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And Yet Another Year, are we tired of dumpster fires yet?

by tgposzadmin on March 22nd, 2023

As you can tell by the title, things – well – in 2022, they continue…

Rather than a blow by blow for a number of bullet points as I’ve done before, I thought it might be best to focus on some things that really matter, because most of this day to day is just tiring and if you understand what doom-scrolling is, it’s hard to take and very little one can do to change things. Sure, we vote, but the day to day – it’s exhausting. I write about things because it’s therapeutic, at least for me. I do hope they are interesting to you, I’d like to think so.

As a departure from other iterations, this time I decided to focus on what most people fear, and there are usually 3 things:

  • Not contributing enough toward their families,
  • that professional success will elude them, and
  • concerns about health challenges and old age, including memory loss.

Family usually means to provide food, shelter and maybe entertainment. An environment where one can grow, where the kids are safe to experiment and still not die. I exaggerate but this might not be as true as we’d like. When I think of contributing for the family, I think of “are the kids alright” or are “we going to make it”. However, in this go-go world, and since the pandemic is “over” (ha!), we seem to be going faster than ever before. And there’s the rub, in our efforts to “provide” we’re missing out on what contributing actually means.

Since I’ve retired I’ve developed a different perspective, sure to be colored with the fact that I’m a caregiver for my wife (she’s mobility challenged). It’s also by the fact that I was able to take a package at my last job that provided about 12 months of salary and benefits so I didn’t really have to “work”. Actually, this did two things – it bridged me over to social security and Medicare benefits and it provided a period of time where I didn’t worry about money so much (e.g. the “salary” was essentially being provided and I didn’t really have to work, per se). I used the time to get adjusted to my new caregiver role, which is much harder than you’d think, I certainly didn’t think it would be so difficult. I’ve gotten my share of advice with everyone telling you to take care of yourself, don’t get lost taking care of someone else – and for the most part, I’m fine.

For other people that still have to work, well they are back at it, now that the pandemic is “over”. I see them on the freeway (which is clogged again) and I purposely avoid the rush hours (again) and the air pollution is back (remember those clear skies when people were staying home?).

The fear part of this may occur to people when they realize that the family is grown up, or the divorce happens, or some other major event but the family is not “alright” any more. My first Sensei died last year, of Covid (he was only partially vax’d) but the point is we might not live as long as we might want to. Certainly in his family’s case, and certainly for his wife, they certainly do wish that he was still there and there is a lot of grief to process. I have a nephew who has his own struggles with a son that has cancer, I’m sure that was not in anyone’s plan.

In our family, over the last decade we’ve had our major challenges as well, I’m not talking just about my wife here. There were times when I thought we might not be able to keep it together and just like any other unforeseen event, I didn’t expect them. At the end, I could only “do the right thing” and be supportive and then frankly – hope for the best. We’ve weathered it, we were lucky, we’ve got some grit within us to fight for what we want.

Someone once told me: No one “builds a house.” Rather, they lay one brick – again and again and again until the end result is a house. A remarkable, glorious achievement is just what a long series of un-glorious, unremarkable tasks looks like from a distance. Similarly, we might look at those Space-X Falcon-9 launches of the various satellites and consider that these too are glorious achievements, particularly since those 1st stage boosters can land themselves back on the ground or a drone ship for reuse. What we don’t see is a lot of the differences and what must be exhaustive work that goes into one of these launches, not to mention all the experience gained from the previous launches, including the failures. In the Space-X case, there were failures up front where the company might not have survived. You really can refer to that old adage that the journey begins with a single step, and is followed by another step, and another, and so on.

But I think the fear, for many, is a very very real emotion. Is my contribution real? Is it having an effect for the positive? For that matter, is my own head on straight? How do I start? What if I mess up the first step? I think this is where most people’s fears are for their family. Maybe it becomes too much, perhaps focused too much on the job and then the family suffers. I’ve been there. Perhaps we all have been there.

Success is elusive and perhaps for many, not to be had. Recent political exchanges suggest that most are finding success very elusive, if not completely missing and they are looking for someone to blame, ergo what we have in today’s politics. But, what does being successful mean? Success in your relationships or marriage? Success in a career can mean different things to different people, but a commonly accepted definition is “achieving one’s personal and professional goals in a fulfilling and satisfying manner.” This can include factors such as

  • financial stability,
  • recognition and advancement in one’s field,
  • work-life balance,
  • personal growth and development, and
    a sense of purpose and impact in one’s work.

There are some negative consequences of success, however…

  • Overworking: working long hours and sacrificing personal time. But burnout, poor physical and mental health, and strain on personal relationships can result. It’s not just the “work” environment I speak to here, this can and often does enter into relationships when someone is staying home to care for the family/house. Burnout is very real among caregivers, for the young ones and the old.
  • Envy and Jealousy: one becomes successful, it leads to feelings of envy and jealousy in others, personal relationships may be harmed and toxic work environments are the result. You’re aware of the YouTube videos of people “keying” a Tesla car? You ask, why would anyone do that? A feeling of envy and jealousy, that person wants to “get back” at the successful person, because they are not successful.
  • Isolation: maybe there are feelings of loneliness and disconnection as you are separated from your peers and whatever support system you had in place.
  • Arrogance: breeding arrogance, or a sense of entitlement, and a lack of empathy for others. Harm may come in both personal and professional relationships.

These are just a few examples, but success, in any human activity, can have consequences. You need to be aware of those consequences and manage any drawbacks.

Of course, sometimes it’s hard to even get started on the success “path”. Note the word “elusive” above. Initiating a change in your life where you become independent or start your job or finish school… It can be just as hard. Some people never move forward, they just accept things. In fact, I’d say that if basic human needs are being met, the change will probably never happen. If needs are lacking, then is when the change is sought. Something needs to be in your life to “want to have” success, because the desire to strive for something, it’s just like a race, where the running itself is driven by striving to cross the finish line first.

In the end, perhaps the only way forward are these steps:

  • Set clear and specific goals: Determine exactly what you want and make a plan.
  • Break down the goal into smaller, manageable steps, it helps you make progress.
  • Surround yourself with support: friends, family members, or a support group. But be careful, sometimes these people, even family, can hold you back, e.g. “you’ll never be able to do that!”. Keep this latter group at arm’s length.
  • Hold yourself accountable: Keep track of progress.
  • Stay positive and stay focused: Believe in yourself, even when there are challenges. Keep your “eye” on your end goal.
  • Celebrate achievements: Reward yourself for each step you take towards your goal, no matter how small it may seem.

Health is an integral aspect of an individual’s life, and I had a big reminder of this in November. Your health becomes all the more crucial in a case where the person suffers a heart attack. A heart attack is a life-threatening condition that occurs due to a sudden blockage in the blood supply to the heart. Obviously severe health complications or even death can result. What happened to me was that a spontaneous blood clot lodged in my heart (a cardiac embolism). What could have followed might have been heart failure or a stroke, where the clot travels to the brain. Or an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) or the clot could travel to the lungs.

I got lucky, because the obstruction was partial and they took me to the “cath” lab, where Cardiology was able to remove the clot and no stent was needed. I felt so good afterwards, I was ready to go home! But of course, they kept me for 48 more hours…

Maybe it goes without saying, but for situations like this, prompt medical attention is necessary. Listening to your body, the symptoms, chest pain (or it could have been shortness of breath or sudden loss of consciousness) should lead you to seek Emergency Department (call 911 !!!) treatment (in my case, catheterization removed the immediate threat). Blood thinners, they are probably in my life from here on out. Mine was not the typical heart attack involving plaque which breaks off a blood vessel wall and leads to a blood clot forming around the plaque, rather something more rare, and genetic, where the clots are forming spontaneously. It is likely an inherited genetic mutation, known as “Factor V Leiden” and I now know that I have this. Up to 5% of the general population in some countries have this condition which leads to thrombosis. It is generally inherited from one parent. In my case, I suspect my Mom. She had DVT’s in her legs a lot in her later years.

The aftermath has been a little harder to deal with, oh pills and even shots are ok, I can deal, after all this; a heart attack, of course I’m going to treat this seriously. Mostly I’m contending with the psychological aftermath. The physiological are being taken care of. I’m talking to someone, who assures me that in cases like this, it gets easier with time. But every little twinge, every shortness of breath, it starts the alarm bells ringing in my brain. I need to accept that I’m doing all the right stuff, I have good doctors/advice and not to make things worse by increasing my anxiety level.

I think you’d be hard pressed to find any objection to the idea that maintaining good health allows you to lead a fulfilling and productive life, it’s a cornerstone of overall well-being. At the same time, I don’t think anyone ever really expects that my one and only heart organ might not continue to do its job.

So, I think many people worry about not contributing enough to their families, or that professional success might elude them. Perhaps concerns about health challenges and old age intrude upon their thoughts, especially later in life. My own experience: I retired and became a caregiver for my wife and from this, I gained a different perspective on contributing to my family. Sure I had fears of not being as successful as others, but what does success actually mean, is it about the journey? Fears are real, but step in at a time and focus appears to be the right thing.

We all have ongoing challenges in life, particularly with family or our jobs. These concerns are probably common yet that fear is a very real emotion for many people. What’s important is perseverance and taking small steps. Everyone’s journey is unique so don’t add unnecessary stress and anxiety to the mix. Progress and growth are important rather than comparing ourselves to others. Seek support from loved ones or professional resources; it can be helpful for these challenges and achieving success.

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