Tuesday, April 12, 2011


(Just noted this draft I long ago stashed away that I wrote after reading the piece I reference below. My observations about our nation and the world still seem to be apropo.)

Others often write thoughts that stimulate my own resulting in my composing comments the equivalent of another post. Such is the case with Ronni Bennett's piece titled,"Aging Into Sentimentality" 11/23/09 at "Time Goes By."

I can certainly identify with growing up in a home where stoicism was considered to
be how one best coped as I observed. I do recall a few instances of being told "Don't cry, or I'll give you something to cry about" but I don't recall any physical punishment. I think I probably had my bottom paddled on occasion when I was little. My Mother told me of switching my little legs all the way home from three houses away where I had gone without permission to visit my young friend. Perhaps these are a couple of environmental contributors to my having a high pain tolerance level, maybe it's genetic, or both.

I also learned to look for the best in others, sometimes to my detriment when I too quickly gave the benefit of the doubt to the intentions of another.

Perhaps when we are older we simply have more time or take more time to ponder some of the matters Ronni and others comments describe. Certainly we’re more aware we’re moving toward the end of our lives, so I think it’s to be expected that most of us will begin to think more about our lives in quite different ways from when we were younger. I know when I reached about forty years and through my fifties I was really heavily into very egocentrically examining my life. All this when I was striking out on a new career path while simultaneously having more demands on my being than at any other time in my life.

Perhaps any major life change, once life seemingly settles a bit, can have us, suddenly, after the fact, starting to think about such matters as described there. Perhaps there’s a certain amount of relaxation occurring that allows erratic thoughts once inhibited to be released. Emotions held at bay then become more accessible, can emerge much more readily. I experienced that after my mother died, when later other major life changing events occurred for me, but in those instances the emotions didn’t emerge until quite some time afterward.

In recent years that sensitivity began happening immediately after my husband’s death beginning when my son arrived home. I continued to project strength outwardly to most others but my feelings became incredibly sensitive as was my vulnerability to the slightest kindness, exaggerated beyond all that was rational. I had never been on such an emotional roller coaster.

I believe sometimes as we get older the tears and strongly expressed emotions are not always completely about what they seem, or what we and others may think. I suggest the apparent surface cause can be primarily only the trigger reflecting much deeper sources erupting from composite forces of life’s residue.

I don't consider compassion and empathy for living creatures being maudlin or sappy when a core deep within ourselves is tapped. I've felt this way about animals and increasingly about other creatures for as long as I can remember. Allowing outward expression of such feelings can be cathartic though I'll grant you not always best anywhere at anytime, or with just any person lest they be misunderstood. Further, if you're not too rational for a period, you best be interacting with someone who knows you well, and realizes you're only in a temporary discombobulated state.

What I'm most acutely aware of avoiding for quite a few years are stories about young babes, children, fictional and true, books and movies that entertainingly show the pain adults inflict upon them including parents, other family members, friends and strangers. I become tearful and angry at the emotional and physical abuse to which these innocents are subjected. I never wanted to read Frank McCourt's book, “Angela’s Ashes” about his Irish childhood partially for just that reason. Likewise, I never went to see Steven Spielberg’s movie “Schindler’s List” in a big screen movie house, only, finally, renting the DVD years later as I had feared there would be too many broken family scenes and worse. “Sophie’s Choice” haunts me still as does the movie from my childhood, “Bambi” with the gut-wrenching scene of Bambi seeking his Mother. Many movies in recent years seem to feature young children, youth and teenagers being subjected to all sorts of horrors judging by their ad trailers.

With all the wars around the globe I think how horrible this must be for children. When I consider all the nation's ills, the world's wrongs I seem to have arrived at a state that allows me to be aware of my own limitations to effect change, and likely not immediate under most circumstances. I perceive I'm looking down on a picture much larger than myself, that much desired change is going to be more gradual that I like, very possibly may not even occur in my lifetime. Yet, I remain dedicated to doing whatever I can in my small way to facilitate the change I desire. I try to avoid becoming permanently discouraged when it doesn't happen in the way I might want, especially as rapidly as I might wish, sometimes much easier to say than do.

Referring to history can help put the current reality into perspective when viewed in comparison with life in other times. Most generations have had legitimate reasons to think their situation and future was dire, much worse than that of previous ones, especially if they had known better times in their lifetime, yet here we are. Sure, we can look back and say, "Oh those times are nothing like what we have now." Probably so. I wonder what those in our unknown future will say when they look back on our time?


  1. You touched my heart with this post (and I hope it publishes as blogger (or something) isn't working well and denies my comments.

  2. I find these times incredibly discouraging and depressing---more than any other time in my life. It may be the age I am, but, I don't think so. I cannot speak for other times or other eras...All I know is what I have lived through and right now, I feel that the world is coming to an end---And I don't EVER remember feeling this discouraged at any other time in my almost 80 years....!

  3. This was a really interesting post JoAnn...and you definitely tapped into some strong feelings that I share with you....especially after losing my husband too. I definitely feel more emotional and vulnerable in areas that I didn't before. We are living in some troublesome times...more acutely than I think I've ever felt before. I call upon humor to get me through times like this where we don't feel we have much control over many things in our lives. I don't want to become permanently discouraged either...and I find I'm relying on large doses of compassion, love and much humor to help get me through these days. ~Joy

  4. Hi joared. I would so much rather think that the deteriation of aging causes my occasional bouts of depression. That would make good and reasonable sense. But that is not what causes it. What causes it is the ill treatment of children and animals and the crap that is handed out by the media to amuse young ones.

    I related well to these thoughts so honestly expressed. And you are right -- "Angela's Ashes" --so heartwrenching I wish I hadn't gone there.

  5. Darn, I just wrote a comment that seems to have gone off into oblivion. Anyway, it was just a thanks for this post. I'm glad you resurrected it and shared it now. The part that struck me most was the part about crying. My ability to cry due to emotional situations has come late in life. I've welcomed it. When I tear up over an act of kindness or a sad situation, I'm feeling more than I used to feel. Some kind of emotional armor has been worn away.

  6. I believe, with Kurt Vonnegut, that kindness is the greatest virtue. Nothing repels me more than mean, egocentric old people.
    Kind words and deeds mean so much.

  7. There is so much to ponder on this wonderful post. Stoicism is a trait I acquired early in life. I had been a very sick child and I was constantly told how brave I was. I had to live up to my image.

    Abuse of a child is the most evil act a person can perform. To hurt the weak and vulnerable is inexcusable.

    Because I tried to always be brave I used to stop tears when they were behind my eye lids. Now I let them flow. Sometimes bravado is very foolish.

  8. Ah kindness....what a wonderful world it would be if we all were kind to the very young, very old and all in between.

    Any person who mistreats an animal would do the same to a living, breathing person.

    But today I found myself being real snappy to a young woman at the dog groomers because my pup was not ready on time. What a petty action on my part.

    I realized it was not the groomer who made me angry but my own self. I am uptight about my upcoming knee surgery and I sometimes over react about trivial things.

    My bad.:(

  9. Joared,
    I have to admit I have weird tastes. Yes, I was one of those traumatized by Bambi (I still don't like it) as well as The Wizard of Oz. On the other hand I have watched "No Country for Old Men", and "Fargo" by the Coen Brothers a half dozen times. I guess I like dark humor, and with regard to the former, I think it is important to acknowledge what is happening on the SW border where lawmen lose their lives all to often.

    Sooner or later I get tired of the cruelty (the evening news is the worst) and turn off the TV. I can't watch the animal channels at all anymore, unless it is the Dog Whisperer. My groomer is the best person in the world. Over the years we have formed a real bond. I know you feel badly about being curt with your groomer, but remember, tommorrow is another day. Dianne

  10. Joared--I believe that each of us thinks that we are unique. In reality, we really are unique; however, I believe that we all share more likenesses than differences. In the same way, the people of one generation feel that they differ from all generations that have come before. As before, it is true - but, I believe, not to the extent each of us believes.
    People are pretty much people, in my view. Having been born into a farming community, stoicism was expected and tendered. Treatment by our parents that would, in today's world, necessitate a call to the police by a concerned neighbor, was unexceptional then. I later understood that our parents were suffering the worst kind of pressures - pressures of survival - that caused them to commit acts of cruelty in frustration.
    Parents feared, with good reason, the loss of their children (My own parents lost two of their five children before they reached one year of age.) and worried about being able to provide the basic necessities of life - food, water, shelter.
    Cop Car

  11. Joared thanks for the very sensitive, emotional self reflective post. I found myself more emotional, caring, and empathetic toward people and animals too after my wife's death in July 1995. I struggle with trying to keep a positive outlook when considering all the suffering caused by wars and natural disasters. I draw strength from my Mother's saying 'Think positive thoughts."

  12. Pondering on Frank's comment, I wonder if aging makes the sexes more equal in the empathy department. Some men remain so walled off - emotionally constipated all their lives.

    Frank, you're just a sweetheart all the time ;-)

    Great post, Joared.