We’re lucky today to have another blog post written by my wife. I think you’ll love this piece as much as I do and that she’ll contribute more often. She gives us hope when we need it.
By Jan Warrington
God gave us memory, the author J. M. Barrie once wrote, so that we could have roses in December. Barrie, the author of “Peter Pan,” included this somewhat comforting notion in his address to students at the University of St. Andrews nearly 100 years ago.
December, figuratively, is almost here for me, for my husband, and for so many of those whom we hold dear. As I close in on the last year of my 60s, cherished memories — the roses of December — offer me some fleeting solace in this age of Donald Trump. But for many of us of a certain vintage (not all Boomers, mind you), the anger, the sadness, and the fear — this fear, most of all — that the nation that we have known and loved is rapidly disappearing are with us each day.
My husband, who is further along in the December of his life, skates on the edge of despair almost daily. When he’s feeling particularly discouraged about the state of affairs in this country, he calls his sister, who often encourages us to try to have faith in our country’s institutions. Yesterday they talked for nearly half an hour. Afterward I asked how she was doing. The barometer reading? She wasn’t as optimistic as she usually is.
The nation and I could be said to be on parallel tracks: Time is running out for me, my friends — and perhaps the country. I know that I won’t live forever. But what about the United States of America and the ideals and values that it used to stand for? I pray that most of us really do still care about the tired and the poor, the many masses yearning to be free.
The renowned developmental psychologist Erik Erikson years ago hypothesized that the final challenge for humans as they age is not giving in to despair. What protects us from that despair, he suggests, is knowing that our life has had meaning and purpose. That knowledge, one hopes, will sustain us as we come closer to facing not just our disappointments but our own mortality. I can happily say that I am grateful to others who have given so much to me, and I can happily say that I am fortunate in recognizing much of what I’ve given to others.
Those roses — those personal memories, that ever-growing life knowledge and awareness — are so dear, and they are so interwoven with the life of this nation. I was born while Truman was president, I remember my parents liking Ike, and I so clearly recall that November day 56 years ago when the world fractured. I remember telling friends — I was 12 at the time — that I couldn’t come out to play on the Monday of JFK’s funeral. Like so many Americans, my mother and I had been glued, so sorrowfully, to the TV all weekend.
Then five decades of U.S history cascaded forth — Civil Rights, Woodstock, moon landing, Vietnam, Watergate, gas lines, Iran hostages, Challenger, Gulf War, Oklahoma City, 9/11, election of our first black president, death of Osama Bin Laden — and then — the election of Donald Trump. A few times since November, 2016, I have half jokingly told my husband that if I die before Donald Trump leaves the Oval Office to please be sure to talk to me to tell me what happened — and that I want him to sound joyful and elated!
Perspective, we learn as psychologists, accounts for much of how we interact with the world and with others. My life and this country — no surprise here — look vastly different at 68 than at 21. At a continuing education program not long ago on grief and bereavement, the presenter reminded us, simply, that we all come in to this world in the middle of the story — and we all leave in the middle of the story. Darn, I thought; just like a good novel, I want to know the ending! I want to know that the good guys have won, that America still has its special role in the world.
Today, a few life basics offer some reassurance. The notion of gravity? What goes up — Trump, the GOP-held Senate? — must come down. The pendulum? If it swings too far one way, it’s bound to swing back the other way (to the Democrats!) How do we hasten that swing?
This morning, through mist and fog, I glanced outside to see the last few petals of what were, some months ago, lush rose bushes filled with blossoms. The pendulum will swing back, and there will be brilliant red roses again come Spring.