Continuing the religious theme of the last post . . .
As an atheist, I don’t pray.
And I don’t particularly like to hear the words “in our thoughts and prayers” because it so often seems a tired cliche people trot out when they hear something bad has happened to someone somewhere, so they don’t have to do anything more substantive about it. When I hear that, my reaction is usually, “Yeah, right.”
I have had people pray for me, though, in my presence, and it will probably surprise you that I don’t mind it. In fact, I’m often touched by it.
Usually the person is someone who I know is secure and genuine in his or her faith;
The person respects that I don’t share that faith;
The person has a kind and loving personality and genuinely cares about other people;
And the person genuinely cares about me.
If all four factors are present and the person wants to pray for me, I accept and appreciate that show of care and kindness.
Proselytize me–No Way. Do it again, and I’m done with you.
Pray for me–Sure, if you’d like to.
We all need acts of care and kindness, of whatever form.
When I was younger and in the grip of undiagnosed depression and anxiety, I was obsessed with time. There was always too much of it before an anticipated event, like a birthday or Christmas Eve or the junior prom, too little of it during the event itself.
I wanted to control time, and I couldn’t.
When I was very young, of course, time was not that important to me. It passed very slowly. Summer vacations from school went on forever, and it was glorious. As I got older, time sped up.
This seems to be true for just about everybody as they pass from childhood to adults. When you’re very young, it doesn’t occur to you that someday you might die. As you grow older, you become more . . .and more. . .and more. . . conscious that you certainly will.
As an adult, I particularly obsessed on the semi-annual time changes from standard to daylight saving time and back again. In the fall, I was delighted to fall back to standard time and get an extra hour for the day. In spring, I mourned the loss of that same hour all day as we sprang forward to daylight saving time.
After I retired, time slowed down again. With fewer obligations, I have become less time-conscious. Today’s change to daylight saving time bothers me not at all–except for having to reset the oven, microwave, and my car.
I am one of the growing number of people, though, who think we should ditch these semi-annual time changes altogether. We don’t really need them, they mess up people’s circadian clocks, etc.
Some states are doing it already, but it needs to be nationwide. Standard or daylight, I don’t care. If you do, speak up! Contact your congressional representatives.
In the meantime, I wish you peace and joy and all the time you want.
I try to find a reason to laugh each day. Faith Hill
You grow up the day you have your first real laugh at yourself. Ethel Barrymore
I laugh a lot at myself these days. I laugh a lot in general: I don’t have to find a reason. It just comes.
That wasn’t always the case.
When I was younger and in the grip of depression and social anxiety, I didn’t laugh nearly as much as I do now, and I almost never laughed at myself.
It was too threatening to acknowledge that I’d done or said something wrong or stupid or embarrassing. This was especially true when I was in high school and college.
One day in my college freshman English class we got on the subject of folk songs and on how to determine a particular folk song’s “original version.” Having discovered folk music in high school, I considered myself an expert in this area. I raised my hand to make the point that, by the very nature of folk music constantly morphing and evolving, it was virtually impossible to determine a folk song’s “original” version.
Only my tongue slipped, and it came out “original virgin.”
Now, this was 1963, and we were a little more prudish and private then about language. At the word “virgin,” my fellow students erupted in peals of laughter. My professor was laughing so hard his face turned deep red, and he had to lower his head to his desk until his laughter subsided.
Meanwhile, I sat through all this mortified. Not only had my very important point about the nature of folk music been lost through my slip of the tongue, but also I had said the word “virgin” in public in front of other people who were essentially strangers.
I sat staring straight ahead, stony-faced, dying of shame, pretending I was not hearing all the laughter around me.
That was the way I dealt with making embarrassing mistakes in public back then. Don’t acknowledge it in any way. Hope nobody notices. If somebody does notice, still don’t acknowledge it.
Twenty-two years ago I began taking antidepressants, and my world changed. I found my social confidence. I found my laughter. I especially found how delightful it is to laugh at myself.
If that “original virgin” slip happened today, I probably would be the first one to start laughing. Like my professor then, I might laugh and laugh until my face turned deep red and I had to lower my head to my desk until my laughter subsided.
Joy and Peace, and Always Keep Laughing,
As Erma Bombeck says: If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.
It seems when people we know suffer a loss or a tragedy, a lot of us have absolutely no idea what to say to bring comfort.
For example, when your beloved companion animal dies, friends with no companion animals in their lives may say, “You can get another one.”
Or my personal favorite,
“It was only a cat (dog, rabbit, ferret, parakeet, snake, whatever).”
When I hear that, I want to smash the speaker in the mouth. My companion animals are my family. How dare you diminish their importance.
When I was younger and struggling with my own undiagnosed depression, I was one of those people who did not know what to say to others suffering a loss. I was so focused on my own misery it was difficult for me to feel true empathy for the sorrows of others. I said a lot of stupid things.
Here’s another of my favorite insensitive things to say:
God will never give you anything more than you can handle.
To me, this is total bullpucky.
First, I’m an atheist; I don’t believe in a god.
Second, if I did believe in a god, I wouldn’t believe in some divine puppet master who capriciously flings down suffering on some and good fortune on others just to see how they’ll handle it.
Third, whether or not there is a god, this is a condescending and patronizing thing to say to someone in pain. It doesn’t help at all. Don’t say it.
Through the years I have learned a lot about things to say and not to say to people in times of trouble. Sometimes I still don’t know what to say. In those cases, I’ve learned the best thing to say to suffering people is nothing at all, but just to be with them.
Sit with them. Give hugs. Hold hands. Take walks together. Let your presence show you care and you’re there for them. And if they want to talk, listen. Just listen, and don’t try to talk them out of their grief with platitudes. Just be, and let your presence and time work its healing.
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My earliest memory is from six days after my third birthday.
I am with other people in a dark cellar, lit only by a small window high on one wall. Someone is holding me up to the window, where I see nothing but dim grey light outside with shadowy objects blowing by.
It is just a brief image. For years I didn’t know if it was a real memory, or a dream.
I know now it is a real memory.
It was April 9, 1947, in Woodward, Oklahoma. I was with my mother, father, and older sister in the cellar of our house, and we were in the middle of an F5 tornado. My sister has told me it happened like this:
If you have lived in Oklahoma, you know that the wind blows all the time there. All the time. It’s a plains state. On this April evening my father noticed the wind had suddenly stopped. He went outside, assessed the still air, and looked up at a strange, greenish sky. Oklahoma is located in the middle of what is known as Tornado Alley. If you grow up in Oklahoma, as my father did, you come to know what that sudden lack of wind and greenish-colored sky means. He came in the house saying we should go down to the cellar.
So down into the cellar we went. Shortly after, at 8:42 pm, the F5 tornado struck Woodward without warning.
Back then there were no tornado warning systems as there are today. So we did not know that this tornado was part of a series of five or six tornadoes spawned by a super cell in the Texas Panhandle. They made a track up through the Texas Panhandle, into northwest Oklahoma, and ended in southeast Kansas, leaving a deadly path of destruction. The strongest and deadliest of these tornadoes was the F5 that struck Woodward, population 5,500.
To this day the 1947 Woodward tornado is still the deadliest in Oklahoma history, and the sixth deadliest in U.S. history. It was reportedly two miles wide when it hit Woodward. It reduced much of the town to rubble, killed over 80 people, and injured 1,000 more. All in a town of 5,500.
Our family survived uninjured and our house undamaged. We were just outside the tornado’s path.
That night, after the tornado passed, and for the next several days afterward my father went out with other uninjured survivors to look for the dead and help the injured. As he worked he took black and white photos of the devastated town.
The map and photos at the bottom of this post are from the 1947 Woodward tornado, but they are not my father’s pictures. His photos were a treasured part of our family history, but after our mother’s death my sister and I could not find them in the family albums at the house. We don’t know what happened to them. Our mother was also a native Oklahoman with a strong sense of state history, and we think she may have donated them to the Oklahoma Historical Society. A generous gift from her to the society’s museum, but a disappointment for her daughters.
Since then I’ve found photos of the 1947 Woodward tornado online, and the pictures here are a sample of them. They are mementos of my first memory and a major event in my life’s history, but it is not the same as having the ones from our father’s camera.
Peace and Joy,
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I am 74 years old, and I have always looked younger than my age. I inherited my mother’s good genes for youthful appearance.
I was carded in a bar on my 30th birthday.
When I turned 40 one of my colleagues at work said, “You can’t be 40! You don’t even have any wrinkles.”
Into my 50s and 60s I was constantly told I didn’t look my age.
I hit 70 and everything changed.
I woke up one morning and found I had crepe paper skin and a turkey neck.
I hardly have any eyebrows anymore. I have bags under my eyes. Granny hairs regularly sprout on my chin.
I listen to classic country music and classic rock and say of current music, “I don’t know how those kids can listen to that shit.”
It’s been ages since anyone asked me if I qualified for the senior discount.
I can’t fake it anymore. I’m old. And the world is recognizing it.
I live in Eugene, Oregon, and Eugene lives for protest rallies. I attended one recently and as I left I was accosted by two men who saw by an item I was wearing that my political views differed radically from theirs. Two young native American women who were passing stopped and told the men firmly to “stop harassing that elderly woman.”
Wow. An elderly woman. It’s finally arrived.
Now I just have to learn to live with it and “age gracefully.” YUCK. I’ll do it, but I won’t like it.
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