By the end of my days, I hope to have amassed more goodwill, true love and peace within a legacy so valuable, my children could never hope to spend it all while I’m gone.
There are probably just as many stories about someone doing the right thing and winning as there are about someone doing the right thing yet losing. Both stories are inspiring not for their outcomes but for their decisions to deliberately do what is right, regardless the outcome. When we do the right things, their ensuing outcomes diminish in importance to the moral of the story. The doing of the right thing is itself, the inspiration. Outcomes are too often overrated mostly by those who don’t live by faith, destining them to learn nothing about still being joyful among unknown endings.#DoTheRightThingRegardless
By the end of this virus, the volume of stories, studies and literature on the loneliness epidemic will be up 1000% or more, and lead us no closer to a solution.
Loneliness isn’t due to this virus. Loneliness was an epidemic long before Wuhan. Trying to make meaningful connections with others in this metropolis of gated communities, crime, hate, mistrust and self absorption has been a wildfire spreading rapidly through society for the past 50 years. The pandemic just added new fears and new rules to punctuate a plague-already rampant before the pandemic-with a huge exclamation point.
So now suddenly a rush of researchers and armchair psychologists are reporting on what the consequences of a year of isolation without physical affection might mean to us in both the short and long term as if it were some new phenomenon.
Lonely people are among us everywhere from generations of abandoned elderly to street kids turned prostitute just to survive. But as ailments go, loneliness doesn’t often become of particular interest until it’s a thread woven into your own personal story. Befriended, familied, and connected folks with vital relationships have little incentive to comprehend what they haven’t experienced. And lonely people often keep to themselves making it an awkward, uncomfortable mission for those who might actually have the desire to intervene. It’s no fun being lonely and trying to help can be depressing when possible at all. We all feel lonely at times but most can muster self-soothing thoughts and actions to overcome the difficult but temporary condition. Loneliness however, is a pervasive pattern of acquiescence to a long term existence with no one in arm’s length. Huge difference.
Here in a nation equipped to treat almost any illness, little time or resources go to help this hidden, silent cohort who wouldn’t even know who to complain to if they spoke up about their plight. Finding them is easy, it’s connecting with them that takes persistent effort. Their condition is so severe, at the start of treatment they find it hard to interpret your kindness and visibility as genuine. For too long, they’ve grown accustomed to isolation but your consistency can erode that belief. We are all our brothers’ keepers called to visit the darker places with the light of hope and compassion too many can’t ignite for themselves.
Meanwhile, let the writers write their analyses in their journals
while the altruist writes in person directly on hearts of the afflicted.
Distance makes the heart grow.
No, nothing’s missing there. Not a word.
I just spent 3 days in Facebook jail for unknowingly violating one of Zuck’s arbitrary new rules. It made no sense whatsoever except that it afford me time for what became some valuable moments of serendipity.
It only took a brief distance from my social media addiction to realize its toxicity to some already neglected things in my life that actually mean so much more but have received so much less of my attention these past few years.
I’m not getting any younger, and evaluating where I want to spend my remaining 10-20 years…and on what…well, I realized social media is far, far down on the list of options.
My constant stream of jokes and puns may invoke your occasional chuckle but they won’t matter to you or anyone else in the long haul when there are so many more ways to show how I want to be remembered or on whom I might leave better, more important impressions after I’m gone.
Three days distance has made my heart grow and my appetite for storytelling insatiable. It’s what I enjoy most, even more than humor.
To that end, I won’t be so dramatic as to delete my accounts or make anymore statements against social media’s new rules, but you’ll be finding a lot fewer posts from me, and with my attention on more felevant and eternal topics of our human condition, hopefully a lot more stories to make you think, feel and ponder while on the toilet. All jokes aside—literally—I think my short stories will make some lasting impressions.
You’ll find 250+ older shorts and every new story posted on my website at LifeMeansSoMuch.com
After all, it really does.
When did I move to the front of the line?
Not so long ago I was playing softball, riding bikes and buying far more wedding gifts than sympathy arrangements. Then both parents died within a couple years of one another suddenly leaving me holding the eldest branch of my family tree, unprepared and at more of my own doctor visits than walks in the park.
I started being more careful climbing ladders and began taking fewer risks and chances with the advancing march of mortality. It all came more clearly into view and way sooner than expected. And I wasn’t alone. Coffee conversation with peers and friends became more talk of empty nests, punctuated by pill counts and nagging pains like nomads that shift and move with the weather or for no reason at all. When did I move to the front of the line where the old people used to stand? You can’t even take a number here anymore. I suppose they just call when the luck runs out and yours is up.
He never planned it this way.
He’d served his country four years and three tours and had expected a little more in return. But it’s a windy winter morning and if he’s gonna get anything remotely fresh today, he needs to arrive early. Dozens like him will be traveling in cars but he lost his a couple winters back to a “payday” loan joint in exchange for a month of keeping his heat on. He laughs at the irony. He hasn’t had an actual payday in over 20 years. At 81 now, he moves more slowly. Partly due to the cold. Partly to the wage of aging. Slipping on the tattered gloves and coat he’d received last year at the passing of his older friend, he heads out the door into the biting wind for the long walk he makes twice weekly. He gets $20 in coupons to the farmer’s market from the charity down the street. It’s his only shot at a bag of fresh produce to complement the $16 in food stamps and the assortment of cans of whatever the church food pantry has on the shelves that day. Over time he’s learned there’s a better than even chance for hamburger on Tuesdays. When I first met John, I was naïve to his plight and asked if it was difficult being old. “No, it’s difficult being hungry.” For an entire generation of people just like him who’d once dreamed of a retirement of travel or at the very least, a front porch, this is normal. It’s how they wake up and what they take to bed at night. This is the entirety of every lonely day. The fortunate ones like John, still muster an occasional smile through it all and reminisce about their blessed lives if you give them an audience.
I had a delicious full breakfast for $4.40 including coffee at a nearby hospital cafeteria. It reminded me of when, having quit Meth, two felonies rendered me unemployed and unemployable, living on a dwindling jar of coins and did this every morning back when it was a buck cheaper, then visited with grieving families in the chapel afterward. Later at 945pm just before closing, I’d go to Panera and they’d give me all their leftover soups they would have otherwise tossed. KFC sometimes gave me the leftover chicken pieces if I came when a certain manager was working.
The things I did to survive back then are some of the creative advices I now offer hungry clients down on their luck. Experience in personal hardship is life’s best instructor.
Well, it’s begun. My handsome, fit 25 year old son has had just about enough of me. He moved in with me last September at the behest of his siblings because I’d developed a frequent hospitalization habit fueled by diabetes, obesity and a buffet of other disorders. Charged with the task of creating change in my diet and exercise—to no avail, he refused to concede that his purpose had been reduced to just watching me die slowly under the same roof, far enough for privacy, near enough to someday phone the coroner before I start to smell. So following a heart to heart yesterday, we began a home workout routine today at 11am. It was a grueling 20 minutes that left my legs and arms limp and shaky but put my head back in the game of living my best life for my remaining years. I’ll let you know how it’s going along the way. Your thoughts, prayers and energy might be timely in the coming weeks. I’m a pro at making excuses.
When you grow up with a famous artist you learn early on how best to hang a wall of art. Be first concerned with placement and position of the big picture and the remaining pieces will infinitely fall in place around it. Eyes are drawn to the largest, directing the alignment of others that follow. Dad taught me to live life with a hammer, a nail, a purpose, and something beautiful to share with others.
Everyone has a line.
Some are drawn boldface in red for advance warning, others are thin, blue or dashed to be regarded as inconsequentially permeable.
Most dangerous are those invisibly inked to ensnare freedom’s advocates, all unbeknownst to them until it’s too late. They adjust positions of their lines without warning by personal convenience depending on a perceived threat to their narrative. Their unprincipled advance or retreat serves the purpose of censoring and punishing antagonists who innocently stumble across and into a web from which few escape.
Everyone has a line, the crossing of which merits no forgiveness nor good reason for it to exist in the first place.
But they do and they are the grounds on which freedoms breathe their last.