Writer’s Note: Just 2 weeks ago, I wrote the following in my Writer’s Note:
“As I write this, election day is looming with all of its divisive language, inaccuracies on all sides, and overall negative feelings. This precious moment — when Americans get to exercise the cherished personal privilege of voting –— is being drowned out by ugly voices, voices that “bellow” loudly but don’t “say” much. . . Press deadlines mean that by the time you read this, the election will be over and maybe — just maybe — the results will be known. Frankly from where I sit at the moment, I doubt that will be the case.”
While I clearly had concerns even before Election Day that the results might be some time in coming, I had no idea of the kind of delays we would face. As I sit writing this (again days before it will come out because of hard press deadlines), the outcome of the election has still not been certified.
All sorts of accusations and challenges have been hurled. Peace has yet to come to my beloved America. — GP
Dual Lessons in Patience and Gratitude
Ah, yes — at long last it is mid-November and that means that the cypress trees at the lake are turning a burnished rust hue, multi-colored leaves are wafting in the wind after releasing themselves from their hosts, and football is being played once again. Oh, wait. That’s not quite right. Football (high school, collegiate, and professional) isn’t being played in many places as a wicked COVID-19 “ballet” continues to take its toll. Will someone please stop the music?
As we continue to live through two very stressful experiences — the pandemic and the presidential election — voices from all sides urge us (some even beg us) to exercise patience and wait.
with the Pandemic . . .
As for the pandemic, case numbers are soaring once again and we see news item after news item warning us that we must continue to limit our exposure to those who might have the virus. The holidays are checked off for 2020. They will be virtual or nothing.
It has been nearly a year now since the first virus cases were identified in China, and 9 months since America went into “lock down” and our lives were irreparably changed. Just be patient and wait? Are you kidding me? We HAVE been patient, and we HAVE been waiting.
It is interesting for many reasons that a potential vaccine is now being touted as “soon to be available” for our protection. There are, in fact, several vaccines on the march to approval and available for public use. Not all of them are “American made”. It was amusing (to me, but then I have been accused of having a warped sense of humor at times) to see Russia claim that its vaccine is 92% effective as compared to the American one that is said to be 90% effective. There is that competitive spirit in everything, isn’t there?
Joyce Meyer, American author and motivational speaker, once wrote: “Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.” If she is right, then the majority of us have failed. Good attitudes are clearly in short supply.
Patience with Politics . . .
One would think that a global pandemic would be enough to try everyone’s patience, but this year there is an added caveat — a presidential election that has been (and continues to be) both historic and disconcerting. Just like the pandemic, there isn’t one thing about this most recent election that is “ordinary”. We are being urged to remain calm about this, too.
Ironically, this message of calm in the middle of the chaos is popping up everywhere. As it happens, Jim and I are currently reading an historical fiction (The Splendid and the Vile by Eric Larson), that deals with WWII. In it, Larson unfolds the war’s movements from the day Winston Churchill is named Prime Minister on May 10, 1940, until New Year’s Eve 1941.
During this period, the people of London suffer the blitz, a horror that Larson describes in detail using survivors’ own words through their personal diaries and interviews. Just a year earlier (1939) a motivational poster had been created that carried the now famous phrase, “Keep Calm and Carry On”. (The British government was preparing its public for the coming war.)
The phrase became closely associated with Churchill as it seemed to personify his own leadership style. Some 81 years later, that phrase is being heard once again — but this time, on this side of the “pond”.
Some of you may remember the music of Johnny Mathis (1930-2011). His smooth singing style was beloved by many over the decades. He once wrote something about people and their perceptions of right and wrong that seems worth considering during this turbulent time.
Mathis wrote, “People are stubborn about what they perceive to be the right thing or the wrong thing, and it takes a long time to filter this human condition. There’s a waiting period until people catch up. But if you have patience - which it takes when someone thinks differently from you - everybody always catches up. That patience is a wonderful virtue.” I’m more than ready for everybody to get on the same page, aren’t you?
with Gratitude . . .
Almost forgotten amid all of the chaos is that November is also the one month of the year during which we set aside a day specifically to show gratitude for our many blessings. Thanksgiving Day is a very special moment in our hectic lives (perhaps even more so this year?) when we pause and take stock of our lot in life. If we are honest with ourselves, we realize that in spite of things that might not be going the way we would wish, most things are.
It is the balance between these two — what we wish were the case and what is actually the case — that is the most important thing. Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung spoke of this balance. Jung wrote, “Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word ‘happy’ would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.”
Being Grateful in 2020 . . .
There really is nothing as special as one’s family, and we are grateful for ours. Compared to many, ours is very small. Sadly, it was made smaller this year with the death of my only sibling, my brother. We are grateful for the years that we had with him.
Because all of our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren live outside of Louisiana, our collection of friends and neighbors have become dearer to us than some blood kin. We are grateful for them — those people we know we can count on, no matter what and who know they can count on us.
Their constant presence in our lives (albeit at a safe social distance) is the anchor that keeps us connected even with the restrictions that we must adhere to. We don’t all look alike, nor do we come from the same backgrounds, but we share a bedrock of common values that unite us.
Because maintaining good health becomes all the more important as one ages, we are grateful to the countless doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, researcher scientists working toward vaccines and more effective therapeutics, and for all involved in protecting our health. Collectively, they offer the key to the doorway out of this pandemic.
This year more than at any time since I was an undergraduate minoring in history, I am keenly aware of the difference between a free enterprise society and a socialist one.
Jim and I are deeply grateful for this free enterprise society that has allowed us to work hard and reap the rewards of our work. We revere the Constitution, the Founding Fathers, the Electoral College, and all of the other elements that have provided the foundation for our lives.
Is everything perfect? Of course not. Human beings were — and are — involved, and all humans are flawed. Even so, our democratic republic is the best that man has ever produced, and is well worth the time and effort it takes to let it work.
Although all of these are things that I am grateful for, I must confess that I am most grateful that I don’t have to endure another presidential campaign season with innumerable ads constantly bombarding me from traditional media as well as social media!
Add to that the irritation of having “third parties” decide for me what is acceptable speech and what is not. No wonder so many of us are worn out with it. Enough is enough.