I am admittedly reaching my mental and emotional saturation point when it comes to school shootings. That's not to say that I'm going to bury my head in the sand, but I just need to dial back on the social and other media consumption when it comes to this horrific stuff. I'll act in other ways for positive change.
Anyway, as something of my last social media comment about this, I've read multiple times an anti-gun control argument that does something like this:
"Cars can kill people too; should we ban them too?"
The argument itself has some major logical flaws. First and foremost, we have the fact that virtually anything that is misused can kill someone. That includes hammers, reciprocating saws, 80lb bags of concrete, a printed copy of the Internal Revenue Code, zip lines, box cutters, gasoline, a can of Raid And and Roach killer, and someone's dog woofy.
Guns, however, are different.
Why? Because guns are one of the few things in this world that have, as their primary design purpose, killing people. Guns were not some tool that was morphed into a killing device...they were developed as killing devices. This is what they do.
Can a gun be just used for target practice? Sure. But they are still designed to kill. It's not a coincidence that many gun shooting targets are silhouettes of people (see HERE as just one example).
Can they be used to deter violence? Sure, but let's not kid ourselves...that deterrence is based solely on the ability of a gun to kill.
Can they be used for hunting? Sure, but a bullet designed to cut through a white-tail deer will just as easily go through a fellow human.
I am not suggesting that we ban guns. If you own a gun and you are a responsible human being about it, well good for you. I am also not suggesting that the solution to mass shootings can be found solely in the area of gun control because it can't. For example, we have to have a far better discussion about mental health in this country and what drives someone to kill innocent children.
What I am saying is that changes to gun laws, in terms of access, capabilities, and monitoring, have to be a part of the discussion.
Now normally, come later in April my mood tends to perk up a bit. There are flower planting rituals to be followed, plans to be made, and schemes to be plotted. April started out good enough, but mid-month we had snow on a Sunday, and it was as if a mental emergency brake was pulled inside my head. Granted we are not talking about anything significant in terms of actual snow, but that wasn't the point. The disappointment was the point.
Now that we are in mid-May, and Spring has more forcefully sprung, it feels as if I am playing catch-up.
The flower-planting ritual is supposed to ground me. To make me feel better. It's a part of my seemingly never-ending quest to feel as if I have some control over things, all the while acknowledging that, in reality, we really don't actually control all that much. My reaction to April snow is proof-point #845 to that last sentence.
(the front flower-bed, two weeks ago)
So here I am here now, it's a warm Sunday evening, and I think I worked reasonably hard this weekend. I know, weekends are supposed to be relaxing, not excuses for hard work. Especially when it comes on the heels of sheer, utter exhaustion, courtesy of about 5 hours of sleep Friday night into Saturday morning.
5 hours sleep + significant physical labor + age 58 = probably not a good idea.
Now I don't consider myself to be a stupid person. Granted, there are some areas where my lack of intelligence borders on the glaring, but by and large I am capable of telling "Sh*t from Shinola" when it comes to most things. That noted, I still struggle greatly with sleep in general and feeling rested in particular. It's a kind of puzzle of the worst sort.
In the back of my head, and as my late brother Chris' birthday approaches, I can recall countless discussions with him about how his own sleep issues were a significant stressor for him. Now I know that Chris' sleep issues were just a sliver of his story for sure. Yet it's just another bump, not unlike most of the roads in this area.
So where does this end? I don't know. I do know I have more flowers to plant. And a decorative sidewalk to put in. And a new border to put in around my front bushes. Part of me gets tired thinking about it, yet I also know that, deep down, these kinds of things are important. Every flower and every project (small or big) helps me feel alive. In the end, what's the alternative? We all need small things in our lives that matter. Even when exhausted.
As is customary each April 26th, I had a birthday, and I want to take a moment to thank everyone who made the decision to take a moment out of their day to send me well wishes. Honestly, I don't think it's the words that people say that matter in times like this, it's the fact that they gifted me with a tiny bit of that most precious commodity, their time. The older I get, the more I see the real value in such a thing.
(As a birthday present, I will engage in some rampant stupidity.)
As I think about getting older, it occurs to me that where I am now is absolutely not like anything I could have ever expected. That's not a bad...or a good...statement; it's just a basic fact. In all honesty, we're all probably far better off that our lives aren't quite so predictable, although that is admittedly a first-world statement of fact. Anyway, a few specific things do come to mind though as I start my 58th rotation around the sun.
You Don't Figure "It" All Out
I always thought that by the time I got this old, I would somehow have magically figured it all out. What "it" means doesn't really matter. "It" is really anything important. And yes, there are things I have figured out. For example, I am reasonably sure of the things I do well, and those things that, quite frankly I suck at. As a corollary to that last statement, I actually have an entire catalog of things that I suck at, but which I still do anyway. Chief among these things is signing...or anything musical for that matter.
The big white element in the room of "things to figure out" is the very notion of what it means to be happy. I have studied this. I have read things from smart people. I have sought out learned advice.
And yet I just don't know. Now there have been times when I have been genuinely happy. It's just that those were very specific events. Part of me thinks that the notion of happiness as being this event-driven thing is just wrong. That's how children think about things; we adults should have this kind of happy baseline thing going on in our lives, assuming we are doing "it" right. In any event, I am going to going to keep looking. And thinking. And maybe considering the fact that happiness isn't something that can or should be intellectualized...maybe such things are the very antithesis of happiness. Maybe I have been happy all along.
I Value Connections (but I'm not good at them...)
The older I get, the more I realize that all humans need connections with others. We need to interact. We need friends and acquaintances. We need people who value us more than maybe we value ourselves. These are people who see us without the cloud of self-perception that hampers our own first-person view.
The reality for me is that I've always struggled with this very basic thing. Oddly enough, I think I am good at connections when it comes to my professional life, but I feel like I have trouble translating that to my personal life. I do have people I consider friends that I met at work, but on the whole, I just wish I were better at this very basic thing.
The Best Things Aren't Things
Growing up we didn't have much. In fact, the very first polo short I ever owned I bought myself at Sears using my paper route money. I now have good clothes, from my Timberland socks to the Columbia long-sleeve shirt I wore yesterday while doing yard work. Ten years from now yesterday's outfit won't matter at all to me, but that first polo shirt (it was navy blue...a Sears knock-off of an Izod polo) will because it was more than just a thing...it was a kind of first step in my becoming an adult life
There's Value In Simplicity
I have come to a deep appreciation of the value that simplicity brings to our lives. That value has been greatly amplified by just how complex the world of information has become. In the early 90s, I marveled at the Internet being a kind of library you could visit anytime online. Now? The value is overshadowed by the machine-gunning messaging that we all face in the connected world. As I think about this, I appreciate even more just how wonderful it is to, for example, see my grass being high, cutting my grass, and then see how much better it looks after that effort.
In The Future
When I think about my life 5 years from now, when I'll probably retire for real, my goal will be to continue to create a simpler life. I don't know that this will make me happier (see above), but I do know that's what seems to make sense at the moment. In the end, I think all we really have is the moment. This moment. Everything else is just time wasted on the way.