Well, well, wellBy DAVE KIFFER
March 03, 2017
Especially up here in No Where, where we are all just sitting around and waiting for the weather to decide what it is gonna do. Is it going to snow? Is it going to freeze? Is the sun going to hang just over the horizon and blind us as we drive through town? Is it going to rain?
That last question was rhetorical.
Of course, it is going to rain. It is always going to rain.
It is going to rain in Our Fair Salmon City, even when it is simultaneously snowing, freezing and sun-blinding us. Guaranteed.
Fortunately, news does occasionally happen in these (sled)dog days of February.
For example, the annual Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index has been released and, guess what? We're pretty danged pleased with ourselves up here in Alaska.
Now, it you read Facebook or the newspaper letters to the editor section that may come as a surprise. Seems some folks are pretty apocalyptic (and downright apoplectic) when it comes to world view. Pretty much everything is going to H.E. Double Toothpicks as far as those folks are concerned. And not even in a comfy hand basket.
I get that things can seem bad sometimes.
I get that things can actually BE bad sometimes.
But really it's mostly a matter of perception. It is the ever popular "glass half full, glass half empty" debate.
My father, natch, was an expert on those "glass" debates, or at least in debating while holding a glass in his hand. He always thought the glass half empty was an opportunity.... to refill the glass.
But I digress.
Anyhoo, despite what appears to a highly level of glumitoodinessnous amongst some Alaskans, Gallup and Healthways say their 2016 survey shows Alaskans to be second, only to our Pineapple Pals to the south, in "Well Being" in America.
Of course, it does sort of depend on what you mean by "Well Being."
Gallup measures Well Being in five categories: Purpose, Social, Financial, Community and Physical. Breaking those down, we Alaskans are in the top six in every category, except Physical.
In Purpose we are 5th.
The survey says that purpose is "liking what you do each day and being motivated to achieve your goals."
Yeah, I can go along with that.
Alaska is one of few states where survival each day could be a question mark. You go out of doors and large mammals could eat you.
Even more likely the weather - while it is fumbling about trying make up its mind what to do - could also kill you. If my purpose is "liking to survive each day," I believe I am HIGHLY motivated to achieve that goal.
The top ranked state for Purpose was Texas. I have to assume they are motivated to achieve their purpose, which is apparently building a wall these days. Good luck with that.
Interestingly enough the "purpose" of all the states around Texas is also "building wall(s)." But those walls are to keep the Texans out.
Social is defined as "having supportive relationships and love in your life."
Alaskans are numero uno (1st) In that category.
That is an interesting result because, heckfire, entire television shows have been made just to ponder the weird social dynamic of Alaska (The odds are good, but the goods are odd, neener, neener, neener). Anyone who lives in Alaska knows that "love in your life" in a very fluid concept in these here parts.
But I guess is all comes down to the fact that "what God has united let no man asunder" at least in a permanently negative way.
There was a reputable survey a few years ago that determined that everyone in Alaska had actually been married to everyone else in Alaska, at least once.
Technically, the statistical total was 1.374 times, indicating quite a few remarriages as well. Slow learning is also a issue in Alaska.
Now, I'm not going to sit here and pretend that all marriages end amicably. But, remember that Alaska was a pioneer in the development of "No Fault Marriage."
Where else do about half the funny anecdotes start out with "Well, there was that time that my Ex was helping me reshingle the outhouse......"?
The third facet of Well Being is Financial or "managing your economic life to reduce stress and increase security."
Alaskans are 2nd in that category, behind only Hawaii.
Given the fact that our state is outspending its income by billions of dollars each year this is surprising. And that as a people we have been reduced to blithering, jabbering idiots running about screaming that the world is ending because our Permanent Fund Dividends "are falling."
But clearly, according to Gallup, each of us feels like we are managing our personal finances pretty well and are certainly not stressed out about it.
Or maybe we are NOT managing our personal finances pretty well but are just plain NOT STRESSED OUT about it. That may be more likely the case.
After all, if any day the weather, or a large furry animal, could kill you, you really aren't all that concerned about paying back that stratospheric Alaska Airlines credit card balance, are you?
And all that really matters is that you still have enough "miles" to get to Mexico, twice a year. Right?
The fourth category is Community.
Now, this is the one I thought we'd rank really, really, really highly in because that is ALWAYS our rationalization.
No matter how brutal the isolation or the weather or the lack of really good restaurants can be, every Alaskan automatically says "but I love the community here, it is a great place to raise a family, everyone looks out for everyone else. Yadda, yadda, yadda."
Well, we are 6th in that category. Behind, Hawaii, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. It is interesting that the places with the best "community" also generally have the fewest "people." I bet I could write a whole column on that fact alone. Still, we are doing better than 44 other states, so maybe there is something special about the "people" here.
Especially their scarceness.
The final category is Physical.
Yeah, yeah, the Olivia Newton John song just started cycling through my head too. Sorry.
In that category, Alaskans slip out of the top ten, all the way down to 15th. Still better than most states but somehow at odds with the "outdoorsy, active" stereotype we like to promote, eh?
Gallup-Healthways defines "physical" as "having good health and enough energy to get things done daily."
Maybe that's the rub.
If you live somewhere the great outdoors has a variety of ways to kill you, perhaps you are not as active as you would otherwise be if you lived somewhere that "active" was defined as going to the gym three or four times a week.
Sure, we all like to jog and ski and hike etc. But maybe not so much in a blizzard, rainstorm or at temperatures where fire freezes.
The second half of the equation could also be a problem. Especially the get things done "daily."
First of all, energy is a relative term. Some days living in Alaska - with other Alaskans - saps so much of my "energy" that my only "purpose" (see above) is to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head. You all have been there. Probably today.
And then there is the whole winter/summer thing.
In the summer we generally have plenty of energy to get things done, even during the 15-20 hours of daylight that most of us get. There's just something about having the sun shining brightly in your window at 11 pm that inspires you to stay out there getting to it. Whatever IT is. Probably because you can't sleep anyway.
That and a lot of us work in industries that are sunup to sundown in the summer. Even when it's not sunny. Go figure.
Natch, I am leaving out the far north - with its 24 hour sunlight - because we can't call it Barrow anymore and no one can agree on the proper spelling, pronunciation or meaning of Utqiaġvik.
Conversely, in the winter we only have a handful of hours of daylight.
It is dark, when we head off to work in the morning and it is dark when we come home in the evening.
In between, it is very dark at work.
That is why they call it work.
As opposed to, say, "spa time" or "beer break."
I don't know about you, but in winter my "purpose" generally devolves to doing nothing more than breathing just enough to keep vital organs functioning.
Our Alaskan forebearers used to work like crazy in the summer and sleep all winter. They would only wake up sporadically. Usually just long enough to pee and then go back to bed. That would soooo work for me.
But since Gallup-Healthways would like to see us "getting things done daily" we probably don't measure up in the dark months.
In summation, there is much to celebrate (even in February) in the latest Gallup-Healthways survey.
Not the least of which is we are NOT West Virginia or Kentucky or any of those horrid places that ranked at the bottom and where life is nasty, brutish and not short enough.
By the Gallup standards life is better than okay here.
To the absolute shock of no one, the only state with an overall higher ranking than Alaska in Well Being is Hawaii.
Hawaii also has the number one ranking in three categories: Financial, Community and Physical.
It drops down to 12th in Purpose, which makes sense, because living at the beach in the perma-sun would certainly sap me of any desire to accomplish anything remotely purposeful.
Where iit gets weird though, is that Hawaiians themselves rank their "Social" so low (46th) that only four states; Indiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island are worse.
The apparent moral of the story?
Live in a Hawaii.
Just don't "hale" up with a local.
Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Kiffer ©2016
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