The Frequency Illusion

I recently wrote about how I was not sending Christmas cards. What’s that phenomenon where you what you talk about is suddenly everywhere? No, not the “my iPhone is eavesdropping on me” thing, but the neuropsychological construct that you begin to see something everywhere after your attention is called to it once? It’s not that those things weren’t there before, but our brains just never noticed them until we did, and then they’re everywhere?? It’s a thing. Can’t for the life of me remember what it’s called. Great story, Wend.

The point. *ahem* The point is that since broadcasting that I’d hit the pause button on sharing our annual dose of holly jolly via US Mail, I’ve noticed “I’m not sending Christmas cards” memes everywhere! OK, so they’re not actually everywhere, but I noticed one, and now I notice them all. If it’s meme-worthy, then not sending cards must be a rule instead of the exception these days. Look at me all setting the trend years ago, so ahead of the times.

You know, I have spent more on vodka during the pandemic than ever before. . .

Blowing the timeline for cards marking A Very COVID Christmas 2: Still Masked in 2021 provided occasion to walk through the early days of my blog. I wondered if I’d chronicled the first year I lost my card spark, and sure enough, learned that I stopped sending Christmas cards the year my son was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. Coincidence? I am sure not.

2015. 2015?? How can it be nearly seven years since that awful January diagnosis day? 2015 felt cruel and cold. I was rudderless, anchored by Barenaked Ladies concerts and this here little creative writing outlet. Though I was surrounded by friends and family who then showed me incredible kindness and support (and do still now), my holiday joy was tempered that year. Since THAT dreadful year, my husband was nearly killed in a catastrophic work accident, then, well, you remember the pandemic year? And now still a pandemic year?? Do you wonder why I’m a little glass half-empty Grinch-y? I sure don’t. I don’t wonder one bit.

2021 wasn’t my favorite orbit around the sun, but was it anyone’s? I mean, 2021 sucked less than 2020, so there’s that. And while most of the rest of the world reviles 2020 the most, I’m still super pissed about 2019, therefore (drum roll, please!) 2021 wins my contest of who’s not the worst of recent years. Yay, 2021! You’re not the worst!!

To be fair, 2021 offered some for reals bright spots. Like my big kid’s senior pictures (and a few college acceptance letters)–

Like my little kid’s football season–

Like spending a few responsibility-free days with my college friends–

Like “talking” to my BFF more often via the Marco Polo app and rediscovering classic photos, which I’d share if only my iPhone weren’t so old and dysfunctional. And if you are in fact listening to me, iPhone, maybe you decide to start downloading pictures, yeah? Thanks.

Like being awake for both the moon and sun rising over the Atlantic in Myrtle Beach. Our COVID spring break road trip took us to a South Carolina oceanside condo. We didn’t close the doors once–

Like celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks NBA Championship with a half million of our closest friends–

So, see? Even me, the eternal pessimist, found some literal and figurative sunshine in 2021.

If I were sending Christmas cards, they’d look a little like this and y’all would totally be on my list! You would!! Merry Christmas, dear readers. I wish you happiness, good health, and the love of family, friends, and friends who feel like family.

I wish lots of things–crazy dreams like eradication of COVID (and for that matter, eradication of muscular dystrophy, but unlike COVID, you can’t get a vaccine to protect you against MD). I wish for purpose toward the greater good and common sense among the masses, genuine care and compassion for one another, and accountability for people perpetrating truly terrible acts. But I’m not a kid and I know Santa’s elves can’t exactly wrap and put a big ol’ bow around the gift of human decency to place under my tree. Doesn’t mean I can’t wish for it though. Peace and love to you. I say this and mean it with complete sincerity.

What’s with the green lights?

Oh, and I had to look (and subsequently retitle this post). The seeing something everywhere once you finally notice it deal? It’s called the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, also known as the Frequency Illusion or Recency Effect. I learned about it on The Happiness Lab, a podcast by Yale professor and psychologist Laurie Santos, whose online class I took and loved in 2020–I went to Yale, y’all!! OK, I didn’t exactly go to Yale. . . I think I heard about it there anyway (my memory’s not so hot anymore either, and I’m actually reading a book about memory, but that’s a topic for another time). Pay attention to how you notice things now. Like when you have lunch somewhere you’d never heard of, and then see advertising for it plastered across hotel shuttles on your way home from the very spot or see maroon colored Honda Passports everywhere you look. It’s not that the SUVs or signage weren’t there or the restaurant wasn’t there before, I just didn’t notice them, and then I did. Notice what you notice. . . Maybe some of my crazy Christmas wishes already are and/or can become reality if I simply were to attend to them and take notice.

6 thoughts on “The Frequency Illusion

  1. Seasoned Greetings Wendy to you and yours! My Baader-Meinhof phenomenon appears in numbers when I randomly look at a clock and it always seems to be around these numbers-any 11 time, as in 9:11, as well as 14, as in 7:14, (Perhaps you are too young for THAT memory!!!), and on the calendar as in 22, as Neil’s birthday is December 22, and he passed away on October 22, so that number on the calendar is a constant reminder and memory twelve times a year. You are right that this year was a damn challenging one, and one that would definitely make me spin if history repeats itself . My hope for 2022 is that we continue to be kind, gracious, and respectful of each other. That these Covid variants end before we have exhausted the Greek alphabet, and health, happiness and all things good have touched everyone !! And I will raise my glass with some holiday cheer!! L’Chaim ! To a good life!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been experiencing Baader-Meinhof a lot recently now that I work in a gigantic antique market. Someone will come in and say “Do you know if you have any___” and I’ll say I haven’t seen any that I can think of. Then, as soon as they leave, I’ll find five of the thing they’re looking for! Here’s to 2021 not sucking as much as 2020, but I’m having my doubts about 2022 right now. Here’s to a surprising New Year!

    Liked by 2 people

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