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The Gun Control “Debate”

March 31st, 2018

I’m usually apolitical and believe strongly in letting people be who they are.  Of live and let live.  Of you do your thing, and I’ll do mine.  I believe in the Constitution.  That’s not enough on this.

The United States of America has become a dangerous place to live.  Yesterday, my not-so-big-town paper reported the death of a grandmother who was killed in her bathroom—the victim of a drive-by shooting where the bullets were meant for someone else.  I wish I could say this was an unusual article.  It’s not—for my town, for the country in general.

Teenage gang members shoot each other over being “disrespected.”  Spurned lovers shoot their former girlfriends.  Preschoolers shoot each other because they think they are playing with a toy.  Veterans facing the difficult task of picking up a “normal” life after the horrors of war use a gun as a quick way to end their pain.  And then, of course, there are the mass shootings where “motive” is elusive but the death toll is very real.

A recent online article by Business Insider claimed that the likelihood of dying from gun violence is 1 in 315, and that’s not counting the suicides and accidents.  In 2015, nearly 14,000 people were killed by firearms assaults in this country.  That would be the whole population of the town I grew up in.

In the US, more people die from being shot by others than die riding in a van, truck, or car. And the mass shootings?  “In 2015, some 333 mass shootings left 367 people dead and 1,328 injured. The statistics rose in 2016 to 383 mass shootings, 456 deaths, and 1,537 injuries. In 2017, there were 346 mass shootings that led to 437 deaths and 1,802 injuries.” (From the same article.)

We have to do better.

Gun rights advocates rally around the Second Amendment as if it were the only thing written in the Constitution.  Let’s put it in perspective.  The first written statement in our birth as a nation is the Declaration of Independence.  It does not mention the right to own guns, but it does state that all have a right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  The very first words in the Constitution itself state its purpose is to “… to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure the domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,  promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”  The Constitution was ratified in 1788.  The Second Amendment was not added until 1791 as part of a cluster of ten clarifications.  Clearly, the right to own guns was not the most important thing.  The right to live in peace is far more central.  Losing this many Americans to gun violence every year is NOT peaceful.

What’s even more absurd is that gun control isn’t about deleting the Second Amendment itself.  The push if for sensible gun control.  How can any sane person argue with that idea?

Arming teachers will not solve this problem.  Who do you arm to prevent a suicide that was too easy because there was a gun on the premises?  Who do you arm to keep the four-year old from shooting his six year old sister when he finds a loaded gun under the seat of the car?  Who do you arm to help that grandmother killed in her bathroom?  Getting more guns out there isn’t the answer.

There will always be resistance to changes needed for the common good from those who are going to lose something.  The farmers who benefitted from DDT…  The smokers who now have to go out of the building (and stand in the rain or snow) to pollute their lungs…  But the “rights” of a few should not override the legitimate needs of the many.  If the NRA and all gun advocates were really intent on the good of the country–as they want us to believe they are, they would be at the table trying to solve the problem, not in trenches lobbing grenades at those who recognize the need to do it.  (And to those who despicably altered photos to make “news” about the kids who’ve had the courage to stand up and start these dominoes falling, there are no words to describe how low you have stooped.)

Cowardice is cumulative and compounds.  When our elected officials were cowed by the gun rights lobby and let the ban on assault weapons expire in 2004, it started a downward spiral that has expanded for 15 years.  Now those same leaders are too timid to object when the President of the United States refuses to call out an international thug.  They turn a blind eye to that same President’s cyberbullying and moral turpitude. They can’t find a way to get work done on any front because cowards are afraid of anyone who is not just like them.  They hide in their bunkers and pretend to be strong by yelling at each other instead of having the courage to approach those who are different to work together.

We are far more than this as a nation.  And we have been given the chance to start over–by kids.  We don’t have to accept “it’s complicated” as an excuse for inaction.  So what if it’s complicated.  It still needs to be fixed.  Gun ownership is just like owning anything else.  You can’t do whatever you want if you own a house. You’re subject to requirements and restrictions if you own a car.  Such limits are for the greater good.  Common sense gun control is no different.

Every one of us needs to stand up now and insist that this be done.  Yes, we can vote differently next fall, but we can also speak up now.  Insist that your elected officials come around on this–not all of them are going to be up for reelection.  It’s time to fix this.  Way past time.

Note:  The Business Insider article can be found at

http://www.businessinsider.com/mass-shooting-gun-statistics-2018-2.

And if you’re wondering, Business Insider is rated as politically “center” by AllSides.

 

As We Change Presidents…..

January 30th, 2017

It’s just a new President.  Really.  The Constitution is still in place.  The Congress is still there.  (I was going to say “functioning”, but that would be a new development of late.)  The Judiciary branch is still doing its thing.  We have just changed one piece of this amazing puzzle of a democracy that has worked so well for over 200 years.  The sky is not falling.  Really.  It may be rattling a bit with the change in how the wind is blowing, but it’s not falling.

The angst with this particular election outcome is unique.  It’s as if the whole country has forgotten that one party wins and the other loses every time we do this.  To the “victors” each time comes the hopes that they are going to get things exactly as they want.  To the “defeated” comes the frustrating truth that they will have to wait.  And that’s never the way it turns out.  Neither party ever gets  things exactly as they wanted!  Because we are all part of this.  Not just the “winners.”

It’s as if people are assuming the President is an absolute ruler who does whatever he wants and has the right and the role to change whatever he chooses.  Donald Trump may even believe that.  It doesn’t matter.  That’s not the way we role as the United States of America.

This is about ALL of us doing what we can to make this country a place we can all live together–fairly and at peace with each other.

If you want a great country, add some effort of your own.  Little easy things can help a lot.  Donald Trump may say he is going to Make America Great Again.  But that ain’t gonna happen if it’s just him trying to pull it off.  Particularly if what he thinks would be “great” isn’t what the rest of us have in mind.

If you refuse to do anything to improve the situation because you hate Donald Trump, you’re missing the point:  It’s not his country!  It belongs to all of us.  Refusing to make things better because he is part of the picture makes about as much sense as refusing to plant a garden because you don’t want to eat the peas you spouse always plants.  SAVOR THE REST!

Martha Beck once wrote: “The happier you are, the more joyful the whole world becomes.”  At a minimum, do something to generate joy.  In  your loved ones.  In  yourself.  In the people you meet while waiting in line for your coffee.  We can start to turn this around just by being nice to people every time we can.

We do not need to let this become a war.  If we become happy enough, Donald Trump will be superfluous.  If he truly is about “making America great again” even he would be happy with that.

Come on!  Smile at somebody!

 

The ONE THING None of Us Should Eat

January 12th, 2017

Okay, okay, you’re tired of all the do’s and don’ts about what to eat.  One week coffee is bad for you, the next “they” are saying two cups a day will help avoid dementia.  Red wine is good…but not too much…or maybe only on Sundays.  And what’s the deal with kale? Or whatever. All this advice leads us to consume large quantities of the one thing we really do not need to be eating: FEAR.

There’s a lot of “information” out there about how eating this will stave off some awful illness and about how eating that other thing will trigger something terrible. Such advice is everywhere and often in contraction to other advice.  So you can’t do all of it (and who in the world really wants to?)  Still, “they” say this is important.  We want to be safe, to avoid the horrible “maybe” mentioned.  So instead of acting on our own behalf, we worry.  Worry is just another word for being afraid (passively).  Have another helping of fear, my dear!

Our current culture is very good at fretting about damn near everything. What if I take that job, and then there’s a lay-off?  What if I say the wrong thing, and I get a reputation for being policially incorrect?  What if the incoming Presidential adminstration is as terrible as my favorite news site says it will be?  Oh so much can go wrong.

And it may.  But that’s not the biggest problem here.  When we take this stuff in and let it define how we live, life becomes a prison cell.  There will always be something dangerous that might hurt us.  Trying to avoid all of it is like trying to avoid breathing nitrogen–which is a normal and major component of air–but not what we need to live on.  We don’t use the nitrogen but it doesn’t harm us if we are doing the natural thing–breathing it back out.  Same deal with fear.  It’s out there, and we need to notice it. Then the natural thing is to let it go. When we worry instead, we hold it.  And it imprisons and weakens us.

Life is dangerous.  Standing there paralyzed with fear is not going to change that. All it does is removes the chance to live happy and free.

It’s not just the nutrition experts  force-feeding us this bad stuff.  We get far more information about the “dangers” inherent in being alive than has ever been the case before.  We have access to massive amounts of information from a wide array of sources on devices we can use 24/7.  The message of “Be afraid” comes through loud and clear–and often.

Even worse, those who want us as potential customers–for them or their advertisers– will hype that “news” so it becomes even more terrifying.  This is NOT good for any one of us.  (It may, however, be very good for business.)

And it’s not the natural way for us to feel fear either.  When there is a real and present danger, fear is an ally.  Fight or flight–DO something.  All this “informational fear” isn’t like that.  When we are encouraged to be afraid of things that might happen, we move to a situation that denies any chance to effectively eliminate the fear by acting on it.  The possible terrible thing has not happened.  All you can do is worry that it might. We take the fear in and hold it.  Some day we may learn that doing that is the leading cause of heart attacks…  Fear generates stress.  We know stress messes us up a lot physically.

So, instead of actually eating and holding all that fear, we might be better off with something like the following:

  • Avoid clicking on all the sensationalized headlines about whatever thing to avoid, remove, etc.
  • Ask yourself if whatever advice you just read feels right to you.  Intuition is one of the best fear interceptors going.
  • Can you reasonably mitigate what they have said might go wrong?  If so, do that. If not, FORGET ABOUT IT.

Repeat after me: I will not eat fear.

Well…THAT didn’t work….

January 12th, 2017

My hope with switching to the author website, marylloydwriter.com was to give myself room to address whatever topic made sense at the moment.  However, an interesting peculiarity developed that made it difficult to post anything at all:  When writing fiction, it’s important to keep the voice of the story and the characters at the forefront. Blogging in my own voice messed that up.

I also realized that between the archived blog posts of The Silver Mine and the content dense www.mining-silver.com website, this is a better site to continue.  So let’s do that.

To get on with that approach, I just need to give myself permission to write whatever I want here.  (I was the only one making up rules in the first place!)  Thank you for your patience.

I hope you enjoy these new variations on my thought soup.

Where Did She Go?

September 17th, 2014

This stretch has been the first time in over six years where I haven’t posted to The Silver Mine weekly.  I had to let it go to test whether it belongs in my updated life.  I miss posting.  But it’s time to let go of the emphasis on retirement related topics.

That was an important set if issues to address when I started focusing on them in 2006.  Now, there are many resources and lots of capable voices advocating for making this stage of life more than a matter of waiting around for the trip to the funeral home.

When I got fired up about how badly we were “doing retirement,” my path had been toward life as a fiction writer.  I’d been concentrating on screenplays at that time, but now I want to go back to my first love–writing novels.

As a first step on this new version of that journey, I’ve released my first novel, Widow Boy–a historical thriller about a woman who finds justice for her murdered husband in the gold rush town of Cripple Creek by masquerading as a boy.  It’s a fast read with a gentle touch to the history and technology of Colorado gold mining in the 1890’s.  I started the story 20 years ago.  (Luckily, research for a historical novel doesn’t need to be updated if you don’t get on with publishing it right away….)  I have worked through it with two different critique groups over long periods and am proud of the quality that’s resulted.  I sincerely believe it’s a great read.

It’s available on Amazon in both paperback and for the Kindle.  If you want to read it but can’t afford either of those, e-mail me (mary@mining-silver.com) and I’ll let you know when there’s a “free day” for the Kindle version–which you can read on your computer if you don’t have an e-reader.

If you do read the book, I have a favor to ask.  Reader reviews are a critical piece of getting the visibility a book needs to succeed.  So please do a quick review on Amazon or Goodreads.  Or tell your friends.  Or recommend it to your book club.  Or give it as a gift.  We find the best reads by word of mouth and I’d like to be part of your communication chain if you like this one.  Thanks.

I am also working on a new website that will give me greater freedom to write on whatever topic inspires me.  That’s where I will be posting in the future.  This is the 299th post on The Silver Mine.  The 300th–and last–one will provide the link to that site once it’s live.

Thanks for reading The Silver Mine, especially to those who did so regularly.   Being read is the greatest reward for a writer, and I appreciate your support.

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Mary Lloyd is a writer and former retirement expert (and natural gas industry executive, statistics instructor, stay-at-home-mom, crutch maker, etc.)  Her first novel, Widow Boy, was released on Amazon on Sept. 12, 2014.  She also wrote Supercharged Retirement:  Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love

 

Ahem…about Your “Stuff”…

July 7th, 2014

It’s time to admit something important. At some point, someone is going to have to deal with your “stuff”. We don’t seem to be aware of this as we keep adding belongings.  Clutter is just a fact of life, right?

We keep stuff for all kinds of reasons–  “I might need it…”  “It was Grandma’s…” “I might decide to go back into that line of work…”  But the ongoing accumulation of “things” is a slow motion disaster.  A few weeks ago, a woman in Connecticut was killed when the floor of her house collapsed—because of the weight of the stuff she had on it.  They didn’t find her until two days later; the volume was so massive that it looked like the floor was still there when the police checked initially.

That’s an extreme case, but we’re all affected by “stuff.” If you haven’t had to deal with someone else’s after they’ve died, count yourself lucky. If you have, you know what I’m talking about. But here’s the deal. If you can’t face dealing with it, how can someone else—who knows a whole lot less about it–manage to do it after you’re gone?

My family just went through this. Six siblings plus a dear and unflinching sister-in-law hauled load after load out of my youngest brother’s 900-square-foot home for five full days. We got rid of over 100 cubic yards of “stuff.” Don’t naively assume it was just a case of walking it to the dumpster again and again either. Landfills have rules these days. You must dispose of electronics, assorted batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, oil-based paint, other hazardous materials, etc. in very specific ways—or face a fine. There’s a whole different routine for latex paint. Plus, if those doing the disposing have half a conscience about environmental stewardship, there will be trips to the local food bank, Goodwill or a similar second-hand store, and perhaps the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore to donate appropriate “stuff.” And there will be lots of trips to the recycle center.

Accumulated “stuff” is not the benign, minor flaw we want to believe it is. Letting stuff you don’t need, don’t use, and don’t care about pile up, leaves less space, resources, and time for what could bring you joy now. Holding onto too many things from the past means you don’t have faith in the present–or the future. It’s also a waste of money if you’re insuring, maintaining, paying for space to keep, and otherwise lavishing resources on all that “stuff.”

My loved one didn’t set out to leave a huge mess for the rest of us to clean up. He felt he needed everything he acquired. That’s how we usually amass stuff…a teeny bit at a time, time after time. But “stuff” doesn’t go away on its own. Somebody is going to have to deal with it eventually.

All six of us siblings came home vowing “I’m not going to do that to anybody!” so I’ve been thinking a lot about what I can do make getting rid of my “stuff” less of a burden when I depart. Everyone’s list will be unique, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
1. Clean out the file drawers! Going through files is huge time sink for next of kin and I can find most of what I’m keeping online if I do need it.
2. Make sure my kids really want what I’m keeping for them.
3. Whenever I learn someone needs what I’ve discovered I have (and don’t need), give it to them.
4. Mark the contents of boxes I do keep. Include a “Get rid of after ___” date to avoid going through boxes again myself when I can.
5. Donate to the food bank from my pantry. (This gets food I bought for a unique reason and then didn’t use onto someone’s plate rather than sitting on my pantry shelf until it expires.)
6. Dispose of the old paint immediately when I repaint. (But do keep the new paint for repairs.)
7. Be honest with stuff I get as gifts. If I’m not going to use it, return it, donate it, or regift it.
8. Remove anything I haven’t worn in the last year from my closet. Donate what I’m willing to part with. Put the rest in a separate stack. If I don’t wear it in another 12 months, donate it then.
9. Go through my bookshelves quarterly. Pass on anything I don’t expect to read again.
10. Leave notes for my loved ones about what’s what and how to get rid of it.
I want to do this right. From what I’ve seen lately, it’s a really good way to say “I love you.”

This article originally appeared in the July 2014 issue of Barbara Morris’s online newsletter Put Old on Hold.
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Mary Lloyd is a writer and speaker and author of Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love. Her first novel, Widow Boy, will be out Sept 15. For more, see her website.

How Do I Know?

June 27th, 2014

This post is mostly an e-mail from my sister Kathryn Winz, retired professor and part-time caregiver to two beautiful special needs grandsons.  It grew out of a conversation we’d had the week prior about how to know when you are no longer able to do what you’ve been doing effectively.  She did such an eloquent job of bringing an even larger issue to light–that sometimes the pros who are supposed to be telling you how don’t know themselves–that I asked her permission to use her words.

You remember how worried I was, when we talked last, about installing a deadbolt lock keyed from the inside, to keep Ezra from running away in the middle of the night? I installed the lock, even though there is a chance of a medical emergency in which I won’t be able to open it.  A week later Kelly told me this while she was cutting my hair: her Uncle Jimmy, who is 42 and has Down syndrome, needs another hip surgery because he has a difficult time getting up and down stairs. He and his 85-year-old mom live alone in the big old family farmhouse, where the only bathroom is upstairs. Isn’t your family worried? I asked. They have always been this way, and they’re fine, Kelly said.

Well, I don’t think they are fine. Nobody manages forever in such a difficult situation. So I scheduled an appointment at my local counseling center to talk about how to recognize signs that age has started impinging on one’s abilities.  I asked if they had an expert on the problems of aging, and the receptionist assured me that they did.

I met lovely, fragile Gloria in the waiting room. Her long silk skirt billowed a little in the air conditioning. She looked carefully around the empty space (it was late in the day – the receptionist had gone home), going down the short flight of stairs to look near the front door. She came back toward me and said, “You must be Kathryn.”

Her office would have pleased Bilbo Baggins, or Merlin. Things were arranged four-deep on every surface. Pictures of adorable children and grandchildren, toys that I believe belonged to the kids back in the 1970s. Mementos of travel. Diplomas from everywhere, including Masters and Johnson. I was looking at a rich, full life, I knew. I tried the leather chair, and sank so far I knew I would have trouble getting out at the end of the hour.  So I moved to the couch, and sank again.

I told my story. “Don’t borrow worry,” Gloria said. “Do you have your grandsons living with you?” No, they visit every weekend, I told her, again.

“How old do you think I am?” Mid-fifties, I answered. ” I’m seventy three,” she said. “I don’t worry.”

“Your daughter must really need help,” she said after fifteen minutes of somewhat inane conversation. “Are you able to help her at all?” Yes, I said, the boys often stay overnight with me. But I don’t know how I will be able to tell if that is not safe anymore.  “Don’t borrow worry”, she responded.  I wondered if in her intro she just picked an age one year older than the client in front of her.  Maybe she didn’t even know how old she was.

I remembered my colleague who in the final years of teaching his crime lab course made his students fingerprint each other for an hour every class for the whole semester. That’s all, just taking fingerprints, even after the messy process of inking had become obsolete.  He doesn’t even recognize his children any more.

And then there was another friend and long time prof who infuriated the dean because he could talk for an hour about anything, but when the hour was done, you couldn’t pull out a single point that he had made.

How will I know? How can I tell when I am no longer making sense and providing for others safely?  When someone grabs me by my spindly shoulders and says, “Get it together!” I guess.  Or maybe I won’t know, and there will be a disaster.  I won’t borrow worry.

But this is a legitimate worry and an issue worthy of a good plan.  So what do you do?  How do you know?  She and I had another exchange of e-mail where we took it beyond “asking a professional” (who might be beyond that needed awareness personally).  Professional counseling is good for many things, but for this, you need people who have known you for some time and care about you.  People who can say, “Your driving is deteriorating.”  Or “Do you realize you’ve said that three times since I stopped by to visit?”

This is the work of the courageous and the members of that advisory council need to be carefully chosen.  We need to find them and sincerely ask for their help before it starts to become a concern.  This isn’t a way of giving someone else the authority to limit our lives.  It’s the most effective means we have of accurately seeing reality if our own grasp of it starts to loosen.

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Kathryn Winz is retired and is a delightfully diverse fiber artist.  Mary Lloyd is a writer and speaker and author of Supercharged Retirement:  Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love.  For more see Mary’s website.

What Can I Do About Mental Illness?

June 18th, 2014

My youngest brother died a month ago. It was sudden. It was a shock.  But it was somewhat expected.   He hadn’t even made it to 60, but his body was giving up on him.    His mental health was declining even more rapidly.  That was an “elephant in the living room” though.  He’s been mentally ill since grade school but he did not—and would not—acknowledge that.  We all danced around it in trying to relate to and help him—with varying degrees of success and compassion.

Along with the grief and sadness of losing him, I am feeling relief.  He lived on the very edge of our common reality, and that made him vulnerable to every well-muscled redneck with a dislike of “weirdos.”  Now that he’s passed, I can let go of the worry and helplessness of not being able to protect him from 2000 miles away.

But I’m also relieved that I don’t have to try to communicate with him anymore.  It was very hard work.  That relief brings regret—I wish I had done more to make sure he knew I loved him, even if his replies sometimes came in such word blizzards that I couldn’t take them in.

My brother “made it home” without getting beaten up.  He also didn’t hurt someone else—a consequence of mental illness that we are seeing more and more.  The killing rampage at UC-Santa Barbara is just the latest example of how much is wrong for so many.  Why are disenfranchised, angry men (yes, virtually all of the rampages have been instigated by men) deciding the “solution” to their own demons and nightmares is in killing other people?

I can grasp that my brother’s disconcerting behavior was because of illness, and that it wasn’t’ something he chose.  It wasn’t something he could change.  But that didn’t solve the problem.  The illness itself made the likelihood of him agreeing to the help he needed unlikely.  The mentally ill 20-year old who went berserk on the UC-Santa Barbara campus had parents who were desperately trying to get him help.  It wasn’t enough.  What do we do with this problem?  How do we stem this epidemic?

What can I do?  What can any of us do that might make a difference?

Trying to get these individuals to change to what’s more familiar and comfortable to the rest of us does not work.  That’s like expecting a person without legs to grow them because you bought them a new pair of socks.  Getting them to take medications for illness they don’t even think they have is a hard sell.  Plus how much are the meds contributing to the situation?  Side effects can take years to manifest and what’s good for one body might not work in the next one—or the 100,000th one.

Is there a way to mitigate this that starts before the alienation becomes extreme?  Can we do anything to keep this deep, painful version of aloneness from developing?  One idea keeps coming back to me.  Perhaps part of this deluge of horrible personal atrocity starts with a lack of connection that each of us really could be doing something about with very little risk to ourselves.

What would happen if we all tried to be friendlier—even to the kid who’s looking at his shoes the entire time you talk to him?

What would happen if I smiled at strangers?  Would it help if I gave a friendly nod to people who don’t seem to be “like me”?  What would happen if we projected an attitude of acceptance in casual encounters?  Like saying “Hello” or “Hihowareya?” or “Howzitgoin?” to those we pass.  And waving to neighbors.   Maybe offering a simple kindness like letting that meek person with two items who’s behind us at the checkout go first.    Would this start to change if we were all a little warmer automatically?

This year’s commencement speaker at the University of Texas was Admiral William H. McRaven, Commander of Special Operations and a highly decorated Navy SEAL.   As part of his comments, he talked about the compounding effects of what you do to help other people.  His point: if each member of that graduating class did something to improve as few as 10 other people’s lives, they really could “change the world” over generations.  (Check out the whole speech, about 20 minutes long.)

Maybe simply noticing the people who are “not like us” and being friendly is where we need to start with changing this.  We’ll only find out if we try it.

This article originally appeared in the June 2014 edition of Barbara Morris’s online newsletter Put Old on Hold.
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Mary Lloyd is a speaker and writer and author of Supercharged Retirement:  Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love.  For more, see her website.

Savoring Summer

June 2nd, 2014

I just caught myself doing the unthinkable–worrying that summer is going to be over before it’s even started! Time for me to refocus on how to savor the pluses of the moment instead of worrying about what’s likely to come after them.

I live in the Pacific Northwest–with some of the best summer weather you will ever find anywhere. In addition, because of where we sit on the globe, we get really long summer days (balanced, of course, by really short winter days, but we don’t need to get into that right now).  We do have rainy days and cool weather as part of the overall summer pattern, but summer here is largely a matter of moderately warm, mostly dry, and more often than not sunny.

The last few days of May were a delightful hint of what my particular environment will be like for coming months–sunny with highs in the mid- to high 70’s.  As I looked out at all the gorgeous green and listened to the bird song, I caught myself in a disconcertingly negative thought though.  In 20 days, we will begin the progression of shorter days again.  Once summer starts, we’re marching toward winter.

Oh come on!

There is always a progression going on.  Sometimes we know what the next thing is going to be (drizzly gray days that go dark at 5:00).  Sometimes we just project what we’re afraid it’s going to be (boring, scary, not-fun, demanding…whatever).  The point is the same regardless:  When you fail to notice the good stuff going on right now and focus instead on worrying about something less positive that’s on the way, you are squandering your life.

Most of us learn to worry before we even make it to high school.  Noticing that something might go wrong is useful–it gives you a heads-up so you can do what’s needed to make it go right instead.  But not noticing that things are going right at this very moment makes you miss the real sweetness of life–the delight of really living those moments where “all’s right with the world.”  That is a tragic waste.

The sun is shining.  The sky is blue.  The birds are singing.  I’m on it.  I’ll worry about winter later.

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Mary Lloyd is a writer and speaker and author of Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love.  For more, see her website.

Grieving by Peeling Onions

May 26th, 2014

Sometimes you have to peel onions–not to make stew, to make sense of what’s just happened.

Last week, my youngest brother died unexpexctedly. It was a massive coronary event and we’ve been assured he didn’t suffer. But he only got half of the “Live long; die fast” mantra to work. He wasn’t even 60 yet.

Shock comes first. Deep sadness quickly after. Then a whole bunch of stuff that you never expected that feels an awful lot like peeling onions. When your family dynamics get adjusted, lots of stuff bubbles up through the new cracks.

I am part of a fiercely loyal family with seven kids. We take care of each other, whether it was running for help when a neighborhood bully was hurting a sibling at the playground or anteing up to cover expenses for someone who truly needed an assist. That doesn’t mean the relationships have all been smooth as gourmet ice cream. That was particularly true of this brother since he had both physical and mental health challenges of significant proportions.

So in addition to the sadness of losing a family member, there are assorted versions of relief, some of which don’t feel very noble.  I am relieved that he won’t have to go into assisted living.  We weren’t even sure we could find a place that would accept someone with as many challenges as he had.  I am relieved that he got “home safe.”  He lived life differently than most and that made him vulnerable to physical attack from someone bigger and afraid of those differences.  But I am also relieved that I don’t have to worry about what he will need next.  That’s the not-so-noble one.  They are all part of peeling the onion.

What I definitely did not expect was the flood of memories that have come that have nothing directly to do with this brother.  He wasn’t even in the band.  But in talking with one of my other brothers, the memory of a band director who died in my junior year of high school returned.  My brother worshipped him and still does.  I thought his death was a miracle.  Much as I didn’t have the words then–and was way too naïve to use my brain to figure it out–I knew the man was grooming me.  Now we call those people sexual predators and they go to jail.  When I was in Catholic high school?  Not gonna happen.  But then he died and I was safe.  Why is my other brother’s death making me experience all that again?

There are other traumas, experienced long ago and buried that are bubbling back up now, too.  I was not ready for that, but I need to let it happen.  Perhaps my outer shell is more easily cracked because of the primary loss.  Perhaps it’s just time.

I want to honor my brother for who he was–and he was a rarity.  He was amazing with his grasp of physics and mathematics.  The web of fantasy he constructed inside our reality was in a class by itself.  He was not a “regular guy” but he was, even with the distortions his mental illness caused, a good person.

He is giving me something in death that I could never had gotten out of conversation with him.  His death has presented the chance to peel another onion–to go deeper into who I am because of what I have already experienced.

I will miss him–do miss him.  And I will keep on peeling onions.  I promise.

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Mary Lloyd is an author and speaker.  For more, see her website.