More Cowbell by Cherie Hanson

At this time of a pandemic spread of anxiety and a shared knawing of fear, we turn more and more to our own emergency kit. We turn inward to those things that we believe and hold on to no matter what.

I was led to go back and reread: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by the brothers Chip and Dan Heath.

They taught me a great deal about discipline fatigue when I came across their book several years ago.

Freud saw the battle between the Id which is the selfish manifestation of the individual and the Superego, which is the conscientious self, focused on the greater good.

The difficulty, the authors explains, is the people they studied…” ran out of self-control…. Psychologists have discovered that self-control is an exhaustible resource. It’s like doing bench presses at the gym. The first one is easy, when your muscles are fresh. But with each additional repetition, the muscles get more exhausted until you can’t lift the bar again.”

Dozens of studies have demonstrated the exhausting nature of self-supervision…

“The research shows that we burn up self-control in a wide variety of situations: managing the impression we’re making on others; coping with fears; controlling our spending;…(trying to focus on instructions). “

“Change is hard because people wear themselves out,” the authors emphasize.

When I first read this, I thought about Christmas discipline fatigue. Forcing ourselves to buy presents, to go to social gatherings, to appear happy and a source of delight to others ends up in our discipline muscle seizing up. So now we look around us and there is alcohol, lots and lots of alcohol. There are sugar laced dishes and candies. We feel down and feel down about feeling down, so we spend money we don’t have. It makes perfect sense that the extra weight, debt, hangover are all because we just can’t….. It is much like the challenge of COVID in our lives.

So, the Heath brothers delineate three actions that can help us to not collapse into negative behaviors.

  1. Provide yourself, the habit driven self with very specific, clear directions for which habits you intend to build.
  2. Take care of your emotional self and do not add more stimulus that will exhaust it.
  3. Shape your path. Clean up your environment like clearing obstructions in your way. Set up small acts that create a reward loop in your brain. Review daily where your path is heading.

And for me, I have found the emergency ward treatment I have needed is to remove the extra emotional burdens on an already threatened self. I have stopped watching political speeches. I choose instead to learn information from PBS documentaries about cultural history. I explore the streaming services for entertainment that teaches me, lifts up my energy.

At this time, the weight is heavy, and I know we cannot add more weight and function with a clear mind. We need more cowbell. We need more joy and celebration of human spirit. We need to steer ourselves away from watching cruelty, death, darkness and pick up that cowbell.

Here are some of my recommendations from streaming services that brought me joy.


Dr. Who series shows us that stamina, the ability to think clearly will always help us find a way out. The story is of discovering that the truth we first believed is a manufactured perception. We must be open to learning to shift our understanding.

Healthy is Hot gives the viewer the inspiration to embrace a goal of making the self radiantly healthy and explores the way to do it.

30 Rock is a show that reminds us that there is no end to the variations a human personality can assume. It shows us a workplace (a world) where people’s very eccentricities make them loveable and where they are celebrated and included.

Corner Gas was a signature Canadian series with Brett Butt, a comedian, as the main character and the writer. This bunch of nobodies in a nowhere town is a precursor to Schitz Creek. The theme of being accepted no matter how much you don’t fit some form of normal is a message we need to expose ourselves to right now. “Will people still love me if I give up pretending?” This is one of the pressures we put on ourselves that makes us susceptible to feeling weak. The answer is a resounding, “Yes. You be you.”

California Typewriter is a documentary look at people who remain devoted to creating on a typewriter. It is a look at the company in Berkeley that has operated since 1949 and continues to source and repair the writing machine.

Being Serena is a 2018 series about Tennis powerhouse Serena Williams’ taking on pregnancy and motherhood while maintaining her place of dominance. This series will inspire you to stay with your own goals in the face of challenges.

Carmine Street Guitars features a shop in Greenwich Village that builds handcrafted instruments from reclaimed wood from old hotels, bars, churches and other torn down buildings. It is uplifting to watch Rick Kelly and Cindy Hulej create beauty from destruction.


Knives Out is a playful romp exploring insider references from Agatha Christie movies and others of that genre. The list of actors such as Daniel Craig and Chris Evans are a delight to watch. Enjoy the sly references to other movies.

Monk series. Watch Tony Shalhoub an Emmy and Golden Globe winning actor deliver the phobic, obsessive compulsive detective at war with his own restriction who emerges as a brilliant detective.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood with Tom Hanks reminds us that each of us can rise up to spread compassion, to teach others how to remain gentle in what seems to be a brutal world. Watching Fred Roger’s life reminds us that each of us has the ability to change the energy surrounding us by not giving up, not giving in.

The Golden Girls. Again, four very individual people manage to live together but not give up who she, at core, is meant to be. Their personalities shine out as exactly who they are without giving in to the pressures of society to fit the stereotype of “the older woman.” They shine out golden.

Movie: Little Woman 2019. Abandoned by their father, impoverished and restricted by a society which focused on the singular female goal of being married to a man who could provide for them, these sisters explore how to adjust to the limitations laid upon them without losing themselves in the process. This movie is a woman driven project with director Greta Gerwig and producer Amy Pascal. It is fast paced and very contemporary in feel.

The Tick series. Peter Serafinowicz is great as the blue suited superhero. Earning 95% on Rotten Tomatoes with its tongue in cheek humour coupled with high octane action. It is just plain fun.


Schitt’s Creek leads the list as the knockout winner at the Emmy’s this year garnering the most awards of any series. Once again Canada brings to the table a depth of character, nuanced acting and a focus on how learning to be authentic and accepting others as they are is enough to stir the heart. We need this message repeatedly during COVID.

The Great Canadian Baking Show. During a pandemic which person doesn’t want to see the combination of food sculpture, architectural design and sugar? The beauty of these creations is enough to inspire a person to get out of the bathrobe and put on an apron.

Kim’s Convenience is one of my favorite viewing experiences. This is no Little House on the Prairie story. Appa and Umma have not made a success out of being in a new country and establishing a business without being tough and edgy. Watching the characters develop in this series is a joy. They draw you in and you feel so good as they reveal their love for one another in a few flickering moments.

So, in summation, we can control how much we suffer by beginning to pay attention to our energy level. We can say that watching others inflict anger on one another in a movie or series is not affecting us. But we are only human. We do better when we don’t overload ourselves with things that deplete us.

Make a plan: more cowbell in my life!


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