Take the Keys but Don’t Take the Car!

Some folks might call it crazy. I call it coping.

empty-fuel-guageFor those of us with parents that are of a certain age, we are thankful that someone had the sense to recommend that your octogenarian (in their 80s) or nonagenarian (in their 90s) parent not drive. It’s a good thing someone said it, because the DMV (at least here in California) doesn’t seem to be smart enough to put an age limit on driving.

Here are some stats:

Although they only account for about 9 percent of the population, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics show senior drivers account for 14 percent of all traffic fatalities and 17 percent of all pedestrian fatalities.

A recent report by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found the rate of deaths involving drivers 75 to 84 is about three per million miles driven – on par with teen drivers. Once they pass age 85, vehicular fatality rates jump to nearly four times that of teens.

So how do you get these “I’m very careful when I drive” folks off the road?

Take their keys, but don’t take the car.

Here’s my vast and deep survey upon which I base the above statement. With a sample size of exactly four I have developed this great theory, and I’d like to know if anyone else would weigh in. Or if this helped you make the right decision, let me know that, too.

Four cases “prove” my point:

  1. When my mom was 92 (!), she finally gave up driving (she made the decision, thankfully), but didn’t give up her car. That made it okay somehow. (She lived to 104. Maybe giving up one’s car guarantees a longer life.)
  2. When my father-in-law was in his mid eighties, he insisted that he could still drive. Never mind that he hadn’t driven in three years, and that his license had expired two years previously. Because his car was still in the driveway, he was somehow okay that he didn’t drive because the car’s presence told him he “could.”
  3. My girlfriend’s mom (89) hadn’t driven in years, but knew the car was in the garage. It made the idea of not driving tolerable somehow.
  4. Just this month it became clear that my mother-in-law (over 90) could not drive. “I’m keeping the car,” she announced. “I’m making it available for the family to use in a pinch.” A generous gesture: She’s paying the insurance.

These are only four cases. I get that. And  yes… insurance is a cost, but what’s the real price of getting rid of the car? Your mom or dad feels isolated and immobile. Ugh. If they can afford it, what’s the harm? Sometimes, it’s not what’s real but what we want to believe by any means that keeps our psyches on an even keel. Besides, when we all have driverless cars it won’t be an issue at all. In fact we may look back on these times as “quaint.” But until then, it’s something many of us will have to deal with.

The solution for now is clear. Let them keep the car, but take the keys.

Thoughts? Let me know your experiences.

The Sky Is Falling!

Chicken Little was sure of it. I am too. I felt it. Didn’t you? Bang. There goes another one. I especially feel this way when I look at news — or read a newspaper (yes I still do that, although I’m not sure why).

Here’s the deal: Chicken Little attracted ATTENTION when she said the sky was falling. But even though she is wrong, that doesn’t stop her from alarming those around her.

Today’s media has a “Sky Is Falling” mentality.  While they’re not usually wrong, they’re rarely telling us about something good that’s happened. It’s probably a good idea to ignore the news. If we don’t know the sky is falling, we don’t worry about it nearly as much, and are able to accomplish more because of it. When something REAL happens, then we can engage.

I like to think about the two main variations on the ending of the Chicken Little story, each providing a strong moral or takeaway (which is what fables are supposed to do). (1) In the happy ending, the story makes a case for standing up for whatever you believe in. It’s okay to be different and a little weird. Spoiler alert for ending #1 . Chicken Little and her friends don’t get eaten by the fox. (2) In the unhappy ending, the moral has to do with the consequences of believing everything you hear, no matter how ridiculous. Spoiler alert for ending #2. Chicken Little and her friends are all eaten by the fox.

I like the happy ending. I want today’s children to understand that being different is a good thing. Yes, you might get eaten, but if getting eaten is only failing, what’s to worry about? Lots of people fail and then rise like a Phoenix from the ashes of their defeat, stronger and more prepared for the next battle. On the other hand, I am very tired of the Media trying to outdo each other with the worst story du jour. The trouble is, there are too many pieces of ugly sky falling about our head and shoulders these days.

Here’s what: I say make today a good day. If you choose to watch the news and see that the sky is falling, decide if there’s anything you can do about it. If not, keep doing what you’re doing, and dare to be different. Be the weird Chicken Little. Run around with feathers flying. Squawk a little. Better yet, make the sky fall. Carve a Steve Jobs ding in your universe and then eat the fox.

 

 

 

What, Me Worry?

I’m still plowing through the 1944 Dale Carnegie book, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. The truth of his words in today’s 2016 world makes me realize we’re not that much different today than we were 72 years ago. Or maybe 172 years ago. Or 1172 years ago. I don’t know.

For today’s entry I am sharing from Dale Carnegie’s book this “Just For Today” program by Sibyl F. Partridge, which she wrote in 1925!  If I could do these every day, I’d be worry free. You?

Enjoy!

 JUST FOR TODAY

  1. Just for today I will be happy. This assumes that what Abraham Lincoln said is true, that “most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Happiness is from within; it is not a matter of externals.
  2. Just for today I will try to adjust myself to what is, and not try to adjust everything to my own desires. I will take my family, my business, and my luck as they come and fit myself to them.
  3. Just for today I will take care of my body. I will exercise it, care for it, nourish it, not abuse nor neglect it, so that it will be a perfect machine for my bidding.
  4. Just for today I will try to strengthen my mind. I will learn something useful. I will not be a mental loafer. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration.
  5. Just for today I will exercise my soul in three ways; I will do somebody a good turn and not get found out. I will do at least two things I don’t want to do as William James suggests, just for exercise.
  6. Just for today I will be agreeable. I will look as well as I can, dress as becomingly as possible, talk low, act courteously, be liberal with praise, criticize not at all, nor fault with anything and not try to regulate nor improve anyone.
  7. Just for today I will try to live through this day only, not to tackle my whole life problem at once. I can do things for twelve hours that would appall me if I had to keep them up for a lifetime.
  8. Just for today I will have a program. I will write down what I expect to do every hour. I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it. It will eliminate two pests, hurry and indecision.
  9. Just for today I will have a quiet half hour all by myself and relax. In this half hour sometimes I will think of God, so as to get a little more perspective into my life.
  10. Just for today I will be unafraid, especially I will not be afraid to be happy, to enjoy what is beautiful, to love, and to believe that those I love, love me.

 

Borrow

We borrow our identities when we give in to outside approval. It’s a counter-force to innovation if we listen to the inner voice that says, “What if they don’t like it?” It squelches the courage to ship. We don’t need approval at the creative stage. In fact, we don’t need it at all unless we want to sell what we’ve made. Anyone knows that. And so we borrow the attention of anyone we can to ask for their approval. Over and over we ask “Did I get it right this time?” “Do you like this?” “Am I OKAY?”

My dog is persistent but at some point, he gives up, content to just be. He understands that after a certain point, his borrowing of my time and attention is an unacceptable imposition. Why don’t people get that?

What about the borrow “bank”?   If you borrow money, you use it, and  must pay it back. But when we borrow people’s time, we can never pay it back. Time is gone the minute it’s spent. One cannot be on “borrowed” time.” There’s no future to borrow from. It’s not here. The past has been borrowed out. No reserves fund that bank. It’s been cleaned out as it were by the ravages of time.

Is that what Shakespeare meant Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 75–77  by “Neither photodune-1687970-precious-time-concept-clock-ma borrower nor a lender be.”? The verse continues, “For borrowing or loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.” I think Polonius was really talking about money, but  the application to the idea of time is all the more appropriate. Really… don’t lend your time, and don’t ask to “borrow” it from someone else. You cannot give it back.

Different

The eighth grade boy was the only one in the classical dance show last night. It was an arts school, yes, but he was alone on the stage. How would he spend his day at a normal school? How does he make this decision every day —to  be different, so different? Because something in his heart makes it worth the pain, and we can only be reminded of Mikael Baryshnikov… a truly great dancer who despite being Russian, was probably still derided by his vodka-drinking buddies for doing pirouettes instead of playing soccer. There were undoubtedly days of being called gay or being thrust head first into a trashcan, or pelted with tomatoes on the way home from the ballet studio. Yet he persevered.

It is scary to think that people who dared to be different may have succumbed to peer pressure; to the pain of being different — and gave up. What if Mozart had given up? Michael Jordan? Bill Gates? How do you know you’re different enough to be really good, though? What about all the male dancers that never make it to that top, and just go through life being different, feeling the pain but never achieving success with it?

Somehow, one must be able to withstand the separateness by basking in the sheer joy of doing what you do because it’s what you crave. It makes you happy; it provides moments of unbridled peace, calm and beauty. It eschews the idea that success in life is measured by money or fame, but rather is discovered by realizing that there is something that makes you so happy you smile from the deepest core of your being all the way out to a glow on your skin. Many people never find that. It’s a shame!

It’s probably because this happiness comes at the cost of the pain, and the moments of frustration and solitude endured by hours and hours of practice in a room with an instrument, at the ballet barre, at the computer, at the driving range, in a swimming pool, or wherever one does one’s servitude to the god of Perfection; and she rarely yields her blessing. Perfection arrives sporadically if at all; sometimes never. Mostly in the blink of an eye, then it’s gone, and you doubt it was there, because, it really could have been better, couldn’t it? Probably so.

So, you’re left wondering… I did it perfectly, or nearly so, and I practiced until my eyes crossed, my toes bled, my muscles screamed in agony, my head pounded. And finally, I tried out. I auditioned, I competed, I sent it off, I played my best, did my best, sounded my best. But what if I did not win, get the part, make the grade, or achieve that illusive next level? I still I love what I do. So I will keep trying, remain different, and be joyfully alone and true to myself.

Four O’Clock in the Morning

There’s an arc of every day.  It’s part of the rhythm that does not bear toe-tapping, unless you pay obsessive attention to the music of time passing. Having just listened to Rives’  The Museum of Four in the Morning TED Talk, I now know this four-in-the-morning time of day has slipped into our consciousness through an amazing array of songs, poems, births, sound clips and more. But why is it so popular?!

I am not a four-in-the-morning person. It’s clearly after three a.m., and strictly before five. I get that. Five is, in fact, a reasonable time to wake up. Really. Especially if you have logged seven hours, starting at 9 o’clock the previous night. Who does that, though?

Songs and soundbites notwithstanding,  it seems to me that four o’clock in the morning detaches the night from the next day. Absolutely 3 a.m. is still night. But four? It’s a catch… a ladder’s top rung before descending to the waiting earth of the next waking day. It’s the window almost shut or almost open. It’s the glass half full. This, in essence, is its allure. It beckons. It promises. It is Groucho and Billy Collins, and Rives. It’s THE sound bite.

It’s not a time of day that you think about until you do. And then it drives you nuts. Ask Rives.

YES!

Just say yes. Yes to life. Yes to happiness. Yes to adventure.  Yes to experiments. Yes to yesterday. Yes to being outside. Yes to travel. Yes to solitude. Yes to crowds. Yes to humbleness. Giving. Gratitude.  Yes to meditation. Consciousness. Yes to frugality. Yes to IMG_0761creativity. Forgiveness. Prayer. Enlightenment, learning, knowledge.  Yes to children. Babies. Dogs. Bubbles. Water. Quiet. Far off places. Smells. Rising bread. Sweet apple pies. Yes to permanence. Yes to transience. Yes to classes, to study, to goals. To rootlessness, to roots! Yes to writing. Finding joy. Living joy. Living light. Yes to being free. Yes to comfort in your own skin. Yes to solving knotty problems. The scientific method. Trial and error. Dumb luck. Smart luck. Being open to luck. Having love. Giving love. Staying married. Being okay. Always positive. Being the best you can be. Say yes to curiosity. Yes to failure. Say yes to experience. Just say yes.