American literature conflict creativity English literature wisdom

day eleven: to cope, verb


What’s so bad about coping? Must a coping strategy be a vice? As much as people talk about “positive” and “negative” strategies, the entire concept of coping seems somehow tainted by failure or inadequacies of some sort, as if life ought to be easier and one shouldn’t fret about it so much. I disagree with that punishing attitude toward human frailties. The walk I took this morning—as per yesterday’s realization of how anomie was eating away at my mental health, and the subsequent commitment I made to walk every morning—was bracing, energizing, and invigorating!  I plan to use that coping strategy as often as I can—ideally every day, even after this crisis has passed.

But the word to cope gets a bad rap. Describing a character’s alcoholism, one writer notes: “A coping strategy, Margaret Cleary had called it. The only problem was, when your whole existence is something you have to cope with, you look back one day and find that your strategy has become a way of life.”*

Aha! The dictionary once again comes to the rescue. Reading the definition of to cope below, you realize this author’s error. It is erroneous to pit “to exist” against “to cope (with)”, because life is sometimes excruciating. In other words, the two verbs sometimes designate the same action. As the third definition of exist reminds us: “3. Continue alive or in being; maintain existence. Also, live, esp. under adverse conditions.”

Conclusion: Whatever you are doing to cope with the annoyances, anxieties, and confinement of life during this coronavirus crisis, if your strategy is helping you to “deal competently with your life or situation,” then more power to you! Maybe you’ll find that your new activity actually improves your situation, if you stick with it over the long term.

Still searching for the best way to cope?  For some great ideas, see the brief testimonials in “How We Got By: Advice for Getting Through a Crisis, by Julia Rothman and Shaina Feinberg, from the New York Times, 3/29/20; p. BU3.)

Till tomorrow, cope on!


Cope, verb intrans.**

[Etymology: Old French co[l]per (mod. couper) strike, cut, from co[l]p blow from medieval Latin colpus; see COUP noun]

I. 1. verb intrans. Strike, hit; come to blows with; engage or meet (together) in battle, archaic & dialect. ME [Middle English]

2. Contend successfully with (an opponent, difficulty, situation, etc.); colloq. deal competently with one’s life or situation

3. Have to do with; come into contact or relation with. archaic.

4. verb intrans. Match (something) with an equivalent. rare (Shakespeare)


Exist, verb intrans.***

[Etymology: Latin ex[s]istere emerge, present oneself, come into being, (in late Latin) be (aux.), formed as EX- + sister take a stand]

  1. Have objective reality or being.
  2. Have being in a specified place or form or under specified conditions. Of a relation, circumstance, etc.
  3. Continue alive or in being; maintain existence. Also, live, esp. under adverse conditions.


*Joanna Cannon, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, (New York: Scribner, 2017), 213.

** The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, 5th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), vol. 1, p. 514.

*** Op. cit., vol. 1, p. 889.


dogs friendship generosity happiness Uncategorized

proud sponsor of puppy bowl!


Honey Girl is proud to sponsor the second annual local puppy bowl!  You can see the action happening now:

Drop by the Honey Girl Books and Gifts on-line store here to pick up a puppy-themed pillow in valentine flannel!* The pocket on the back is a perfect way to unplug from fake “friends” and reconnect with your loved ones.

Which hopefully include a dog.



p.s. Enter code “03” for 50% off any pillow until Valentine’s Day!

creativity Zen philosophy

Ichiro or the yellow cat: who would you rather be?

This semester we played some games in my classes to raise students’ awareness of their environment and how they react to it. This is one.

Teacher pulls out of a bag a bobblehead and a yellow Japanese cat figure, puts them on a table, and asks: “Who would you rather be, the best hitter of the era, Ichiro Suzuki, who led the Seattle Mariners in 2001? Or this yellow cat piggy bank?”

Students laugh. “Ichiro of course.”

The teacher: “Are you sure? Watch his head. Being an unaware human, he is a victim of the Mind. Thus when something bad comes along [Give the head a hard tap], he’s out of control.  [The head continues to bounce randomly, for a good three minutes or so.]. It is the cat we should emulate. The cat, with a low center of gravity, cannot be tipped over.”

This relates to all manner of actions. As Peter Ralston writes,

When our feeling-attention is put in the center region, the intellect does not dominate our actions and perceptions.  … Centering calms the mind, making it clear and powerful, unquestioning and unknowing, thus allowing access to a domain of spontaneous appropriate actions.

Begin by getting in touch with the center region on a physical level. Concentrate on the feet, when you stand in line or do a standing meditation. Notice how the feet constantly relate and readjust in relationship to the earth. It is the transference of weight from one foot to another that allows most of our actions and power. Adjust the waist and legs to accomodate a force. Keep you tailbone tucked under. Support your back and head from below. Remember that gravity is not just a mere “fact of the planet.” It is a profound force and possibility.

Consider this deeply.*


*Peter Ralstson, Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Power, 10-15.

I will consider it deeply as I head out now for a walk with Honey Girl!