This final novel excerpt before A Jagged Journey is released on April 15th, introduces you to a key character, psychologist Gretchen Marks, and her unlikely friend, Amit Singh, an Uber driver who comes to her aid when no one else is available. Gretchen’s life has taken a cruel detour, in part because of her way of being, in part because life is oftentimes no respecter of persons.
“Are we going to the same place today, Doctor, where you have previously visited?”
“Yes, please.” Gretchen glanced at Amit and then out the side window. “Unfortunately, it will be a place I visit every day for a few weeks. If I had my choice, I’d rather have a root canal, but it appears God has chosen to punish me so I get to have these treatments instead.”
“I do not know what this root canal is of which you speak. Is that something to do with the hair on the top of one’s head?”
A smile broke out on Gretchen’s face at the innocence projected by her driver. “That’s a good one, Amit. Thank you for making my day.”
“A good one you say?”
“A root canal involves the teeth, not the scalp. It’s when a really bad tooth needs a lot of work, and it’s not enjoyable at all. But given how my treatments make me feel, I think the dental work would seem like child’s play…it would seem like something far easier than what I’m doing.”
“I see, yes, my splendid wife, Faria, had something similar to that soon after we arrived in this country – there was a cavity in one of her teeth. And you indicated that these treatments you are enduring are a punishment from God?”
Gretchen thought it was just like a foreigner to take idioms literally, but she had to admit his way of thinking was somewhat refreshing. “It’s just an expression people sometimes use when things aren’t going well for them. And a contrary statement might apply if, when we arrive at our destination, there’s a parking space available at the front where you can pull in and let me out. If that were to happen, I might say, “Well, I must have done something right in my life and now God is rewarding me.”
“Thank you, Dr. Gretchen Marks, for your very thorough explanation about expressions Americans use in their speaking.”
Amit and Gretchen arrived at their destination, Amit pulled into an open space right in front of the building. “I see, Dr. Marks, that you must have done something right because God has graced us with this parking space.”
He parked the car and stepped out to assist Gretchen. He guided her out of her seat by her elbow and helped her step over the curb. “There you are, Dr. Marks.”
“You know, you can call me Gretchen.”
“Oh no, Doctor, you have attained a very important status in life that accords great respect. Unless it offends you, I will continue to address you as Doctor.”
“That’s fine, Amit, and regarding this parking space?”
“Yes, Dr. Marks?”
“It was because of your good works that God arranged for this space to be available. I’m quite certain my past works didn’t warrant such a benefit.”
“Either way, it is good that we are able to claim it, yes?”
Gretchen fumbled with her purse for a tip. “Yes, it is very good. I’ll see you after my appointment later today and I will call you a half hour before I am done.”
Gretchen’s appointment did not go well as she received some devastating news – said news put Gretchen on the defense when her Uber driver picked her up later that day.
Amit picked up Gretchen at the appointed time and although he tried to engage the doctor in conversation, he wasn’t entirely successful. At one point, Gretchen lashed out at him.
“Amit, are you a United States citizen?”
He looked at her in the rear-view mirror. “Not currently, but that is my goal, Dr. Marks.”
“How long have you lived in this country?”
“Four years, Doctor.”
“What’s taking you so long to become a citizen?”
Amit drove a couple blocks then asked Gretchen a question. “How many amendments does the Constitution have?”
“What? What has that to do with anything?”
“Amendments. Name one of the writers of the Federalist Papers that were written in support of the Constitution of the United States.”
“I have no idea. I’m not sure I’m even familiar with those papers.”
“I am. James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were two of the writers.”
“Good for you, you’ve memorized the answers on the civics exam for citizenship, that doesn’t make you a US citizen.”
“In this country it does.” Amit pulled up in front of Gretchen’s condo. Looking straight ahead, he had one more question for her. “Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?”
Gretchen looked at her lap, then out her side window. “You win, Amit, and I’m sorry for being such a horrible person today. My doctor gave me some bad news and it’s made me angry at the world.”
Amit got out of the vehicle, opened Gretchen’s door, and helped her out. “This bad news, is it something you want to talk about with Amit?”
She patted the hand that rested gently on her forearm. “Maybe tomorrow, Amit. Will I see you at eleven?”
“It would be my extreme pleasure, Dr. Marks, thank you.”
There are many characters that are a part of the lives of those with whom you have already met: Charlie Brooks, the high school teacher and his fellow teacher Jamila Sanders. Single mother, Hannah Palmer and her engaging son, Sammy. And now, Dr. Gretchen Marks, and her Uber pal, Amit Singh. The cast of characters you will meet in A Jagged Journey are varied in age, life experience, and intent. I hope to see you soon, within Journey’s pages.
I learned something very valuable from two writer friends, Jill and Ann, both of whom live in North Carolina. Instead of New Year’s resolutions, Jill and Ann set a New Year intention and that intention is in the form of a single word. Jill selected MINIMIZE for 2019 and Ann selected ENLARGE.
The word-intention I have selected for 2019 is ACCEPTANCE.
You may be saying to yourself, “Oh, oh, sounds like Irene is giving up, lacking in hope, settling for less. Quite the contrary is true, and I’ll tell you why.
I chose the word ACCEPTANCE because applying that word in my life allows me to be more understanding and acknowledging of those with whom I may hold differing opinions. (Accepting does not equate to agreeing, it simply means I accept a person’s right to hold ideas and opinions that are not identical to mine.) ACCEPTANCE also provides me with greater ease of life as I accept reality rather than fight what can’t be changed. I read recently that arguing with reality can be harmful to one’s health; I’m not going to waste a minute on such fruitless efforts.
The concept of ACCEPTANCE started to seep into my consciousness when early in 2018, I watched the TED video, A love letter to realism in a time of grief. In less than twenty minutes of your time, you will witness what Mark Pollock & Simone George learned about reality and about the difference between being an optimist and being a realist. Here’s a teaser explanation that will perhaps explain why I came to choose my 2019 word-intention.
Optimists rely on hope alone and end up disappointed. Realists accept the brutal facts and keep hope alive. Acceptance knows that grief is a raging river and you have to get in it because when you do, it carries you to the next place; it eventually takes you to the open land where it will turn out okay in the end.
I guess if you don’t get into the river, you’ll get stuck and never have the opportunity to find out what lies just beyond the bend. I have stepped into the river, and although I might step out from time to time during this new year, I feel confident I will get back in because of the desire not to miss out on what I cannot see. You see, because I’m not perfect, I’ve set ACCEPTANCE as an intention, rather than a resolution.
With resolutions, it’s all or nothing, baby; the pressure is on to change that something-or-other you discovered and have resolved to change. Sometimes resolutions get abandoned within the first 30-days, others don’t get much farther into the new year because many of us decide to just give up and take up that resolution the following year, or the one after that.
Intentions, however, have a more compassionate energy because they are not tied to outcomes. When I slip up I hope to view that shortcoming with less criticism and simply start over because the next moment presents a brand new opportunity. If I were to break my resolution, however, I think I would look at that setback as a failure because of messing up the “fix” I had decided to make in my life. With an intended action, however, I am on a path to create, rather than fix. Creating seems to allow a bit more leeway, don’t you think?
I leave you with the words of Socrates to explain my decision to intend, rather than resolve:
The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.
To make changes, a strategy has to be effective. Intention does that for me.
I started this Blog over seven years ago. This is my 986th post. I recently told a blogging friend, Jill Weatherholt, that my blogging changed over the years, especially as it relates to steering clear of topics that divide, e.g., political, religious, and the like.
In my very first post on September 20, 2011, I stated that I wanted to bring some sort of encouragement and light into the lives of, not just Baby Boomers, but everyone. I wrote hundreds and hundreds of essays centered around caregiving and Alzheimer’s, reflecting on my personal experiences with my father, as well as my professional experiences working in long-term care (LTC). But I wrote on other topics as well…
Back in 2016 – a very contentious year in US politics – I made the decision to stop writing anything that would ruin someone’s day because as many bloggers will admit, having a forum to speak your mind is a heady and powerful responsibility – about which some of us have been irresponsible. Thus the reason why, on September 12, 2016, 5 years after I started this blog, I wrote this post, Good Starts With Me – Irene’s About Face.
I am a columnist for Grandparents Day Magazine, an online publication based out of Adelaide, Australia. I wrote a piece for their July 2018 issue in which I suggested we might all do well celebrating our similarities rather than allowing our differences to divide us.
Community is so very important, more important to me than ever before. I hope that along with me, you will acknowledge our differences, celebrate our right to be individuals, and look for the good that binds us, rather than the bad that tears us apart.
- If con is the opposite of pro, then isn’t Congress the opposite of progress? – Jon Stewart
- I cannot stand people who disagree with me on the issue of Roe v. Wade … which I believe is the proper way to cross a lake. – Stephen Colbert
- As a new federal employee, I felt a combination of excitement and anxiety about meeting the strict standards of discretion and respect that our government imposes on its workers. Fearful of making a costly mistake, I decided to read up on procedures and standards on the federal Office of Personnel Management web page. I’m not sure if I was relieved or worried when I clicked on one page and found: “Ethics: Coming Soon!”
- Q: How many politicians does it take to change a light bulb? A: Two: one to change it and another one to change it back again.
I rest my case.
Being kind is taking a stand. By itself, it might not help: maybe our kindness will be ineffective. The money we sent to alleviate hunger might be unwisely used. Helping an old lady cross the road does not eliminate poverty in a faraway country. And for every plastic bottle we pick up on the beach, another ten will be tossed down tomorrow.
Never mind. We have affirmed a principle, a way of being.
Microcosm is macrocosm: Each person is the whole world.
As many mystics and visionaries have pointed out, each individual, in some subtle and mysterious way, embodies all people.
If we can bring some relief and well-being to just one person’s life, this is already a victory, a silent, humble response to the suffering and pain of the planet.
This is the starting point.
Today’s Kindness Friday comes directly from the book, The Power of Kindness – The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life, by Piero Ferrucci.
We all have a strong preference that life should be easy, comfortable, and pain-free, but that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with life when it isn’t those things. It’s just life and it’s not how you would prefer it to be, but that doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with it. – Constance Waverly, WaverlyRadio podcast #132
I imagine we all would prefer to live a life of health, happiness, and success (however success may be defined but certainly not limited to financial prosperity). With those three preferences met, life would be a carefree and joyful experience. Given the complexities of life, however, we are guaranteed a certain degree of physical pain, emotional heartache, want, and for some, absolute devastation.
Even an innocent newborn baby immediately discovers that his existence on this earth is anything but 100% delightful. He can’t define what that means when he’s a minute old, but he certainly feels it.
We tend to wonder why good things “always” seem to happen to bad people – an inaccurate thought, nevertheless it’s one that we entertain from time to time – but those of us who endeavor to do no harm aren’t blessed with easy, comfortable, and pain-free lives.
I don’t have the answer to that question but I do have an answer: our assumptions about others are just make believe because we have no way of knowing what is actually going on in their lives. A person’s outward show of perfection, boundless happiness, and ease is just that: their outward public mask that very well may hide an entirely different one worn in private. Let’s face it, no one can be ecstatically happy and fulfilled 365 days of the year – or even 24 hours a day, or dare I say, a mere 60 seconds at a time – so why is it that we assume others have mastered that very impossibility?
Part of what I’ve learned in my sixty-plus years is that what matters most is how we live in the present, regardless of whether or not that present pleases us. Living in the moment, accepting that moment as our life’s current state of being without pushing back against it can be far more fruitful and enjoyable than the alternative: anger, complaints, and hatred. For example, Ariel and Shya Kane, in their book Practical Enlightenment, point out very clearly that getting angry does nothing toward changing ones current situation. Case in point: you’re running late for work in disastrous traffic. You pound the steering wheel, honk your horn, and yell at the other commuters and what do you know? Your situation hasn’t changed but you’ve become your own worst enemy because your previous misery has been considerably compounded by your fruitless actions.
- Traffic doesn’t happen to us, it just happens.
- A rent increase wasn’t directed at us personally, it was simply a business decision made by the landlord.
- Long lines in the grocery store didn’t occur to inconvenience us; quite simply, like us, other people decided to shop at the same time.
- Coming down with the flu a day after a person arrives in Hawaii for the vacation of a lifetime wasn’t preventable; germs are everywhere and will do their thing at any time and any place. Even though it sucks that the germs manifested themselves just as the vacationer was heading to the beach, please know he’s not being punished for trying to have a good time.
All the wishing in the world won’t change our current reality because anything we could have done in the past is over and done with. Anything we could possibly do in the future hasn’t yet happened, so we should give it up and just be where and when we are right now.
Piero Ferrucci had this to say about the illusion of being in control when his preferences weren’t met during a vital point in his life:
The outside world did not adapt to me: More simply and practically, it is I who must adapt to what is happening moment to moment. The Power of Kindness.
Are you overwhelmed to the point that you say to yourself, What could I possibly do to make a difference?
The answer is:
You can make a difference because kindness trumps all.
I recently wrote Ellen Degeneres to thank her for her ongoing efforts to spread kindness. Sure, at the end of each of her daily shows she says, Be kind to one another, but she puts force behind those words in what she does for others. At the conclusion of my letter to her, I said the following:
We’re not charged with changing the entire world, but we can have an impact on the miniscule portion of the world to which we have access. You’re doing it, and I will continue to do what I can from my corner of the world. If everyone makes a fraction of a difference right from where they are, those fractions will add up to great things.
I’m glad I’m on the same kindness train as you, Ellen, and I’ll keep chugging along until I can’t chug any longer.
I sincerely believe that random acts or words of kindness can make a difference in the world in which we live. There are so many negative and hurtful words being thrust into our universe, can’t we just please try to balance out that hurt with words of encouragement, recognition, and nourishment?
Yes, nourishment. In all our daily interactions – be they via social media or in person – we can nurture the hurt that exists all around us. Our words, our smile, our actions may just change the life of someone forever. Haven’t you been on the receiving end of that type of transformative nourishment? Didn’t it feel good? Didn’t it fill the emptiness within you that hungered and thirsted for confirmation that you matter, that you aren’t a failure, that you have potential?
Let’s revisit how that felt and commit to quenching the thirst of each person with whom we come in contact.
There’s a new social media trend going on right now initiated by Ellen DeGeneres, Lady Gaga, Pharrell Williams, and Revlon. You can see their mini-video by visiting Ellen’s website. The trend is being expressed by these phrases:
With all the discord among the citizens of the United States due in part to a lack of discourse between groups who have purposefully alienated themselves from each other, perhaps love is the one quality with which we can clothe ourselves to be more open and accepting of each other.
We don’t have to agree with everyone’s opinions or leanings, but can’t we at least respect each other enough to listen?
Can’t we just listen without bringing our own preconceived perceptions and prejudices to the forefront?
Please, don’t turn off others’ voices.
My local newspaper, the Seattle Times, has a daily mini-column titled, Rant and Rave. I always read that column, but I’m most interested in the Raves because acts of kindness are spotlighted. As you can see in the attached link, one portion of the column is affirming, the other, not so much.
I wrote to the editor of that particular section, asking him to put more focus on the Raves, maybe even excluding the Rants from time to time, because the general public has so many social media venues in which to complain. I haven’t heard back from him yet, but I am hopeful that I eventually will.
I sincerely believe we all have a responsibility to counter balance the negativity that surrounds us, and distributing kindnesses to others is one very easy way of doing so. The yucky things that go on in the world get all the attention; the spotlight shines brightly on those things; the good that occurs barely receives the dying flame from a match.
What can you do to make the world a better place?
Be kind to one another, all day, every day.
What happened to the country into which I was born?
What happened to freedom of thought, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech?
Allow me to go back in history for a brief moment: March 1991 saw astonishing violence exhibited toward an African American, Rodney King, resultant from Mr. King’s decision not to pull over during a high-speed chase when pursued by Los Angeles Police Department officers. Officers were tried in a court of law for their excessive use of violence and three of those officers were acquitted, sparking the historical 1992 Los Angeles riots. Mr. King observed said violence and was upset at what transpired during those riots. What follows is a portion of his response to the ensuing actions and his plea for peace:
“I just want to say – you know – can we all get along? Can we, can we get along? … It’s just not right – it’s not right. And it’s not going to change anything. We’ve got to quit – we’ve got to quit. And uh, I mean please, we can, we can get along here. We all can get along – we just gotta, we gotta. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while, let’s, you know let’s try to work it out, let’s try to beat it, you know, let’s try to work it out.”
There is so much division in our country, division that has polarized families, friends, and neighbors and brought about a renewed and jarring brand of hatred and intolerance. This hatred thrives in both conservative, moderate, and liberal circles. We are all guilty. We are all intolerant.
This growth of intolerance toward those who have an opinion different from our own has got to stop. Even if I am diametrically opposed to the opinions of others, the core of who I am must allow for at least an openness to hear from those whose core speaks differently. Listening doesn’t mean converting; it means allowing others the freedom to believe what they believe but only as long as such beliefs don’t promote actions or words that denigrate and ostracize all of us who are struggling to survive in the very limited time we have on this Earth.
There will never come a time when all individuals on this earth are in 100% agreement, but the need for discourse is emergent.
We all have opinions that lean one way or another, but strong leanings should be just that: a leaning that still allows for flexibility so that jointly we can work toward the betterment – rather than the tearing down – of our fellow man.
“I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while, let’s, you know let’s try to work it out, let’s try to beat it, you know, let’s try to work it out.”
Rejecting hatred and intolerance in all forms begins with you, and it begins with me … every day, for the rest of our lives.
We read a news story that pisses us off either because the story being reported gets our blood boiling or the person about whom that story is written – whether a politician, entertainer, or some other public figure – is someone we’re not exactly enamored with, then we feed and nurture the news story by spreading it on our personal social media accounts. Isn’t doing so drawing attention to someone we don’t like? Giving that someone the attention we deem they should not receive? If we’re perturbed about a public figure, isn’t it more appropriate to just avoid any mention of her or him? We have far more power than we think we do in these matters.
We’re all guilty of this behavior. What is it in us human beings that we read bad news and can’t wait to spread it so that others can get as upset as we were when we were exposed to it?
Isn’t it a better option that collectively, the world decides once and for all, “Not gonna do it. Not gonna go there. I’m gonna kill the story by not feeding it. I’m not gonna ruin someone else’s day, someone who was probably doing just fine up until they read my ill-thought out Facebook Share or Retweet. No, it’s time for an about-face.
As I’ve said several times before, I don’t want to be responsible for ruining someone’s day, or for making them angry or upset. That’s a responsibility I’m not going to place upon my shoulders. Instead, I’m gonna build up, not tear down.
I’ve been authoring this blog, Baby Boomers and More, for five and a half years. Perhaps that’s a record for blog ownership, I’m not sure, but what I do know is that I thoroughly enjoy writing about matters of significance. I guess that’s why my blog has survived as long as it has: there are a heck of a lot of things going on in the world that fall into that category.
My website address remains the same: http://www.babyboomersandmore.com, but with a broader emphasis on life as it unfolds for all of us born within a certain year bracket:
- iGen (after 2000)
- Millennials (1980-2000)
- Gen X (1965-1979)
- Baby Boomers (1946-1964) and
- The Greatest Generation (before the end of WWII).
Yes, there are many differences between the generations but we have one major characteristic in common: although as individuals we are strong in many ways, we still need each other to get to the finish line.
With that change in overall focus comes a new, primary blog identification:
Living: the ultimate team sport
If we consider all the people with whom we come in contact as being members of the same team, we will do all we can to support them. We’ll bolster rather than compete; we’ll pick them up rather than step over them as a means to an end; we’ll exhibit respect for each other’s talents while nurturing our own; we’ll not take advantage of weaknesses in order to falsely boost our own strengths. In short, we’ll stand by our teammates and want only the very best for them.
Another goal of mine: write more succinctly, at least after this particular post. 🙂 I know you’re all busy and have better things to do than read my oftentimes lengthy magnum opuses. I’m newly committed to being as succinct as possible, somewhere along the lines of an article I wrote on December 27, 2016: Don’t go there. Let’s face it, as a writer, I should be able to use an economy of words to get my point across to those who’ve chosen to follow me.
And one last thing: the header images you’ll see at the top of my blog (which will cycle through randomly) are from photos I took during a few of my hikes around the Pacific Northwest. Hiking is my passion, so I’m pleased to provide snapshots of views I have been privileged to see.
With that, I’ll sign off for now, so very glad to be a member of your team.
If I can’t do anything useful, at least I would like to do as little harm as possible. Wherever You Go, There You Are, by John Kabat-Zihn
Do no harm is a practice found in various aspects of society – including the Hippocratic Oath – and it was the underlying principle of Mahatma Gandhi’s revolution and his personal meditation practice. But what does it mean? Is it really as simple as doing no harm? You tell me.
Do no harm: Don’t do anything while driving that will piss off other drivers.
Do no harm: Don’t speak ill of others behind their back.
Do no harm: Don’t use social media to bully or anger an individual or a group of people.
Do no harm: Don’t ignore the server or courtesy clerk who’s working as hard as he/she can for you. Engage them in conversation; make their day by respecting what they do.
Do no harm: Don’t be unkind to anyone; think of how it felt when someone was unkind to you.
Do no harm: Don’t litter or do anything that harms the environment, regardless of how small.
Do no harm: Don’t put off a kindness such as sending a card to someone for no reason at all – or for every reason you can think of. Your card and message may be just what that person needs that day.
Do no harm: Don’t ignore the impulse to turn around to the person behind you while in line to say, “I’m not in a hurry, why don’t you go before me.” You may not be in a rush and he or she may be; think how your thoughtfulness will impact the remainder of their day.
Do no harm: Don’t keep compliments to yourself. For example, if your spouse or friend looks nice, tell him or her. It doesn’t do the person any good if you keep it to yourself. Your lack of attention may cause harm.
Do no harm: Don’t expect someone else to make a difference; you make a difference in whatever way you can, even if doing so is an inconvenience. Your inconvenience may be just what the world needs at that very moment in time.
Do no harm: What I have provided above barely scratches the surface of how we can do no harm. Please add your input in the comments section below to provide all of us with examples of how we might improve our personal corner of the world.
My wish for you: health, joy, and peace in the New Year.
Don’t go there.
If someone pushes your buttons:
Don’t go there.
When your last nerve has been stepped on and you feel inclined to blow:
Don’t go there.
Rather than stoop to the depths of others, choose instead to go high. Seek the high ground in every situation in which you are tested and teased; ridiculed or bullied.
Show others the true measure of who you are, perhaps giving them something to which they too may aspire.
Two friends with radically different political views are on their way to the polls on election day. One guy turns to the other and says “You know, we’ve argued about this for months, and we’re obviously going to vote for different candidates. Our votes will cancel each other out anyways, so why don’t we just call it a draw and go home instead?” Other guy agrees, they shake hands and part ways.
Another guy who overheard the conversation approaches the dealmaker and says with admiration, “That’s a real sportsmanlike offer you just made!” “Not really,” the guy says, “I’ve made that offer three times already today.”
“Daddy,” a little girl asked her father, “do all fairy tales begin with ‘Once upon a time’? ”
“No, sweetheart,” he answered. “Some begin with ‘If I am elected.'”
1. The problem with political jokes is they get elected. —Henry Cate, VII
2. I offer my opponents a bargain: if they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them. —Adlai Stevenson
3. Why pay money to have your family tree traced; go into politics and your opponents will do it for you. —Author Unknown
4. George Washington is the only president who didn’t blame the previous administration for his troubles. —Author Unknown
5. If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it. —Mark Twain
6. Bipartisan usually means that a larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. —George Carlin
7. There are always too many Democratic congressmen, too many Republican congressmen, and never enough US congressmen. —Author Unknown
8. We stand today at a crossroads: One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other leads to total extinction. Let us hope we have the wisdom to make the right choice. —Woody Allen
9. If you put your politicians up for sale, as the US does … then someone will buy them — and it won’t be you; you can’t afford them. —Juan Cole
10. When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators. —J. O’Rourke
11. In America, anyone can become president. That’s the problem. —George Carlin
12. The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter. —Winston Churchill
13. Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge. —Isaac Asimov
14. Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half. —Gore Vidal
15. A citizen of America will cross the ocean to fight for democracy, but won’t cross the street to vote in a national election. —Bill Vaughan
16. If pigs could vote, the man with the slop bucket would be elected swineherd every time, no matter how much slaughtering he did on the side. —Orson Scott Card
17. A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation. —James Freeman Clarke
Stronger Together was the major theme of the Democratic National Convention (DNC) and it was the stand-out focus of Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech on July 28th.
Whether you follow the “It takes a village” concept – or simply believe that our lives can be positively enhanced by others – you most likely believe as I do, that two is better than one; three is better than two; four is better than three . . .
Mind you, I am perfectly capable of accomplishing many things for which I require very little – if any – assistance. But when I attempt to do something for which others’ participation may add strength – emotional or otherwise – and value to my efforts, I’m welcoming of others’ participation.
Ariel and Shya Kane, authors of several books, including Practical Enlightenment, (free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers) have the following to say about not going it alone. I quote verbatim from their chapter “You Can’t Do it Alone”:
Independence and freedom are the background upon which many of our lives are played. So we may not be making use of our support system of friends around us because we’re locked into an unexamined need to prove we can do it alone . . .
Having someone to talk to, to share ideas with, to support you in going for excellence and not quitting on yourself is a rare gift. When you are feeling down and it all seems too hard to continue, those are the moments that a community can support you in rediscovering well-being. It’s easy to get discouraged. Life is full of disappointments, but when you realize you’re not traveling that road alone, you can keep going.
When you’re in a community, you realize that you make a difference, that you matter. This supports you in being your true self and supporting others as well, which is truly satisfying.
Our nation is divided in so many ways, especially from a political perspective. In May of this year I wrote an article Us Against Them Mentality, that addressed this type of party divisiveness.
The simple point I want to make today, however, is that I believe we need to make a concerted effort to pull away from the Me, Myself, and I paradigm and adopt an Us outlook. Doing so opens up so many healthy possibilities:
- we’ll be more aware of the needs around us;
- conversely, we’ll be more inclined to accept help when offered;
- we’ll be giving others – friends and strangers – an opportunity to exercise their strengths in the midst of our weaknesses;
- we’ll build community where previously none existed;
- we’ll release positive energy into our little portion of the universe, rather than infect that same space with selfishness, hatred, and bitterness.
It’s virtually impossible to be a violent person – in actions or in words – if we’re practicing what is listed in the above bullet points. If we truly live our lives outwardly, we’ll create a binding strength that will make us stronger as individuals, while also creating an indestructible civilization that can stand up against anything that gets thrown in its path. I certainly can’t say the same for the Me, Myself, and I method of existence.
No. I alone can not do it . . . no one can.
The sooner we realize that fact, the better off we’ll all be.
There, I’ve said it.
Don and Pat Desaulniers (who later changed the spelling of their surname to Desonier to make it easier for Americans to pronounce…it didn’t, they still slaughtered the pronunciation) and Donald and Mary Desaulniers moved to Philadelphia, PA from Canada and eventually relocated to Los Angeles, CA.
Not me. I was born in Pasadena, CA shortly after my family moved to the west coast. Does it get any more American than that?
You see, way back when, my father was a hard working employee of Manufacturer’s Life Insurance Company, an international company based out of Toronto, CANADA, and he was offered a position in !AMERICA! that he felt he couldn’t refuse because he loved his wife and young family and was given the opportunity to move up in the company’s employee ranks and by God he jumped at the opportunity. My father retired from Manulife after 50 years of service with them.
My parents felt strongly about being an involved, integral part of American society so they let go of their Canadian citizenships and became American citizens along with my brother and sister, and of course since I was born in America, I was instantaneously a citizen. Lucky me.
I’m quite certain most people reading this post can trace their ancestry to other countries, and many of you don’t have to go very far back – just as I only needed to go back to the early 40s with my immediate family to find the start of my ancestry’s foray from a foreign country into the United States.
Other than Dad, no additional members of his family of six moved to the United States but four of six adult children in my mother’s family of eight are immigrants. Counting my siblings, aunts and uncles, and numerous cousins, close to 68% of my immediate Desaulniers/Conroy family members made the move to the United States and I assure you, they were welcomed, and as far as I know, the United States still treats its Canadian immigrants as they did my parents so many years ago. Or maybe I missed current headlines declaring that Canadians weren’t welcome and that a wall should be built between our northern border with Canada…
Did I miss something?
Why aren’t American citizens up in arms about the influx of immigrants from non-Muslim countries and those from countries that aren’t Mexico who’ve made the United States their home: Canadians, Eastern Europeans, the French, Italians, Australians, New Zealanders and Germans to name just a few? Americans’ arms are spread wide for those who aren’t a part of America’s “no-entry” list, and I applaud their generous gesture.
Answer me this: do intelligent Americans actually believe that if you’re coming into our country from a primarily Muslim country, you’re a terrorist? Seriously? And do those same Americans believe that immigrants from Mexico are murderers and rapists and have taken away the jobs in which they, the Americans, are most interested?
I believe as my parents did, that when you’re living in a country and benefiting from its resources you should give back to the country, which sometimes means becoming a citizen but not always. What about those legal immigrants who – having families just like mine – want to do all they can to create a safe, healthy, and financially secure existence for their loved ones by working in America, getting involved in commerce (aka buying stuff in America), volunteering in their communities, and being good neighbors? They are an integral part of the melting pot that we so proudly boast as being what a well-rounded and diverse society should look like.
I don’t know, maybe we should just scrape the inscription off the Statue of Liberty if indeed Americans are no longer willing to welcome those whom we’ve graciously invited to our very shores for so many years. If the invitation is no longer being extended – or if it’s being ruthlessly discriminatory – don’t tease the huddled masses from afar, and don’t pretend to be the extraordinary country I’ve called my home since 1953.
A little bit of backstory about myself: I was raised Roman Catholic, then in the late 70s I steered clear of any religious involvement for several years, then I became a born again Christian in 1981, actively involved for thirteen years, then in the late 90s, I went back to the Catholic church and was very active in said church, then in 2013 I abandoned that church for good when intolerance was exhibited regarding gay marriage.
I didn’t, and don’t, believe that everyone in the Catholic church is intolerant – not at all – but when the local Catholic archdiocese instructed parish priests on how to block a political vote for gay marriage, I was outta there. One of those measures saw a petition table set up during church services so that people could voice – by their signature – their opposition to the measure.
That went over the line of separation between church and state. My worship space was violated: the space where a loving community of fellow believers assembled to worship God and emulate Christ.
I’m pretty damn familiar with the Bible. During my thirteen years in an evangelical church, I read the big book from beginning to end twice a year, I went to church three times a week and heard many, many scripture readings and sermons, and I went to Bible study once a week. For several years I led a Bible study group for single mothers – myself being one at the time.
Anyone who has read the Bible, regardless of how he or she may interpret some of the teachings therein, has to conclude and profess that God is about love; that to live a life modeled after Christ is to live a life in which love, acceptance, inclusiveness, and lack of judging ones fellow man is at the forefront.
I’ve seen many news and social media postings over the years – and increasingly so during this current election cycle – where hatred oozes from the words on the page. These postings written in the name of God and/or Christ spew hatred in record volumes. They are:
Bear with me for a moment. Let’s pretend that Jesus Christ – savior, prophet, and Son of God – is alive and physically present at this writing. He goes to work like everyone else; he purchases his venti double-shot latte at his favorite Starbucks just like you and me; he mows his lawn, washes his car, gets stuck in traffic just like the rest of us mortals. In short, he’s participating in life as many of us know it.
When Jesus is standing at the water cooler on a Friday afternoon with the rest of his coworkers discussing the upcoming weekend’s plans, and/or the state of the current election season, is he full of love or hate for those with whom a certain percentage of our society have a bone to pick?
- Does a homophobic slur escape from his lips when someone known to be gay at his work place announces his plans to participate in that weekend’s Pride Parade?
- Does he elbow a fellow nine-to-fiver in the ribs and say, “Here! Here!” when that employee speaks ill of people of certain faiths?
- Does Jesus get on the anti-immigrant bandwagon and ask, “Where do I sign up for that wall construction? God knows, I’m pretty darn good with tools!”
Is that the Son of God that exists in the Bible?
Is his intolerant and judgmental behavior what one would expect of a child of God?
I don’t think so.
So why are so many children of God behaving that way? The manner in which they discard Christ’s teachings makes one think that these mere mortals believe they know better – and are better – than the person after whom they are supposed to be modeling themselves.
Please, if that’s the case, don’t call yourself a follower of the loving, forgiving, God I grew up knowing.
Give yourself a different moniker than Christ-ian.
Pick a name, any name but “Christian” because you’re not representing the God of love; not by any stretch of the imagination.
You know how it is. You don’t want to feel numb. You know that numbness is just pain postponed. Novocained. You know that, in order to get through this, you’ve got to feel. And so you go about your day. You get in the car. You turn on the radio. Some of the speakers […]
What in the world are we gonna do with all the relentless separation of our country’s citizens – a separation that takes on the trappings of political parties.
Republicans vs. Democrats
A Republican and a Democrat walk into a See’s candy store, both standing at the display case filled with dozens of dark and milk chocolate candies. Some have nuts, some have brittle. Some are round, some are square.
Ms. R says to the store clerk, “Give me one each of every milk chocolate candy you have. I LOVE milk chocolate and can’t get enough of it.”
Ms. D overhears Ms. R and thinks, “Well, I sure love milk chocolate and quite frankly can’t stand the taste of dark chocolate but I’ll be damned if I’m gonna be in agreement with that woman.“
Ms. D says to the store clerk, “I’d like one each of every dark chocolate candy you have.”
The clerk recognizes Ms. D because she’s been in the store at least once a week since she started working at the Starbucks next door. “Ms. D are you sure you want dark chocolate? You don’t like dark chocolate, you only like – “
“You must have me mistaken for someone else. I always order dark chocolate when I come in here. I don’t want to have anything to do with milk chocolate; it’s dark chocolate all the way for me.”
There’s an entire world of Mr. & Ms. Rs and Mr. & Ms. Ds who on principle alone choose to disagree with each other. Climate change is one of those issues that has become a partisan issue. The earth’s climate has gotten hotter and hotter each year. I’m quite certain that the 97% of scientists who assert that climate change is real are affiliated with every recognized political party out there. They didn’t have to be of one unified party to come to their conclusion because the facts speak louder than any one person – or party – could.
All temperature records point to a warmer Earth year after year.
It’s been proffered that those who oppose the theory of global warming do so because of the profits certain companies can make keeping everything status quo. I guess conversely one could say that those who affirm the global warming theory do so because of the profits certain earth-saving companies can make by changing things up.
This is my theory on the matter. I think us humans don’t like to be made to feel guilty about f’ing up the atmosphere.
Trust me, I like status quo when it comes to many things in my life but I’m not so blind or closed-minded to suggest that the current world’s population of 7,322,976,778 (as of this writing) and the US population of 323,500,455 have nothing to do with the function of the planet. To think such a thing would be so utterly moronic that I refuse to believe that anyone could in good conscience conclude that we’re doing absolutely fine the way we’re handling things.
We don’t like being told that we have to do something different to save the planet we’ve been destroying for centuries on end.
Leave me and my god damn SUV alone!
I’ll monitor my own water usage, thank you very much! I’m paying for it, for God’s sake. No utility has the right to suggest that I’m using more than my share! If I’m willing to pay for my water usage, I shouldn’t have to cut back one drop!
I recycle more than I create garbage. I think I’ve done my part to save my portion of the planet! I mean, what more can an average citizen be expected to do?
There are so many things we can do to reduce our carbon footprint – our impact – on the world at large. And there are so many dedicated websites that very clearly show us how to do that. As I close, I leave you with just a few of those sites:
What harm is there in believing in the theory of climate change and global warming, anyway? Wouldn’t it be a good thing if we were to take measures to preserve the only home we’ll ever have?
Then you’re paralyzed: when do I start? how do I start? You begin to second guess your idea, your plans, your goal.
Doubt sidelined your goal.
For me, taking that first step can be the beginning of failure, and because it is, oftentimes it’s a step I choose not to take.
I signed up for National Novel Writing Month, NaNoWriMo, in August or September, I don’t remember. I purchased book-drafting software called Snowflake, and went through every step needed to prepare an outline and/or book proposal for a novel, my second. I was extremely excited about the novel’s concept.
I kept receiving NaNoWriMo emails, counting down the days until November 1st when that novel writing month would commence. The second week of October I questioned the sensibility of subjecting myself to completing a novel in thirty days. The third week of October, I ceased all preparation. Monday of the fourth week of October, I decided not to participate. Read the rest of this entry »
Have you ever jumped to conclusions or reacted ill-advisedly because you didn’t have all the information about a particular person or situation? If you haven’t, I guess I’m the only sorry person out there who has made that mistake far too many times throughout my life.
Dr. Bernie S. Siegel is my commentator today as I quote directly from his 365 Prescriptions for the Soul that starts with an Indian parable:
Three blind men touch an elephant. The first blind man was holding the elephant’s leg and said, “I think an elephant is like the trunk of a tree.” The second blind man was holding the elephant’s trunk and said, “An elephant is like a large snake.” The third blind man said, “An elephant is like a great wall,” while touching the elephant’s side.
You all know the story about the elephant that walked into an area where many blind men were living. They all wanted to know what the elephant was like. So when the elephant was captured, they were allowed to touch it. Of course their descriptions varied depending on the part of the elephant they touched. Read the rest of this entry »
How are you defined? What kind of box would you fit into? Here are a few characteristics some might assign to me:
- White American
- Baby Boomer
- Pacific Northwest resident
- Sister, aunt, niece, cousin, friend
- Seattle Seahawks super fan
- spiritual but definitely not religious person
- free-thinker (is that redundant?)
- writer of things that matter to me
- advocate of the elderly and just about everyone else who crosses my path in life
Setting boundaries between who I am, and who you are, benefits no one.
Leonard Pitts, Jr. spoke at a TEDx event in February of this year. His 20 minute talk, The Boundaries We Choose, is readily available on YouTube so I strongly suggest you seek it out. He suggests, “Our labels shouldn’t define who we are and place us in a strict box.” He then spoke of labels one might put in his box: African American, Christian, Husband, Father, Fan of the LA Lakers. If you’ve read any of Mr. Pitts’ literary pieces in the Miami Herald or any of his books, you already know that he is more than the contents his box may imply. (To be sure, there is a very valid reason why he was named the 2004 Pulitzer Price Winner for Commentary.)
During his February TEDx talk, he provided a fabulous story that illustrates the downside of labels or identifying markers. I’ll let you discover that beautiful and clarifying story by watching his TEDx video, but for the purposes of this blog posting, I will provide you with one of his statements from that video.
Our bonds are more than connecting with certain markers that define people.
Examine, if you will, your way of describing something that happened to you during the course of your day.
This Asian woman in front of me acted like she owned the damn place. She was so selfish, taking her damn time ordering her fancy drink when all I wanted was a damn cup of brewed coffee.
Or did you simply say
This damn person in front of me took so much time ordering a fancy damn cup of coffee that I just about ran out of time to get my plain and simple cup of brewed coffee.
I’d like to shift the focus from footballs and their degree of inflation, to “indecent” gestures that draw fines. In particular, let’s look at the actions of running back, Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks. This beast of a Seahawks player has been fined twice this season – so far – for “grabbing his crotch” after making touchdowns. Interesting.
The NFL is so hell-bent on harassing Marshawn, that in addition to fining him for not talking to the media in the manner expected of him, they’ve taken to harassing him for adjusting his cup in public.
Wait a minute, Irene. What he did was obscene. He touched his crotchal area and moved it up and down.
As a child, do you remember being admonished to “play nice together” with your siblings or friends? Or perhaps you’re a grandparent who has encouraged your grandchildren to behave better with others by using that same phrase. I like it, and I think playing nice together needs to be a part of our daily life strategy. Read the rest of this entry »
Where has freedom of the press, and freedom of speech gone?
Must we concern ourselves with offending every element of society – friendly or adverse – with the words we choose to express ourselves? to express our views? Whether political or religious views; whether mundane topics such as fashion or dining; are we supposed to produce euphemistic journalism so as to avoid ruffling the feathers of another person’s beliefs or opinions?
That’s not my plan.
Read the rest of this entry »
Syndicated columnist, Leonard Pitts Jr. did it again: he wrote about issues that most of us are very concerned about and at least for this one reader/writer, he spoke for me. The above article addresses the precise way that I feel – and that many others feel – about red versus blue. Here’s a few quotes from the article that you should take the time to read in its entirety.
First a quote from President Obama, a quote that he premiered ten years ago and reiterated after the recent mid-term elections:
“I continue to believe,” said President Obama, “we are simply more than a collection of red and blue states. We are the United States.”
Now a few paragraphs from Mr. Pitts’ article addressing that statement:
“People for whom everything is about politics tend to forget that most of us do not see the world that way. Red or blue, left or right, most Americans simply want a government that works, that gets things done, and a nation that stands for something, that means something in the world beyond just a parcel of land where a bunch of people live. This is why Obama’s words electrified 10 years ago; they seemed to connect people to ideals larger than their own lives.
“And it is why the same words seem flatter than left-out cola 10 years later, the hope of larger ideals having been sequestered, government shutdowned, PAC’d and gridlocked down into a sobering realization of how truly small American politics can be.
“Cowardice squared off against cynicism Tuesday [2014 election day] and cynicism won. But there is something wrong when those are the only options on the ballot.
“We are supposed to be united states, the president says. But there are too many days lately when a sentiment that once grounded and ennobled feels fanciful and unlikely.”
And now my statement:
Whether we’re talking about State/local government or Federal – year after year, too many employees of each have failed to do their job. These employees don’t work behind desks in the hallowed walls of government; they square off on the football field where at least two opposing sides refuse to give an inch for fear that the opponents’ goals might be reached.
And I might add, goals that could very well benefit the American citizenry, but are turned down simply because the other team proposed them.
Doesn’t that seem shameful to you?
R.B. Bailey Jr.’s blog comes close to being a one-size fits all website because of its inclusion of multi-facted and varied postings that attract the viewing needs of a broad population.
I hope you’ll visit – and even follow – his site. It deserves to be in your Favorites folder.