Saturday, February 17, 2018

“Arguing With Others Is Folly”~ Robicheaux by James Lee Burke

When I began reading Robicheaux this morning, James Lee Burke’s 21st novel involving his iconic alcoholic lawman with demons, nightmares from Vietnam and growing up poor in the bayou of southern Louisiana with his commitment to justice for the downtrodden, I felt as if I’d reconnected with an old friend. I first met Robicheaux in 1993’s In The Electric Mist With The Confederate Dead and have indulged in reverie with Dave and his best friend Cletus Purcell for the past 25 years. David Lee Burke’s writing is lyrical, poetic and mesmerizing with the feel of Spanish moss dripping from live oaks, the sounds and smells of the bayou, and the mystical visions of the long dead, as if they still walk among us.  Unlike many authors who have written series, Mr.Burke remains at the top of his game at 81.

In the first chapter  of Robicheaux, Dave reflects, “ Like many my age, I believe people in groups are to be feared and that arguing with others is folly and the knowledge of one generation cannot be passed down to the next.”  In the current political climate this truly resonated with me. 

Be it mental health issues, gun control, defense of the 2nd Amendment, conservative, liberal, progressive, libertarian, immigration reform, cats vs. dogs, parenting, historical context, personal responsibility vs. the nanny state, or any other topic upon which people vehemently disagree, I’ve come to appreciate that no matter how salient the points, well documented the facts, or persuasive the rhetoric, my arguments will not convince those who disagree with my beliefs to change their minds. Conversely, those who take a position opposite of my beliefs will not succeed in altering my views. The 24 hour news cycles and social media have given anybody with an opinion a platform from which to preach, which has polarized the nation.

Nor can we truly share the knowledge of life’s experiences with a younger generation because the knowledge gained through experience cannot be taught. It is impossible to impart to a young person what it means to go to sleep at age 25 and all of a sudden awaken at 45, wondering how the years passed by so quickly, barely remembering some experiences that were life altering at the time. One cannot explain how life throws us curve balls, knocking us off one path into the weeds and that it is sometimes necessary to trudge a few miles or years in the weeds before we find another path, how strongly held beliefs gradually change through the years depending upon experiences.  

Anger is too much with us in the 21st Century. Argument or debate can be a healthy way to exchange ideas or at least help others to understand another’s beliefs, position or understanding. However, the anger that appears to fill people today seems all consuming, perpetual, blind, closed minded, strident, divisive, and unproductive. Perhaps it is folly that I have enjoyed being a bit of a protagonist; however, I am well aware that I’m unlikely to change anybody’s mind. Perhaps this is a reason that my old friend Dave Robicheaux’s wisdom affected me. 

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Emerging From Hibernation

I tend to experience seasonal affective disorder when the time changes and dark falls upon us in late afternoon. As a person born in the midst of summer I crave the sun. Sunlight infuses my being with joy, positivity, energy, optimism, and general well-being. The time between Thanksgiving and Groundhog Day is dark, cold, depressing, and causes me to hibernate, to avoid socializing, to stay home, and withdraw. Perhaps the reason is associated with the weather or challenges that I've experienced during this period. 

This year was particularly challenging. Mom passed away at the end of 2016. This was my family's first holiday season without her delightful home made funny Christmas cards, a house decorated with multiple Christmas trees and 15 nativity scenes, her smell, the sound of her voice, the warmth and humor that I've relied upon. I was worried about how my dad would deal with this first holiday season. Although he had his moments of sadness, he has exhibited a resilience that amazes me, an attitude of gratitude for the decades he was able to share with my mom, and a realization that his role now is to celebrate every moment of life to the fullest with friends and family. I admire his ability to embrace life more than I can articulate. And I treasure the time that we've been able to spend together in a new way.

We've also lost two of our favorite feline companions. Sweet Nicholas, the elder statesman who appeared miraculously on our porch last Christmas, the day I learned that Mom was failing, spent just a bit more than a year providing us with love, comfort, and joy as he deteriorated from squamous cell carcinoma that eroded an ear and his nose. The vet opined he was in his 15th year when he came to us, asking for nothing but love, food and a place to feel safe. Within a week of his passing across the Rainbow Bridge we lost another sweet cat that was young with no discernible health problems. We don't know the cause. We know only that we felt sadness at another loss.

My wonderful father-in-law was also hospitalized in Michigan with pulmonary problems, MRSA, and bronchial problems. As a stoic midwesterner he resisted seeking medical treatment, fully expecting he would recover on his own. But I feel grateful that my mother-in-law was able to convince him to go to the hospital. He lost weight, lost energy, and worried us terribly. But he is recovering slowly and will hopefully be able to get back to the golf course in the spring.

Fortunately, I've learned that it is necessary to move forward, keep a focus on today, and accept what is. We celebrated a lovely Christmas with my dad and then drove him back to Indiana to see his newly painted bedroom and cozy enclosed back porch. When we lost our beloved pet, I researched breeders and plan to welcome a beautiful ragdoll kitten into our home in the next few weeks. She already has a name - Mindy!

There have been changes at work; I will now be working for a woman that I love as a friend and a colleague and feel blessed for the opportunity. I've also come to realize that I do not want to walk into the jungle with a target on my chest and my back in my professional life. At this juncture I want a work - life balance. 

And I continue to try new things. This morning I had my first Pilates reformer training session and I loved it! Wow! Still learning new things and embracing opportunities to focus on wellness. I do hope to integrate this new core strengthening workout into my repertoire!

Apparently I am still my father's daughter - embracing change with resiliency, optimism and joy.
Thank you, Dad!