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Blue Skies and Yellow Flowers…

This is becoming an all too familiar occurrence – another apology for the long span between posts. Quite honestly I am finding it difficult to make time to write. And when I do manage, there is not a lot to write about. We are blessed to be entrusted to care for our (nearly) 7-month-old grandson as mom and dad both have to work. So we are at his house M-F from 7:30 to 4:30. So when we get home, there are a ton of things that need to get done and once the chores are done and supper has been consumed, it’s time to sit and relax.

He is pure joy – a delight! Always smiling and wanting to play and explore. It has been delightful watching his daily progress as he went from just laying on his back to rolling over to sitting up and to crawling. Standing and walking are certainly not far off. As much as I think I am teaching him, in many ways he has been teaching me. I’ve worked all my life and was never really home for my kids. I often worked 7-days a week and at times I worked two jobs. And I was always busy doing something when I was home so I never got to experience the wonder of witnessing the development of a baby. It is fascinating how they learn about their environment – their world – and then learn to adapt their rapidly growing skills to it.

We are now officially no longer in a pandemic, now an endemic, I guess. From my perspective the whole thing is done and over, at least for the time being. No one talks about it anymore, unless it’s to find out if one place or another still requires a mask. And the list of those that do still require a mask shrinks daily. I will say that I still see anywhere from 25% to 40% of people wearing masks, the grocery store being one of the highest percentages.

Tomorrow we are taking the grandkids to a local marine biology center; haven’t been there in two years thanks to the virus. It is a small place and filled with all sorts of exhibits of live marine specimens which the kids love. While we have traveled to both the Cape and to Salem, this is a big deal for us. We really haven’t gone anywhere, nor taken the grandkids anywhere. But we’re fully vaccinated, the kids have had the virus so they have immunity, and case numbers are dropping through the floor to extremely low levels. The grandkids have already been to the movies with their mom a week or so ago and I am envious as I haven’t been back to the movies yet. It’s been over two years since I’ve been in a theater and I am absolutely dying to go back again. Soon I hope!

I’d be remiss if I did not mention Ukraine and the vicious assault being waged upon them by Russia. War is common throughout those regions so seeing it breaking out again is not a terrible surprise. But the deceitfulness and brazenness of Putin as he denied the action even as his troops were rolling was surprising. And the brutality against the citizens of Ukraine is heart wrenching. While everyone seems to have an opinion on Putin’s motives, his plan, and whether he’s winning or losing, my biggest concern is with his mental stability. He is either convinced he can take on and win an all-out war with NATO – the USA included, or he has gone mad. He has threatened nuclear weapon use and I believe he might do it. My hope is that there are still some rational thinking people within his inner circle who can either talk him out of this or take him out of it by whatever means necessary.

Speaking of (in a sense) news, it astounds me that in this day and age there is a record high level of people who choose to believe the impossible. For example, to name a few: people believe the pandemic was not real – it was faked (though for the life of me I can’t imagine how one “fakes” a worldwide pandemic). Granted there can certainly be some debate over how we reacted and managed it, but certainly not that it was fake.

People continue to believe that the mRNA vaccine was really an implant of some sort of chip. Come on – there isn’t two nations on earth that can agree on anything, never mind getting them all to agree to inject their citizens with a chip! It is not difficult search the internet and read the scientific (operative word here) history of the development of this vaccine technology; it spans decades and it is real. And it works.

People believe that Ukraine is the bully here and Russia is defending itself! I can see people in Russia believing that, but here in the US? After all the international non-political true journalistic reporting being done how can one think that?

Fake news has found a home in our world, nestled snuggly amongst the conspiracy theorists, the gullible, and the time-starved who rely on social media for their news. But sadly, when I see the letters FOX of CNN, I immediately look away because they will go to any means to fortify their political views in any given news story: fake pictures and videos altered with photoshop or taken elsewhere at another time and captioned to suit their immediate needs. They’ll outright lie to achieve their goals. And these are two of our major news outlets here! No wonder the rest of the world thinks we’re completely off our rocker!

And of course, these days everything immediately becomes a partisan statement; gas shortage? Conservatives blame Biden while liberals blame the war. In truth, neither are really true – partially perhaps but not completely.

Inflation does not happen overnight; it is like a fine stew: it takes a complex and diverse set of ingredients and a lot of time at a low simmer to create it. Yet the conservatives are all pointing the finger at the liberals. I get it, but it is not truly accurate; the seeds of our inflation were planted under the conservative reign a few years ago, and likely under the liberal reign before that.

And of course, the pandemic was the seasoning in the stew. But rather than sift through the details to better understand how we got here, it is easier to point a finger of blame at the current seated president. And that is not really wrong either! He is our president and I expect him to take the proper steps to repair what’s wrong in our country – as best humanly possible. I don’t care as much about whose fault it is, I want steps taken to fix it.

Enough with economics and politics! That was never the intent of this blog and I was honestly a mouse click away from deleting the last eight or nine paragraphs for that precise reason; however I’ve left them in place because they do tend to highlight some of the lessons of life I am still struggling to learn and reconcile.

Mental rigidity is a topic which I’ve written on in the past – more than once. It gets worse as you age: it deepens and spreads like mental rigor mortis. Cognitive flexibility and openness to new thoughts and ideas is critical to growth and to a balanced mental health, but sadly the older we get, the more mentally rigid we become. It shrinks your world and amplifies your discontent. It actually diminishes you.

An example: driving the grandkids home the other day it was raining/snowing and foggy out. Couple that with the road mist of all the cars on the highway and you have challenging driving conditions. Not prohibitively so, but enough to require increased awareness and caution. Wipers were absolutely required in these conditions – without them you’d be driving blind within seconds. Our law, and I assume the same in every state, requires headlights on when the wipers are on. The reason is simple: in conditions requiring wipers visibility is hampered and reduced, turning on the lights makes it easier for others to see you.

A quick side-trail here; given the mindset of today’s society it is not hard to see a subtle analogy here with the whole stupid mask debate. It is complete, solid, and sound science that wearing a mask reduces the amount of vaporous and aerosol particulates you emit with breathing, coughing, and other forms of respiratory exhaust. And yet people decried the mandatory wearing of a mask as an infringement on their rights, arguing that they never get sick, they aren’t afraid of the virus, etc., completely missing the point that the mask was more about keeping their germs inside them and avoiding spreading them to others. Using headlights in the rain is NOT about you seeing better – it is about making it easier for others to see YOU.

Back to the main trail here – I found myself taking notice of the cars that were not using their headlights; I would estimate that it was 25% or so. (Similar to the percentage of folks not wearing masks in the grocery store when they were required.) And I found myself angry at them – surely everybody knows lights are required with wipers? How inconsiderate of them! And that – is a certain sign of mental rigidity – focusing on something that really didn’t affect me personally and getting upset over it. As long as I can see them (which clearly I could because I took note of them) and don’t crash into them, it is none of my concern. Yet there I was getting all riled up at it.

My final comment on the wiper/headlight thing is that I did see a small white car driving in the highspeed lane without his lights on almost get launched into the 6:00 News report because intermittently it would literally disappear from view in the rain/snow and foggy mist. Someone went to change lanes and only avoided slamming into him at the last possible instant. The law is in place because it prevents accidents and saves lives. And what I witnessed proved that it is NOT about helping you see better but helping others see you. It is not an infringement on your rights and it is not your decision as to whether you need them or not – it is simply the law.

But I am not the highway patrol, not the road safety enforcer, and not the police. It is not my business yet there I was getting all cranked up over it. That is mental rigidity and that is what happens as you age. You judge people and their actions based on your personal history, ideals, principles, and beliefs. But when you are younger you are far more willing and likely to pause and consider before judging. Simply put it means having an open mind, a willingness to think about news ideas and new ways of doing things. But as we age we begin to believe that we’ve seen it all and done it all and that things are done a certain way for a reason – a good reason – and people shouldn’t deviate from that. We close our minds.

The answer is not so obvious. It is, in fact, as well hidden and obscure as the white car I saw on the highway in the rain and mist. First off you need to know you ARE close minded. And that has to bother you. If you don’t mind it, then carry on and live your life in your own world of judgement, resentment, and agitation. But if you don’t like allowing cognitive concrete to disrupt your happiness all the time you need to exercise your brain. Read articles, blogs, or books on ideas that are contrary to your thoughts and ideas. Challenge yourself to at least try to see other people’s point of view – their perspective.

One of my favorite ways to exercise my mind is to read a social media post of something controversial (not hard to find these days) and to then read the comments. How I feel about the actual post is inconsequential – it is the perspectives of other people that I am after. It forces me to open my mind in an attempt to understand their thoughts and ideas.

Here is a silly example: the flat-earthers. I cannot comprehend that people actually believe the earth is flat anymore. I totally get it in ancient times, but today with all the clear evidence available? Yet there is some number of people that are convinced that: 1) the earth is flat, and 2) that the truth is being withheld from us by some large global conspiracy. To what end I have no idea – I mean, were it true that the earth is flat who would really care? How would that change anything? Of all possible things to decide is a global conspiracy to keep from all of us, surely this has to be the silliest! Yet as I read some of their comments defending their belief, I begin to sort of understand the thinking behind that belief – at least from the more intelligent and articulate of the commenters. They will never change my mind of course, but they can at least open it a little bit.

Enough for today my friends, I’ll get this up and posted and will try to sit at my keyboard more often. No promises though! My chosen feature photo is of blue skies and yellow flowers – thoughts of summer and dreams of peace. Until the next, stay well dear reader!

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