Smash a window – a vote for Trump

The anger at police brutality is entirely understandable. The consequent demonstrations are against institutional racism in a so called democratic state, the USA.

It is easy to understand the anger of the institutionally deprived and abused, but the break down in law and order is benefitting the Trump election message. In all this confusion, and it is confusion, the American electorate are dividing into sub-groups with varying goals emphasising differences not common beliefs. This is definitely in Trump’s favour.

Smash and grab opportunism powered by frustration and years of deprivation is driving a wedge between the haves and have nots. We must be clear, many wealthy liberals will support the cause of anti racism, that is, till someone throws a brick through their window.

The response to personal loss is always defensive. “Who did that? It’s unreasonable, I want protection, I want law and order, I will vote for Trump!”

Despite the great majority of peaceful protestors, the lunatic fringe, are stealing the show and taking away the focus from institutional racism to ‘law and order’. How you get this message over, I have no idea. If you do, please do it.

Growing Old – Gracefully 6

A dignified and positive end.

In our earlier discussions we have examined all the positives we can apply to make our lives as full and fruitful as we can make them.  Growing old for all of us is not without a certain inevitability. We often avoid the subject – but life, we all know, is finite.

Birth, life and death we all experience it.  For the life of me I have no recollection of my birth, but having witnessed two since that time, it seems to me, that birth is a bit of a stressful time for mother and baby. Whilst we all know mum suffers, it can’t be much fun struggling down the birth canal. For all that, birth is a joyous occasion and family and friends welcome another human. The pain is washed away, as we embrace a new life into our world.

At the other end of the spectrum, when someone dies, we are almost always washed in sadness and grief.  The end, of life and of being comes to us all, fulfilling life to the last moment is something we should all aspire to do. Like flowers or trees we fade either with an onslaught of sickness or a gradual failure of our vital organs. Sometimes peacefully, sometimes in agony. There is no escape.

As with birth, beyond our knowing, as is death unknown.  Like all creatures and plants we dissolve back into nature.  There are as many theories and religious beliefs about the afterlife, many are a great comfort to many.  However, they all accept our physical end. However we dispose of the physical remains, it seems to me, it doesn’t much matter.

What does matter, is that the end of life is as fruitful as it can be for both the departing and those who remain. The majority will leave this existence with reluctance, many will leave relieved and others may leave in darkness and pain. In our western society where often people die alone, we should consider such happening a disgrace.  Surely everyone who passes deserves to have their hand held.  Alas it is not so. Whilst we may not mourn the lonely we can strive, at least, to lighten their darkness by giving them some of our time.

There are many institutions who give that special care, they cherish the lost, embrace the lonely and heal their pain.  There are hospices, and shelters, there are hospitals and homes, in all these places human dignity is upheld by those who care. Praise be, they are many, their name is legion.

Some people experience severe emotional and physical suffering at the end of life despite receiving excellent palliative care. Research shows that 17 people a day in the UK would die in pain even if there was universal access to the highest quality palliative care. There are other symptoms beyond pain that cause suffering and not all these symptoms can be controlled. They include nausea, constipation, fungating wounds, faecal vomiting, and rapid loss of blood caused by terminal haemorrhages. There are those with terminal illness who see themselves progressing toward death hopelessly losing their abilities to breathe, or swallow, in constant anguish. They want to be helped to end their suffering.  Losing autonomy can also result in severe psychological suffering. Those opposed to assisted dying acknowledge there will always be a group of people whose suffering cannot be relieved by even the best palliative care.

I believe the case for assisted dying is unassailable, of course with all the legislative safeguards. Those who are dying, without hope of recovery, and who are suffering untold distress need to be loved and their suffering put to an end by mutual consent. Love and care come in many guises.

Growing Old – Gracefully 5

Humankind above all else is a society.  From time immemorial the human tribe has grouped together beyond the immediate family. In common with most sophisticated creatures. Like other apes elephants and whales we have interacted not only within families but identified social groups as an essential part of our existence.

Yet, today it is as if we have come full circle.  Loneliness has become a major scourge in modern society. Modernity and attendant mobility has influenced traditional family and social groupings. This particularly true for the elderly, who in many cases live the late part having lost their partner.  The inevitability of life’s end can and does lead many to surrender to ‘nothing and loneliness’.  

So far, we’ve determined that making the best of our physical attributes and our intellectual powers will create a more positive life.  However, without social intercourse of whatever nature, our lives are still less than full. 

All of us can sit at home, be it a warm house or a mean tent, and hope that something happens, or, we can create relationships.  Once more we are responsible for our own lives, it is you and me who must reach down within ourselves and make a positive move. For those who are physically disabled to those still riding a bike, we can all smile, show warmth, reach out, ask, and give thanks.  These are all positive moves, these gestures are investments that by and large will earn a return. Don’t look down, look up! Looking down is to escape, looking up is to join in. Looking down is to close, looking up is to open.  

Why do we close down? Why do we allow ‘nothing’ to invade our lives?  Usually because we are afraid, afraid of rebuttal, of being humiliated in whatever form. In black and white this seems ridiculous, but the single biggest reason we deny contact is because of fear of rebuttal or humiliation.  In fact this is simply not true. In the vast majority of cases looking up, smiling saying hello or thanks will result in a positive response.

There are many channels that are there for the very purpose of helping us communicate, these include vast numbers of charities, from the Salvation Army, to Citizens Advice.  However none of these can excuse us from looking up and initiating contact with our fellow men and women.  No matter how old, how infirm, how handicapped you feel there is nothing that is better than looking up and initiating contact even in the most modest way, such as a simple smile, or hello.

There are many who are lonely despite being in a relationship.  Where communication is stunted, where there is little apparent common ground.  In many cases the idea of love has faded, where caring interest is passed.  Were we ever in love? Did we ever care?

The same sentiments of self-help  apply, as someone very wisely remarked – “being in love and staying in that happy state is very much an act of the will.” So is being a member of our human society, an act of our will.

 Look up! Tomorrow is another day to be lived as fully as we are able.

Growing Old – Gracefully 4

In the last few days we’ve talked of the aspects of aging, from avoiding ‘Nothing’, making the best of whatever is our physical condition, managing our emotion positively and today we’ll discuss managing our intellect and how that can contribute to creating a more fulfilled life, even in our most advanced years.

Intellect, is a big word, and like most big words harbours all sorts of predictive behaviours, mainly defensive.  Intellect, though, is just the name for your thought processes and whether you’re a professor or a shop worker, you still have a thinking facility.  True, some intellects are more powerful than others, but rather like making the best of our physical attributes we can make the best of our intellectual prowess in a similar way. It is often said that we use very little of our potential brain power, and physiologically this is true.  There’s a lot there we have never used.

The obvious question is how do we reach down within ourselves and stimulate our thinking systems to regenerate our enthusiasm, or discover new horizons? Maybe we want to learn, it’s never too late? Maybe we want to re-examine our own history, maybe we want to travel in our own minds or through our physical world?

Many of us have hobbies, from gardening, playing golf to knitting, is doesn’t matter as long as that hobby does not become a companion of ‘nothing’. There is comfort in the familiar, and I do not mean to decry that. To enjoy familiar company, or tasks for their reward is wonderful, but If our hobby no longer stimulates, it has become an excuse to avoid discovery and curiosity.

It is also true that as we age we become less and less tolerant of change, we become set in our ways. It is part of who we have become. A little self-criticism from time to time, does no harm.  It can and should be a stimulus for change, it is the hardest thing to do.  Reinforcing old habits be they good or bad in effect closes our eyes to the ever changing world. If we are to remain a part of it, if we want to be, that’s the secret that so many of us have lost.

Can we learn? Can we share? Can we discover parts of our own minds that have lain dormant for years?

We said that there are enormous number of ways to waste what time we have and be numbed and dumbed by ‘nothing’ but at the same time there exist a growing number of ways to experience and learn. There are still innumerable sources of enjoyment and enlightenment from the written word, through sport and competitive games to the digital media.

Perhaps the most stimulating way of using our intellect is in conversations with our fellow man.  These are challenges and choices that we make every day. We can choose to watch some mindless game of chance or read a book.  Creativity is not the preserve of the young, we can all have the ability to discover.  No matter what our age we can find a joy in discovering something that is new, at least, to us. We can choose whether to have a nap or take in some music, or enjoy a magazine. There is purpose in our being, whatever our age, and that purpose is our individual gift. To ignore it is to throw away our life.

Growing Old – Gracefully 3

In the last two blogs we’ve looked at getting ourselves together and starting off by making the best of what physical attributes we still have.  That was the first step in avoiding ‘Nothing, boredom and loneliness’ the three great enemies of the elderly.

Today I want to beat the bushes about how we keep our minds positive, especially the sentiment and emotional side of life. What do we mean by ‘emotional’?  I refer to the rollercoaster of life, the thrills and spills, the happiness, the misery, the excitement, the boredom.  The boredom is the still neutrality that sucks the light and life out of us.  Excitement and affection are the opposite side of the coin.  These emotions are positive and life enhancing.

Finding stimuli to excite us is absolutely one of the key issues and drivers in making our lives worthwhile.

 There are many of us who are recovering from loss, many others full of regret about mistakes of the past. In these circumstances it is easy to see the slide into negative introspection. Regretting or mourning for persons and things past can lead to lonely self-doubt and a foundation for regret. 

Memory, the longer we live the more is packed away.  All of us have good memories and bad memories.  They are by and large inescapable, but we do have a conscious choice about which memories we chose to dwell on. Additionally we can interpret memories, as for example the sadness of loss or the happy memories of time spent joyfully. The emergence from grief varies with each individual, but ultimately we have a choice of what to emphasise when choosing memories. Accepting loss, or mistakes as things we can no longer change, varies individually, but a way forward is what we must search for.

There is little doubt that bad memories thrive when we are lonely and happy memories emerge more easily when we are socially engaged.  We will discuss social drivers in a later blog.

In our late life roller-coaster we need to find and enjoy the things that excite us.  For many the following generations are the source of enthusiasm and excitement though for many this may not be the option or choice. Finding that exciting focus is a goal in itself, and we would do well to spend positive time examining what really ‘turns us on’.  What lights up what maybe a fairly dull world, how do we find that beacon of purpose?

Being in love is not the sole property of youth, being in love in one swoop generates all the excitement you’ll ever need even if it means devoting your like to caring for your loved one. For those where the burden has grown too hard seek help, do not give way to misery and distress.

Step 1, if it makes you smile, you are on the right track.   We can do it, if we try!

In my next blog I will be visiting the intellectual aspects of growing old and there, the emotional and the intellectual objects of excitement merge rather than collide.

Growing old – Gracefully 2

Physical Wellbeing.

Growing old they say is not for sissies.  If ever there was a truism, this is it.  We all have to face some deterioration of our physical being with age.  None of us, however are the same.  Some of us are fitter than others, some have ailments varying from tiresome to life limiting.

Our prospects might vary from; I will almost certainly pass in the next three days to, if I am lucky and positive, I can live another ten or many more happy years. The key here is, it doesn’t matter how much time we have. It is making the best of it that counts.

I am not being naïve here, I recognise that closing a life with as much comfort as possible is always valid as is extending and a fulfilling one.  Whatever our situation keeping ‘Nothing, boredom and loneliness’ at bay is what will underpin a fulfilling life, however long or short.

For the purposes of these blogs, I will gently, (as I can) point to those of us who are aware of our age but unsure how to live it.

Making the best of our physical attributes is absolutely key, and of course the variation in capability varies hugely from one to another. Nevertheless, there are things we can all do if we want to enough. Wanting to stretch, to stand, to walk, to jog, to exercise within our limits, yet doing enough to make the best of what we’ve got, is not as simple as it seems.  Firstly the enthusiasm to start is elusive.  It is much easier to say to oneself, I’ll do it tomorrow, and tomorrow almost never comes!

There are more excuses not to do anything, our inventive minds know few bounds.  There can always be a reason why NOT to do something.

We have to believe that if I want to live then I must be as fit and active as I can. This might mean anything; from sitting up, standing tall, riding a bike or taking a walk.  Whatever it is, we must have the get up and go to start.

We all have within us a starter button, it’s called enthusiasm. Appropriately from the Greek ‘the God within’.  Finding the starter button is the problem, how do we generate the enthusiasm to change our behaviour, to break a very entrenched mould?

This is the start, you can do it.  Do it, do it now!

Growing Old – Gracefully.

One of the great issues with growing old is the inevitable physical deterioration. Of course this can sometimes be mitigated to various degrees.  In the event of progressive and inevitable slowing down of our physical capability, ‘Nothing’ remains the main cause of physical deterioration, depression and associated anxiety. Clearly it is a fact that you cannot run as fast at eighty as you could at eighteen, our mortal coil changes with age, and so it must. Nevertheless sustaining our life and making it worthwhile is what we all strive for, but frequently forget how.

There are several manifestations of ‘Nothing’ getting the upper hand.  In our age of instant gratification the temptation to delegate your mind to the mindless is almost infinite. For example watching TV is perfectly OK as long as it doesn’t turn out to be an excuse to do ‘Nothing’.  Watching TV or listening to the radio are often described as ‘company’ for the lonely, and indeed at can be seen as such, however, passive listening or watching without purpose simply closes down the active mind.

I don’t mean following a dramatic series or soap, listening to a concert of your favourite band or a sports event such as golf or cricket.  I mean just watching anything to combat boredom.  Boredom and ‘Nothing’ are close friends. They are an evil pair that stalk us twenty four hours a day. The third member of the killing trio is loneliness.  Loneliness is the scourge of our modern society, it destroys self-esteem, closes our minds, and envelopes us in ‘Nothing’.  By loneliness we do not mean those who seek a solitary existence, loneliness is quite different, it is mean and destructive, it feeds on boredom and ‘Nothing’.

The following sections in this series will give you some insights into how to avoid ‘Nothing’. Believe me, ‘Nothing’ is a killer.  It is the fact of the matter, that escaping nothing prolongs life.  Having objectives, targets, ideas, ideals, and affection are all life enhancing.  They are all within us all if we reach down within ourselves to live a fuller and more enjoyable life.

Please let me know of your ideas to brighten the lives of those who are mature.  How we can as individuals and as a society enhance and improve our own lives and the lives of others.

Fighting Time.

What’s the point of time past, it’s done, finished,

tomorrow matters so much more, but it looks empty

and mean, the coldness of that empty day aches

in my aging limbs. Gone has the speed of youth,

gone has the lust for living, and winning ways.

Today time has ticked slowly by, tick tock, tick tock.

Yet these vital seconds have vanished in a trice

down an empty space, invisible, vanished for eternity.

What can I bring to tomorrow? What can all this vanishing

past bring forward to give some future purpose?

Alas, the creative power of my youth is vanishing,

consumed by speeding, greedy time.

taken on the wind of time, each gust a day less to live.