A stiff upper lip

Feeling a little overwhelmed this morning. I have so much to be grateful for, and by the standards of just about anyone in the world, my life is a picnic in a fragrant meadow on a mountainside with great views in all directions. I have so much to be grateful for, much of it thanks to an accident of birth, which was my emergence into life in the West, to healthy parents all geared up to love me. In my culture, people are expected to celebrate life, to make the most of it. While every day is a challenge of sorts, and certain life events, like the death of a loved one, losing a job, flooded basements or torn ligaments are extra-challenging, they are a test of sorts, a way that the universe conspires to test your mettle and an opportunity to demonstrate the strength of your character.

And what is strength of character but the willingness to grin and bear it, to carry on loving life in the face of the grimmest of circumstances. And further, to continue to lift up and inspire the people around you, to win out over the universe, to push back against the downward pressure, to hoist up the world, like Charles Atlas, onto your shoulders and carry on.

All well and good. I have been deeply indoctrinated by my culture and am generally quite willing to go along with this game. I have a sunny disposition – another accident of birth and nothing I can take credit for – and a tendency to smile at adversity and make light of the difficulties I face, from petty disappointments to illness and death. My mother was a child of the 50s, but she inherited a culture even less tolerant of complaint than the one she passed on to me. Victorian, anglo-saxon, no-nonsense. One lived alone with one’s misery. To burden others with one’s unhappiness was beyond poor form (although it was very much that too), it was morally wrong. I actually agree, but as a child of the 70s and 80s I can’t help but put it all out there, if only to ironically dissect it for its entertainment value, or as an expression of empathy for the suffering of others.

Having said all that, I am about to break with tradition and draw up a short list all the things that wake me up in the middle of the night, sweating and trying to figure out how to solve or live with:

  • Mass shootings of innocent people in movie theatres
  • Mass shootings of innocent people anywhere
  • The paradox contained in democracy, whereby political leaders are not rewarded for long-term thinking
  • Female circumcision
  • Rape as an instrument of war
  • The continued glorification of suburbia (at least by real-estate developers)
  • The entrenchment of the tea party
  • School bullies
  • The catastrophic economic disintegration of southern Europe – and how it’ll affect me and my kids
  • Climate change and how it’ll render everything else moot and make us all yearn for the easier problems posed by economic crises, et al

Other items I could add to the list, but won’t, are of a more personal nature, and tend to constitute a cyclical mental subroutine that I would hesitate to foist on my worst enemy. This, you’ll note, is a confession of sorts, as elliptical as I can make it, and quite enough for today’s blog post. I wish you all a fabulous day, full of small challenges and great joy. May we all walk away from the weight of the world ¬†for a while and enjoy the unalloyed good stuff that life offers too. Here’s to a stiff upper lip!



2 thoughts on “A stiff upper lip”

  1. I hear you. I grew up in Canada — which then had the British stiff upper lip thing. I admire it but it also took a terrible toll on me until I learned (occasionally) to ask for help and rely on others.

    Not sure where you live, but if you live in the U.S., some of the issues troubling you are unlikely to get fixed any time soon. The political gridlock is useless. That’s not very comforting, I know.

    Having written a book about gun use in the U.S., I can tell you that most new gun laws are, in fact, at the local or state level, so that’s the place you can, and must, exercise your power. Write to your representatives and do as much locally as you can to gather support for your concerns. Waiting for federal change…not worth it.

    1. I live in Canada, where guns are not in play as often or spectacularly as in the States, fortunately, although I gather there are a lot of Canadians with guns. My primary concern is really the environment, specifically climate change. It’s a difficult issue and a kind of spectre sort of dancing around the edges of everything else happening in the world.

      It’s something we need to prepare for: I don’t think there’s any doubt that it will have a profound effect on all of us in our lifetimes. Yet at the same time it’s so hard to know how it will affect us, or when, or to what degree, and therein lies the uber-dread.

      I co-founded a website that enables personal carbon trading between individuals who drive cars. It isn’t a magic bullet, but it’s a way to sensitize people to the issues and give them something concrete that they can do to begin reducing their CO2.

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