsed) and slept till noon. Then, vegged most of the afternoon.

This means I’m starting today with a backlog of productivity. Stuff I’d planned on doing yesterday and the stuff I’d planned on doing today. (I don’t plan much for week-ends, but I still do, particularly things I should have done during the week and didn’t get around to doing.)

So I find myself in what I call priority paralysis: where do I start? How do I prioritise? This is particularly tricky for me when nothing absolutely needs to get done today. Not enough urgency. And there is a tension between what I want to do and what I feel I should do. And stress because the list of what I’d like to do today is too long for today.

The solution is to pick one and get started. It sounds easy, but in fact there is a great resistance to picking one over the others. What if I’m making the wrong choice? What if I don’t have time for the rest? Will I be happy I picked this thing? Isn’t something else more important, more urgent? What if I spend way more time than I anticipated on this one thing?

That is the kind of background noise that goes through my mind at that moment.

But on another level I know that as soon as I pick one and start doing it, most of the anxiety evaporates. Even if I only manage to do that one thing, I’m out of my funk, and can resume doing things.

It’s a little switch to flip. I just need to free a finger to do it.

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