Terry Martin Ph.D
Reflections on Life
February 8, 2019 How many English words do you know? Words you actually know and use. Take a guess: 1,000 3,000 10,000? More? Fewer?
Think of a number let’s see how close you can come.
The English language is said to have about one million words. The actual number is debatable because some words have more than one meaning. Enter a word in dictionary.com and you will find many meanings or ‘word families.’
The number of words we know varies by demographic group. Researchers call it a ‘word gap.’ For example, children from upper-income families know about 1,000 words when they begin preschool compared to 700 for working class families and 500 for welfare families. The word gap refers to access to information rather than wealth.
By age 8 students know 10,000 words. High school seniors know about 20,000 words. University educated people know about 40,000 words. Most adults have a vocabulary range of 20,000-35,000 words.
How does the number you chose compare with the averages?
People who read mainly fiction outscore those who usually read nonfiction because fiction has a wider range of vocabulary. When we speak we use about 5,000 common words that are easily recognized.
This vocabulary discussion is hardly a scholarly thesis, far from it. It was a prelude to asking if you some words are more important to you than other words?
I sailed through life without thinking about such nonsense. But a time came when I realized I was unhappy. I guess when you get older you begin to analyze things more. There were a few roadblocks interfering with my wellbeing. I knew I had to address the problem but wasn’t sure how to go about it.
I had to simplify things; there were too many complications. I came up with an analogy that I was carrying a load of bricks on my back. It was time to start shedding them. And the best way to do it was to say, “No.”
“No” is a word with multiple meanings. It is also the word that changed my life. I found that saying “no” to somebody lightened the bricks on my back. I told myself “no more” when my marriage was wrong–for both of us–and had to be ended.
When I say “no” I mean no harm, I say it seriously because I don’t care to do things just for the sake of doing them, particularly when saying “yes” will interfere with my happiness and wellbeing.
I’ve said “no” to stuff I was doing repeatedly for no earthly reason. I played bridge at a bridge club almost every afternoon. That left little if any time for new ventures, accomplishments and excitement.
My life changed when I learned to say “NO!” mean it and enforce it. Brick by brick the load lightened and the guy in the mirror began to smile. That’s when I knew “no” is the most powerful word in the English language.
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February 8, 2019 I treat people who have panic attacks severe enough to trigger a seizure. Many are hesitant to travel; afraid their stress will trigger a medical emergency.
I was interviewing for an administrator one day and applicant, Sarah, arrived with a black lab named Luna. Sarah said, “Luna helps me manage my anxiety. She gives me joy. I can work without medication.”
Sarah had been in the throes of deep, dangerous depression and taking antidepressants. She said she wanted to “accidentally overdose or be allowed to exit the earth quietly and gracefully.”
Then she met Luna whose joy when they played tug-of-war with a hand towel was contagious. Luna made her laugh. “Petting her eased the pressure in my chest,” she said. “It prevented a panic attack.”
Luna didn’t erase Sarah’s depression. She wasn’t magically better. Luna gave her moments of joy. Sarah said, “She gave me joy that I hadn’t experienced before.”
Most importantly, Luna made Sarah stop thinking about dying. “Even on the hardest days Luna neededme. I was responsible for my own life and the life of a pet that I loved desperately. She needed me as much as I needed her.”
Sarah had tried countless things to ease her depression and make life better, to learn to love her self and learn to manage her anxiety. “Now Luna gets me out of bed,” Sarah said. “She gets me to work, even if I want to sleep forever.”
Emotional Support Animals (ESAs) give U.S. residents several benefits. Just like full-fledged service animals, ESAs are about the freedom and health of a disabled person. Landlords can’t deny them housing. U.S.-based airlines allow them to fly with their dogs in-cabin, without a fee.
ESAs draw criticism. People say, “If you are such a baby that you need your pet maybe you shouldn’t fly at all,” or, “Pop a Xanax.” Why is medication always the answer? Invisible disabilities cause people to roll their eyes and think, “What a faker; another selfish, system-player.”
“I want you to know how Luna saved me, “ Sarah said. “I want you to know I might not be here today if Luna had not entered my life.”
That’s why I am happy to share Luna’s story.
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LUNA THE THERAPY DOG