Do You Need Help? Please Reach Out.

You only get a little bit of this. You’ll have an eternity of that.

I’ve spent the morning watching the many dance videos of the amazingly talented Stephen “tWitch” Boss. Those videos used to bring me joy, but currently they just make me sad. I don’t know why I’m watching them now. Am I hoping for some kind of clue as to why someone who always projected joy and a love of life would choose to take his life in such a devastating way at age 40?

It’s true that no one really knows what’s going on behind someone’s public persona. There is no way to know what demons he was battling. He had no history of depression or drug use. His family life seemed incredibly happy. They had just moved into a 4 million dollar house, and in a recent interview he and his wife said they were thinking about having another baby, and he seemed very excited about that.

Every single person who knew him and released public statements seems to be in agreement about several things. tWitch was a joyous, positive, energetic person who lit up every room he entered. He was more universally loved in the dance industry than any other dancer. He was crazy about his wife and kids. If he sensed someone was having any kind of problem, he was always there to help.

So far, no one has said that he gave even the slightest indication that he was struggling in any way. Even the staff at the motel where he chose to end his life said he seemed pleasant and showed no signs of distress when he checked in. No one mentions him having any health issues, either mental or physical. No one reports him having said anything the least bit concerning in the days leading up to his suicide. Everyone who knew him, and every fan who loved him, is in shock. This came out of left field.

But this was not an impulsive suicide. He had given it some thought. He walked out of the house with just a small bag, probably containing the handgun. Instead of taking his car like he always did, he called an Uber. That Uber took him to the motel within walking distance of his house, and that’s where he shot himself. That leads me to believe that he didn’t want his family to have to deal with the blood and gore. He didn’t want them to remember the sound of the gunshot. It appears that he didn’t even want to inconvenience anyone by making them have to go pick up his car after he was gone. (And/or maybe he didn’t want anyone to see his car in the parking lot before the deed was done.)

He left a cryptic suicide note that alluded to past struggles and challenges. But if those struggles and challenges were in the past, why would he take his life now? We’ll never know, and that’s the worst part about it. We’ll never understand. I don’t suppose it matters if his fans ever understand, but I’m sure his loved ones will never completely understand, either.

That’s the cruelest thing about suicide: The people you leave behind are not only devastated and mourning, but they are also faced with the prospect of never having closure, ever. They get to walk around for the rest of their lives with a rusty, serrated blade in their hearts in the shape of a question mark.

It’s natural to want answers. But I have a new theory about suicide in general. I’m no professional, so I could be way off base. But here it is:

I think people view their lives as linear, with their past stretching straight behind them, and their future straight ahead. That’s a big mistake. That would mean that if you are standing in a bad place, you might assume that you can “look forward” to a future that will be equally bad. It is much easier to despair under those circumstances.

The thing is, our lives aren’t linear. I know that mine has taken several radical turns over time. There is no way I could have seen this future. I kind of wish I could have, because it would have been very comforting to realize everything turns out so well.

Suicide means you never get to know what’s around those corners. You’re selling yourself short. There are so many things that can radically change your life. Your path will change every time you make a choice, and you can kick-start that change any time you want to. Your life will change, too, due to outside elements over which you have no control. That makes the journey an adventure. If you leave before your time, you miss all of that.

The biggest secret adults keep from children is that even when you grow up, you never have it all figured out. It would be pretty darned boring if you did. Please don’t underestimate your potential, and don’t underestimate the world.

According to NBC News, the average person who is struggling with a mental health issue takes 11 years to seek help. That’s heartbreaking, and so unnecessary. If you are in crisis, please call 911 for emergency services or go to the nearest emergency room.

If your struggle is less urgent, then reach out to someone you love and trust, or reach out to a mental health professional. You don’t have to be alone in this. You can also call or text 988 to connect with the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. The Lifeline provides 24-hour, confidential support to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Support is also available via live chat.

Stick around. Savor every single page in the book of your life. As someone I loved very much used to say, “You only get a little bit of this. You’ll have an eternity of that.”

So, what’s your rush? Stay here and see how the story goes. I’ve never known anyone who regretted having done so.

If you had any idea the lengths I had to go to to make this image, you’re realize how sincere I am about this.

Piercing the Veil

Our automated world will mean we’ll have a short life after death.

If I’m still a blogger when I die, I’ll have kept about a week’s worth of posts in queue to be posted in the near future. So for a week after I’m gone, it will look like I’ve continued to blog. Some people will know and will probably find these posts to be poignant.

Others won’t have a clue. If those others care enough to think about it, they’ll see the blog abruptly cease in its efforts to provide content. How long will it take for them to realize I’m not coming back?

I hope that whatever I post toward the end isn’t highly controversial or too upsetting, because I won’t have the opportunity to respond to comments. I can hardly be expected to clarify from beyond the veil. And bloggers tend to only be as good as their last post, so I hope it’s a doozy.

The fragility of life is never very far from my thoughts. Someone I loved very much died unexpectedly, leaving a lot of loose ends. For example, he had dropped off a small travel trailer for repair, and nobody knew where it was. I’m not sure it was ever found.

From that experience, I learned that life is like a soap bubble. One minute you’re here, and the next you are not. Even if it’s expected, it still feels abrupt.

Now that we live in such an automated world, though, we will all, for a time, still be making moves in the living world after we’re gone. Our alarm clocks will go off. Our calendars will still send reminders. Our phones will ring with notices about medical appointments. Our coffee machines may still make coffee. Perhaps our cars will warm themselves up if it’s a cold day. Our motion detector lights will still get triggered. Our Amazon packages will continue to arrive. Netflix will still recommend movies we may be interested in. The spam will keep on coming.

There’s even a service called Death Switch that you can enroll in so that certain e-mails will automatically be sent to people after your death. Mixed emotions about that. The last thing anyone needs is a hostile posthumous message from a black sheep relative. On the other hand, it would be good to be able to tell a spouse where the password information is kept.

Many of us long to communicate with those who have gone before us. I’d love to know if my mother knows how my life is going, and if she is proud of me. I have no idea.

But I highly recommend that you avoid getting psychics to commune with the loved ones you have lost. Charlatans can prey upon your vulnerability and desperation to make contact. For a small fee. But here’s something I’ve always wondered: If psychics are strong enough to pierce the veil and talk to the dead, how come they can’t get the dead to specify their exact names, other than “It starts with an N…”, and they can’t get the dead to say how they died other than, “They’re indicating something in the chest area…”

If there really is an afterlife, and these souls have the presence of “mind” to reach out to you, it would be a cruel joke if you were both forced into a game of charades. I find it hard to believe that these people, after having made so much effort, couldn’t articulate details. Plus, it’s a lot easier to say “My name is Nancy” rather than pantomime an N. And of course they’d know how they died. It was a rather transitional moment. But they have lost the vocabulary to describe it? They can’t even write it out in the ectoplasm? Becoming more stupid after death would be my definition of hell.

Longing for comfort is not an unusual thing, though. Personally, I’ll take a sign wherever I can find one, even if it’s a long stretch. I of course have dreams where I talk to loved ones. And when I see a dragonfly, I believe it’s my abruptly departed loved one saying hello, even if my logical, more scientific side might whisper, “Sometimes a dragonfly is just a dragonfly.”

Every once in a while, I’ll be alone in a closed room and will suddenly be overwhelmed with the smell of cigarette smoke. I have decided that this is my father checking in. But that is really a stretch, because he never did that in real life. Not once. No child support. No birthday cards. Nothing. It amuses me, though, to imagine that the best he can do is pelt me with a foul odor.

A few times when I was young, I visited Cassadaga Spiritualist Camp in Florida for one of their message services. And a few times I was stunned at how apropos these messages seemed. But I bet they would have seemed apropos to anyone in the audience. We humans all have a desire for connection, and are quite capable of finding one where none exists.

Before my mother died, we were joking about Cassadaga. She asked me not to visit the place after she was gone. Why? Because she “won’t want to be bothered.”

That, in a nutshell, is everything you need to know about my mother and her humor. But a big part of me still hopes that she sees what’s going on in my life, and that she’s able to feel proud.

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Stupid Deaths

There are many options to choose from, but don’t.

A friend of mine just posted footage of some people on a beach in Lake Tahoe. Bucolic enough, until I add that there was a mama bear and her three cubs walking straight toward them. And they see that, and don’t seem to care at all. They’re too busy sunbathing to worry about minor details like their imminent demise. When in doubt, save the freakin’ beer.

IDIOTS!!!

I was just telling dear husband the other day that when I die, I hope it’s not because I’m being stupid about something. There are so many stupid death options out there to choose from. Most intelligent people value their lives too much to “take advantage” of those options.

For example, you won’t see me driving while intoxicated. I’m also not going to cross train tracks when the traffic gates are down. Nor would I ever jump an opening drawbridge. But you’d be amazed how often these things happen.

I’m also not going to eat something that can kill me if it’s not prepared just right. Fugu can’t taste good enough for me to risk my life or it. Nothing can. I’m also never going to ingest something without knowing what it is, even if everyone says the high is awesome.

I also have zero desire to play with explosives or fire or deadly weapons. I think a lot of stupid deaths are caused by youth and arrogance. That whole, “It can’t happen to me” thing is ridiculous. If it has happened to someone, then, by definition, it can happen to you.

I’m not saying that people should be so cautious that they don’t live their lives. If that were the case, no one would ever walk across a street, even if the traffic lights are red. We’d all be paralyzed with inactivity.

It’s a statistics thing, really. If I want to enjoy the redwoods, I’m not going to cancel my trip to see them because one person was crushed by a falling redwood. I just won’t wander amongst those trees during heavy winds or rains, and will heed all warning signs that I come across. Calculated risks. That’s the ticket.

Currently, 95 percent of the COVID-19 deaths are by people who refuse to get vaccinated. The fact that this whole issue was ever politicized is a travesty. Going without a mask while unvaccinated is not living free, it’s living stupid, and potentially dying stupid. It’s entirely preventable at this point. There’s absolutely no valid excuse.

So if you’re thinking of juggling chainsaws while walking a tightrope across the Grand Canyon, I’d urge you to think of the consequences and consider how much you value your life. Because there’s nothing quite so pathetic as having someone stand over your grave, shaking his or her head, saying, “what a stupid, unnecessary waste.”

The ultimate form of recycling: Buy my book, read it, and then donate it to your local public library or your neighborhood little free library! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Our Altered Life Rhythms

This pandemic has certainly made us evaluate the pace of life.

Make no mistake: we are still in the throes of a pandemic. People are still dying every single day. But as more of us are wisely becoming vaccinated, society is beginning to open back up. Watching this process is making me think a lot about the rhythm of my life.

When the pandemic first started and we were all in some version of lockdown or another, I felt trapped in my home. That genuinely surprised me, because I’m an introvert, and something of a homebody. But one thing is choosing to be isolated, another is having no choice whatsoever. I thought my life moved at a slow pace up to that point, but coming to a screeching halt made me realize just how wrong I was.

As things progressed and safety precautions became a habit, I began to get used to the rhythm of this crisis. I actually settled into the slower pace, and often enjoyed it. I began to relax at home a lot more than was my habit previously.

Wearing a mask became my standard operating procedure. I got used to not seeing the lower half of people’s faces, and therefore being unable to gauge their moods. I got used to no handshakes and no hugs. I got used to standing farther back when talking to people than I had pre-COVID. I did miss seeing friends and having human contact, so there were definitely good days and bad days, but I coped better than I anticipated. A lot of that is because I don’t live alone, and had to continue to go to work. Your results may have varied.

Now, like I said, things are starting to ramp up again, and I’m not going to lie: the change feels rather abrupt. One day I was wearing masks, and the next day I was not. It kind of feels like that dream where you’re caught naked in a public place. Vulnerable. Slightly dangerous. Definitely uncomfortable. Especially since the very people who should continue to wear masks are the antivaxxers that never would in the first place.

Things are still moving slower than they did in my pre-pandemic life, but it’s kind of like being deathly ill, and then getting back in a car for the first time in weeks. Twenty mph feels like sixty for a while there. I’m socializing more. I’ve gone to the movies. I’d forgotten how much I missed those old routines.

I don’t think life will ever be 100 percent the way it used to be. I doubt my sense of personal space will ever shrink down to what it once was, for example. And maybe that’s a good thing. We needed this wake-up call to evaluate public health and the pace of our lives. It’s good to take stock every now and then.

I’m also seeing people lose their tempers more and more. I think we got used to being a little bit mentally unhealthy during the worst of it. But now the expectation is that we should all instantly snap out of it, and when that doesn’t happen, it’s leading to frustration, anxiety, and anger.

If you’re feeling any of this, and it’s mild, consider exercising, taking a break from news and social media, prioritizing sleep, and/or slowly increasing social interaction again. But if you are still really struggling (which is nothing to be ashamed of), if you feel like your mental mercury is lower than it should be, if your appetite or sleep isn’t what it used to be, if you’re experiencing survivor’s guilt, if you’re losing interest in the world, or, worst case scenario, you’re thinking of suicide or violence, then you may want to talk to your doctor about therapy or medications.

We’ve all been through trauma at one level or another during this pandemic. Be gentle with yourself. Be kind to others. We can get through this. I promise.

Update: This post was written weeks before I posted it on my blog, and since then, due to the highly contagious Delta variant, I’m back to wearing masks. We’re definitely still in the woods, folks. Please remain vigilant.

The ultimate form of recycling: Buy my book, read it, and then donate it to your local public library or your neighborhood little free library! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Taking Stock

“You’re alive! Don’t you get it?”

I just read an interesting article entitled, “How the World’s Most Venomous Fish Convinced Me to Stop Working Myself to Death.

The details were fascinating, but I knew what the conclusion was going to be before I even started reading. Speaking from experience, there’s nothing like a brush with mortality, or the actual mortality of someone you love, to make you reassess your priorities.

For example, when the police called me to say that they had found my boyfriend’s body in his truck, still clutching his asthma inhaler, in the pharmacy parking lot just a few blocks from our apartment, I swear I could see my whole entire life crumbling around me as I sank to the floor. I instantly came down with the flu, and couldn’t hear a sound for three days. Go figure.

You’d think the quiet would have given me plenty of time to think, but shock isn’t like that, really. I felt more like the blue screen of death you see on your computer right before it completely and utterly crashes. There was very little brain function going on. And in the months and years that followed, I emerged as an entirely different person.

Most people, whether they know it or not, take life for granted. It’s only when you look the grim reaper dead in the eye that you suddenly realize that everything is temporary. Everything.

Once you know the temporal nature of life, a lot of things cease to matter. The only real important thing is that you’re alive, and that’s a gift. You look round and you see people getting all worked up about the silliest things, and you want to shake them.

“You’re alive! Don’t you get it?”

That feeling makes you unwilling to work at a job that you hate or stay in a toxic relationship. It makes you focus on quality of life, which you have a bit of control over, rather than quantity of life, which you clearly can’t control at all. It makes you truly figure out what matters to you.

But most of all, it makes you appreciate, for the first time, absolutely everything. It’s all a gift. It all goes by so fast. It’s all so special.

I knew that by experiencing the worst thing in life, I had been given something really precious. My eyes were truly open. I wanted to always live in that state of awareness.

But I knew that over time, I’d fall back into my life routines, and the feeling would fade, or at least be smothered by the minutiae of the day to day. Mortality awareness takes a lot of work, and I can understand why most people kind of put that off until the last possible moment. It can be an extremely unsettling feeling that is very hard to sustain.

I wish there was a way to explain this to you so that it would sink in deep without you needing to experience tragedy on your own. Having your eyes opened is priceless. And sure, I’m not nearly as “woke” as I was during that first year, but I do make a conscious effort to remember what it felt like. Because meeting death causes you to truly fall in love with life. And I want to love life with every fiber of my being. I want that for you, too, dear reader.

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The Circle of Life Brings Comfort

There is evidence all around us of rebirth and renewal.

Grief is a horrible thing to experience, and it washes over all of us sooner or later. Things fall apart. The center does not hold.

Personally, I take great solace from the evidence all around us of rebirth and renewal. I will pass away one day, but someone or something will step in to take my place. It will grow through me or out of me or in spite of me or because of me. Nature will out. That’s why Spring is such a glorious, vitalizing time, after the death of Winter.

Recently, this photograph showed up on my cell phone wallpaper, and it really caught my imagination. I mean, here’s a ship, half sunken, abandoned, rusting and rotting away, and enough sand and soil has gathered within it’s broken hull to provide a place for trees to sprout. A ship becomes an island. That intrigues me.

I learned that this hulk started its life in 1863 as the SS City of Adelaide, a steam ship. It was built in Scotland, and had a regular route between Melbourne, Sydney, Honolulu and San Francisco. In 1890 its boilers and engines were removed and 4 masts were added.

By 1902, this vessel was only fit to be a hulk for coal storage, It caught fire in 1912, and it took days to put the fire out. In 1915, the hull was stripped, and what was left was sent off to Magnetic Island to become a breakwater on the coast, but it never quite made it. It ran aground in Cockle Bay, and has been there ever since, slowly turning into an island. During WWII, the hulk was used for bombing practice, but one of the planes accidentally hit a mast, and 4 military men were killed.

I like this story. Created by man and a slave to man’s whims, then attacked by its creators and then tragic retaliation. This thing has now become part of nature. Talk about the circle of life.

While researching this post, I came across many other vessels that are now sporting trees, including this abandoned ship outside of Anacortes, Washington, and also the SS Ayrfield in Sydney.

Mother Nature reclaims everything, if only we leave her alone to do her thing. When I die, I’d like to become compost and nurture a tree in an abandoned ship. I think that would be very satisfying.

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Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

The Curse of Too Much Cake

What a curse, to lack gratitude.

I love cake, but if I ate it every single day, I’m sure I’d get sick of it, or at the very least, I wouldn’t appreciate it. So I have a slice of cake maybe once or twice a year, and it’s Nirvana.

That’s how my mother used to feel about oranges. She grew up in New England, toward the beginning of the last century, when produce wasn’t available out of season, and it certainly wasn’t shipped from other parts of the country or world. So on the rare occasion when she got to sample an actual orange, she viewed it as a luxury to be savored. I, too, love oranges, but I don’t think I will ever be able to have the appreciation for them that my mother had. I envy that.

Being able to see something’s value, its worth, to know what it’s like to be grateful for the mere existence of a thing, is in itself a precious gift.

I have always felt rather sorry for children of privilege. They will never know how exciting travel is. They will never appreciate a comfortable bed or a truly well-made meal. The pure joy of knowing what it’s like to work hard and sacrifice to finally reach a goal will forever elude them. They expect everything to be handed to them, so that’s the only anticipation they will ever know.

Children of privilege often don’t take advantage of unique experiences, because they believe that everything they could ever want or need will always be there. They would never run outside to see the Northern Lights. They probably can’t even be bothered to look up from their cell phones long enough to experience an eclipse.

I will always have a sense of excitement and wonder and pure joy when I get to do or see something new. I’ll never forget how tiny my piece of the cake was when I was growing up, so I will always appreciate every crumb that comes my way. What a curse, to lack gratitude. If that were my fate, merely existing would seem all but pointless.

Life is delicious. It should be feasted upon.

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

A Birthday Renewal

Three cheers for another year!

The older some of us get, the more our birthdays remind us of our mortality. And time seems to pass so much more quickly as we age, so the hits just keep on coming. Today I’m another year older but at least I’m not deeper in debt.

But, unlike other years, when that mortality sledgehammer has hit me right as (lucky me) I’m exhausted from being at the tail end of the holidays, this year I’m actually feeling really grateful. As I speed toward what is quite likely the last quarter of my life, I’m viewing every birthday as a precious gift. Approaching one more of these anniversaries is something to be savored.

There are many reasons for this mindset, not the least of which is that I feel, more and more, that I have something to live for and lots to look forward to. Moving to the right place and marrying the right person really helps in that regard. Also, my hard work and personal growth is paying off. (So if you’re young and frustrated, please do not give up. You can do this.)

Because I feel that way, I’m exercising regularly for the first time in my life. And I’m actually enjoying it. That is unexpected. But since I have so much to look forward to, I want to experience it in the most fighting fit form that I possibly can. I still have mountains that I want to climb. (Well, hills, probably. I mean, let’s be realistic.)

Another thing that has made me stop and reassess is that I recently realized that I’ve already lived longer than my oldest sister had a chance to do. Even at the time, I knew that 54 was way too young to die, but now that I’ve blown past that, I really, really know it. I’m relatively young. I have a lot that I still want to do. It’s horrific to think that it all could end so soon. I’d feel cheated.

But who knows? Maybe I will always feel that way, when the time comes. I lack that perspective still. (If I continue to blog into my 80’s, I’ll be sure to let you know.)

I’ve also learned the priceless lesson that life is very fragile and can be taken away with no notice, so every single day should be viewed as a gift. What will you do with your gift today? Being surrounded by a raging pandemic has only reinforced that mindset for me. I am so grateful for every day.

So I think that from now on, rather than viewing birthdays as one more year closer to the end, I’ll think of them as an extension of my expiration date. They are a renewal of the contract of life, as it were. Yay! Three cheers for another year! Woo hoo!

I can’t wait to find out what’s inside!

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

Sticking the Landing

Keep trying!

A dear friend of mine recently told me that for many years he had watched me tumbling through space, with my arms out, desperately and unsuccessfully clutching at anything in an attempt to gain stability. I’m sure it was almost as painful to watch as it was for me to experience. “But then,” he said, “you stuck the landing.”

I love that imagery. Like stepping out of an airplane, and clumsily flailing end over end in a dizzying freefall, and even, more than once, getting tangled up in my own parachute, only to find that I was still able to land safely, against all odds. That’s my life in a nutshell. I marvel at the fact that I survived.

I tried many things over the years. Colleges and trade schools in which I’d excel, academically, but ultimately those places got me nowhere. I bought a house, had to sell it during the crash, and then poorly invested what little money I gained from it. I got into a few relationships that made me even worse off, both financially and emotionally. For a while there, I was so nomadic that I barely bothered to unpack.

At some point I began to feel like I had nothing to lose, and I moved across the country to start over at age 49. I didn’t know anyone in Seattle. I knew nothing about Seattle except that the show Frasier was based here, and that there was rain. Lots and lots of rain.

It took me a few years to gain my footing in this foreign place, and I have to admit that there are still things about Seattle that I don’t think I’ll ever get used to. But I did stick the landing, indeed. I’m married, have a great job, and am living in a place worth unpacking for. Life is good.

Now to shake the feeling that I’m going to wake up to discover it was all an illusion and that I’ve actually broken every bone in my body. Call it imposter syndrome writ large. But hey, even in that scenario, the ground will be stable beneath me, right?

My late boyfriend Chuck used to say, “We’ll get it done. It may not be pretty, but we’ll definitely get there.” And so it has been.

I wrote this for everyone out there who feels as if they are flailing. Don’t give up. Keep trying. As long as you draw breath, it’s still possible to stick that landing.

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

The Elders and the Youngsters

Life is so precious and fragile.

I just saw an animation that brought tears to my eyes. It was the song Father and Son by Yusuf/Cat Stevens. Yusuf sings the father’s part and the younger version of himself, Cat Stevens, sings the son version, taken from a recording of himself from decades ago, obviously.

In the song, the father is trying to urge the son not to go off and do something impulsive that will potentially alter his entire life. (At the time he wrote it, he was imagining a boy who wanted to run off and join the Russian Revolution, but really any scenario will do.) The father says, basically, stop and think. Take it slow. You still have a lot to learn. Be calm. Think of the consequences. “For you will still be here tomorrow but your dreams may not.”

The son, on the other hand, says that he’s been ordered to listen his whole life, but he doesn’t feel like he’s been listened to. He says he knows himself, and that it’s time to make a change. His part is all about the frustration of not being heard and not being taken seriously, and the desire to make his own way.

The reason this animation struck me to the core is that I think, for the first time, it really hit me that I’m not young anymore. That’s a really hard pill to swallow. It took me long enough. I’m 55. (And I know the older readers will say that 55 isn’t that old. I get that. Everything is relative.)

I think everything is getting more poignant with me over time, because we are all on the cusp of radical, terrifying changes, and no one can predict what’s going to happen next. It feels as if the sand is shifting beneath our collective feet, and that’s unsettling at the best of times. It feels like things that used to be just slightly risky are now becoming a matter of life and death. I’m profoundly scared.

It’s really stressful, in particular, to watch the younger people in my life right now. (And by younger, in this case, I mean 40 and below.) So many of them are making crazy, impulsive decisions and not thinking about the long term impact. They are speculating based on a world that no longer exists. They’re risking their lives. They’re settling for relationships that aren’t the best for them. They’re tying themselves down to parts of the country that aren’t politically and/or economically and/or environmentally and/or socially feasible for the people that they are or will become.

I’m frustrated because I see so much potential in these people, and I know they are capable of so much more. I have to resign myself to the fact that their choices aren’t my business, really. I just see them making many mistakes that I have made, and I want to save them the agony that I know they’ll be going through. But in life, there are no shortcuts.

Add another layer onto the anxiety cake by realizing that I’ve had someone die quite expectedly on me in recent years. Poof! Gone. Just like that.

That changes you. It forever colors the way you look at the world. And it makes you realize that no one can fully understand your point of view until they’ve had that sort of experience themselves. People think they can imagine what it’s like. They haven’t a clue.

Life is so precious. It’s so fragile. It’s like a soap bubble. It can all be gone in a pop. Everyone knows this, but those of us who’ve seen that moment of pop are not allowed the luxury of forgetting it. And it truly is a luxury.

Yes, everyone has to make their own mistakes, and also have their own triumphs. But there are so many people that I’d like to shake (and hug) right now. And I can’t.

At the same time, to add complexity to the situation, I am really proud of some of the things the younger people are doing, attempting to make lemonade out of the lemons they’ve been handed. I’m impressed with their innovation and their ability to think outside the box and come up with something different. Even though they’re making a lot of mistakes, they’re also making progress. I just have to remember that the world will keep revolving and evolving, with or without me.

But I can’t say this enough: Life is a gift. It should never be squandered. It shouldn’t be risked. It shouldn’t be taken for granted. Especially now, in the midst of a pandemic with a heaping helping of political unrest.

Good God, am I becoming conservative? Please, no. Anything but that.

I think I’m just valuing things much more than I once did. It’s all so fleeting and final. It’s all so slippery and hard to grasp. Odds are extremely good that I won’t live until I’m 110, and I really don’t want to, if I’m honest. But that means I’m on the downhill slope. And as hard as I’d like to fight it, the slide is inevitable.

But, having climbed up the other side, I would very much like to show those who come behind me that there are easier trails. I want that with my whole heart. At the same time, I understand that blazing your own trail is the whole point. But until you get to the other side, you don’t quite realize that the hill is made up entirely of the consequences that are occurring because of your own actions and choices.

I carry with me a wealth of life experience, as does everyone on my side of the hill. And that experience includes both success and failure. But when you’re young you don’t see that as valuable. You’re too busy making the climb for yourself. It’s a waste and a shame to not learn from others, but everyone has their own hill to climb, and it’s time for me to accept that it’s high time to let go and focus on my next phase in life.

“Hey! You there! Watch out! That’s the exact spot where I tripped and broke my leg! Can’t you see that if you fall, it hurts me, too?”

Oh, never mind. You’ll figure it out.

It’s just all so damned bittersweet…

The ultimate form of recycling: Buy my book, read it, and then donate it to your local public library or your neighborhood little free library! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5