Did You Know You Can Over-Insulate?

Last night, I start to worry that our home is too drafty.  No matter how insulated the house is, it still seems that freezing air seeps into the house by doorways and windows. 

But then I learn that too much insulation destroys air quality. A draft allows outside air to circulate in the house, freshen things up, and keep air quality healthy.  Often in the winter, folks seal up their homes too much.  Residents get sick, and they experience a build up of toxic air.  Who knew that one could over-insulate?  You can!  When you block air flow, you also create moisture traps that lead to mold and rot.  Healthy houses have regular fresh air flow, even during the winter. 

I fling wide the back door and let the night air flow in.  It’s uncomfortable.  

But it’s healthy.  

I realize that some amount of drafty living guarantees a healthy mind.  I don’t want to over-insulate my heart and mind from whatever remains outside my routines, my particular philosophy of living, or even my community.  I want to remain open to new practices, new ideas, and new friendships even when they make me uncomfortable.  I learn and grow in the presence of difference; I find that my mind, faith, and neighborhood grow stronger when I don’t over-insulate. 

Living with flair means I open wide the door and make a new friend, read a new book, or try a new routine.  I let fresh things circulate to keep me healthy.    

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What if I were loyal?

I had a sublime experience last night that carried into my morning so powerfully as to eclipse any other possible flair for the day.

I entertained a woman who owned a service dog. This black lab sat all night at our feet, waiting to take action in case my new friend had a seizure. The dog can predict up to two minutes in advance if the woman will have a seizure, and then he alerts her by tapping his nose on her thigh. Then the dog leads her to a safe location, helps her to the ground, secures a perimeter, and then stretches out on the ground beneath her head until the seizure ends. It gets better. The dog can also go get help by opening doors, retrieving cell phones, and even finding a dominant presence (usually an alpha male) in a room who can call 911.

I looked at that dog lying peacefully at our feet. No way.

Guess how he knows. Smell alone. The dog senses slight variations in the way my friend smells. Before a seizure, a chemical emits from glands on her neck that the dog perceives.

What? I looked again at the dog. I had to know more.

Apparently, the dog is just like other dogs: he plays, he runs, he eats, he poops. But at all times, he’s tuned in to my friend. He senses any variation and takes immediate action.

I felt overcome by awe. I also felt something that surprised me.

As the woman talked about the dog sleeping close beside her, waiting with eagerness for her to emerge from a shower, or just noticing the slightest change in her smell, I considered how thankful I’ve been for people who “tune in” to variations in my moods, my health, or my well-being. I remember difficult times in my life when friends sensed a variation in me, led me to a safe place, tried to make me comfortable, and called for help if I needed it. Am I that loyal to my family, my neighbors, my coworkers and students that I can sense a variation, offer help, secure a perimeter, and provide comfort? What does that look like for me to “tune in” to people in my life?

When I’m not myself, I’ve had a friend say, “You don’t seem right. Can I help?” Am I close enough–tuned in enough–to people in my life that I can observe these things? I want to be.

Living with flair means tuning in to others, providing help and comfort, and getting help for them if I need to. Living with flair means I notice subtle changes in others that might indicate something deeper. I want to be the one who secures a safe spot. Maybe one of my friends needs to rest on me until an episode passes. It’s flair to be that loyal. It’s not just for the dogs.

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