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Whether you’ve got a cold, or Covid, or melancholia, or something that’s not yet in the medical textbooks, take comfort in the fact that many have been in worse shape — and even survived to become president.

Before George Washington concerned himself with the health of our nation, America’s first commander-in-chief had to contend with an amazing array of personal afflictions. During the course of his life, he dealt with smallpox, malaria (six times), diphtheria, anthrax, dysentery, tuberculosis (twice), quinsy, carbuncle and pneumonia, to say nothing of losing all his teeth.* It’s only fitting that there’s a hospital in D.C. named after him.

While George needed some luck to make it through these gauntlets (not to mention a brutal war with the British), it’s important to recognize the capacity of the human organism to fight sickness. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to take care of your body along the way. To this end, George exercised faithfully, supped and grogged in moderation, tried to get the proper sleep, and avoided tobacco.

He also believed in balms and nostrums to keep the grim reaper at bay. According to records from his presidential library, among the items he ordered from an English apothecary in 1759 were the following:

6 Bottles Turlingtons Balsam
8 Oz. Spirit of Lavender
1/2 lb. Ipecacuane powderd
1/2 lb. Jallop powderd
12 Oz. Venice Treacle
4 Oz. best Rhubarb
12 Oz. Diascordium
4 lb. Pearle Barley
4 Oz. Balsam Capevi
5 Oz. Liquod Laudanum
5 Oz. Spirits Hartshorn
4 Oz. Spanish Flies
3 lb. Bird Lyme
6 lb. Oyl Turpentine
2 lb. Linseed Oyl—cold drawn
4 lb. Allam
1 lb. Spirma Citi
4 Oz. Tincture of Myrrh
4 Oz. Balsum Sulpher
4 Oz. Pulvus Basilic
2 Oz. Mer. Dulcis
4 Oz. Salvolatile
10 lb. Hartshorne Shaving
2 Quarts strong Cinamon Water
While many of these treatments are no longer popular, rhubarb has plenty of antioxidants and lavender is used for insomnia, acne and hair loss. But please take it easy with the laudanum. That’s a very powerful concoction.**
For more on this amazing survival story, try the  Washington Post,  the Library at Mount Vernon, or Doctor Zebra.

*Yes, George ultimately died of epiglottitis at age 67, but that may be because they practiced blood-letting back then and removed 35% of his plasma. And besides, 67 was elderly for the early 1800s. Men like Washington were lucky to survive into their late forties or early fifties. Women had it even tougher.

**Laudanum was considered a cure-all in Washington’s day, and why not? It contains a mixture of opium, alcohol, morphine and codeine. It’s doubtful a doctor would prescribe this today, but you can ask.

Brand new year, same old pandemic. With no end in sight for social distancing, lockdowns and work/eat/study/everything-from-home, how can you survive countless more months before your vaccine is ready with your sense of wellbeing — and humor — in tact?

Our suggestion? While continuing to isolate in your apartment, cabin or RV, why not try the “Holy Moly Doughnut Shop.” Or the “Spooky Scary Skeletons.” Or “The Smeeze.

We’re speaking, of course, about getting your groove on. Sure, dancing might not be the first thing that comes to mind when pulling off the covers and facing another Blursday, especially if you’re not 16 years old and monitoring TikTok 23 hours a day. But just because you’re a decade (or more) out of high school doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dust off your best moves and take every opportunity to go full out to the music.

To start, think of the positive effects on your body. According to Dr. Nick Smeeton from the University of Brighton, when you’re doing The Whoa, The Swagg Bouncee or The Cosby Walk, you expend more than 300 calories every half-hour, equal to a run or swim. All of that starting, stopping and changing directions burns a ton of fuel even though you’re not covering a lot of ground. The up-and-down and side-to-side movements of dance may likewise activate and train many of your body’s little support muscles and tendons.

The psychological benefits are also impressive. Research dating back to the 1980s supports the idea that dancing can curb anxiety. Some shrinks have prescribed dancing as an effective therapy for those who suffer from social anxiety or fear of public speaking.

The idea: if you can loosen up enough to do The Renegade in front of strangers, you’re a lot less likely to feel self-conscious when hanging out or speaking in front of an audience. Posting a video of yourself attempting to follow Charli D’Amelio’s moves is a good way to ease into the practice.

It doesn’t matter what you dance to — the latest Dua Lipa song, or something a little more retro. Get those helicopter hands working, and we’ll see you…hopefully sooner than later.

NOTE: In truth, any music that makes you tingle in a good way contributes to SuperOptimism.  Except for ballet. It’s hard to be SuperOptimistic in overly tight shoes.

 

Most residents of planet earth dealing with the threat of Covid-19 are either sheltering in place, masking up, or living with risk.

When you’re ready to graduate from simple cloth.

In Sonoma County, a place that one SuperOptimist calls home, it’s a quintuple threat: Corona, wildfire, toxic smoke, unusual heat, and power outages.  The fallout from the largest fire in local history renders the air so toxic with smoke that one must close all windows and stay inside sweating profusely, and it’s especially bad when the rolling blackouts render the air purifiers useless.
This situation can be looked at as a being dealt an incredibly bad hand — or as a time of magnificent opportunity and challenge. The challenge being to avoid distraction from fear and media noise and put all your focus on the creative work you’ve been meaning to tackle.
Resistance to this challenge comes in a thousand forms. Aside from pandemics, wildfires and blackouts, a few favorites are self-doubt, financial worry, health fears, life mistake rumination, vast depression, physical exhaustion, booze or substance reliance, dull-witted family members, and general public stupidity. Oh, and politics. These are ideas espoused by Steven Pressfield in his book “The War Of Art.”  In short, you’ll face heavy resistance the minute you sit down to begin.
Joyce Carol Oates said that the greatest enemy for writers is interruption. So maybe being trapped under your mask in your room is not a problem but an opportunity. Lock yourself inside and write the novel you have put off for the last five years. Close up the studio door and do the ten epic paintings. Stop paying attention to all the hot noise, inflamed tweets, dull nonsense and jabber. Ask yourself: did worrying about the outside world ever do you any good? Nope.
Maybe it’s time to live in that small world between your ears and see what kind of excitement you can stir around up there in the cerebral cortex. Maybe it’s not that small after all.

In the past six months, we’ve gone from world leaders saying there was no major threat from Wuhan to a rip-roaring pandemic. We’ve seen medical experts say that only the elderly and the immune-compromised were at risk, to learning of perfectly healthy people dying from the disease. We’ve been told that wearing a mask is unimportant, to wearing a mask is very, very, very important.

Now we’re seeing various governors arbitrarily decide to keep their states open in the face of increased outbreaks (but maybe they’ll close their states in a week or two, depending), while Wall Street shouts that the worst is over as 20 million people remain unemployed.

If ever there was a time to question authority, this is it.

Looking back, mass confusion is not a new phenomenon; it breeds a group of so-called “experts” who take to the airwaves to tell you what to do next.  From politicians to religious leaders, opinion columnists, business gurus, life coaches, self-help authors, movie critics: Here’s a set of professional guidance counselors that outwardly preach the ability to “live your best life” by following their expert tips.  Yet when in their homes with the shades drawn, they are just as confused, foul-mouthed, and imperfect as you are. 

Perhaps more so.  Scratching their backsides, yelling at their kids, sneaking glances at pornography, greedy for more wealth and power — just like everybody! Remember, despite their confident, toothy grins, these “experts” are not their book jacket photos.

So what is the “truth”?* Which facts do we embrace? Or is life just a lucky guess after all?

What they (and you) can learn from current events is to laugh at the human condition, chortle at our constant foibles, and re-think what makes you happy in the first place.

One way to start? Ignore everything an “expert” says on a cable news show. As Philip Stanhope, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield, put it: “Let it be your maxim through life, to know all you can know yourself, and never to trust implicitly the information of others.”

NOTE: The only advice you should follow is your own personal truth.  With just this secret alone, you are nine times more likely to find it! (Oh, and wear a mask. That should go without saying, but we’re saying it anyway.)

Everybody knows that Batman was a crimefighter who relied on a gaggle of gadgets to battle the ne’er do wells of Gotham City. They were all contained in a belt around his waist, and gave him unique powers that upped his mortal capabilities to that of a superhuman.

Yet the caped crusader didn’t always have such an elaborate storage unit for his prized possessions. At first, Batman wore an ordinary belt that sported a single utility – a simple bat rope, complete with grappling hook.

It was with  Detective Comics #29 that the Batman busted out an expanded tool-set, starting with small glass pellets that released a large cloud of gas when tossed at the bad guys. As his adventures continued, he added a giant balloon figure of himself that can be inflated remotely, as well as Shark Repellent Bat Spray.

Which brings us to the question: what should the practicing SuperOptimist equip themselves with in order to best turn every negative issue into a positive outcome? Aside from a handy guide to overcoming every obstacle you may face, the first order of business right now is a procuring a trusty mask and gloves.*

After that, it really becomes a matter of comfort and style (on a budget of course). Rather than burden yourself with clothing, we’re comfortable recommending a sarong instead. Assuming you’ll continue to work from home for the next several weeks, there’s no need for pockets to carry keys, wallet or money.

*When it comes to full protection from bacteria, you’ll want to augment your attire with an N95 respirator once they’re available again to the general public.  But for now, stay 20 feet way from other humans, which shouldn’t be a problem when wearing your bat mask and sarong combo.

It’s only human to want to amass a fortune, and the quicker the better. Anyone that says they’d prefer to scratch out a living and barely make ends meet is what Italians call “un bugiardo.”

Investing in the stock market is one way to attempt the speedy accumulation of wealth, although as with casinos, it seems the house always wins. We are repeatedly humbled by forces beyond our control, and timing the market only works for government officials, corporate insiders and that neighbor who smugly claims they got out “just before the crash,” even though they’re still driving a 2003 Impala.

Playing the lottery can also provide a windfall — though the odds of winning are smaller than a neutrino.*  Granted it does promote daydreaming as you imagine the possibility of a better life. But you have no control over those little numbered balls vacuumed from the basket; your two bucks are better spent at the racetrack, where at least you can tear up your ticket while seeing the beauty of horses in full gallop.

Which brings us to an activity that is affordable, offers you exercise and plenty of fresh air, and gives you the opportunity to add to your net worth.  And that’s the search for buried treasure. Finding old coins, jewelry and relics from past generations is a heck of lot healthier than sitting around staring at a stock ticker. Why, a 1936 Buffalo nickel is worth more than 100 times it’s value today, and is sure to keep going skyward.*

All you need is a sense of adventure and the visual acuity to spot the precious items in your path. Of course, you’ll have a lot more success if you deploy your own metal detector!We recommend a lightweight model that’s easy on the back, with enough features to make your search a fortunate one. Having done the research, we prefer the Garrett AT Pro. It’s an all-terrain detector that has 40 different settings to help you uncover various types of ferrous metals. And like the more expensive CTX 3030, the AT Pro is fully submersible up to 10 feet.

Venturing outdoors with your metal detector is a reward in itself, leading to aerobic fitness, healthier heart, improved circulation and flexibility, and increased vitamin D levels. Even if you find nothing, you’ve found nature — and she’s the greatest teacher of all.

So take a couple bucks from the clutches of Wall Street and invest in a metal detector. You’ll be glad you did.

*Neutrinos are the smallest massive particles currently measured and catalogued. The average characteristic size is r2 = n × 10−33 cm2 (n × 1 nanobarn), where n = 3.2 for electron neutrino, n = 1.7 for muon neutrino and n = 1.0 for tau neutrino.

**Remember to consult with a numismatic expert before polishing your treasures to a gleaming shine.  The value of the old coins you uncover can be destroyed with too much scrubbing and scratching.