Adding a little romance to the past helps it go down easier

We’ve all heard it before, and it makes sense. We can’t live in the past or the future. Life is given to us to live in the now. The now is where our heart is beating, our brain is functioning; where we are experiencing in real time all the universe has to offer.

At my age, no one must convince me that this minute is all I’m guaranteed. I know this on more than one level: intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally; however, that doesn’t prevent me from traveling back in time to enjoy all the good stuff that used to happen.

It’s funny how the mind plays tricks on us. For me, and the same may hold true for you also. This trickster does its best work during difficult times, or when it’s at maximum rest. It’s impossible for my mind to not draw comparisons. I find myself comparing tastes and smells of the food I’m eating now to this same type of food served up by my grandmother, may her soul rest in peace. I’m continually making comparisons to the music of old, the fashions of today with yesterday, as well as the overall condition of things in the world. And, as I do this, without failure, I add sprinkles of spice to my past experiences that weren’t there at the time.

Life was so much more simple back in the day. Simple doesn’t mean it was better, but somehow the simplicity of it translates into a more peaceful, more soothing, more pleasing visit in my mental time machine. The reality though is that if you’ve lived three score and eleven, you’ve been a witness to an abundance of the bad, the good and the ugly. There was lots of joy, lots of pain, lots of confusion and other life encounters that left scares which are still here today.

I can recall countless discussions I’ve had with my children about how they live their lives. It has taken me more than half a century to stop comparing their lives to mine, during my earlier years: how they make decisions, how they manage their finances, how they choose friends, and a host of other quality of life issues. (Well, in all honesty, I do this less now than I used to; however, I do want to stop.) Truth be known, it wasn’t any easier for me as it is for them. Dumb decisions, regretful mistakes, embarrassment galore were my lot just as it is for them. To give a truthful rendering of my past that provides life lessons, I must often ensure that all the salt is left in the mix.

I think when it’s all said and done, most of us can’t help but add ample amounts of spice to our yester years. It makes for better stories, and it’s a bitter pill, in some cases, that goes down a lot easier.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

                        I’ve seen it all

I sometimes joke about how getting old isn’t for sissies. I know that’s probably not a politically correct term to use. I guess I could say for the weak, but that wouldn’t have the same effect. Getting old is perceived as a burden by some, and a blessing by others. As you know, I choose the later characterization as my preferred way to look at this event.

When I was a much younger person, I didn’t understand older people saying that they wouldn’t live life again as their younger selves. As I looked at an older person back then declaring such a statement, while looking a bit frayed around the edges, I thought there was something wrong with them. They would also make comments like youth is wasted on the young; youth is something wonderful, it’s a shame that it’s wasted on children; and other light pejoratives. I would look at them with a little frustration and think you’re just jealous. I wouldn’t dare make a comment that might generate an argument. Back then, young folks didn’t argue with their elders. We had been trained to show respect even if old folks had no idea what they were talking about.

Now, I understand well what the old people used to say. As I look around to see the old people, I see myself and those of my generation. There is some discomfort that comes with growing old; however, who in their right mind would want to go through some the growing pains we experienced to reach my age of seventy-one? My experiences have taught me that Nirvana (never to be achieved in this life) is a fairy tale concept of existence. It also has taught me that much of the stuff I’ve gone through, I wouldn’t wish on anyone. I’m now at a point where wisdom is my gift, and I’m yet in possession of a good amount of mental and physical health to use as I navigate through my latter years.

There’s a Biblical verse from Ecclesiastes 1:9. “What has been will be again, and what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Now, that I’ve reached my age, I’ve witnessed several repeat occurrences in life. Their flavor, smell, and sound, indeed their essence remains constant. Maybe the title of this piece isn’t accurate, bit it’s pretty darn close. (I could swear I’ve seen what’s going on in Ukraine before, and maybe more than once.)

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

It’s hard to put a positive spin on this:

As with you, I’ve been watching the events taking place in Ukraine. I’ve dubbed this the World’s War. Contrary to World War I and II, when much of the globe had participants involved (officially) in the conflict, this relative disruption in world peace doesn’t rise to that occasion. It does, however, have impact of worldwide proportions, thus it’s the World’s War. (It’s a hairline fracture of a difference, but a difference anyway.) After only ten days, this perfect example of man’s inhumanity to other humans is affecting people around the world. Here I sit in Little Rock, Arkansas, United states of America, where some would have difficulty locating on a map, already observing the cost of many things beginning to rise. Inflation had already started to take its toll on living, now the wanton act of a deranged, paranoid leader, thousands of miles away from my front yard is affecting my family and me. Of course, my paying more for gas to fuel my car, food to fill my stomach and other staples of daily living, in no way rise to the level of experiences the Ukrainian fathers, mothers, brothers, sister and others are suffering.

One of the things, I often think of as good is the ability of the media to bring the world, the good, the bad and the ugly into my living room. I sit in the comfort of my home, and I get a reasonable facsimile of the images, in the streets, on the ground being created in Ukraine. I recall this ability played a key role in turning the tide of public opinion in the 1960s, when images of Black young people being abused by police with dogs and water hoses, while publicly protesting for their rights, as American citizens were broadcasted for the world to see.

Crazed leaders aren’t as rare as we might think. I can think of a number who’ve graced the headlines during my lifetime: Idi Amin, Hafez al-Assad, Osama bin-Laden, Al Muammar Gadhafi, just to name a few. Please don’t read anything into the fact that I only listed some from Africa and the Middle East. Let’s not forget Hitler and Stalin. Paranoia, thirst for power, or some other warped motivation leads folks like this to actions that are downright criminal, depleting the planet of innocent lives as cavalierly as dropping a hat.

Everything I’ve talked about to this point is certainly negative and it’s hard to put a positive spin on any of it. However, I want to draw your attention to a few things that are just as negative. The reports coming out of Ukraine about African students being turned away from trains and other means of transport, as they make attempts to escape the advances of the Russian military is shameful, to say the least. There were quotes in my newspaper this morning attributed to some Ukrainians that indicated comments are being made about why Black folks are being allowed exodus. There are, similar reactions from Ukrainians about Indian expats, too. Shouldn’t there be an open and equal opportunity for all who are stuck in this God-forsaken predicament to escape without regard to color or ethnicity?

I have earnestly prayed for the Ukrainian people. Aren’t wars started by government leaders, not our neighbors down the street or around the corner? However, those neighbors and friend are left with no choice but to sacrifice their comfort, and even their lives to protect life, limb, and country. This is the case in all conflicts of this sort. I may be way off target here; however, I don’t think I am when I say that the press can’t but show its bias. We’ve been bombarded with images of Ukrainians carrying their gathered goods, families with children sleeping in abandoned subway tunnels, and other heart wrenching images of people transitioning into refugee status. All our hearts are pricked at such sights. I ask that we all think on this for a minute: estimates (according to the UN Refugee Agency) for 2021 were eighty-four million refugees worldwide; there is civil war taking place in the Northern Tigray region of Ethiopia, which has thrown over two million people into refugee status; West Africa has seen several attempts at coups in recent months. We have seen reports of these tragedies, but have the reports been as in-your-face as what we have seen and continue to see from Ukraine? All human suffering is tragic and it all warrants reporting to the world. We all should be either made conscience of what’s occurring everywhere or be left to as ignorant as possible without regards to the sufferers longitudinal/latitudinal location.

World peace is something I would love to see before my exit from this life. No matter my comparative evaluation, I continue to send up prayers for all in God’s creation, who are suffering by the hands of the darkest on individuals.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Gene Roddenberry’s dream is good medicine for today

Lately, I’ve been blogging some of the posts I’ve made to Facebook. Here’s one I did back on February 28, 2015, the day after Leonard Nimoy died.   Some of you may know that I’m Star Trek fan from the day it was first shown on television.  Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the original Star Trek, came up with something that has held my attention for fifty-six years.   

I can clearly recall in 1966, when I developed a strong affinity for Star Trek, many of my hormone-raging friends saw no value in the show. The term nerd wasn’t popular back then, but I’m sure many would have applied it to me. The death of Leonard Nimoy yesterday, got me thinking about how Star Trek dealt with many of the prevailing social issues of the times: war, prejudice, cultural diversity, and just about every cultural conflict that was contemporary. I think the reason I liked the show so much was that it dealt with an imaginary time in the future when many of the social ills we were facing in the sixties had been successfully tackled. Many, but not all. The reality was that if sentient beings dealt with each other relationally, there would still be conflict.

Spock was particularly fascinating because he was different in so many ways, yet his differences didn’t prevent him from doing his best. The problems others had with him was just that, their problems.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

                Lemon aide philosophy

Lately, I’ve been paying attention to the posts I’ve made to Facebook through the years. Each morning when I boot up my laptop, Facebook displays something I’ve posted from years ago. Hear is a post from February 26, 2014. I know, it reeks of some sort of dime-store philosophy; however, in my humblest of opinion, I think it has some redeeming value. 😉

Since I’ve been retired, I’ve been noticing a lot more things, just things. One thing is obvious, many of us are caught in a loop, like the movie “Ground Hog Day”. If you find yourself wondering why each day is just like the one before, stop for a moment and ask yourself this question: Why don’t I change it? If each day presents you with the same old basket of lemons, a bucket of water and a few cups of sugar, don’t just look at them as normal, mix them up and make some lemon aide. While you’re at it, look around, God might have even blessed you with a few cherries, allowing you to make some cherry lemon aide. (Sorry for the five and dime philosophical gibberish), but Facebook keeps asking what’s on my mind.) 🙂

God bless you all…

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Taking stock of being old and blessed

Occasionally, I must take stock of what being old and blessed means. Below is a Facebook post I did seven years ago today. It causes me to be even more grateful for getting older. If you know my story, you know there were forces against me getting to this point, 71 years old. My diagnosis with multiple myeloma (a type of blood cancer) twenty-two years ago, as of March 12, has made getting old a whole lot sweeter.

I remember when I was young, I feared the experience of getting old. Now, I take retrospectives and realize how important experiencing journey really is. A journey of miles, times, and years, provide opportunities for growth and development in ways that are invaluable. Once you have decades of life behind you to review, you are greeted with the wonderful reality that old age is great! The older you get, the more panoramic the view of the life you’ve lived becomes. I’m convinced that God blesses us with old age for many reasons, and it’s more than just to say, I’m old.”

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

                       Those folks

A couple of days ago, I was sitting in my dentist chair having a bridge placed. I had to have this done due to a tooth I recently got extracted. After three surgical attempts to save the tooth, over a five-year period, it had to be removed. Over the last two decades, I’ve been visiting my dentist far more than I would like. I can remember the days when each checkup was a pleasure, no follow up visits for fillings, root canals and the like. Unfortunately, my diagnosis, almost twenty-two years ago with Multiple Myeloma has brought with it more dental issue than I care to enumerate. The chemotherapy and other treatments have brought with them more cavities and necrosis of jawbone tissue. (Thankfully, the latter is in less amounts than with some Multiple Myeloma patients.

I won’t bore you with a litany of all the visits to my dentist I’ve had over the last two decades. No. That’s not the focus of this blog. What I do want to share is the number of people, professionals and non-professionals who have been in my life over these past seventy-one years, who’ve been bright points of light. People, who if they hadn’t been there, I might have experienced a different outcome.

My dentist is a highly skilled, knowledgeable professional, who is comfortable at acknowledging her short comings. I have every confidence in the treatment she provides; however, she’s never hesitant to refer me to someone else for a second opinion whenever she’s meandering into an area of practice, she’s not familiar with. I remember my first visit to her office. She was young, not as skilled as she is today, starting a small business. She mentioned to her assistant, while placing my bridge that she and I had grown old together. Two years ago, she sold her business, because she was tired of all the responsibilities that come with running a business. However, she decided to remain in the practice, because of her patients. She didn’t want to leave them to the care of someone they didn’t know. I’ve had other medical professionals mention to me the excellent quality of the work my dentist has performed on my mouth.

My optometrist, mush like my dentist has been with me for decades. He was a young professional the first time he examined my eyes. A much more knowledgeable, older optometrist had hired him. As time went on, he bought the practice from this older fellow. His resume is much the same as my dentist, even to the point where he sold his business three years ago and decided to remain in the practice because of his patient.

My oncologist who diagnosed me with Multiple Myeloma has retired. His world-renowned research has advanced the treatment of people with Multiple Myeloma to the point where life with this horrible disease has become much like living with a chronic health condition such as high blood pressure or diabetes. The doctors and advance practice nurses and other health professionals who took the baton from him have continued to provide me and others with a quality of care that, not only treats the disease but encourages patients to do all we can to live life to its fullest.

The teachers, the professional associates, the family members, the friends (an accumulation of brilliant stars) too many to mention, who’ve lifted me up in ways too tremendous to describe have been there for me. Some have been paid healthy sums of money, others have received nothing in terms of monetary value, but they all have extended to me themselves. They’ve been real, caring people, who appreciate the importance of relationship. I thank God for all of them!

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

        The least of these have stories, too

I think it would be safe to say that bloggers are people who like stories. Why else would we search our souls for words to symbolize the experiences of others and ourselves, then put them out there for others to read, like, hate, feel no emotional charge about one way or the other?

There’s an account Jesus gives in the Book of Matthew (Chapter 25, verses 31 – 46) where he talks of the judgement that will come. He gathers the righteous onto his right and the unrighteous to his left. He makes a statement to those on his right: “I was hungry, and you gave me food, I was thirsty, and you gave me drink, I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me.” Of course, they haven’t a clue about ever having done this. Jesus gives a surprising answer: “Assuredly, I say to you, since you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.” Jesus’ response can be applied to many other experiences or denied experiences of the least of these.

Whether we read books, magazines, newspapers, whatever the case might be, do we ever stop to think that the words we’re digesting have been penned by someone who couldn’t be counted among the least of these. Our society always rushes to get the stories of the rich and famous, the not-so-rich but famous, those who have some means of getting their stories out. For example, I’m certainly not rich and famous, but I do have a decent education, and I can afford to purchase a computer and pay the annual cost for using the platform supplied by WordPress. Furthermore, I have just enough confidence, some might call it ego, to pen various musings and to think people will want to read them. On the other hand, the least of these don’t have the elements just mentioned to produce their stories and deposit them into cyberspace for others to read.

I’ve written previously about my experiences growing up poor in Cross County, Arkansas in the 1950s. It would be safe to say that I was certainly viewed by Jim Crow society as being among the least of these. I was part of a demographic that contained countless stories; stories of joy, pain, suffering and success despite insurmountable odds to navigate daily. I often think of the thousands, and tens of thousands of stories that have gone untold by the marginalized people of society. I’m confident that these stories would fascinate us to no end. They would clear our minds of the stereotypes often harbored society. We often hear from those who reside on the other side of town that the poor are lazy and continually looking for a handout. I don’t remember, from my childhood, any poor people sitting around waiting for handouts. The least of these can’t speak that power to truth; thus, unscrupulous politicians paint, with broad brushes, stories about countless numbers of welfare queens, who rob the public coffers.

Art, as it imitates life, just might look a bit different if more content about the least of these, told by the least of these was available.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

P.S. In honor of Black History month, I’m reminded that Africans, who currently reside on this side of the Atlantic Ocean, have a history that started millennia prior to slavery. That’s a least-of-these story yet to be told in any significant volume.

               The joy of doing nothing

On December 13, 2018, I posted a blog titled Can we slow things down a bit? In it, I drew a comparison between the digital world in which we currently live versus the analogue world into which I was born. The analogue world I was brought up in gave us time to relish, to ponder, to take it all in before action was required. The digital world of today is continually pushing us forward to make decisions, to quickly take the better fork in the road, to balance multiple offerings without spilling one drop.

This blog from December 2018 prompted me to think about the art of doing nothing. There’s a trending movement now that promotes the idea of slowing things down. Roses are there for us to smell, not just view. These folks who are promoting slowing things down are unknowingly after my heart. However, I’m going to move the needle a bit more to the left and embrace the concept of taking time to do nothing.

Some of the best times I have is when I’m sitting alone in my home office quietly listening and there’s nothing to hear. The sound of nothing is soothing, calming, rejuvenating. Obviously, since my mind is still working as it should, these quiet moments allow thoughts to creep in. Seeds for creative activities are sewn, and I experience some of the best times I could ever have.

I just exited a Zoom call with several folks, who sit on the Little Rock City Government Racial and Cultural Diversity Commission. I, too, am a member of that group. Our premeeting activities meander into a conversation about being busy. A couple of people talked about how they must have daily to-do lists, calendars, pinging notifiers on the smart phones. With all of this going on, they always felt as if they were accomplishing little, but they were always busy. I posed the question: Why do you feel you must always be busy? A guinea pig on a treadmill is busy, but the repetitive circular movement accomplishes little for the good of things on a larger scale.

Some people seem to have a fear about doing nothing. They’re convinced that doing nothing will include them in the ranks of the lazy, the trifling, the uninteresting. They must always project the image of the charged, locked and loaded, ready to do.

There’s a strange irony about doing nothing, and folks like me have figured it out. One can never do nothing. If I’m lying on the sofa, doing nothing, aren’t I communicating to anyone who sees me that I’m lying on the sofa. My body always communicates regardless of the state in which it might be. Lying on the sofa might be the best thing for my body at the time. That instance of doing nothing might give me needed rest, a time to recharge, to think of a solution to an issue that’s been confounding me for a while.

Doing nothing just might be the one of the best stress relievers a body could use sometimes.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Random thoughts when you don’t have the details

This is another one of my posts I did on Facebook. I posted it seven years ago. I have mixed feeling but this now, I think I’ve grown a bit since then.

I try very hard to never generalize, or paint with a broad brush, especially when it comes to human beings, but occasionally, I have an experience at a motor vehicle registration office, or a post office and the term “good service” just doesn’t apply. Have you ever gone to the post office when the line is backed to the entry door, and there’s only one person serving at the counter? Furthermore, for some reason the individual at the counter seems to work even slower as the line gets longer. And to top that off, there always seems to be some other associate walking back and forth from somewhere in the back, but this person doesn’t help serve the ever-increasing line of customers.

I’ve come to suspect that somewhere deep down these public servants realize they’re the only game in town. You get it from them, or you don’t get it.

As I said, I don’t want to generalize, because on some occasions I get the best customer service one can want at these places. It’s unfortunate that the sour-faced automatons ruin it for the good ones.

I know this isn’t nice, but sometimes…

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.