There is a point in every life when childhood ends, where you are considered mature enough to handle things for yourself. That’s good and bad of course. The good is you run your own show, without answering to a soul. The bad is that you run your own show, so everything is your responsibility or your fault for forgetting.
It’s a hard lesson. A daunting idea.
I recall being a senior in college and being terrified at the prospect of graduation. I felt unprepared and had (too late) realized how good I had it as a college student. That time of your life, for those lucky enough to get it, is priceless. You spread your wings. Open your mind. Become something different from when you started. I would not trade those four years for anything, and have worked hard to be sure my children get that same experience.
The unease at impending reality is a feeling that’s alive and well in a few college seniors facing tradition this year. It’s a shock to realize there will be no more spring breaks and summer’s off, internships will end and things will move on. Preparation for adulthood is at an end. You will now join the working world, with all its privileges and pitfalls.
It’s true, only recently have I come to understand why no one told me things about being a mother when I first joyfully announced my pregnancy. It was common consent, decency and kindness that kept others from telling me how huge a job I was undertaking. How it would be harder than I ever imagined, would test me in ways I could not foresee, would last far longer than I’d been promised.
I’m thinking about this again today because there’s a growing crop of newborns joining our already large family this year, and the news is thrilling. There is something very satisfying about watching the next generation (ones you knew as children) pass the milestones; college, career, marriage, first child. I smile at the thought of all the wonderful moments they’ll have. It will be a joy to watch these babies grow, these young people become parents.
I use song titles as blog post titles a lot. It’s not laziness, but rather these few words tend to capture feelings so well. Feelings that are hard, like grief.
Twelve years ago today I lost one of the most central people in my life. My head understood she was very sick and suffering; my heart was (and is) broken in ways that can never, ever be fixed.
My aunt Helen died quietly at her home in the early evening hours of the last Friday in February, after a short battle with leukemia. There are some memories that never leave you, and the night of her passing is one of those, even a dozen years later. Sitting there in the (virtually unchanged) house of my childhood, making awkward conversation with her rat-bastard of a husband as I tried to adjust to the idea that the person who was so much a part of my memories and my life was with us no more.
We had no hint (but should have) of the storm that was to come. Ugly, needlessly cruel but ultimately pointless.
Like many people, I spend more time than I should feeling downright sorry for myself. My burden is too heavy, I think, though in truth it is no worse (and a whole lot easier) than the troubles faced by others. These days I’m often uncertain, stressed and in demand, worrying about things that have not, may never, happen. Of course, as you do, I realize that no one person has any more “life stress” than anybody else.
Through it all, I long for a the time where all is well and I am free. Anybody else?
It was only a few days ago that I visited New York City for the first time.
Believe me, if funds allowed I’d be far more well-travelled at my age than I am. As it is I don’t go far from home very often. We vacation in the same New England state that we live in. My honeymoon to Bermuda was 25+ years ago, and we made the obligatory trip to Disney in Florida, as well as being lucky enough to take a cruise to Mexico and visit the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas. With little travel experience to my credit, I look forward to any opportunity to go someplace, even if just for a short while.
So when the chance to visit New York City came up, I jumped at it. Short as it would be, I’d have the adventure, see for myself the sights, the people and the iconic places we all know. Anyone who can, and never has, really needs to go into New York City for a few hours. If only once.
Another mass shooting is in the news. No one is saying the “t” word yet, but things are getting clearer as I write this. It was San Bernardin0 California this time, a holiday gathering where something went wrong. Terribly wrong.
Gun control is again in the headlines, another example of attention being misdirected, focusing on one detail and missing the big picture. Politicians and candidates on both sides are making scripted statements and shaking their fists. Emotions are running high. Real people are hurting in the worst way possible. The rest of us are helpless and raging at the senseless, stupid waste of it all. Wondering how long it will be before someone we love is caught up in a senseless act of violence with weapons meant for war that have gotten in the wrong hands.
There are many places (Kenya, Lebanon) on this earth where terrorists are acting out. Paris is just the latest addition to a sad, shameful list. A strike by fanatics in an effort to spread the most profound of fears — fear for your very life. In a city tourists love, a place known for its culture on a Friday evening the vermin struck in ordinary places where people were enjoying themselves. Defenseless. Unsuspecting.
The stories out of Paris are as horrific as the ones from all the other attacks, new wounds to add to a list that’s getting way too long.
It’s as true today as ever. Thank you and a holiday is not nearly enough to compensate veterans for what they’ve done for all of us.
It’s hard to imagine a circumstance where “thank you” is both so well deserved and so utterly inadequate at the same time. Except when it comes to veterans, the courageous, selfless souls who fight our wars. Agree or not, ready or not, part of their own life plan or not, they go.
I had uncles and a father in law who were such men, a father served back home when he was young, as all men in those days did. It’s hard to imagine how they did it. How scared they must have been.They’d lived in one place their whole lives and were briefly trained before being sent to places as far-flung from home as could be.
What I know of my uncle’s story I learned from others. He was a radio man in the Air Force whose plane was shot down somewhere over Italy. My uncle parachuted from the plane, got stuck in a tree as he landed and watched as Italian civilians ran toward him screaming words he didn’t understand. Turns out they were farmers who had seen him and got him hidden away before he could be found. He stayed hidden for many months until the family was able to arrange for him to be smuggled out of the country and back to safety. I don’t know names or dates, but I’m grateful to those people every day.
It’s the time of year when colors change, and not just on the leaves and landscapes around us. Everyone’s sporting an identifiable shade of pink these days, in an effort to build awareness and show support for cancer patients, particularly breast cancer. Let me begin by assuring you all I hate this disease as much as anyone on the planet. I don’t need a sea of pink or a month of the year to think about what cancer has taken from me. I live it every stinking day.
The cynic in me finds the pinkwashing just a tad too convenient. The family member who lost someone to cancer (but not the “right” kind) finds this month-long ode to cancer hating terribly offensive. Breast cancer is but one form of this disease, and not the worst of the lot, by far. There are hundreds of types of cancer, many different causes (chemicals, viruses, etc) and those awful cells remain (even today) unpredictable and mysterious.
If you think I’m being too hard on well-intentioned people, you need to visit the Facebook page — Pinkwashing Hall of Shame, and let me know how you feel afterward. You can chew on this little nugget to get you started — the month-long awareness comes thanks to corporations, not grass-roots efforts. It dates to 1985.
It’s no surprise that the willingly distracted, complexity intolerant public has latched onto breast cancer in such a public way. It feels like doing something, wearing that pink. And then anything that affects breasts, the sole preoccupation of our entire society, is bound to get people up in arms. I’ll choose to believe this is because this form of cancer happens to a part of the body so visible to anyone (keeping my snarky speculation to myself). It’s just a shame people don’t feel the same angst and desperation to do something (anything!) for the person who just found out she has pancreatic cancer.
There’s a reason people in advertising, politicians and the like use fear as a motivator. It is, after all, the most powerful motivator of them all.
Fear is one of the oldest, most intense of human emotions. It’s an unpleasant, highly motivated state with a sole, single, driving purpose, to keep from being hurt. The hurt can be physical as in life and death struggles, or putting your body in physical danger; or the hurt can be the threat of ruin, public failure, being the object of laughter or pity.
In our modern world we often play with fear. There are adrenaline rush rides in amusement parks. Air balloon outings, skydiving and trips in private planes. Any entertainment that evokes fear in a controlled (safe) way is almost sure to win us over. We like nothing better than to recline in a comfy seat and experience graphic, intense fear.
At a safe distance, of course.