The Summer of the Cold Socks

Whether by grand design or random coincidence (I suspect in many cases they’re the same thing), people have been reaching out to me, frustrated, because they feel lacking in creativity, spontaneity, even the use of language in impromptu situations.

I have something to say about this topic because 1) I’m a certified Transformational Voice® Teacher well versed in the Cycle of Breath Based Vocalization and proper breathing helps with…well…everything. 2) I’m an actor, Authentic Performance acting teacher and public speaker – all of which require a command of language in artificial or improvisational situations (in which conscious breathing is extremely helpful.) 3) Ever since I learned the concept of the thriving zone from Barry Dennis (see the 1/5/15 blog entry) I’ve been preaching thriving (as opposed to atrophy or breaking) until people may be dozing in their virtual pews.

Based on a couple of these recent conversations, I suspect people are suffering from limited use of the right brain hemisphere (the creative, imaginative side.) I have something to say about that, and I say it in this free two and a half minute video tip.

Here’s another tip I just read in the September 2015 issue of Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine. This article interviewing Neuroscientist Berit Brogaard, PhD, is entitled Unlock Your Brain’s Potential.

Thinking harder will not tap into parts of our brain that we don’t consciously use; it will just use the same regions more. To reach new areas, you have to get your brain out of its comfort zone…I believe the easiest [way] is by training yourself in a neurological phenomenon called synesthesia, in which the brain makes unusual associations between things like sounds, colors, and emotions…When the brain makes these associations, it generates new neural connections—and these connections may help to spur creativity and improve memory.

Q: So how do you develop synesthesia?

A: A study in the journal PLOS One found that that it could be activated in as little as two weeks. To get started, consciously associate things you normally wouldn’t, and rehearse those associations until you internalize them. I know it sounds wonky, but it works. I recently teamed up with Johns Hopkins researchers to help a woman unlock her ability to write evocative poetry. First, we had her make a list of emotions (like happiness, love, anger) and match each one with a sound (a thunderclap, the hiss of a teakettle), a taste (zesty, burnt), a smell (fresh-cut grass, smoke from a campfire), and a color. She kept the list on her nightstand and looked at it in the morning or at night. After just a month, she began to experience her emotions as sounds, tastes, smells and colors. When she felt jealousy, she heard a hissing sound and saw a pot of liquid spewing dark magenta. She channeled this newfound way of experiencing emotions into writing poetry like she never had before.

I can’t wait to try it!

What I have to say next brings us to…The Summer of the Cold Socks. This is both a creativity tip and a practical one if your feet get super-hot these warm summer months like mine do. This “fire foot” syndrome, as it’s known around here, can make sleeping difficult.

My partner, George, had this problem the last record breaking hot summer, 2009, in the Willamette Valley. He got tired of sitting on the edge of the bathtub with his feet in cold water or holding ice packs on them, and decided to dampen some socks and put them in a zipped plastic bag in the freezer. Voila – cold socks. You have to de-crust them a little before you put them on, but my goodness, do they help cool your feet! And quickly!

Now, I have a confession to make. George and I laugh so hard, at the silliest things, sometimes I feel embarrassed (I can’t wait to see how I describe embarrassment after doing the synesthesia exercise) to share the things we laugh about with other people. In fact, I usually don’t! But here’s one, because it’s a good right brain creative exercise.

Write a story. You know, your own – instead of reading someone else’s.

It all started one day when George and I were walking, it was hot, we were getting sweaty, and he mentioned that 2009 heat wave. He said, “That was the summer of the cold socks.”

Right then, right there, walking on Inverurie Road, I heard that deep-voiced announcer in my head. You know the one. But instead of saying, “Only through Labor Day,” or “The moment that changed the history of the world…in theaters June 19th” the voice said, “It was the summer of the cold socks.”

That just made me laugh, and keep laughing while I told George why I was laughing. And it begged…begged, I tell you!…for a next line. Which was something like “Dogs lapped their bowls dry, and their heads dropped to their paws.” George was like, “Wouldn’t they wilt?” I was like, “Yes, dogs lapped their bowls dry, and their heads wilted on…” George: “Wilted…listlessly…?” Me: “Yes! Wilted listlessly on…or upon…?” George: “Hmm…Upon, definitely upon.”

With that, I give you, the first four lines (for all I know the only four lines) of The Summer of the Cold Socks:

It was the summer of the cold socks.

Dogs lapped their bowls dry, and their heads wilted listlessly upon their paws.

Livestock tails twitched flies in the blistered misery.

The swimming hole beckoned.

And I have only one last thing to say on this matter. Keep two pairs of cold socks in the freezer. When one gets to room temperature after about 20 minutes, put them back in the freezer, and take out the other. Your hot feet and right brain will thank you.

Authentically Yours, Laura