Most people are kind and decent
Today I am grateful for friends old and new; for the joy, wisdom and hope they bring to my life.
For old friends that have supported me through my foibles and follies, laughed, cried and celebrated with me. Loved me at my worst and cheered me at my best. For new friends who have welcomed and supported me.
Because of the kindness and pervading goodness of friends, I dare to believe that people are inherently decent and kind; that good always triumphs over evil. That bright rays of the future are even now breaking through the threatening clouds.
Today I am grateful for motherhood; for my own mother, for the opportunity to be a mother, for the lessons learned.
Motherhood is the most challenging of relationships, diametrically opposed and inextricably linked. The older I am, the more I regret my unkindness to my own mother and the more forgiving I am of the unkindness of my children. Maybe that’s just the way of things.
Autumn has always been my favorite season. It is a time of change, of new beginnings. As a child, it meant the return to school, reunion with friends, relief from the oppressive summer heat. I loved the smells, the sounds, the feel of autumn. The rustle of wind through the falling leaves, the smell of apples cooking, the taste of pumpkin pies, the calls of the geese migrating south, the chill in the air. I loved it all.
But this is an autumn like no other. We are in the grip of a deadly and relentless pandemic on the threshold of flu season. Within seven short months (can that be true?) we have lost over 200,000 lives to coronavirus in the US and ar eapproaching 1 million worldwide. Over that same period, we have weathered devastating hurricanes, floods, and riots. Fires still rage over much of the West coast. Unemployment is at unprecedented levels and we are in a contentious political battle for the presidency. This is uncharted territory.
We’re all in this together; we hear this a lot. And we seem to agree on this. But we don’t agree on how to get out the situation we find ourselves in. The popular response seems to be to blame each other for our problems. It has become a national pastime. We need only to channel surf or go on social media to find a rabid champion for our cause. No insult, no accusation is off limits. We wear our stubborn allegiance like a badge of honor. Vicious name-calling, unheard of a decade ago, is embedded in the national dialog. Common courtesy no longer unifies us; we are drifting into dangerous waters.
In a recent conversation with a friend, I railed about the corrupt and self-seeking motives of a certain political group, and threw in a few unflattering slurs for good measure. Surely she agreed with my position, after all, she is my friend, an intelligent and thoughtful person. But as her smile stiffened to a grimace, it was clear she didn’t agree. At. All. To my chagrin, not only had my insensitive, and face it, tasteless, comment threatened a friendship, it had made meaningful discourse on the topic impossible. Worse, I wasn’t presenting a reasoned argument, only popular opinions, not even my own.
I am not proud of this behavior. I need to change. Uncomfortable as it is, I need to listen respectfully to the other point of view if I want peace in my family, with my friends, in my community.
But why listen to my opponent? Why entertain her point of view, when she probably won’t listen to mine. And even so, I’m just one person among millions. Perhaps true, but more importantly, being that self-righteous, intolerant person just does not serve me well. I don’t like how it feels.
And who knows, if a few people become open to listenIng and a few more listen to those people and a few more……
Wait! Isn’t that how the virus spreads?
I wonder if anyone really truly believes this. So easy to buy into the lie that life is like a racetrack, a seemingly endless series of laps, a delusion
fueled by a culture that worships youth and marginalizes its elders.
I remember rolling my eyes when my mother and her friends launched into a litany of aches, pains and funeral reviews. I vowed I would never allow my world to shrink so small, become so focused on myself. I would be involved with life – would have far more important things to think about.
But to my chagrin, I find myself actively participating in these conversations with my friends nowadays. It is, after all, what is happening to us. One more thing to add to my list of things I vowed I would never do.
What I hadn’t counted on about growing old is that nothing stays the
same for very long. Some days are full of hope and good fortune. I am brimming over with gratitude for my friends, my family, my reasonably good health. Other days it takes all the strength I can summon to put one foot in front of the other, to stay the course.
If we haven’t learned life lessons along the way, if we don’t have friends and loved ones around us, if we don’t have creative outlets that give us joy, God help us. Because the older we get, the larger the challenges, the bigger the losses, the less we control.
Living a successful old age is hard work, in my opinion. I need all the resources I can muster. But no matter what my situation, I am in charge of the path I take. I always have choices.
And in the final analysis, it’s not that the road ends, it’s where it ends that matters.