This post is not about books, writing or anything that I usually write here. And forgive me, but I think I needed to put these words on paper for myself.
For more than thirty-five years, my career was that of a social worker, therapist, and administrator. During the time I was working as a therapist, I used one particular analogy often. When I was seeing someone who was under a lot of stress, I would say something like this to them. “Imagine you are one of the old school pressure cookers your mom or grandmother used. It had water in it, the lid locked down to the base and it had one of those little doohickeys, (technical term) on the top. When on the stove, the steam built up and the little apparatus on top slowly let out steam so the pot would not explode.” It was at that point some clients were ready to get up and leave my office muttering that I needed therapy. Then I would finish. “Imagine your body is that pressure cooker. When stress builds, and builds (i.e. steam) and you don’t let some of it go, one of at least two things are going to happen. You will get sick, or you will explode, most likely from anger. Therefore, you need to be aware of what’s happening and make sure you are letting some of the stress escape.”
Now we flash forward to 2020 and 2021. You remember that time when none of us had any stress, the world was running along smoothly, we were all happy as the proverbial clam, and everyone was saying ‘let’s hope this time never ends.’ OK, not funny. The world was introduced to COVID, and we became terrified. Hurricanes, giant fires, floods, and everything except Santa Claus was telling us the world climate was going to hell in a hand basket. Let’s not forget another civil war in our country was close to erupting due to our political divide, and remember we passed 20 years in a war that not one in every 500 people could say why we were still marching on, marching on. The blame game has become our national pastime. I believe there is more than enough blame to share.
So I ask how you came through that, or better still, how are you coming through it. Because nothing has really changed, except the names and the dates on the calendar.
Stay with me a few more minutes. Maybe we can think of something a little more positive.
There is a small bright spot if you live in Tucson, Arizona like I do. We recently received more rain in the past three weeks than we had in the past 18 months. No, global climate change has not been reversed, but those of us who’ve seen our green (yes there is green in AZ., not like Colorado, but there is green) become dirt brown, lasting for months are stopping to appreciate the change. We can actually see green on the distant mountains. Tic, tic, tic, a little steam escapes on early morning walks.
Last night in Japan the opening ceremony for the Paralympics was aired on TV. Having watched the Olympic Games last month, I was awed by the athletic ability of those participating and by the pageantry of the opening ceremonies. What I watched last night was far more moving. Hundreds, if not thousands, of athletes have again gathered to compete. Each has some form of disability. Each athlete having trained for years to compete in these games. Observers were told that 15% of the world’s population have a disability. The opening ceremonies were a wonderland of sights, sounds and bravery. One could not watch the pride, beauty and determination of the men and women who will compete without shedding tears. It was magnificent. I can hardly wait to watch the competition. And it really doesn’t matter which individual wins or which country takes home the most medals.
I too could not watch without feeling an incredible humbleness in recalling all the minor things I complain about daily – not enough ice in my tea, my pillow too soft, I had to wait nearly 45 seconds at a traffic light.
Only a single thought about the current events in Afghanistan. Compassion cost you, me, and everyone nothing. Be as political as you want, pick the party you like, but be compassionate. It’s FREE! Tic, tic, tic, a little more stress is released.
Today, by some lucky happenstance, Suzanne and I saw a beautiful and uplifting movie. CODA (Child Of Deaf Adults). It was a beautifully made, acted, sung, written, and filmed movie. It was told in an honest manner that didn’t shy away from everything good and bad that can come to a family. I cried throughout the film, not from sadness, but from the beauty and joy on the screen. It is an unflinching story about life. Tic, tic, tic, more pressure, stress released.
After the movie we had lunch at a Turkish restaurant (Istanbul) here in Tucson. Our waiter, a young member of the owner’s family was as polite, friendly, and helpful as a person can be. The food was delicious, and the beer was cold. We finished our meal when the young man brought us each small glasses of Turkish tea. We left full and smiling. Tic, tic, tic, more steam released.
So what does all this mean? Our personal problems and the world’s problems are not going to go away today, maybe not tomorrow, perhaps never. It has been 50 years since I was sent to war in Vietnam. A disaster in which we as a country apparently learned little or nothing. We are now trying to extract ourselves from our most recent 20-year disaster. What will we learn from it? Let’s hope, work, and vote so that this country does not again become entangled in another senseless war. We have a responsibility to our kids and grandchildren. We have a responsibility to ourselves.
For me, I’m going to try and keep the steam, the stress, the anger, and the blame at a minimum. I’m going to try and remember the bravery and determination of the athletes who are in Japan now. A ballpoint pen running out of ink, isn’t the end of my world. I’m going to try and remember that. I’m going to try and remember with gratitude that I’m not blind or deaf. I’m going to try and be grateful that all of my limbs are intact and that I have, for some unknown reason, been allowed to live a ‘normal’ life. But I know that no one’s life is normal, it is just our life. Everyone has stress, sadness, pain. The one life we are given is all we have, and we can either open our eyes, look around and be grateful, or we can allow the steam to build until we get sick or explode.
My highest thoughts go out to all. Go well. David.