Keep calm and carry on. That was the official advisory. That, in the face of Hitler’s blitz of London, back in the days when the war was on and it looked like all of Europe was lost.
And they did. That is the miracle of it all. The most strange thing about Hitler’s firebombing campaign, was that it actually emboldened Britons, and left them more able to face what would be required to win the war. Getting bombed right at home, kind of took the edge off their worst fears, especially when they woke up the next morning and life just carried on.
It’s kind of like that. Age adds layers of complexity to life. You end up sooner or later like Atlas, holding up the world and wondering how you got there. I am scratching my head because I can remember sweating over a few hundred dollars a month in diaper bills, and now I am set to send off my last daughter to university, and feeling the familiar financial pinch, in the tens of thousands. That I have done this twice already may have helped. I am not sweating. We will all get through it one way or another.
There is a long list of things you come up against in life that you first can’t manage. Then you meet someone old and they are very calm about everything. Perhaps it is that sense of perspective, that divides inconvenience from the stress of a real problem.
We particularly suffer from a lack of perspective in North America, having been shielded from any invaders on our home turf for almost two hundred years, and enjoying the freedom to work and live in relative peace and prosperity. That is why we are called the first world, and we have first world kind of problems.
First world problems in general, are things like I can’t seem to lose weight. Versus the third world problem, I haven’t eaten dinner in three days. First world: Bummer, I can’t get good wifi reception here on my iPhone. Third world, I don’t know where my parents are, and a rival tribe has hacked most of the village to death with machetes. You get the drift.
Still, North Americans like to be humoured with the idea that they have real problems. This is skewed in popular media, that beats the drum for certain hobbyhorse issues as if there was never anything else to talk about. The last few years, have been 24/7/365 gender identity issues, even though that particular borrowed trouble may afflict only a very small portion of the population. I recall the winning stories in the last CBC writing contest were right on theme. One told about a small African girl who pretended she had the equipment of the opposite gender. Our state-sponsored broadcaster thought it was endlessly clever. Myself, I was thinking that more Africans are likely worried about what’s for dinner, than what their personal pronouns might be.
In North America, it has become dangerous to talk about a lot of things because people may get ‘triggered’. That is, experience secondary trauma reflecting something difficult they have internalized from childhood. They can get positively hysterical. There are safe spaces proudly declared in every university just in case anyone should become apoplectic at the mere mention of a topic because you know, (cough) language is violence.
I am not sure if anyone ever apprised the ‘kids’ that life is not safe. Think back to when you were an emotional teen. Maybe your first breakup at about age sixteen. Your life was over, then sooner or later you figured out that you may indeed go through a few one-and-only’s in a lifetime. You got over it. Why? Because eventually you discoverd that life is not safe at all. It is fraught with peril at every age and stage. Even sex is not safe, despite whatever precautions people may bring up against it.
It’s a truly dangerous world. Maybe we should get over it. Eventually we do. We sweat about paying a mortgage, then we get used to it. We suffer from workplace politics. Then we figure out how to handle it. There is nothing that we don’t eventually get used to. Some people even get so used to incarceration that they immediately reoffend upon release so that they will go back to jail.
The world is truly a strange place. And did I say, dangerous? Oh yes, very dangerous.
Keep calm and carry on.