Monthly Archives: May 2020

It’s not my fault- it’s my biology etc

I haven’t blogged or commented on blogs for what seems like ages. I then avoid looking at mine and other blogs through a combination of shame and reduced motivation. The Jim machine is grinding to a halt.

Hold on a minute, this isn’t the Jim way! Where’s your energy, your positivity man? Goddamit you’re British, show some resolve. OK OK, so how to get out of this black hole of lethargy and procrastination?

I know, I’ll take my lead from Trump. I need to find someone or something to blame. That’s the real man’s way of dealing with a crisis. So let’s play…… THE BLAME GAME!

The first person to blame is my partner. God, that feels insensitive but hey I’m desperate here. Nearly 4 weeks ago she came off her bike and slid along the road on her face. She fractured her upper jaw and damaged her teeth. No dentists operating but there are emergency hubs so we’ve been travelling back and forth getting that sorted. I hate to use that as an excuse but in reality it has been tough physically and emotionally for her and it’s meant, quite rightly that I’ve spent more time looking after her. Her not being able to chew properly has meant I’ve become really good at soups and smoothies. Thankfully she is slowly on the mend and we console ourselves that it could have been much worse.

That brings me onto my main excuse for not blogging- My Biology and Evolution. Stick with me here. The scientist, Amy Arnsten was writing in an article I read a few weeks ago that in times of stress basically our primitive brains come to the fore and the stress hormones kick start the old flight or fight response. The impact of stress also tends to reduce the impact of our “pre frontal cortex” or more sophisticated part of our brain. I’m doing a poor job of this I know but the bottom line is that the chronic stress of living in these current days is affecting our ability to focus and concentrate. Apparently it’s not just me and it’s not laziness, it’s good old neuro science.

This reduced working of our “thinking, reasoning” brain and the increase in stress hormones doesn’t just lead to an inability to focus, but also leads to an overall lack of motivation. Arnsten explains that an often forgotten part of our flight or fight response to danger is to “freeze”, which can feel a lot like mental paralysis. “Losing the ability to have really motivated, guided behaviour can be linked to all these primitive reflexes,” she says.

For many people, this has led to what Arnsten calls a vicious cycle of losing focus, beating yourself up about it, and then making your prefrontal connections even weaker . “Why understanding neurobiology is so helpful is that you can watch yourself in that downwards spiral and you can say, ‘This is just my biology, evolution is making me do this, this is normal neurobiology, and I don’t have to blame myself, it’s okay,’ she argues. Arnsten is my new hero!

So there we have it. A convoluted way of saying it’s not my fault that I’ve been remiss in my blogging. But having said that, non- primitive brained Jim intends asserting himself and getting back into blogging and I’m looking forward to catching up on other’s blogs.

Time to make another smoothie. I’m coming!

Jim X



I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

Morning Folks! Is that what you wanted to see on a blog post. A first verse from a poem that’s a meditation on death and dying? In these times? Probably not.

So why have I put it out there? I think it’s because despite all the daily statistics about the numbers of daily deaths many of us haven’t quite confronted or looked at our own fears of dying and mortality. We know that we will all die but we are uncomfortable truly coming to terms with it. But this virus has shaken things up. It’s stark message is that any one of us, at any moment could be infected and could be one of the unlucky ones that ends up dying. It does affect older people more but there are plenty of younger and healthy people dying as well. It feels like it’s out there, ready to pounce and any of us could be next.

That prospect of imminent death is clearly always there but the virus has put it centre stage and made it a collective anxiety. Every single one of us could be susceptible to it and it’s very uncomfortable. It makes us consciously or unconsciously face our dread of dying. There’s no avoiding it and maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Of course for some, there is no dread or anxiety because they have faced the reality of death and come to some accommodation with it. For others death holds no fear because they are either fed up of life or have the comfort blanket of their faith to envelop them in hopes of an afterlife.

For the rest of us we can either push the subject away or confront it. Push it away and I believe it will not actually go away but will haunt your subconscious manifesting itself as unease or anxiety. Confront it, maybe for the first time in your life, and there could be a surprise.

Philip Larkin confronted death but found no comfort, only dread and some great poetry. Others though have found that confronting death is not only natural and normal but can also enhance our experience of life. To know what will inevitably come to pass can make us appreciate what we have in this very moment in time. It sounds trite but it’s true.

So, far from being depressing; confronting our own mortality, honestly and without pretty embellishments, could be the best way of enhancing our enjoyment and appreciation of life.

So let me finish with a positive view off death to counter balance the dread view of Philip Larkin. Here is a quote from a writer from the Buddhist tradition, Sharon Salzburg:

“I think [meditating on death] could make us a lot happier, we can feel free from so many of life’s irritations and annoyances and be truly in awe of the miracle of life and the time we do have. If we deeply see the folly of holding on, we can be much more in harmony with the flow of change.”

Maybe a message we will all get from this situation is a reminder that humanity and individuals are not in control of everything, that things do constantly change, our lives are indeed finite, but being alive is something we often under appreciate.

This rumination has helped me, (I tend to be more Philip than Sharon) so I’m going off now to eat a fantastic breakfast, walk outside and tell someone now how much I love them.

It’s good to be alive.

Jim X