There are two ways to look at January.
One is to fill your days with bitterness. The holidays are over. The lone-chilling cold — at least by San Joaquin Valley standards — settles as Tule Fog percolates from the sandy loam. Most trees are bare. Lawns are dormant. Our nostrils breathe in cold, damp air.
The other is to see it for what it is: Nature setting the stage for rebirth. The refrigerator weather will, in 40 days or less, yield to soft warm caresses. The skies will turn a deep blue as nature buds forth gaining strength as it awakes from a winter slumber. Our sense of smell is lavished with the scent of the world in bloom topped by that sweet elixir carried by gentle night breezes of white and pink almond blossoms.
Unfortunately those who seem to bellow the most — TV’s talking heads, disgruntled tweeters, boorish bloggers, career anarchists and their kissing cousin outrage du jour protestors, and old-fashioned in-your-face types eager to pick verbal fights one-on-one — are in overdrive. They feast off this time of year where all things sunny — from the sun to simple pleasures of frolicking outdoors — are on the short end of the stick. Some call it cabin fever. Others say it is a Vitamin D deficiency caused by taking in less rays of the sun.
The bitterness many of us seemed to harbor as 2019 has disappeared in the rearview mirror and we’re well into the first month of 2020 would perplex my grandmother.
January just 79 years ago was a dark foreboding time.
Just over a month earlier the United States had been attacked at Pearl Harbor. War was raging in Europe and the Pacific as the nation was plunged into World War II. Sons were going off to war where maiming and death awaited.
This came on the heels of my grandmother Edna Towle having struggled through the depths of the Great Depression abandoned by her husband while raising eight kids on a working ranch in Nevada County. Then after losing the ranch she moved into Lincoln with four of her children who were still too young to go off into the world. In Lincoln she worked three jobs while building a home for her family with her own hands.
There was a lot to fear of the unknown ahead. But she didn’t take to the streets complaining, cursing, getting into people’s faces or resorting to outright intimidation because things weren’t going her way. Nor did she start writing rant after rant bemoaning how the world was going to hell. It was not because grandmother and her generation lacked Internet, social media or universal access to TV where people make a living 24-7 clucking as if they were Chicken Little on speed.
It was because they were too busy trying not just to survive but to make things better.
They would live with rationing. They would collect whatever materials needed as part of community drives to aid the war effort. They would work overtime every day to supply the war effort. They prayed loved ones and neighbors flung across the globe in harm’s way would return home safely.
They didn’t have time to keep whining about politics. There was a war to win and a way of life to preserve. Had they resorted to wallowing in their fears and anxieties as many are doing now in this country the outcome of World War II would have been different.
A can do attitude devoid of bitterness is a powerful thing as is bitterness magnified on the hype of fear.
They knew they could ill afford to spend their days cursing the world’s political situation. If they did, their dreams and all that their parents and they worked for would be gone and their children’s future darkened significantly.
We are not at the doorsteps of hell but a lot of us act as if we are.
Try toning down the rhetoric. Go on a verbal diet and cut out the cursing. Think before opening your mouth and closing your heart.
You alone cannot change the world but you alone can change your attitude.
No one is saying you need to overdose on sugar or drip your life in saccharine. Life requires balance and it certainly doesn’t need fakery.
More people however respond more eagerly to the sweet than they do the sour.
Throw acid on someone and you do indeed get their attention. But rest assured you also will create a bitter enemy determined to extract vengeance to even the score or at least make you pay for your attack.
My grandmother was no nonsense. She often did what was considered a man’s job running a ranch, building a house, and working multiple jobs while raising a family.
She could get angry but it was anger that was well focused and not cheapened by employing it with frequency over every perceived transgression.
Grandmother worked to hammer home three points that she learned as she made her way through the Great Depression and World War II that were handed down by those before her who braved sailing to a new world and then heading west to California long before there was any promise of gold to lure people here.
*Don’t carry a chip on your shoulders.
*Do something to another person because they did it to you, you are just as bad as they are.
Try to find 140 characters tweeted by someone today that serves as solid as a guide for conducting our daily lives.