Inspiring story about survivor

I have never before written to the Local, though I have been a grateful reader for years now.  But the beautiful and important article about Betsy Wallace on this week’s front page [“Learning to live with ovarian cancer,” Sept. 6] has inspired me to find my voice
The courage and strength of spirit in Betsy’s story is matched by the excellence of the reporting, as well as the decision to put ovarian cancer front and center in the Local this month. I am sure many readers will look forward to the articles to come from other survivors and practitioners.

Breaking the silence that so often persists around any instance of  “the big C” is vitally important. Cancer is a fact of life for so many of us, and when we are open and thoughtful in addressing what it involves, rather than staying silent and frightened, we win the biggest part of the battle.

As a cancer survivor and  daughter of two cancer survivors, one of whom eventually did die of cancer, I can testify to how possible it is to claim all of life’s fullness, no matter what challenges present.  We see that clearly in Betsy’s story, and it is a true gift to all of us.

Ellen Deacon
Chestnut Hill


ID-less is likely
to be clueless

What are the chances that someone who is so surpassingly stupid as to be unable to secure a photograph identification card is going to have any knowledge of the issues in the presidential election: that Obama has destroyed the American economy; that he has caused the downgrading of America’s credit rating; that he has driven millions of Americans to despair of ever landing a job; and that he has imperiled the lives of America’s Armed Forces by leaking classified information to our enemies in order to increase his chances of re-election?
To ask the question is to answer it.

Joseph A. Ferry


Paying attention:
a lost art?

We hear so much about attention these days. Whether it’s attention deficit disorder or e-attention or inattention, we seem to live in a world that is so fast-paced and fragmented that it sometimes feels hard to pay attention in a focused or coherent way.
While most of us do not have a bona fide attention deficit disorder, scientists are demonstrating that there are various kinds of attention and to rely too exclusively on only one kind can make the average person feel as if she has an attention disorder, or even a memory problem, which is related to attention.

We attend to the world, to others, to our work or to ourselves in different ways depending on circumstances in the moment. We attend one way to our young child who is misbehaving, and another way to the same child when he is sick. When we want to attend to our spouse in a difficult situation – for example, he or she is experiencing a conflict at work – we make an effort to put aside something else like an aging parent who is also putting demands on our attention.

So paying attention is a dynamic and complex process. And because the world is an increasingly complicated place, it pulls at our attention in complicated and sometimes even conflicting ways.

It may be helpful to begin to attend to how we as individuals are paying attention. This is mindfulness – the practice of becoming mindful of one’s own paying attention. Mindfulness takes practice very much like learning a foreign language or playing the violin. We have an innate ability to carry it out but our longstanding habits of attention act as obstacles to mindful attention.

The science of the human brain demonstrates that the two halves of the brain, the right and left hemispheres, influence how we pay attention in two different ways. Optimally the two hemispheres work together as a team and their functions complement each other. But some brains in certain circumstances may rely too heavily on one type of functioning over another.

The study of the brain is revealing that western civilization has grown around the predominance of left hemisphere functioning, having to do with rationality, logic and linear reasoning, while the right hemisphere subserves empathy, emotional insight and immediate experience.
While the hemispheres differ in how they process information and energy, it would be an oversimplification to say that they function separately or compete with one another. Rather, optimal brain functioning integrates the different types of information processing.

So try paying attention to what you pay attention to and how you pay attention, and you may begin to find novel ways of attending to the world, to others, and to yourself, which is the beginning of mindfulness practice. And the neuroscience is confirming that exercise for the brain/mind in all its forms is as important as exercise for the body.

Janet Etzi, PsyD.
Chestnut Hill