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COMMENTARY: A Grateful Palaver

Last week, the word "Palaver" arrived in my email feed as my "Word of the Day". I clicked the link to the Merriam-Webster source, and my back-room experts reminded me that the definition of palaver is: "a long parley usually between persons of different

The word "Palaver" arrived in my email feed last week as my "Word of the Day." I clicked the link to the Merriam-Webster source, and my backroom experts reminded me the definition of palaver is: "a long parley usually between persons of different cultures or levels of sophistication; a discussion; idle talk."

That single word, palaver, reminded me of one special friend. I hadn't seen her since before COVID-19, so I sent her a text asking if she was available for a chinwag. Happily, we quickly found a convenient date and time and place for a wonderfully relaxed face-to-face conversation. Meeting a friend on an outdoor patio on any Friday in summer is a privilege we can now savour more fully. Sharing a table and speaking with someone while looking them in the eye, noting their hands, the timbre in the voice, and the nuances that rich conversation delivers is a tremendously humanizing activity.

As our conversation skipped from the realities of life, we talked about choices and changes. We celebrated the news Banff's mayor has accepted her appointment to the Senate and we wrinkled our brows over the lightning strikes created by social media. She listened as I talked about my gratitude project, my book, about my year of reading and learning, and we collectively mused about summer, travel plans, our health and well-being.

At one point in the story, she mentioned an online article she had bookmarked for future reading. She mentioned its angle and we agreed with each other COVID-19 poses threats to our friendships, to the words "common good" and to our public institutions – hospitals, schools, jurisdictional and beyond.

I blurted, "Don't invest your precious time reading that article. Forget it," suggesting she read articles that offer reasons to be grateful for COVID. I talked about the Science of Wellbeing course and positive psychology courses and the idea that we need to read more constructive journalism rather than allow so much negativity into our lives.

Meeting a friend who is emotionally intelligent, thoughtful, has a generous soul and is interested in life beyond the narrows, energizes me tremendously. I continued to think about our wide-ranging conversation and smiled widely when I found the 3 x 5 index card sitting on my desk. It reads: "Laurie Santos. Science of Well-being. Evidence Based. Top 5 Coping Tips: Exercise, gratitude, sleep, get social and recognize the something. Accept it. Investigate it. Nurture it. Sit with it. Repeat. It's also known as RAIN.

Simple advice from the experts that is so validating. Putting it all together: When things are going sideways and you need a healthy jolt, get some exercise. Go for a walk. Come home and make a list of reasons to feel grateful. Get some sleep. Do something sociable – call a friend, talk to a stranger, have a palaver. If negativity continues to fester, sit down, and write about RAIN and repeat steps 1 – 4.

By switching to life in a social, physical, real time, actual place in the here and now, we disconnect from the speculative, highly charged virtual spaces of anonymity. In the company of others, we can see more positives and possibilities.

Social media puts a powerful and dangerous dragon into our pockets. Every adventurer needs touchstones and coping skills for rugged travel. Living in an online world can be numbing, insulating, disconnecting, inflammatory and isolating. I say: muzzle the dragon, make plans for a good palaver, expressing gratitude for the rain.

With the full power of positive thinking, grit, open-mindedness and genuine gratitude, Lorraine's book is now on the desk of an editor. Launch date: Fall 2021. To learn more about her book, An Ecology of Gratitude, contact lorraine@grassrootsgratitude.ca Follow her on Instagram: lorraine_widmer_carson.