GratiTuesday: The Young and the Restless

I imagine that just about every older generation looks at the younger ones nipping at their heels and wonders if they have the skills and fortitude to run the world one day. Are they too selfish? Unfocused? Lazy? Have they been sheltered too much or have their lives been made too easy? Are they overly obsessed with their status on social media? Will they be able to take the reins when the time comes for them to pick up where we left off?

I wish I could say that my generation has done a better job during our tenure. Sadly, the environment is in deep trouble, violence and conflict are seemingly everywhere and never-ending, and the chasm between the haves and have-nots is widening. We will be leaving them with a bit of a mess.

Yes, you are.

Two observations these last few weeks have given me a reason for hope: seeing the optimism of the young athletes who took part in the Olympics and following the focused passion of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I am grateful to see young people who are energized, who reject societal inequalities, and who see the urgent need to protect our environment. They are concerned and they are restless, and they understand that sitting down and shutting up is not an option.

If they are indicative of the generation coming up, I think we are in good hands.

Thursday Doors: Tears for Quebec

I had quite a different Thursday Doors planned for today… until I read Norm’s on his blog Norm 2.0. His post was a departure from his usual intriguing but lighthearted #ThursdayDoors posts. What he wrote today was thoughtful, emotionally powerful, and it hit me in the gut.

Go ahead, read it now if you haven’t already. I’ll be here when you get back.

My husband and visited Quebec City this past June, just days after the horrible massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. That shooter killed 49 people and wounded 53 others before being shot and killed by the police. His reason for the rampage: Hate.

U.S. Consulate General office in Old Quebec, 2016.
U.S. Consulate General office in Old Quebec, 2016.

As we were touring Old Quebec, we came upon the United States Consulate General office located along one of the many lovely streets in this incredibly beautiful city. As awful as the news had been just a few days before, seeing a large rainbow flag flying at half-mast next to the U.S. Consulate door, made us proud of our country and our (then) government. The flag was a clear display of deep sorrow and a show of solidarity with a community that often finds itself maligned.

Now, we read about the massacre that happened in beautiful Quebec City. The gunman used a different religion to justify his action, his skin was of a different color, and his targets were a different “other.” But, his motivation was the same: Hate.

Evil feeds on evil. Rather than speaking words that lift us up and encourage our better selves, people in power – and those who seek power – are speaking words of hate and suspicion. They do it because it works, they do it because some people need to feel “better than” to feel good about themselves.

I’m not sure when this evil will stop, or if it ever will, but I know we need to speak out against it when we can. We need to defend the “others” who are victims of the hate and let them know that they are us and we are them; we are all in this together.

I wonder what flag is flying outside the United States Consulate General office today. I hope very much that it is one displaying deep sorrow and solidarity with a community that often finds itself maligned.

Is this when the wheels start to come off?

I have a friend who is battling colon cancer. She has undergone several series of chemotherapy over the past year and has yet to receive an “all clear” diagnosis from her doctors. Each time she thinks she is done, they’ve found new reasons for concern. After completing her last round of chemotherapy, she is now in a wait-and-see holding pattern and we are all cautiously optimistic.

Another friend is currently undergoing chemotherapy for Lymphoma.  She is one month into her treatments and after another 4 – 5 months her doctors will do another evaluation. She is getting a lot of support from her husband and friends, and we are cautiously optimistic about her outcome.

A neighbor who is also a good friend had a mastectomy a few years ago when a small tumor was discovered in her left breast. Recently, during a routine follow-up with her oncologist, it was discovered that her HCG levels were unusually high. High HCG levels are normal in pregnant women; high levels in a non-pregnant woman can be an indicator of ovarian cancer. She will get her test results later this week and her friends and family are cautiously optimistic that she will get a clean bill of health.

Then, just the weekend, I called a friend that I’ve known since grade school regarding an upcoming get-together. She told me that her attendance was up in the air at this time because her husband was recently diagnosed with severe Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS), a bone marrow disorder. In general, the prognosis for patients with advanced MDS isn’t encouraging, but she is doing her best to maintain a cautiously optimistic perspective for her husband and her family.

Hope

These four medical challenges are not the only ones faced by friends and acquaintances; I know a few who have battled cancer and won (at least for now) and several others who are living with MS and other long-term health issues.  But, these are the most recent and I can’t shake the feeling that there seems to be an uptick in the number of serious diagnoses received by friends, friends of friends, and their family members – all close to my age.

In general, when we reach retirement age, we are focused on our finances and our emotional well-being. Many also realize that it is important to exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet. When we think about the future, our concern is often how to ensure adequate care in our advanced age. I don’t think most of us put a lot of thought into facing an early death – of either ourselves or our loved ones.

A recent article in the New York Times titled Why Everyone Seems to Have Cancer discusses how cancer is slowly overtaking heart disease as the number 1 cause of death. Due to an increased focus on the benefits of exercise and a healthy diet, and the availability of medications to control blood pressure and cholesterol, heart disease is less likely to affect someone between 55 and 85. Because of the way cancers develop (over time, due to errors in cell evolution), just the fact that we have lived a long time makes us susceptible to these cell mutations.

Although there have been a lot of strides made in the treatment of some cancers, preventing it in the first place seems to hold the most promise. Governments do this by improving sanitation, regulating and banning certain toxins, and promoting research and the development of vaccines. On the individual level, we can make sure we pay attention to what we eat and get plenty of exercise to keep our weight at a healthy level, stop smoking – and if you don’t smoke, stay away from second-hand smoke, and avoid excessive sun exposure. Of course none of this is a guarantee: not one of the four friends mentioned at the beginning are overweight or have poor eating habits, they don’t smoke, and none of their cancers resulted from too much sun exposure.

I’m not sure what the takeaway from all of this is. I don’t want to live my life in fear of what could be waiting around the corner. I am fair-skinned but I love the being outdoors, so I slather on SPF 50 and go out and enjoy myself. Although I’d love to be able to encase my husband in bubble wrap when he goes on one of his routine 50-mile bike rides, I know I can’t. We both try our best to avoid unhealthy food but, sometimes, something bad is just the thing that makes us feel so good.

So, we do our best. We try to get as much out of this life that we can, love the people who we hold close as hard as we can, take as good care as we can of our frustratingly aging bodies and minds, and always strive to treat others with patience, kindness, and respect.

We remain cautiously optimistic about the future.