“Keep the poop in the loop”

Over the weekend, I watched a lovely and illuminating documentary on Netflix, Kiss the Ground. It highlighted well-known data on climate change, as well as some of the noble workers (aka regenerative ranchers and farmers) who are “walking the talk” and modeling, for each of us, what it takes to address our collective disconnection from our planet, from nature, and essentially from ourselves.

Because I work at the intersection of community health education and personal regeneration, I’m always looking up and downstream for the ways that individuals and groups are talking about complex topics.

Although I think and feel very deeply on human matters, I delight in simple messaging– and I literally laughed out loud when I heard “keep the poop in the loop”— and while I know that those who work at the macro-level of environmental health know exactly what this means, I wondered if we had ever pondered the micro or individual application; of how we can “take our shit” (our emotional baggage, our nonsense, our anger, etc.) and transmute it into rich, fertile soil for our lives– like collectively. I think we are ‘here’– well, I am definitely at this juncture in my life.

And so, after I watched this, my mind immediately flashed back to 2 key memories:

Kent State University professor/researcher Chris Blackwood stating (and educating me!) that “soil is life!”; and Thich Nhat Hanh’s beautiful reminder: “no mud, no lotus”

I don’t know if “emotional composting” is a thing, but clearly, it is yet another pathway to earth and human regeneration; emotionally healthy people make kind and loving decisions. To regenerate ourselves, by consciously NOT walking away from our “waste” (emotional and otherwise) and really looking deeply at it all, is the “heartbreak” that so many of us sense is the necessary catalyst for personal and global transformation.

To this end, I’m working on a couple of books and workbooks — that are helping me connect dots I had not fully connected, and to help me make the most loving, and therefore powerful, decisions going forward. Over the weekend, I also re-released Until it happens to you— a tiny biographical poetry collection that spans 20+ years of my life…..all to model personal regeneration and “keeping poop in the loop” (and yes, I’m laughing out loud right now!) — If that’s too gross or offensive, remember this message instead: no mud, no lotus.

10 Economic Myths

Excerpted from Minding the Caregiver, A Memoir, ©Mayra Porrata, 2021

I grew up during a time when we trusted that going to college and working hard was a secure pathway to living a good and comfortable life. If you got in with a ‘good company’ your life was set.

I followed such a path and worked 2-3 jobs during college. I worked in banking, first in the branches, as a teller, and later in the trust division where big chunks of money and accounts were traded and invested with ease.

Then, in 1991 I landed an entry-level position in the financial services industry, at a then Fortune 50 company. Within 8 months, my role morphed into a number of consecutive million-dollar project-based assignments that not only resulted in generous increases in my salary, but life-long friends, along with powerful lessons that still inform me today. I would not trade a thing about these formative career years.

My decision to leave the ‘gravy train’, as a colleague once referred to it, was not only met with bewilderment, but with great resistance, in part, because I left my lovely corporate job when I was 4 months pregnant with my first daughter.

For some ‘crazy and unexplained’ reason (which I would come to understand 6 years later), I knew that I had to make motherhood my #1 job and priority but also do something ‘on the side’ to bring income into the household because ‘unless I was bringing in money, I was somehow ‘costing the household.’

Although I could not fully understand nor explain the reasons why this sentiment did not sit well with me, afterall, I was raised by a stay-at-home mom who was lovingly supported by my father until his death in 2014, I have since come full-circle to see the absolute lie of that statement, and 9 others I call ’10 economic myths’:

MYTH: Only people with ‘paying jobs’ contribute to the economy.

MYTH: The stock market is the economy.

MYTH: Our country’s health is best gauged by how well the stock-market is doing.

MYTH: Being a mother/parent is not a ‘real job.’

MYTH: Being a caregiver is a choice.

MYTH: If you have a Master’s degree you should be making $100K a year.

MYTH: Public banking is a newfangled idea by ‘liberals’.

MYTH: Our leaders and decision-makers are trained in economics.

MYTH: Your credit score determines your value and worthiness in the community and society.

MYTH: Having health insurance protects and ‘insures’ your health.

Admittedly, I once believed all these to be true, but one by one, each delusion was dissolved by my lived experience and the reality of life itself.

Now that I know better, I can do better.

What is essential for a caring economy?

Can a “caring economy” coexist alongside our debt economy?

This is not a commentary of “one thing is better than the other”, because we already have both and need both, but how each could actually be strengthened.

This is also a commentary about what supports human health and well-being and what is detrimental to people from an economic, legal, and community standpoint.

Disclaimer(s): I am a professionally-trained, master’s level health educator. I also have a business degree and studied economics. My grandfather was a judge. I was a parent-caregiver for 12 years, 8 of these as a single-parent. I’ve been personally harmed by unwise policy and laws that favor corporations over family caregivers and therefore in full support of the RAISE Family Caregivers Act, and wrote about what we suggest here.

All human beings want to be free and lead meaningful and productive lives. When we sustain catastrophic hardships, (like COVID-19, for example) that force our adaptation, it is essential that we support individuals through these events so that they can get “back on their feet.” Obviously, for the most part, we do this already.

Most people are caring individuals. Most people are good people. Most people also know that the economic game is rigged in favor of banks and corporations.

We, all of us, play a role in this. From our own ignorance over laws, policies and the interdependence of things, to where we bank, and spend our money, consumers make choices every single day about what they value.

Do you ever feel like you’re enslaved or ensnared in an unfair and unjust system? Do you ever wonder if there could be a better way for more people to be self-sustaining and free to do work they actually love? Many people already are and do, actually. However, our laws have not caught up to protect these inalienable rights.

Every single day in America, the constitutional rights of crime-less individuals are violated all to bolster private banks and the financial industry conglomerate. Current laws, economic and otherwise, are actually designed to funnel wealth away from individuals and communities in order to enrich corporations.

If you haven’t personally experienced this type of economic abuse and violence, consider yourself lucky. However, chances are that someone in your family or a loved one will meet this tragic fate.

The dehumanization and degradation of individuals and our communities happens anytime our “leaders” and decision-makers chose to uphold these laws. To have unwise individuals making decisions that affect people’s lives and that force their economic enslavement is a crime against humanity. Literally.

What do you think would happen if there were actual jury trials for cases where a debt-collecting corporation is suing a vulnerable consumer? That we have allowed our own Courts to harm us is a profound deficiency that must be addressed. That is why we need to uncouple these two things. To pit corporations against people is insane and unwise policy.

What do you value? What do you wish to stand for? Real human needs and economic prosperity, or a distortion of capitalism? We are each called to make this choice.

We need benign corporations. We need strong local economies. We need laws and policies that support both, not pits one against the other. And when in doubt, all economic laws should favor the vulnerable— the least socially and economically powerful, otherwise, collectively, we will all meet the same fate– because that is how life operates.

Accordingly, seeing what I have seen and knowing that false dichotomies are designed to gaslight and confuse us, I offer the following view of what “our economy” could actually offer, and what needs to be made obsolete because it is detrimental to our collective prosperity and flourishing.

So, can a caring economy coexist alongside our current paradigm? It already does! However, we need to strengthen it and by doing so, we strengthen the value of benign corporations.

Consumer Health ‘2021 Edition’

My first teaching assignment at Kent State University was ‘Consumer Health’. As a new faculty member, I inherited the textbook, content, and flow of the class. Here’s my very first syllabus:

As I look back upon this course, as well as my own experience and understanding of all that encompasses and impacts health, I would teach a totally different course. It would look something like this:

Consumer Health Education (2021 Edition)
Mayra Porrata, M.Ed. 

Module 1
Introduction to the forces that impact your health - Part 1
Law/policy, education, economics, culture, ideologies, environment, physics  

Module 2
Introduction to the forces that impact your health - Part 2
Your mind/psychological health, emotional intelligence, your social circles, your genetics, your personal energy/biofield, what you consume/ingest.   

Module 3
Media Literacy  
Understanding the motives of the individuals, institutions, companies, and advertisers seeking your ‘buy-in’ 

Module 4
Types of Medicine (because we’re not ‘just’ biological beings)
Biological/chemical, physical, energetic, subtle energy, transcendence.

Module 5
Economic Literacy
The 'business' of healthcare & health insurance

Module 6
Dealing with Disease, Disability, and Death
Approaching these human conditions with love and wisdom instead of panic and fear. A wholeness (systems) perspective of illness, aging, and death.

Module 7
Consumer Health Protection
A review of current laws as well as the community, state and federal agencies that support and promote health freedom and well-being.   

Module 8
Becoming an empowered and wise ‘consumer’
Self-awareness, self-regulation, mindfulness practices, and creating, using, leveraging your energy (and money) purposefully and wisely. 

Learning is a never-ending process. What we once may have held as fact, can and does, when viewed through an enhanced lens, change and improve our own understanding.

Even the scientific method and evidence-based practices are subject to revision and enhancement. It is only when we know better, that we ever stand the chance to do better. (Maya Angelou)

Return to main site: TheFlourishingWay.com

Reprise: re-reading, writing, and ruminating

This brief essay, originally published in December of 2019, still resonates and speaks even louder to me today. May it comfort all who read it with the knowledge and awareness that our present challenges are merely a preparation for better times ahead. Mayra

Much like millions of others, my 2019 was hallmarked by a number of dramatic shifts leaving abundant space for contemplating the deeper meaning of it all. Something is different this year, though, and I think it’s definitely me.

Before I was fully aware, my life was rather mechanistic and duty-bound. I was operating from a fear-based mentality; our default human software. Not all, but many of the decisions I made up until now were based on “the fear I wanted to avoid” versus “what lit me up like a Christmas tree”.

In this last decade in particular, because so many of my/our greatest fears have actually come true (e.g. mass economic instability, job losses, chronic illnesses, suffering) there’s millions of people world-wide who have been forced to operate from their higher faculties (e.g. heart-intelligence/wisdom, intuition, perception, will, reason, and imagination), and this is actually a good thing. Although it is excruciatingly painful to be broken-open by life, it is actually a gift, too. It’s like getting a software upgrade, just when you thought you were about to die.

The greatest riddle and paradox of our shared humanity is the ability to transcend the binary (“right-and-wrong”) and fault-finding stance to embrace the fact that it is merely a step, or stage in our evolving consciousness. However, to be able to see this does require a quantum leap in our understanding, and thankfully, it is one that is attainable for each and every one of us!

The changes afoot may seem weird, “crazy”, or radical, but fundamentally they are not; they are about the essence of what it means to be a human being and about the world we wish to co-create, inhabit, and love.

Revisiting “Continuity of Care”

When I first became a caregiver (2006), I learned a term from the medical team; continuity of care. The belief was that in order for my daughter to receive “the best care” she needed to be seen by the “same doctor”– someone who was intimately aware of her and her needs.

At the time, I suggested this was a distorted and outdated concept– what if that “same doctor” decided to relocate? find another job? was promoted? had their own health or family crisis?

In reality, who provides the most consistent, enduring, and patient-focused care in our communities? Family caregivers.

Although there are roughly 67 million family caregivers in the US alone, up until the landmark reports by NAC and others (2018) caregivers were mostly a hidden and silent population.

  • Family caregivers spend an average of 24.4 hours per week providing care. Nearly 1 in 4 caregivers spends 41 hours or more per week providing care. [National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. (2015). Caregiving in the U.S.]
  • Family caregivers who reside with those they provide care for spend 40.5 hours per week caring for this person.

As a former caregiver myself, I am deeply encouraged by the acknowledgement of caregiving as a true public health issue, as well as by the recognition of the societal and economic contributions caregivers have and will continue to make in our communities.

“At $470 billion in 2013, the value of unpaid caregiving exceeded the value of paid home care and total Medicaid spending in the same year, and nearly matched the value of the sales of the world’s largest company, Wal-Mart ($477 billion).”

https://www.caregiver.org/caregiver-statistics-demographics

Despite the physical, emotional, and economic challenges, not to mention the psychological trauma of being a family caregiver, these are resilient individuals who show up and serve our communities daily– they are unrecognized essential workers, that can only be acknowledged and recognized by others in the same roles. Personally, I know that so much more can be done to elevate awareness and support caregivers. Along with my daughter Serena, who ‘saw and lived’ this reality before her passing in 2018, we brainstormed a number of ideas which I lovingly refer to as the “The Serena Silvestro Caregiver Relief Bill”.

If policy-makers and leaders can see and agree that caregivers do indeed provide a real, tangible, and economic contribution to our communities, then we need to collaborate and co-create better “working conditions” for caregivers.

The economic restoration of many, if not all our communities, especially communities of color, can be aided when we support those who are literally and spiritually, providing continuity of care.

Return to the Main Site: TheFlourishingWay.com

WE are the “social determinants of health”

When I was in school we learned about the conditions of the places where people live, learn, work, and play; conditions that either support or hinder health and well-being. They are known as the “social determinants of health” (SDOH).

For many years, even as a professional, I conceptualized these conditions as something external, outside of us— something that we were simply “at the mercy off”.

This may seem obvious, but it didn’t occur to me until recently that it is actually “us” (you, me, we!) who are co-creating these “conditions”, because we are the ones who decide how our homes, schools, institutions, and communities are “operated”. We are the ones who create humane practices, policies, institutions, or not

Accordingly, there’s “no-thing” or “no-one” external can make our communities better for us, without us; without our awareness, involvement, desire, and concern for improving the quality of our lives and those of others. We ARE the social determinants of health.