THE WALKING DREAD

“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” ~ Helen Keller

When out for a walk this morning I passed a young woman, 15 or 16-years of age and her curiosity made her glance at me when she thought I wasn’t looking but as I returned her gaze she turned her face quickly in the opposite direction, ignoring me as if I wasn’t there. I thought, “Where does this behavior come from?” Ah, it must come from her parents. This total distrust of others was likely drilled into her as a child, “Never, never ever speak to strangers.”

I know there are lunatics out there but the fact is the majority, 98.9% (perhaps higher) of the people walking the planet are decent folk, not serial killers. Serials make up .79%, a .79% too much, agreed. I and many, many others are not going to kidnap, torture and murder you or your loved ones so why do the rest of us have to suffer indifference because the 1.1% of crazies causing  this frenzied trepidation?

What we fear, we draw near. It’s a universal law that whatever we direct our attention toward will flourish and grow. The well-known “law of attraction” can be applied to both the wanted, as well as the unwanted experiences in our lives.

All the fretting, dread and dismay churns into confusion and stress passes on to children which they then carry into adulthood. This moderated hysteria can do more to increase your odds of disaster than simply being mindful. Yes it’s important to protect your children and yes, it’s your responsibility to do all you can to help them be aware so they are able to protect themselves. Turning them into unsociable humans with a closed heart shouldn’t be your end result. Where do you draw the line? At your own personal comfort of paranoid protectiveness? Do you shadow them everywhere they go? Do you give them a cell phone at the age of 8? Do you tell them the dangers, the seriousness in graphic detail of what could happen to them should they not follow your rules? My reaction now is one of stress. Can you imagine how the 6, 7, 12-year old child internalize your fears?

I was raised in one of the world’s largest cities and yes, we had demonic personalities but in lesser numbers, or so it seemed. We, the regular, normal, everyday happy folks outnumbered them by far. Are more deranged and demented psychos out there now or are the numbers less per capita than in my youth? Is it simply a numbers game?

I don’t know the best answer except perhaps balance and careful, casual sharing of safety information. Still, I can’t help but feel we are making a world of citizens afraid of each other. We already spend most of our time looking at screens to communicate with one another. Is the future a place where we talk via text messages as our earplugs surround us in our own little worlds?

We can’t control much of anything, not really. By telling a child all they need to fear and what they need to do to protect themselves does nothing but cultivate angst. I can’t prevent a tsunami, halt a car accident or prevent  any catastrophic incident. All the smoke alarms in the world do not prevent fires. Life jackets do not prevent drowning.

At some point we need to let go and allow life to happen. Yes, be mindful of the dangers but not live in fear. It may be the stranger you were taught to ignore is the one person who could save your life.

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment. ~ Marcus Aurelius

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AN AGING PARENT

Recently I have found myself in a position I thought about but never really conceived I would find myself in, taking care of an aging parent. Now to anyone who has experienced this, you know it can be a special kind of hell. It’s not close to the torment that comes from watching a sick parent worsen or suffering through the terminal illness and loss of a child or loved one but it carries with it a strong measure of weight upon ones soul and shoulders.

It is hard to see someone you love deteriorate. It’s hard because it’s painful. The pain comes from witnessing that person become something you know they fear and despise. It’s hard because you are helpless to change the situation for them.

I have realized the only thing of any value or worth, is love and compassion. The love is always there, often strengthening but the compassion can be hard to find as I struggle with my own sense of loss and guilt at being unable to find a solution and of course, my own mortality.  The love you hold for that person can at times feel like a curse and you then curse yourself for feeling this way. Death comes to us all but to watch it is an agonizing test of endurance, a test of one’s capacity to love without anger for circumstances beyond ones control.

Being one who is lucky enough to be blessed with the gene that makes me see the glass as half full, I have stumbled upon a smidgen of goodness in watching the slow decline of a person who owns a piece of my soul.  What I have found is the memory of a life and it richness, its dark moments, its exuberance and zest and a perseverance in humans to always move forward regardless of challenges. I have realized it’s important to listen to the details of this life as she fondly remembers days gone by. To see the joy and connectedness to life as she excitedly tells of a day at the river swimming with brothers or a Father who made pull-taffy as a special treat. She knows now as perhaps she did not know then. how precious those times were. It is deeply true that the only things that count are the minutes, hours, days and years we spend in living a life.

While enjoyable, it’s certainly not important to have the finest china and crystal or the biggest home or bank account. None of these things mean anything, not really. The gift I have been shown and discovered in the eyes of a woman unwilling to admit her health is in decline is that the importance of life, the one lasting part of life, is love. This is the thing you hold in your heart and coddle. This is the only thing you take with you when you go.

While this knowledge does not make the path I must take any easier, it lets me know how I must tread. Softly, compassionately and with all the love I can muster.

While I may not always have you to hold in my arms, I will always hold you in my heart. ♥