Overcome

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I cannot help but think of the great hymn, “We Shall Overcome”, sung so frequently at civil rights marches in the ’60’s. It brings a lump to my throat, not just because marchers were often treated violently, but because they had the fortitude, faith, and moral character to demonstrate peacefully. What a leader they had in Dr. Martin Luther King. Not a perfect man, but a perfect man for the job and the times.

Were all the marches peaceful? No, even if the marchers were, often violence was instigated by law enforcement under the direction of the city, the state, the governors — those who are charged with keeping the peace, except when it came to blacks marching en masse, including many white supporters.

In some ways, those were the best of times. When has a cause been so morally justified? When have people demonstrated without resorting to violence, name-calling, or destruction of property? When has prayer, in this non-religious establishment country, been used more effective and forcefully.

I have the privilege of having seen all this during my teenage years. I would not want to have missed witnessing just change come about. Being from Ohio, I did not know the level of segregation and the feelings behind it, that existed in many parts of the South. And I’m glad I didn’t. Imagine being brought up to hate, to disparage other people without consequence, even to kill without proper legal force being brought to bear on the crime. Justice was served, if not immediately, at least in law by 1965. You do not change people’s hearts and minds overnight, so the fight took longer, and in may ways continued peacefully. As Dr. King said (below), “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Some groups wanted violence, but Dr. King always said no to that, and the heinous ending of his life just showed where violence and hatred reap.

These people overcome first their righteous anger, their hatred of whites who had held them in their places for generations in order to overcome on a much larger scale — forcing laws and a legal acceptance which has led to equality.

I will not defend my remark on equality; I know that many feel that racism is still alive and active. I personally question this, and believe that when people come together peacefully and legally, they stand on an equal footing. No amount of legislation will make us hate or love, or wipe out discrimination of all kinds.

When we are individually and collectively able to overcome our own prejudices, biases, and the further ahead we will move in making this a truly free country, one in which all are judged “not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.”

 

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The Truth, As I See It

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I woke up the other morning with this on my mind (I don’t know why!): There is truth. Something is true or it isn’t, but so much of what we see and hear and even say to one another is only the truth as it is perceived. Is that because of our own experiences, or do we just have personal biases that make us hear facts differently? Are we merely uninformed? No doubt it is a combination of things — but I have become wary of someone telling me something, as if it were the truth, and it just isn’t, it’s only one version, or half the story.

Today I heard someone comment on “news” they had read on Facebook. Is that a good, reliable source for news? What about the internet — what’s unbiased and totally factual? There are even sites designed to purposely skew or misrepresent events. We know our media is biased, though that doesn’t mean TV, radio, and newspaper outlets always attempt to hoodwink the public.

Then there’s the more pernicious disinformation which is information given out generally by government agencies (all over the world) which misrepresent the facts for a specific reason — they’re lies that sound truthful, and often there’s an agenda in this “lying”. Then there’s misinformation, which is less purposely wrong and misleading, but nonetheless, inaccurate. Finally, there is simply omission. News is just not reported, so the public has no knowledge of events.

What’s a person seeking truth to do? It seems as if any sources we go to may be gilding or diminishing the truth. There is little else to do than choose sources that seem generally reliable and read several of those — then judge what seems reasonable.

One of the most interesting continuing news stories that keeps popping up like Wack-a-Moles is the alleged interference by Russia in the 2016 elections. Have any facts been produced which are indisputable to show that this is either true or false? Yet the story has a life of its own, or it is in the best interest of group to keep the allegations alive.

There are so many other examples, big and small: global warming; Melania Trump’s shoes (who cares — it’s petty and stupid to mention it); the lack of coverage on the devastating earthquake in Mexico (like we don’t have enough of our own problems); the reasons Hillary Clinton lost the election (is her book accurate?); North Korea’s intentions regarding the rest of the world (I dread to think); what diet’s best for losing weight?

Biased minds, conflicting facts, special interests, a desire to be first in the ratings — all of these obscure the truth I’d like to know.

 

 

 

Mad or Madness

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I’m mad. I didn’t wake up this way. My husband came into the bedroom about 7:30 as I was getting up and told me our drain (the main drain) was backed up AGAIN and I couldn’t use any of the “facilities”. When the drain gets blocked, the sewage water from the house drains onto the utility room floor. It’s disgusting, and I should be thankful to my husband for cleaning up that mess. And I am grateful, but I still can’t shake my anger.

For anger to be this strong, I feel like there has to be another reason. I’m feeling it in my muscles and bones, that pent-up feeling of powerlessness. I need a vent, and soon I’ll go to yoga, and hopefully that will help.

What’s odd, is I rarely get rip-roarin’ mad. I think all the pressures that are foisted upon us from a 24-hour news cycle has something to do with it. My sister lives in Florida near Tampa, and of course I’m worried about her, her children, and her grandchildren — and even people I don’t know. What a horrible storm. The devastation in Houston has only begun to be cleared up — and that will take forever — and now we have another area of the country waiting to be torn to shreds and dropped in floods of filthy water.

Life’s not fair. (But I know that.)

I get tired of the Trump bashing, the races fighting, the Alt-Left assaulting the Alt-Right, and vice versa, the Neo-Nazis, the Left-wing agitators, the attacks on free speech and free thought — I think I need a rest from TV and the internet.

I’m mad, but now I’m off to yoga, and hopefully I’ll be able to quit obsessing and cope with the rest of the day, not matter what cr*p it brings.

Critical

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When we hear a friend or family member is in the hospital in critical condition, we worry greatly. They might not “make it”; they may die. Serious indeed.

The definition I’m using is: pertaining to or of the nature of a crisis; of decisive importance with respect to the outcome, crucial.

So much of what is labeled of critical importance just isn’t. We are led to believe that so much of what is going on in the world is so important that it demands our immediate attention. We are beckoned to care, to react, to be indignant, to support or condemn. It’s exhausting mentally and psychologically.

If I watch the news, and take everything as seriously as they present it, I’d be in a catatonic state. Yet there are other events they don’t mention that really are critically important. The news du jour is fickle: it may be earth-shattering today, and not mentioned the next. Yet, the media does get some things right.

While the coverage of the Hurricane Harvey and its devastation of the lives of probably millions of people is somewhat repetitious, it is of critical importance that those people be helped, in many cases, immediately. I can’t imagine living in a world where I’ve lost everything, have only the clothes on my back, fear financial ruin, have to keep my family calm and occupied in a gym with a thousand other people, and can’t even get a decent drink of water.

Look at the coverage on TV: people helping people. They don’t shun one another because they’re black, white, gay, transsexual, poor or rich — the just do it. This is a lesson in basic humanity and caring for our fellow-man (women, children, and even pets).

The next item on the news may be about how terrible the left, the right, gun-owners, extremists on either end of the spectrum, Melania Trump’s shoes are — whatever, but when it comes down to saving someone in critical condition, people help people.

I love it and think it’s great news.

Savor

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Food samples are always available at Costco’s and the other day I couldn’t pass up a taste of cheesecake. I would never buy a cheesecake — far too many calories and fat and weight. I savored that little bite. It was creamy, sweet, but with a dash of the sour that the cheese brings. The crust contrasted with the smooth texture of the filling. And the cream on top, even smoother than the cheesecake itself. I savored that bite, and spent several minutes letting every taste roll around my mouth before it was gone.

How many things in life do I savor, I wondered. Certainly every moment is special, and once it’s gone it’s gone. I cherished the moments I spent holding my babies, and prayed the I would be able to relive those intense feelings of happiness and contentment. ¬†Only the fact that is was special remains, but I still like holding babies! Cradling that trust and innocence and even calming their discomforts is rewarding unlike anything else.

I try hard to imprint my mind with those things that are so special: the sea when it’s a bit angry, or the sun shining on the sand, the wave of dune grasses, the greenness of cultivated fields, varying with more shades of green than available on a palette. Only photos remind me of how beautiful those things are, but only occasionally do they elicit the happy feelings.

Slowing down in life is important to noticing the extraordinary in everyday life. You have to be aware to make the most of the special moments of life, and stop and appreciate them. I’ve noticed how often these are found in nature — perhaps the most perfect of God’s creation.

Even though they can be really demanding, one has to stop sometimes and just notice how very special each child is and the little steps of progress they are making, physically and mentally. My 14 month-old granddaughter is just about to walk, and we all stop when she stands, wondering if this will be that special moment we wouldn’t want to miss. Watching them think, wonder, and discover are priceless.

Being present for every moment is the key to experiencing and enjoying life to its fullest. One book is entitled “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.” How true. If we’re bothered constantly with the minutiae of our ordinary existence, we miss the small things that make the best memories to savor.

I Don’t Get It

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I’m faced with another person I care about dying of cancer. For some reason, I accept death; I try to live one day at a time and appreciate each moment. When I go out in the car I think “I might die on this trip,” even if it’s an ordinary like going to yoga or the grocery store. You just NEVER know.

I’m not a religious person, but spiritual. I came to the realization that my life was finite some long time ago. I believe in a good God, not a vengeful one who will list my sins as soon as I pass out of this life. I expect the next phase of life to reveal things I don’t now understand. I don’t want to die, but I don’t fear death either.

Nevertheless, I do resent it when people I care about are snatched from this life before they want to go. They have plans, people who love them, a reason for being here. My brother-in-law was taken at a point in his life when everything was going well — owning and profiting from a business he loved, a caring wife, children and grandchildren, a lovely home he had definitely earned. Then cancer, almost three years of suffering with grace, dignity and faith, and death just before Easter and the arrival of the Risen Lord. Ironic. Sad. Inexplicable.

My favorite saying is “Life is what happens when you had something else planned”. I know that to be true; but knowing and feeling are two different things and they tug at each other. Sometimes with a vengeance.

We all know we’re dying. A pit-of-my-stomach fear sometimes grabs me unawares, when the immensity of that truth is crystal clear. I will die. Then what. I believe, so I do my best to accept. And trust that God will be waiting for me and tell me WHY.

That’s all. I just had to get that out while I prepare to visit a dear friend (cousin by marriage) and “be there for her”. And her husband. And her sister who is visiting from England. She is in the hand of God now, and hospice care begins in a home she loves, surrounded by nature in the lovely mountains of Virginia. Nature is God’s perfect creation, we are not. But we all live by the same rules: life, death, renewal; a cycle that continues as surely as the waves meet the shore.

Why is that sad and why does it hurt?

 

Maze

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I saw “maze” and I thought “life”. There’s a beginning and an end, but how you get from A to B is quite unknowable and often unpredictable.

Who hasn’t had a plan for life, a blue print, goals and visions for the future? Some people are more laid back, and take life as it comes, but many more have definite ideas about what they want “from” life, and how they want things to move along.

Life is like a maze. You start out thinking “this will be fun.” You set off confidently sure you will emerge victorious. You will find your way out. After hitting dead ends, realizing you’ve lost all sense of direction, getting hot and frustrated, tripping over a root, and getting hit in the face with an errant branch, you begin to wonder why you thought this would be an adventure.

Anyone who’s lived a while knows that life can run contrary to one’s plans. It happens; you react. You make bad decisions, you have regrets, you say or do the wrong thing, you hurt people you love. You’re learning, maturing, and figuring out that your best intentions do not always have the best outcomes. You move on, wiser for your experiences, even if bruised.

Life intervenes without your permission. A loved one dies; an illness short-circuits your plans; your spouse cheats on you; children come when unplanned, or don’t come when desired; you begin to realize that your life is not what you had planned.

Practice does not make perfect, but it does impart wisdom if we learn to deal with life on life’s terms. This means accepting that you are not in charge — but you do have responsibility for how you deal with life’s bad blows.

I have a friend who has had a recurrence of her cancer, badly, yet she has not lost her sense of humor. She knows this is one of life’s hardships and continues to live each day to the best of her ability, knowing that life is precious and to be lived. We all have only one day, and getting through it will grace, acceptance and a realization that it is how we react, how we get through the maze with dignity and perseverance, is what life is all about.

Dr. Scott Peck, writes at the beginning of his book, The Road Less Traveled, “Life is hard.” Yes, it is, but finding joy and the true meaning of life makes it worth living. What life brings us, may be better, deeper, and more fulfilling than what we had planned.