The Smell of a Tuna Fish Sandwich –
My wife came home early from work on Friday. She wasn’t feeling well and had a stomach bug. I’m not a natural caretaker but was able to get her settled in the bed and bring her something to drink with saltine-crackers. She slept most of Friday and Saturday was feeling better. She still wasn’t eating much and when I asked if she would like lunch she opted for a bland bowl of cereal. I, on the other hand, fixed myself a fresh can of tuna, with mayo and pickles. When Beth fixed her cereal I noted she was on the far side of the counter. “What are you doing over there?” I asked. “The smell of your tuna is not helping my stomach!” she replied and told me it was the last thing she ate Friday before getting sick. The smell of my Tuna Fish sandwich was threatening to make her sick again.
Scientists tell us that smell is one of the greatest memory triggers. However, all our senses, particular situations, certain people, can trigger pain, shame, emotional, mental and even physical reactions in us or others. This is why it’s so important making sure we don’t judge or label others who may react differently to events and experiences. The path of their life, which intersects ours, could be fraught with challenges and difficulties we’ve never encountered. Knowing each person has a unique path helps us be aware, accepting, adaptable, and non-judgemental toward each other.
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What Do You Smell? –
Yesterday morning I ironed a shirt for Beth to wear to work. This particular shirt was given to my wife by a friend who passed away several years ago. However, even after all this time, the shirt still smelled like our friend. The fragrance immediately brought back nice memories of her kindness, joy, love and grace-filled life. It’s amazing what smells can trigger. I have another friend who had a rough childhood and the smell of certain foods triggers terrible memories. Scientists say smell is one of the major components of remembering the past.
I’ve thought about the shirt Beth wore yesterday and I ask myself; “What would someone think of if a smell triggered a memory? What smells would remind others of me?” One of the central lessons of wisdom is that everything we do leaves an imprint upon another. Good or bad, negative or positive, our lives leave a fragrance to those around us.
This interesting picture and intriguing quote was in my Facebook feed this morning. It caught my attention in part because I’ve been studying Epigenetics. It’s the study of how trauma impacts people and generations following.
One of the experiments used to prove this area of science involved shocking a female rat with electricity when a certain odor was emitted. After a while the rat, even though there was no shock, still reacted when she smelled the specific odor. What’s even more compelling is the rat’s babies and the baby’s babies also reacted negatively even though the second and third generation of rats had never been shocked with electricity when the odor was emitted.
Epigenetics proposes that the genes of the rats have been altered, changed due to the trauma of the original female rat and these genes have been passed down to preceding generations.
“Neurons that fire together wire together” is another phrase used by brain scientists which deal with nerve pathways. The more often we do something, or have something done to us, the more used to certain behaviors and environments we are mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. In other words it becomes our definition of normal, our reality. It is only when we are able to learn new ways of thinking, being, can we change our personal and family’s destiny. To consider that the choices for our lives impact the immediate now and our, other’s, future the more important it is to be sure our decisions are filled with wisdom and grace.