AREN’T WE ALL, but as they say, it beats the alternative. If we’re lucky, all our parts will wear out at the same time, and we’ll die peacefully in our sleep somewhere in our 90s. I know of no one who has accomplished this feat, however, so I’ve been thinking lately about what will give our lives meaning when we can no longer live, work, and play as we once did.
Old age creeps up on most of us. First, we give up jogging or dancing because of our knees. Then, we start forgetting where we put our car keys. Friends our age have heart attacks. Even the women. Our parents die. But first, they usually go through an illness-often cancer. Some beat it for a time, but eventually, it seems to get everyone in the end. And that’s not even listing the mental and emotional illnesses people suffer.
Not a very cheerful smattering of thoughts.
So, what are our options? Do we have examples of people whose lives continue to have meaning, who continue to have joy even when they are in physical pain, have lost mobility, or are hooked up to machines?
SATURDAY SALON QUESTION: How are you preparing yourself for old age, or a catastrophic accident that leaves you suddenly, severely limited, such as the military vets who lose limbs? What will you do, or are you doing now, to have meaning in your life? To feel joy? To serve others?
What makes life meaningful?
WHAT ARE YOU DOING about whatever it is you think is wrong with the world? Is it enough to simply express outrage at the state of _________ (fill in the blank), or are you obligated to do something about it?
It seems we have three choices.
Let’s say political corruption or partisan divide and deadlock is your pet peeve. You hate it, you call your spouse over to see the latest abomination on the news, and your blood pressure goes up every time you see CNN or FOX News. But…what do you do next? You can…
1) stew in your juices, and do nothing but remain upset 24/7.
2) become preppers and move to a compound in Idaho with multiple automatic weapons.
3) think about what you want and how it could be achieved, either by you individually, or by finding or creating a group you could actively work with to achieve the changes you want to see. Do some research. Think outside the box. Believe change is possible. Live a meaningful life.
I’m for option 3.
WHAT DOES THE LATINO COMMUNITY THINK ABOUT OBAMA’S executive action last night? Day late and a dollar short, or is he doing the best he can with Republicans blocking his every move? And why do I have a picture of Regan here? Anyone remember 1986?
What legislation should Congress write and pass? What are the real issues and what would solve this problem?
Iraq war veteran Tomas Young just died. Before he died, he made this video. Show it at your next Saturday Salon to get right to the heart of why we go to war, how to honor veterans without glorifying war, and how to use our voice and vote to prevent all the useless and horrific damage war inflicts.
Possible Talking Stick Starters:
- Can you be a patriot and still be opposed to war or to some wars?
- What kind of foreign policy would best prevent war?
- What obligations do we have to other nations? Can we be isolationists?
- Do you have any influence over our nation’s involvement in wars?
- Is peace possible, or do you think WW III is inevitable?
- Are your political beliefs influenced by your religious beliefs? In what way?
Let’s start talking with each other about things that really matter.
WATCH THIS 10-minute FILM at your next Saturday Salon instead of pulling a question from the hat. Then ask the simple question “What was this film about?” You will be so surprised at the variety of answers you will get! Great way to learn something about yourself and others. Perception is everything! Things are not as obvious as we think they are.
“WE’RE NOT MEANT TO SAVE THE WORLD…we’re meant to leave it,” says Dr. Brand in Interstellar, “Nothing in this solar system can save us.”
What do you think? Is it too late to save our world, or should we start building space ships?
These are not esoteric questions – we’re making decisions every day that shout our answers, whether we recognize them as our own or not. We can ask ourselves:
Do we vote? Do we do anything to help anyone or anything outside our own immediate circle of family and friends? Are we doing anything to reverse or at least stop the damage to our planet? Do we really have any hope at all that world peace is achievable? Are we heading for the hills with guns, ammo and canned food?
“Obama bad.” That’s what former Senator, John B. Breaux, claims most Senate candidates feel about President Obama. AND HE’S A DEMOCRAT! Should this be a surprise? I say the higher we put someone on a pedestal, the more violently we tear them off that high perch.
Instead of doing the hard work it takes to be an informed electorate, we lazily assume. Until we start seeing everyone as they are, and not as we wish them to be, or assume we know who they are because they’re on the other side of the aisle, we’ll keep getting what we’re getting.
And it’s not pretty. I still vote. I haven’t given up, but it’s frustrating to watch people become apathetic because they view politics as something so largely out of their control.
DO WE HAVE ANY? If you’re appalled, disgusted or angry about school shootings, species loss, terrorist attacks, or whatever else is on the evening news, what are you doing about it? Are you apathetic, or do you take action? How much can any of us do about any of it? Does the individual have any power?
When I throw this question in the hat at a Saturday Salon, reactions are varied and often volatile. Some people believe there is still hope – that if we all do what we can do, the world will eventually cleanse itself and turn towards peace and prosperity for all.
Others think they’re way too optimistic, and say, “People are wired for violence, the planet is too far gone to be saved, so there’s no sense in eating organic or voting – it makes no difference!”
How do you feel about it?
Saturday Salon Question: What can be gained by talking deeply with people who hold views vastly different from your own?
WE VISITED MY DAD THE OTHER DAY and I was surprised by how far right he’s become in his politics. Maybe he was always that way, but too polite to say. Being in your 80′s gives you a certain license to speak more freely.
He asked me what I thought of President Obama (just “Obama” to him) and if I would vote for him again if that were possible. I said it would depend on who else was running. Although I don’t agree with every decision he’s made, I think he has accomplished much good and done the best he could do, given the unprecedented obstruction he’s faced at every turn. Add a dysfunctional, polarized Congress to the mix, and it’s surprising he has been able to do anything.
My father shared his strong view that Obama has harmed America and we are not only losing ground as a world power, but are in grave danger from terrorists due to his actions as President. He also does not believe human beings have anything to do with climate change, so sees no need to protect our environment from fracking, drilling, and building pipelines-doing whatever it takes to keep oil flowing so we can be “energy independent” and return to our former glory as a world power. For him, it’s all about economics.
My dear father watches Fox news every day, almost exclusively, but doesn’t believe they have any influence on his world views. He says he also watches CNN and other shows. I listen to NPR, watch BBC News, read the New York Times, watch a LOT of documentaries, and get a lot of my news on the internet. I admit I can’t stand more than ten seconds of Fox “news”. We live in different informational universes.
Now, my father is one of the most intelligent men I know, so it astounds me that he sincerely believes these things to be true. “After all,” he informed me, “why is it that scientists still don’t agree about climate change?”
“WHAT????” my mind screamed silently. How can he believe this? Hasn’t he seen the latest report by one of the largest scientific groups that says if anything, they were too cautious previously?
It would have done no good to tell him that there is no longer any disagreement among scientists regarding the effect humans have had on the environment, and why saving the whales matters. I’m not going to change his mind. So, why bother talking to each other, if each of us already have our minds made up? My dad and I can talk about these things heatedly, but not argue, but most people can’t. Most people avoid talking politics or religion with anyone but those they know agree with them.
Hmmm….what do you think? Are Saturday Salons worth having, other than the entertainment they provide? Can we have any effect? Can we influence? Can we learn or change our own views? Does talking do any good? Why bother?
What can be gained by talking deeply with people who hold views vastly different from your own?
ARE YOU IN DEBT AND DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO? If you’re feeling discouraged or overwhelmed, know the power is within you to change your circumstances.Anyone can do it.I’m all about visualizing and thinking positively, but sometimes, you also need to do the work. Some miracles don’t happen overnight, but we can make them happen. My life is living proof. Start simple.
The best thing my father ever did for me was to teach me how to set up a household budget. Unfortunately, he waited until I was divorced with two children to raise before sharing this wisdom with me. I could have used the advice a little earlier
Following these principles, I never had to foreclose on a house or declare bankruptcy, and my credit score is great…
- Set goals. Have a reason, beyond not getting evicted, to not spend every dime you make.
- Before you make a budget, track your money for one month. Every penny. That’s the only way you’ll know where to cut and where you need to increase amounts in categories. It also helps you know what categories you need.
- Save for expenses that you WILL have, but rarely budget for, because they are not regular, monthly amounts like rent, food and gas. Estimate what your expenses will be for irregular purchases and bills like car repairs, clothes, car registration – all that stuff we hope will go away if we ignore it – add it all up and divide by 12, then save that amount each month in a savings account BEFORE you pay any other bills, PAY YOURSELF. That way, you won’t need to pull out that credit card. EVER. Pad this amount a bit, because there will always be unexpected expenses like the airline ticket you need to buy because Great Aunt Sally died and you have to go back for the funeral, or you broke your leg and your insurance didn’t pick up all the bills.
- In fact, pad every account a little bit, so you’re not caught with your pants down. It’s so much fun to push that extra “left over” cash into your savings account at the end of the month, or better yet, your IRA.
- Learn to say NO. Well-meaning friends and relatives expect you to go out to eat, buy expensive presents, put on that baby shower, go wine-tasting, etc. DEFINITELY budget for recreation, but don’t be guilted into doing things you can not afford to do. True friends will understand.
- Once you have tracked your expenses for a month, create a simple budget in Excel, or just on a piece of graph paper. Income goes on top (underestimate this) and Expenses go underneath (overestimate these). The last box tells you your bottom line – Income minus expenses tells you you either need to make more money, or spend less money. No magic formula. Just common sense. You don’t have to balance your checkbook to the penny – just keep track as you go through the month, of what you are spending. You can always move amounts between categories – as long as that bottom line doesn’t go negative! One month you may splurge and buy a $200 jacket. Well, that’s fine, but you’re eating hot dogs and macaroni and cheese for a while, right?
- Don’t let your ego get in the way. If you need an extra $500 a month, get a second job. You’re not too good to flip hamburgers, babysit or drive a taxi.
You can do this!
I can personally attest to the value of keeping a budget. The simple skills my Dad taught me have seen me through several very tough times – some of my own creation, and some that hit me out of the blue. Many years ago, I spent every dime I had saved (over $40,000) and every dollar of credit I had to help some family members who were in crisis. This was before the health care act took effect. It took me a decade to do it, but I became debt free and able to achieve several of my personal dreams by taking control of my life – creating and sticking to a budget. It’s not always easy, and I am not perfect at it, but I do not feel like a victim when life throws a huge boulder in my path. I know I can climb over it, find a way around it, tunnel under it, or blast it to smithereens! I hope this little piece of personal history inspires you to do whatever you need to do to take charge of your financial situation, get out from under debt and achieve your dreams.