Closing The Circle


by Roxanne Tellier

Sometimes grief will steal the words right out of you. All morning I have struggled with how I could possibly explain how devastating and final it feels to know that my aunt Pat is gone.

Patricia Donovan, December 2015For too long, I kept putting off a visit to Ottawa to see her in her nursing home. She’d been such an integral part of my early life, and yet – there was always a reason, some excuse, why I couldn’t jump on a bus or a train or a plane, and spend a few hours in her company.

She would have been 95 this December 14. That was one of the many things we had in common, our December birthdays. She was the first to gift me turquoise jewelry, our shared birthstone. Theresa, Pat , Roxanne and Jodi

Of all the people, places and things that have made me “me,” it was her guidance, especially in literature, that informed the person that I continue, daily, to become. When we lived in Alberta, it was her annual gifts of classic children’s literature that I most appreciated on Christmas morning. I would gobble up the works of A.A. Milne and Noel Streatfield. I would revel in the never-ending adventures of Edith Nesbit‘s plucky children, ignoring the snows of an Albertan winter, dreaming of the Five Children and It, and wishing that I could be one of the talented – yet never vain – Fossil sisters. Through the books she sent, I played in the Thousand Acre Woods with Christopher Robin, Pooh, Piglet, and the ever depressed Eeyore. Those books taught me to dream, and to know that there was so much more world than just what I could see around me at this moment in time.

I always admired her exquisite taste in all things, be it jewelry, clothing, or art – she had an innate flair and sensibility that made her every surroundings special. Her talents were many – she could write poetry, fiction, or non-fiction with equal flair and ease. She painted as well, usually monochromatic and faintly geometric figures. There was one painting – a symphony in shades of blue – that she told me she’d created in an homage to the novel, Don Quixote. I would stare at it for hours.

But she could not sing – oh my lawdy, lawdy, she could not sing, and yet she did .. often, and enthusiastically! Sadly, in a family as musical as ours, she was the only one completely unblessed with a musical ‘ear.’ She loved music, even as she murdered it in it’s cradle of song.

auntie pat young 001In her youth, she’d worked as an executive secretary in several companies, with her longest and final stint being with British Petroleum. At one point in the sixties, she worked in Washington, DC, where a chance invitation to a party got her hauled in before the FBI, to explain why she had briefly visited a home where there were posters of Che and Lenin on the walls.

But by the time we’d returned to Montreal from Alberta, my aunt was living with my grandmother. From then on, and wherever we landed, in Park Ex, NDG, or Westmount, we always lived very close to my aunt and gram. For a very long time we actually lived in adjoining buildings, with second floor balconies that were literally a stone’s throw from each other.

When I moved to Toronto in 1976, my family weren’t far behind me, and soon, first my sister, then my mother, and finally, my aunt and grandmother, had all taken up residence in two buildings in the Yonge/Eglinton area, literally across the parking lot from each other. There was comfort in the proximity.

In 1986, my sister died, and in 1992, my grandmother went into the hospital, for the last time, in the last week of March. She’d had heart issues for decades. But she hung in, as was her style, right up until April 1st. Such a joker, my gram … it was like she wanted to have one last laugh with us, and pass on April Fools Day, at the age of 95. My mother died eight days later.

And now my aunt is gone, on Friday, March 29.

There is the feeling of a circle closing in my aunt dying almost exactly 27 years after her mother and sister. They had always done everything together, as much as they possibly could, and she must have been very lonely. living nearly another thirty years without them. I know how lonely I have been, without my mum and sister, and despite having had the love and support of husbands, children and grandchildren. There are some rifts of the heart that can never be mended.

Gram and her five kids 001Patricia Donovan was very much loved by her family, and the many nieces, nephews, and great-nieces and great-nephews that knew her. She gave so much to us, and I would like to think that we gave back a little bit of what she needed in return.

You know, you get to be a certain age, and it’s harder to cry, harder to justify the tears when you rationally knew that death was always to be expected at some point. And so on Friday night, I hid in my bedroom and watched the film, Christopher Robin, the recent follow up to the films about Winnie the Pooh .. and I remembered. And I wept.

There was so much more to my aunt than these few stories, but I have lost my words. In late spring or early summer we will gather in Montreal to inter Pat’s ashes, and then, I think, this very talkative family will share our memories, and laugh at the crazy antics of this passionate, talented, wonderful family.

My cousin Rita was the family’s bridge to Pat, visiting her, keeping her up on the family’s adventures, and keeping us informed on her health. Rita was the one who notified us of my aunt’s decline, and then death. In her email, she included a few photos, and this poem. I hope you will enjoy it.

FALL ON ME

Pale pink petals
Dropping from a tree
Fall on me
Fall on me

A minute ago
You were the tree
And now you’re
Part of me

From your branches
Showering tree
Rain on me
Rain on me

A week ago
You wouldn’t let go
And now you rain
On me

Pale pink petals
Waiting on the tree
Fall all over
Me.

Patricia Donovan

Pat early 80s Broadway apt 001Patricia Donovan   (1924-2019)

 

On Lies, Trust, and an Omelette Bar


When I first starting writing my December 2nd column on the evils of lying, I started from a stance that lying was, as a rule, relatively harmless. But by the time I was winding up my research, I had a whole new perspective.

“Lying” sounds like something we teach kids not to do, because it’s kid stuff, not all that important, little white lies from little kids to save them from a ‘whupping.’

Lying is not supposed to be something that normal adults would do with any sort of regularity, because responsible adults are expected to stand by what they say, do, and believe.

As children, we were told to expect that people in respected positions would always speak the truth. That’s the oath people take when their words are important … they swear to ‘tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

But what happens when the people we are meant to believe … our elected leaders, civic leaders, corporate leaders, religious leaders … lie to us to further their own agendas? Their words then warp the teachings and beliefs necessary for a just society, based on respect for the veracity of each other. And that is some scary stuff.

brainwashing eyes wideWhen those lies become a continuous stream, and range from nonsensical, easily disproved, contortions of actual facts to major leaps of nonsensical confabulation, the problem becomes how to control a citizenry in which a large percentage has bought into the deluge, and effectively becomes a brain washed cult, no longer able to differentiate truth from lies.

Lying dissolves our trust, and trust is the invisible ‘glue’ that makes modern society and civilization possible. A fractured trust in leaders and important organizations is a very bad thing; that trust is the glue that allows us to survive disasters, participate in community activities, address inequality of income, and share our knowledge in order to increase our general health and happiness. Trust is difficult to earn, and easily lost, and yet it is possibly the single most important ingredient necessary for improving the human experience.

trust meI read recently that only 19% of millennials think the average person can be trusted. But the weird thing is that, despite all evidence to the contrary, they DO trust the system. and they believe that they, themselves, are trustworthy They just don’t trust each other.

Back in the good old days, say, around 1967, about 56% of us believed that ‘most people can be trusted.’ Our ability to trust is actually on the decline, and has been for quite some time. And that is because we have been lied to by those in whom we had previously put our faith.

why do you lie liarIt’s hard to put your faith and your money into the hands of someone whose own hands have been caught looting the cookie jar. When social media exposes the stories of people, just like yourself, who have been lied to, or who have been cheated by those in whom we are asked to trust, our credulity becomes strained.

 

Governing bodies, big and small, have asked us to trust that they had our best interests at heart. Unfortunately, too many of those officials have later been found unworthy of having their words believed. And it doesn’t matter if they had very, very, VERY good reasons to lie to the people; our rational brains may forgive them, but our gut never will.

trust me I'm from the govtToday, only 1 in 3 Americans believe that most people are trustworthy. Less than 1 in 3 trust that other drivers are competent, or would trust a clerk or website with their credit card. 1 in 4 people trust their employers, and less than 1 in 5 adults trust the government.

But here’s the interesting thing – when you ask people how much they trust people who are their neighbours, the numbers go up; 39 percent of millennials trust their neighbours, as do 73 percent of seniors.

Proximity and personal experiences with others tend to encourage trust; it is difficult to distrust someone with whom you have much in common. If you have a solid education, with a lot of exposure to different classes of people, you are more likely to trust a wider range of individuals than someone with an inadequate field of reference.

It’s interesting that those who are mentally, physically, or emotionally isolated have a harder time trusting individuals of varying colours, interests or abilities. ; These individuals will easily take as gospel, information that shows people unlike themselves to be untrustworthy.

Perhaps it is from this group that Trump draws his base; certainly, their blind faith in him, and loyalty to his campaign of fear and hatred of non-American humans is mystifying.

There was certainly a suspension of disbelief visible when Trump’s blatant gaslighting of America was in full display during his State of the Union speech. The president falsely claimed that fencing along El Paso‘s border with Mexico had directly reduced violent crime, despite FBI data that said otherwise.

el paso border crossingStatistics show that violent crime in El Paso has been falling steadily over the last 25 years. There was a little uptick, just for a bit, after border fencing was installed in 2008, but other than that, the statistics are clear.

Despite being shown that his information was false, Trump doubled down on his lies at an El Paso rally, asking his rapt supporters to accept as true his assertions over what had been gleaned from federal government data.

And it seems like his faithful are happy to believe whatever they are told.

He continued his bluster when he declared his fake ‘national emergency’ on Friday, telling the assembled dignitaries and journalists that he just didn’t believe the statistics that came from his own administration, that showed record low border crossing, that less crime was committed by undocumented immigrants than by native-born Americans, and where exactly the flow of illegal drugs was happening at the border.

He chose instead to believe statistics he’d been given that came from less reputable sources.  ” On Jan. 27, he tweeted that the cost of illegal immigration so far this year was $18,959,495,168. We traced that number to a report on the right-leaning One America News Network. The figure appears to be based on an estimate from an outside group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), though the OAN figure was considerably higher.” (Washington Post)

snake oil salesmanHey!  let’s not let facts get in the way when we’re selling to the rubes! Somebody’s gotta buy this snake oil!

Trump’s willingness to flat-out deny reality when it doesn’t suit his purposes highlights one of the dangers of his presidency: He is shameless about not just contradicting the findings of his own government agencies but constructing a fact-free alternate reality where immigrants are violent criminals, drugs and tied-up women are pouring across the southern border, and the number of people making a dangerous trek through remote regions to enter the United States presents an existential threat. (VOX)

 Immediately following the declaration of emergency, Trump fled to his retirement home lair in Florida. While ‘chillin’ like a villain,’ it seems that El Presidente was caught “in flagrante delicto” at the omelette bar.

trump omelette bar Feb 2019 post national emergency

(well… caught red-handed with a plateful of bacon, that is … _

 Impeach this guy? More like im-poach.

I’ve gotta wonder if this really is him – after all, this guy looks like any generic, unhealthy old grandpa who has just wandered up to the ‘all you can eat’ cart at a cheap Best Western or Holiday Inn.

What is with the open garbage can? The multiple bottles of ketchup? The general slovenliness of the place, and the caption missing from the photo that should be saying, ‘With cheese, Mr President?” “Yeah… let’s make America .. grate again…”

If that is indeed the ‘luxury’ resort that costs it’s members $200K a year to enter, the decor is surprisingly outdated and cheap looking, like it was bought from the Wayfair returned items outlet.

The ten year old Walgreens poster, showing Trump as a younger and fitter man (remember when he really WAS 6 ft 3?) has got to be a cruel reminder to his wife and kids that daddy’s ability to ‘walk the walk’ has degenerated into “daddy needs to ride in the golf cart or we’re not gonna make it to the corner for ice creams!”

Is it really him? He looks dazed, like he hasn’t had his Adderall yet.  is this photo shopped, because enquiring minds want to know …where’s his hair? His ‘tan’? Those dozens of chins? His enormous behind?  Is that a chemical peel on his cheeks or vitilago? And did he raid Kim Jong Un‘s daddy’s closet for that outfit?

trump obama who wore it betterIf it turns out that this is, in fact, the emperor unclothed, then this photo has done a real service, at least to some of us. His base will likely never believe that the Trump that regularly throws a news hand grenade into our living rooms and then wanders off to play golf is not the pompous, pompadoured autocrat usually seen swanning around in his black ‘fat coat.’

His base will scream that the photo is ‘fake news,’ and that the libtards are once again continuing on their persecution of their anointed one’s preordained reign.

But for the rest of us, photographic proof that this harbinger of the apocalypse is nothing more than an old, frail man, with no real friends or any cultural significance beyond what the GOP have draped around the wizard’s image, is a moment to be savoured like a fine wine.

Trump’s followers want to wallow in Trump’s fantasy world, even if that world is filled with criminals and horrors. They don’t want to accept a reality that doesn’t include their Orange Emperor promising his loyal followers untold riches trickling down upon them.

baldwin trump 2019Thankfully, we still have access to alternate points of view. Saturday Night Live no longer allows it’s skits to be streamed on YouTube, so I can’t embed the fun Alec Baldwin had with his impersonation of Trump’s rantalogue last night. But it went something like this ….

” “This is a big one, so I don’t want to waste any time,” Baldwin, in full faux tan and blond wig regalia, said to open the show. He then claimed to be over six feet tall and “shredded,” adding that he looked forward to the visiting Hanoi with Chairman Kim who “is a very cool, misunderstood guy.”

 “There’s a tremendous amount of drugs flowing into this country — from the southern border, or the ‘brown line’ as many people have asked me not to call it.” Wall works. Wall make safe. You don’t have to be smart to understand that, and in fact it’s even easier to understand if you’re not that smart.”

Elsewhere in the speech, Baldwin‘s Trump confessed that he had to “fake” the national emergency and said he’d mulled over enacting the death penalty for non-violent crimes. He then said that he knew signing the declaration would lead to “immediately [being] sued.”

I’ll immediately be sued and the ruling will not go in my favor and then it will end up in the Supreme Court and then I’ll call my buddy Kavanaugh and I’ll say ‘it’s time to repay the Donny,’ and he’ll say, ‘new phone, who dis?’ And by then the Mueller report will be released, crumbling my house of cards and I can plead insanity and do a few months in the puzzle factory and my personal hell of playing president will finally be over..” (FOX News)

Thanks, SNL.  I needed that.

 

Observations on a Birthday


agingSpeaking from experience, I can tell you that it’s not necessarily true that you’ll get a whole lot wiser as you age. I’m just grateful to have had the chance to have a good number of years to get experience in dealing with the range of circumstances and individuals that have crossed my path.

If you are very lucky, you might live long enough to begin to get a sense of how others see the world. Having empathy for the different types of people you’ll encounter thru the years will smooth the jagged edges of most circumstances.

You will experience times in your life that will be confusing. Some moments might even be terrifying. Still others will be so delightful that you won’t want to ever move on from that pleasure .. and that, ironically, can impede our ebb and flow through the years we get to experience. A life is the sum total of a kaleidoscope of emotions, both good and bad.

kaleidescope

Nobody gets a smooth ride from start to finish – well, nobody that you’ll ever know. Some begin their lives from behind the starting line, while other’s get a huge head start, and a leg up over the first obstacles.

Some even get carried to within mere feet of the finish line. But one thing I’ve learned the hard way is that there’s nothing to be gained from pointing out how badly or how well others are running this race. The only contestant that matters is YOU.

I’ve also had to take my lumps learning to enjoy where I am ‘right now,’ as opposed to where I’ll be at another time. As a young girl, I’d often pin my hopes on a day when I’d be old enough to make my own decisions. Of course, it never occurred to me that being a kid without responsibilities also had it’s up side.

take responsibilityIt was probably right around that time that I also began to understand that responsibility works both ways, and that to blame others for my happiness or unhappiness was a mug’s game. I’m the only one who governs my beliefs and behaviours, as much as I’d like to point a finger at someone – anyone! – else.

Now, blaming drink or drugs for behaving badly… that I’ve done. But, no matter how much I’d like to slough off that truth, the plain fact is that I’m the one who decided to indulge in the drinks or drugs, so .. yep, still my fault.

In the same context, my better angels know that I should rise above judging others for what they do, since I not only have no idea what drove their decisions, I have no idea when I might need to beg their understanding for some shortcoming of my own!

There’s an old saying in show biz, that goes, “be nice to those you meet on the way up, because those are the same people you’ll meet on the way down.”  And though most of us would prefer to believe we’ll never be on the way down – life has a way of opening our eyes to reality.

It’s probably best to just be nice to everybody. After all, being easy to get along with never hurt anyone in the long run.

Though, I’ll admit .. I can’t swear that I am advising that way of life from any real or personal knowledge; I’ve had my share of diva moments.

silencio

Sometimes I speak from experience, other times, from a sad point of observation.

Time is a tricky thing, and refuses to do what you think it should; when we’re young, we want to be old, and when we’re old, we wish we could be young again, but with the knowledge we developed through all of those long years.

Human nature makes us want what we do not have. Sometimes it drives us to personal betterment; sometimes it just drives us crazy.

When we’re working at a crummy day job, we can make the mistake of asking only to be able to hang in until it’s time to clock out, or until it’s the weekend, or our next holiday. Dreams are great .. but never dream your life away.

baba ram dassI have known people that kept on deferring any enjoyment of their life, always believing that better days were coming. Sadly .. they were wrong. And even if they HAD won that lottery, or married that model, what they’d have found was that anticipation and hope are always much more fun than getting everything we thought we always wanted. Those millions often come with strings attached, and supermodels aren’t necessarily all they appear to be. You just never know.

We live our lives day by day, not in giant gulps.  It’s best to be like the Buddhists, and ‘be here now,‘ letting each moment have it’s due and it’s time … tomorrow comes much sooner than we expected.

Which reminds me – gravity sucks. I know this because it has effectively made some bits of me larger that I preferred smaller, while other bits are now much closer to the ground than previously. I’m even shorter than I was when I wasn’t all that tall to begin with. But things could be worse; none of my career aspirations, then or now, have ever had height requirements.

rox pow wow bday lunch dec 3 2018While there’s not a lot I can do about the sagging and bagging, I know that a big, warm, and heartfelt smile makes anyone more pleasing to the eye. I’m not gonna make any magazine covers, but I’m happy with who I am these days.  And you’re not so bad yourself!

This aging stuff has responsibilities. There are many that will look to their elders, and assume that they are the keepers of wisdom. That’s not always true, of course – aging doesn’t guarantee wisdom. But if our years of experience have given us some knowledge and experience, it is incumbent that we share our best strategies, if we are asked.

I like to go a step further and share my ‘wisdom’ whether you like it or not. You’re welcome.

All I can say is, I’ve been a ‘senior citizen’ now for nearly a week, and it’s not anything as scary as I thought it was going to be. If that helps anyone who’s nearing the big day and feels a little nervous .. consider the alternative, and remember that there are many who never get the chance to grow older.

We ain’t done yet …. and with any luck, we never will be …

never too late

 

 

 

Perspective


underneath a catGet to a certain age, or a certain stage, and you’d really have to make an effort not to see that everyone approaches their lives from different angles.

Our formative years often shape how we’ll see our world, but I know people who survived horrific childhoods, yet still managed to live happy and peaceful lives. Their experiences in their youths shaped how they approached and nurtured the relationships they cultivated as they aged.

Other people grew up in the lap of luxury, but suffer through their days feeling that the entire world is against them, conspiring to refuse them the respect and goodies they deserve for merely existing. They can think of hundreds of little ways that life has just not treated them as well as they believed they deserved.

And then there are some who sail through their life without really knowing or caring that other people even exist.

perspective island

It’s all perspective.

In a recent conversation with my husband, I was stunned to realize how events in our shared lives, be they major or minor in scope, can be remembered in such drastically disparate ways that it seems like the antics of two different people living in two different worlds. Maybe that’s partly the difference in how men and women think, or maybe it has to do with how we’ve personally conducted ourselves during our long relationship.  Or maybe it’s a little of both, and a lot about how actions and words can be perceived in multiple ways, depending upon how the person receiving the actions or words receives, and interprets those interactions.

When we ascribe intent to words and actions, we alter how those words and actions are perceived.

When we attempt to interact in society, what we bring to the table varies wildly, depending on our own backgrounds, and the state of mind we were in when we approached a moment in our time. Were we tired? dyspeptic? broke? stressed?  Because all of those things will have a huge bearing on how we perceive what others say, write, or do.

perspectives good badYou really see perspective and interpretation at work when reading threads on social media. Because it is difficult to convey emotions verbally, spats and name-calling can suddenly erupt based on a simple misunderstanding, a failed attempt at humour or sarcasm, or a word used incorrectly.

But conversely, that’s one of the reasons that the arts we are able to enjoy on the internet can resonate so strongly within us; we are surprised and delighted when an image or a video or a song accurately reflects how we feel about a particular moment, or captures an emotion..  For a brief instant in time, we are completely in synch with another person’s gut take, and yet it is a shared experience, and all the more heady when many of us feel that same recognition simultaneously, and gather to share that experience, even if it’s only on the internet.

alice no going backWhile we might like to think that we are all, down deep, the same, it’s both true but not really true at all. We share the human experience, but each of us carries the history our parents bequeathed to us, and over time, we add our own experiences. Eventually we pass that on to our kids, who add their own experiences. And every bit of that combined familial and cultural mosaic makes our perspectives unique. At any given moment, how we approach any event – from how we choose our meals, to how we choose our elected officials – is a result of the lifetime of baggage we’ve brought along for the ride.

As we age and grow, we sift in the essences of the people, events, and emotions that we experience, and let those simmer in our soul stew. In time, we become a person very different from the person we were at birth. Life experiences are the fire that tempers our metal, as drastically as the fabled Philosopher’s Stone was said to turn brass into gold.

dylan quotePerspective allows us to understand that it is as painful for a poor man to lose a dollar, as it is for a billionaire to lose a billion, because for both, the loss is fear-provoking.

When I was a little kid, I was very, very near-sighted. However, I didn’t know that, since I had nothing to compare it to, and my family had no idea that I had such poor vision, until a teacher in my grade one class noticed that I couldn’t see what she was writing on the board. The day I got my first pair of glasses, my entire world changed, because now, I could see what went on around me like other people did.

My world changed, because my vision changed. And my perspective – quite literally the way I saw the world – was altered.

I wish that finding a little bit of insight into how others perceive what happens around them, was as simple as getting a new prescription for eyeglasses – what a better place that sort of world might be!   footprints

But instead, achieving perspective requires that we step back from our own values, attitudes and needs, and mentally and emotionally put ourselves into the shoes of someone unlike ourselves. Those shoes may be too tight, or far too roomy, but until we’ve walked a while in them, we cannot ever know the journey that other person is on.

Perspective.

tags:  Roxanne Tellier, perspective

The Rule of Three


In the rule of three, most everything can be divided into thirds. Life’s flow mostly falls into three stages; people tend to think in one of three ways. Three is mystical.

My first husband used to say, “Some people make things happen, some people watch things happen, and some people sit around asking, “what’s happening?” What can I say? It was the sixties. (And I’ve been married three times.)

1/3 of Americans love Trump, 1/3rd don’t. 1/3rd will go along with whatever everyone else is doing. one third of America

A third of American citizens believe there will be a Civil War very soon, a third think it’s unlikely, and another third don’t know why you’re bringing it up.

One-third of Americans think “substantially less” than 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.

Three successes of the same kind form a hat trick. A third of all people are overweight and obese, and there’s a good chance that a third of the world’s population will be African by 2100. The planet has lost a third of it’s farmable land in just the last forty years. Almost one third of our air pollution comes from the gasoline burned by vehicles.  And without a third leg, a stool won’t work.

A third is not a half, but it’s enough of a dent to show you mean business.

Three is a number that is big enough to matter, but small enough to comprehend. And it seems to be a pattern into which we naturally fall.

For years I’ve had a theory about aging. Hang around long enough and you see the  patterns playing out there as well.

In this case, I clearly see three stages of aging.

I have some friends who saw their own parents die shortly after retiring at 65; those friends were the ones who took early retirement, so that they can enjoy their ‘golden years’ while they still have excellent health.  And it’s really worked for them.

too old but we're the bandBut for the rest of us, and in my own observations, it goes a little like this.

In the first stage of getting older,  let’s say when people get into their early sixties, and can see their senior years rushing towards them, they generally still feel pretty good. The odd ache and pain is inevitable, and bad decisions made in their youth may be coming back to bite them, but the whole idea of getting ‘old’ seems almost laughable. Old was for your parents and grandparents, while you … you are still going to see rock concerts, and hanging out with people younger than yourself because you’re cool, and can blend in. Still fitting into those club clothes. Still able to hang out until past four a.m., now and again. Not all the time, but once in a while. Still got it.

Retirement represents possibilities! Time to shake off those shackles, maybe look into doing something they’ve put off for years, while they were ‘working for the man.’ Do what they love, rather than what pays a salary. And hey! A pension! Yeah, free money!

we grow old because we stop playingMost of us know there will be tough decisions that we will have to make in time, but we fool ourselves that that time is far away. Where we will live, and how we will manage our finances, are concerns, but .. just a sec! Right now, I don’t feel ‘old,’ so I’ll push aside any thoughts that remind me of how close I am to my own future.

This is the stage when you should be enjoying getting out and travelling. If you start to have trouble breathing, all of those higher altitude destinations will be out of the question. (If you haven’t already, quit smoking now.)  If you have decent mobility, and enjoy exploring travel destinations by foot – do it now. You’ll be glad that you did.

But too many of us are fairly delusional about embracing the concept of aging. Example: I was talking to someone about creating a rock n roll retirement home. He said he was really interested, and would look into it when he got older. He’s 68.

In the second stage of aging, things start to get real. You start having more things go wrong with your health, and you’re less able to do some of the things you used to do, but overall, you’re managing, with medications, regular doctor visits, and surgeries to either lop off the stuff that’s not working or to put stuff back from where it fell off. Most of the time you don’t notice that you’ve subtly normalized a slowing down of your world. You walk slower, you eat less, and you rarely feel like staying up late. You check your calendar before accepting an invitation that’s too far in the future.

'Help me Rhonda I've fallen & I can't get back up.'This is the point where organizations like CARP and AARP say you’ve got to face your future head on. Ask yourself, “Will my home work for me as I age? Should I re-fit my residence with devices to help me stay self-sufficient and independent, or should I consider selling or moving? Will my community be there to support me through the ups and downs of aging? Do I have enough sympatico friends to get me through the long days and weeks when work is not there to fill those hours?

At this point, all possibilities are still viable, but with restrictions. Expectations of what can be accomplished in a day change greatly. There’s not much desire to take on too many new things; dealing with the changes going on around you are enough to keep you busy.

You may find that you become more dependent on help from others for some activities, like getting around in the winter, when it’s more difficult. If you’re dealing with multiple chronic conditions, or a lot of pain, you may need to keep that in mind before planning travel. For Canadians, any travel or moving decisions can also become contingent on being able to access healthcare when necessary, in order to stay healthy and on the go.

Man about lady in rocking chair with roll bars: 'Never too old to rock and roll.'This might be a time when you enjoy leisure activities with family and friends.

Then there’s the last stage that comes along, when it becomes crucial to have someone around who can help with even basic daily living activities. Bathing, cooking and shopping become chores that are fraught with tension. As your body wears out, it may become necessary to hire outside help for personal care assistance, or to move into a residence where they will see to your daily needs.

Now, the thing is, how old you are at any of these stages is not important. What IS important is to be continually taking the ‘temperature’ of your physical condition, and to be enjoying every moment to it’s fullest extent. Some people are old at 60, others live far into their nineties in great physical shape. It will be your genetic background, and how you treated your body during the younger years that will determine how well you weather the senior years.

Some people find the discussion of aging too frightening. They hope and pray they’ll never get to the stage where they need to admit that they need help. But the only way to avoid aging is to die young. And for a lot of us… it’s too late for that option.

 

 

Bronte on aging

 

Okay, enough of all that. Everybody lift your beers into the air and let’s say it together!

Happy Canada Day!

 

 

You Can Choose


life is all about choicesOh yes, you can choose. You can choose pretty much every aspect of your life, from the small to the large, from the clothes you wear to the colour of your hair, and the music that you listen to, and of course, to the politicians you elect to run your country and ultimately tell you … what you can choose.

But it’s not all lollipops and roses, this ability to choose. First off, once we’ve chosen, we might not be happy with what we chose, and we might not want to take responsibility for how our choice worked out.

That’s free choice. And it can be exhausting.

Now, of course, there’s some stuff that is best when it’s our choice. That’s the prime directive from our childhood – it’s all about getting out from under the right of other people to make choices for us. We can’t wait for the day when we’re on our own, able to decide what we want to eat, drink, and wear, and how we wish to behave without being told what we can and cannot do.

And yes, we find out the hard way that these choices are always available to us .. as soon as we are able to pay … financially, physically, and emotionally … for the right to choose, and the consequences of what we have chosen.

It’s a child’s parents who have to teach children how to make smart choices.

One thing that parenting magazines stress is that giving kids virtually unlimited power to make choices is damaging to the child.

Some kids are better at decisions than others; some kids shut down when confronted with too many choices.

But one thing is certain. “An infinite number of choices will make a child anxious and insecure, ” says Dr Gorski. “Think how you feel when you have a dozen important decisions to make. What we think are small issues, such as what to wear, or what to eat, are huge to a child. Having to make too many choices – even kid sized ones – can be overwhelming.”

Children are more comfortable within boundaries. “A child who acts up is begging with her behaviour to be shown limits. ”

I know exactly how they feel. It’s not so different when we get older. Yes, it’s great to be able to choose our destinies – that’s what being an adult is about! However there are times when it’s just so much easier if someone else makes the choice for us.

Take music, for instance. It’s great to be able to access any song we want to hear, and to hear it as many times as we would like, but sometimes, it’s more relaxing to let a radio station’s programmer made that decision. Not only might we hear songs we like, but we might even hear new songs we wouldn’t have found on our own.

no choice is still a choice. jpgOr TV programs. Remember how we used to follow a series for years .. like Seinfeld, or Friends, and Thursday was the night you didn’t go out because you might miss an episode?

Well, it’s not like that anymore, because there are 500 channels on the satellite, and then there’s NetFlix, Hulu, Kanopy, and a half dozen other additional outlets, and then you can also stream television episodes from any point in the history of broadcasting, and watch them at any time of the day or night.

All you have to do is choose which episode … And again .. that’s stressful. What if you decide to watch this one episode, or this movie, and there’s another better one you don’t have time to watch because there’s only so much time in anyone’s life?

You can choose. But sometimes, it is great when someone else chooses for you. Isn’t it great when you ask your official or unofficial ‘other’ what they want to do, and they tell you? In detail? What they want to eat, where they’d like to go, and what they’d like to do after that? It can feel really good to hand over the reins to someone else, occasionally.

If you are the one who is always tasked with making choices and decisions, even about petty things, like what to eat for dinner, it can become exhausting. Deciding what to make, gathering the items needed, and then preparing the meal … and doing that day after day after month after year … the excitement wears off pretty quickly.

choice is energyYou can choose to agree, or disagree, or to start a dialogue where your preferences are considered and best of all, suddenly, you have more choices!

What we learn, as kids, and what we take with us into our adulthoods, is that every group in which we are included is a community, and that not everyone’s needs can be met all of the time. Fair is not always equal. We resent if there is one person making all of the decisions all of the time. We need to spread the freedom of choice around and amongst us.

As we grow and begin to reason, we also see the consequences of our choices, and learn that what might be fun or easy in the short run, could be disastrous in the longer run. Not flossing in your teens might feel like you are getting away with something … but you’ll be making some dentist rich in your forties from the consequences. We learn that we may have to deal with the regret of making a bad choice, but that we can’t always know what is best, and that mistakes, and how we deal with them, are also a part of life.

Choice can be a liberating or a limiting thing, depending on circumstances. There are days when, just like a child, it’s best to limit your choices, to ask yourself to be responsible for just so much, and no more. Limiting the amount of decisions you need to make can be as beautiful a thing as having the reason and responsibility to make really big choices.

You can choose that too.

 

Come The Revolution


Work Or RetireA friend of mine is looking forward to retirement, after being with the same company for nearly 40 years. She’s been there through the formative years, and the technological shifts that overtook them in the past three decades. Since she’s in Human Resources, she’s privy to information that was never committed to either paper or computer files.

This year, her work colleagues are basically downloading all of the insider information that only she can divulge, siphoning off her knowledge and memories of the people and actions that created the agency she’s helped to build and maintain.

And therein lies the difference between being a cog in the machine, or one of the main wheels. What she contributed to the agency, through connection, trust, and patience, cannot be duplicated, only recorded.

Do any students today even consider a gold watch after a lifetime career in a company, never mind a field or trade? The loyalty once prized by workers and bosses alike is a thing of the past, broken under the wheels of corporate capitalism, overwhelming greed, and a complete lack of empathy for the workers that make companies great.

While my friend is excited about the opportunities retirement will bring, there’s always a bit of a sadness in leaving behind the ‘real’ world that has shaped our environment. The restrictions we’ve chafed against were the frames – physical, emotional, and in the very days and hours we were expected to be resident – that shaped our lives.

As the Baby Boomers near and attain retirement age, we’re seeing an enormous sea change in North American society, a major shakeup of the status quo, and a repudiation of a tendency to believe that our social attitudes are set in stone, are ‘just the way things are’ and can’t be changed.

florida students nine daysCould there have been a #MeToo movement before 2017? The Womens March?  A #BoycottNRA? What has changed?

We Boomers had a good run – possibly the best run of any previous generation. And many of us became leaders, politically, or in the business or entertainment world. We have changed the way the world worked since we came of age in the sixties, and have kept our thumbs on the scale to keep it going, the way we insisted upon in our youths. Or – in some semblance, some blurry nostalgia, of what we thought we wanted in our youths.

And for those who have wielded power, the prospect of being powerless has no appeal.

Trouble is – there’s another wave coming up behind us, and they need the world to reflect their interests and concerns. It’s not that the next generation is demanding that we ‘leave the premises immediately,’ it’s that an awful lot of very powerful people are hanging in, with their outdated ideas, and in doing so, are holding back the fresh air this new wave will bring to society.

The way we did things in the past has to change, because new and often improved systems have come into being. We went from paper to digital, from the rotary phone to the handsfree and then smart phones. We can change. We just often balk at changes to our environment, and can be slow to embrace new systems – mainly because we are afraid we’ll fail to excel at the new tasks.

The fear and paranoia that propelled Trump to the American presidency came from the older and middle class voters, who were, essentially, out of ideas. The head of steam that the young bring to the planet was largely absent.

But we need to acknowledge and face the truth – the kids are here now. They are determined, opinionated, internet and media savvy, way stronger, more dogged, and less tired and jaded than we are … and they are gonna outlive us. They are the ‘WE’ we used to be, full of ginger and moxie and ready to take on THEIR world.

Which might be one reason why they’re so pissed at the mess we’re leaving behind. Most of us wouldn’t even leave an overnight stay in a cheesy motel in the disastrous shambles we’ll leave the planet.

Does Don Cherry speak for millennial hockey fans? The recently departed Billy Graham, or his son, Franklin, a political hack busily rebranding evangelicalism as a belief system ruled by fear of Muslims and homophobia? Any of the heads of state in any country, who give lip service to rights for everyone, but consistently fail to keep their promises once in power?

A media that constantly brays about ‘breaking news!’ that is rarely, if ever, acted upon in a reasonable length of time, and relies on controversy over substance? The daily newspapers that contain more advertisements than actual news? A housing market and stock market reaching astronomical heights that few, if any, millennials will ever get near?

Seriously .. subscribe to the NewsBroke channel on Youtube .. you will be glad you did.

This week, the NRA, once an institution that advocated gun safety and control, now run by the delusional Wayne LaPierre, lashed out at the kids who survived the latest school shooting in Parkland, Florida, for daring to criticize and protest the NRA’s chokehold on policy and politicians. In an ironic and sickening twist, the survivors are now receiving death threats from NRA members.

But the kids are fighting back, and holding their own, disputing the NRA’s nonsensical claims and extremism, and Trump’s ridiculous notion of arming teachers rather than addressing the core problem – a plethora of deadly weapons, and the very real risk children run of being killed in a school shooting. (Since 2000, there have been 188 mass shootings in American schools and universities. So it’s getting to be, not a question of IF your kid will get shot at school, but when.)

thoughts and prayers cartoonI’ll admit that I greeted the latest shooting in Florida with grief, anger and cynicism. These murders, combined with the mealy mouthed offerings of ‘thoughts and prayers‘ rather than actually taking action to prevent further murders, drove me to despair.

But this time around, it seems that the victims themselves have opted to ‘be the change they want to see happen.’ Rather than wait for the next massacre, they are demanding that the authorities take responsibility, and work to prevent another slaughter in their halls of education.

And the adults, many of whom have sat quietly by, cowed by the bile spewed by the NRA and their rabid fans, are getting an infusion of energy from these students, with many even developing a spine from the shattered vertebrae of their previous compliance.

boycottNRACompanies that have now severed ties to the NRA under the #BoycottNRA hashtag, include the nation’s largest privately owned bank, First National Bank of Omaha, which will no longer offer an NRA branded Visa card. Other companies, including car rental firms Hertz, Entreprise, Alama, Avis, Budget and National, soon followed suit, while the Allied and North American Van lines pulled their perks as well. Software giant Symantec, MetLife Auto & Home, home security company SimpliSafe, Teladoc, Chubb, HotelPlanner.com, United and Delta Airlines, and even Vinesse wines, which operates the “official wine club of the NRA,” have joined in the protest.

Talk about being on the wrong side of history. The NRA overplayed their hand – and it’s bust time for the ammosexuals. In order to prevent the complete demise of his association, LaPierre will have to choose which master the NRA will serve in the future – the powerful and wealthy weapons manufacturers or the right of the American people to live in safety and peace.

every great institution Emerson quote. jpg

Our children are watching as all of our time honoured institutions, those collections of rules and norms agreed upon by human beings, the venerable systems we could look to for protection and security are being attacked, denigrated and abused. Every day we get closer to the day that these institutions will be weakened to the point of collapse, and once that happens, the very character and quality of democracy will fall with it.

So – can you really blame the kids for being pissed at the status quo? What exactly are they meant to inherit from us, except massive debt, chronically unstable employment, and the ruin of a planet we couldn’t be bothered to clean up after we’d used up all of the good things it once had to offer?

the future is hereAll of life is a flow of non-linear changes, threads in a tapestry that is ever changing and unpredictable. Our challenge must be to learn how to confront and respond to new life transitions, no matter how unpredictable they may be.

The world is changing, as the world always does, and it will continue to turn long after our time has come and gone. Mark Twain reputedly once said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

For many in power, the time has come to step aside, and let the future unfold, just as it always has. Step aside, and let the new kids in town take their turn at centre stage. They certainly can’t do any worse than we did.

no man ever steps in the same river twice