Finding Peace When Times are Hard

There was a shooting in my hometown today (about three hours away from where I now live).  Being a very small town in a very rural area, this isn’t exactly something you expect to read about when scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed.  But sadly this isn’t the first time there’s been a shooting in this supposedly peaceful place.  It’s the second hometown shooting I’ve found out about via Facebook just in the past four or five years.  In any case it goes without saying that this is a horrific tragedy that has no doubt affected countless individuals.  It’s ironic to me how so many people have this idea that small towns are inherently safer, more peaceful, and generally more moral than the rest of the world.  I can tell you from personal experience that they are not & that small towns are exactly how Agatha Christie used to describe them in her books: they are a microcosm for the larger world.  All the evil that exists in the world as a whole exists just as strongly in a small town.  It just might not seem quite as apparent if given only a cursory glance.  This isn’t a rant against small towns (even though I’ve long since realized that small town life just isn’t right for me anymore, at least at this stage of my life).  I’m just trying to say that evil is everywhere.  There’s no running from it.  No hiding from it.  However, despite what I often hear, especially at times like this, I don’t believe the world is getting any more evil than it’s ever been.  First of all there is absolutely no scientific way to measure that.  And second of all, I truly believe it’s only due to technology such as TV & the internet that we are more aware of so much of the evil in the world, which of course makes is seem like the world is getting worse & worse.  Perhaps if good news received even half the attention that bad news receives, we wouldn’t be so convinced that the world is “going to hell in a handbasket,” as it were.  But sensationalism sells . . .

times are hard

Anyway, at times like these, I find myself slipping into the cynicism that inevitably rears its ugly head whenever such senseless tragedies occur.  I did not personally know the victim but I interacted with her a handful of times growing up, as she worked in the local school system, & her son was involved in a teen group at my church when we were growing up but I haven’t seen or heard from him in many years.  The alleged perpetrator as I understand it, who at this writing is still at large, was a barber in town for many years & as such was well known in the community (somebody correct me if I’m wrong here).  I believe my dad used to go to his barber shop.    Point being, I don’t have a strong personal connection to this tragedy, but even so it is a shocking event that sends the mind reeling with questions about the uncertainty & unfairness of life.  I like to think of myself as mostly a positive person but I think at heart I am actually a realist.  I cannot help but see reality for exactly what it is most of the time.  For example as a nurse, I cannot help but realize how completely futile the care I provide is at times.  Or when I think about becoming a mom, I cannot help but realize how difficult & tiring of an undertaking that will be.  I often hear women say “Babies are cute but I just had no idea how much work this would be.”  When I hear such things, part of me wants to slap them in the face.  How could you NOT realize how much work a baby will be?  To me it’s just so obvious.  Just as it’s obvious to me that a 90 year old who cannot speak, eat, or care for herself in any way & generally has no quality of life should be a DNR and should not receive a feeding tube to prolong her misery.  But I’ve strayed from the point . . .

What I’m saying is I’m struggling right now to fight my way out of the darkness.  I know there are plenty of wonderful people in the world & I truly believe that good is stronger than evil.  If I didn’t, I don’t think I could keep going.  But when you’re presented with tragedies like this that quite literally hit close to home (the shooting occurred maybe two miles from my parents’ house), it’s easy to lose sight of that.  Having no strong personal connection to this horrifying event, I feel actually quite selfish being so upset by it.  I know the victim’s family & friends are suffering so much right now.  Yet I also know there are others like me who have no real connection to this story & yet are horrified just the same.

Certainly this is a time of grieving for my hometown & there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking our time to grieve & process such a horrific event.  As I wrote around Christmas, grief is a ghost that will haunt us forever until we learn to work through it (  We each must identify the coping mechanisms that help us to work through our grief and the cynicism that can naturally follow such a tragedy.  For me music is quite often the best healer.   Music along with writing is what helps me make sense of a senseless world.  Or perhaps I should say to come to terms with a senseless world.

As it turns out, earlier this week I was fooling around on YouTube, as I often do, & came across a new song by a band I discovered at Uproar Festival in Raleigh in September of 2012, shortly after we moved down here.  The song is called Times are Hard by Redlight King.  I have been listening to it almost non-stop for the past few days & I cannot help but feel like the timing of discovering this song was quite providential for lack of a better word.  The song talks about how when life is hard, when tragedies take us by surprise & there seems to be no balm for our wounds, we need to find someone to hold onto to keep us strong.  How appropriate at a time like this.  To me it’s an empowering song, yet it doesn’t gloss over how difficult life can be at times.  I don’t know if the song was necessarily written about this kind of horrific tragedy, but that’s the beauty of music: it can mean whatever you want it to mean.  It can speak to you wherever you are at this point in time.

I’ll leave you with the lyrics & a link to the song on YouTube.  Check it out.  It’s powerful stuff.

Sooner or later life will pull you in

Make you choose to either sink or swim

Somewhere down the line it’s gonna break your heart

Put you out & make you wear the scars

All these dreams, they come with all this doubt

When we can’t fit in we try to find a way out

Learn to fight so they don’t seal our fate

They say you never see it coming till it’s way too late

These times are hard, feels like nothing’s gonna change

Nowhere to start, & you got nothing for the pain

`Cause when life moves fast, it don’t matter who you are

You gotta find someone to hold onto

Damn, these times are hard

We build those bridges & we watch them burn

So quick to pull the trigger, so slow to take our turn

We’ve all been locked out & we’ve broken down the door

Some of us hit the dirt, some of us still come back for more

When the thirst gets so bad, you’re just dying to get a taste

When it don’t involve religion, when it don’t involve the race

And there’s everything to lose `cause we were never born to win

Willing to sacrifice everything we have just to roll the dice again

These times are hard, feels like nothing’s gonna change

Nowhere to start, & you got nothing for the pain

`Cause when life moves fast, it don’t matter who you are

You gotta find someone to hold onto

Damn, these times are hard


Life isn’t perfect, so it’s just what you make it

And that’s what they tell you

But it’s hard when they’re holding you down

Somebody out there for you

They’re praying it all gets easy

Someone you hold onto

These times are hard, feels like nothing’s gonna change

Nowhere to start, & you got nothing for the pain

`Cause when life moves fast, it don’t matter who you are

You gotta find someone to hold onto

Damn, these times are hard

I’m Not Afraid of Getting Old

Last week I traveled to Virginia to visit one of my best friends & attend a concert with her. After the concert as we were walking back to our cars we started talking about getting older & I told her something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I don’t fear getting older because to me it just seems like I’m “growing into my age.” To my great relief she completely agreed with me. (I’ve always said the way I know I’ve made a great friend is when they can relate to my weird ideas & thereby make me feel less crazy.)

age is just a number

Basically my whole life, certainly since I was 16 or thereabouts, people have always thought I’m older than I actually am. I remember during my first few weeks at college so many people were shocked when they discovered that I was only a freshman, & even as a nurse people always seem to assume I’m older & more experienced than I am. Quite a few people in my life, both my age & decades older than me, have told me that I have “an old soul.” I’ve always taken this as a compliment; some certainly meant it that way, others perhaps not.

I’m not really sure what point I’m trying to make with this post, but I see that our society is so focused on youth & constantly trying to fight or hide the signs of aging & I can’t help but feel that this has some deeper meaning. Let me be the first to admit that I know I’m going to freak out the first time I find a grey hair or notice a wrinkle on my face that isn’t from sleeping on the pillow wrong. It’s only natural to not want to be reminded of your own mortality & to want to look beautiful forever. And in our society, like most societies I suppose, young & beautiful are pretty much synonymous. (By this I mean youth does not necessarily equate to beauty but someone who is deemed beautiful is almost always young or “looks great for their age.”) But this constant obsession with looking young makes me inclined to believe that our society does not value the wisdom of old age; nor are we thankful for the opportunity to grow old.

Perhaps it comes with being a nurse but I don’t see getting older as something that should strike fear in our hearts. Even as a kid I had a pretty liberal view of aging. In fact as a child my sister & I used to say people were “getting old” in their 70’s but not actually old till their 80’s. As a nurse I’m constantly reminded that age is just a number & so many people can be “young” into their 80’s or even 90’s if their health is good & their attitude is right. Others can be “old” in their 40’s if they have poor health & a negative attitude toward life. It’s really all about perspective & understanding that life really is a gift. Again as a nurse I’m continually reminded that not everyone gets to live a long, healthy life. So to me the idea of getting older isn’t so scary, for as long as I have reasonably good health I hope I will see each new day as the gift it truly is.

I’m not blind so I know that getting older does have its own unique difficulties. But right now getting older for me just means my late 20’s & 30’s & hopefully becoming a parent some time in there. I know my attitude might change 20 or 30 years from now when getting older means arthritis, cataracts, & other age-related troubles. But for right now I have to say, unlike a lot of people, I’m not dreading turning 30 in a few years because honestly I think in my mind I’m already a bit older than my age says I am. I guess it goes back to that old soul thing because so much of the time I find myself feeling older than people my own age in the sense that I have different values about life or am simply at a different stage of life than many people my age. (I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant because I certainly don’t think I’m better than others.)

Lately I’ve seen several blog posts & articles about the self-confidence that comes with reaching your 30’s, & I have to say I can’t wait for that. I look around at people in their 30’s & up & I do feel like they are much less concerned with what everyone else thinks about them because they have learned to value themselves based on their own standards, making the opinions of the world therefore less a concern. I for one can’t wait for the day that I’m that confident!

I guess my point in writing all this is that each stage of life is of value & we shouldn’t rush through or regret any of them. You don’t have to be religious to believe that life is a gift & therefore we should cherish each day, each year, each decade & make the most of every one of them. I know our society has always joked that it’s impolite to ask a woman her age but I for one am proud of my age & plan to always be that way. I love the little old ladies who aren’t afraid to say “I’m 81 & proud of it!” I’m not saying it’s wrong to dye your hair to cover up the grey or to dress in more stylish clothes than the average person your age. Not at all. Indeed I love it when I see older people keeping up with modern technology & trends. But I also think our society needs to learn to value old age as much as it values youth & to realize that getting older isn’t a tragedy at all. It’s a gift.

I hope I will always seek to embody the best qualities of each stage of life. I aspire to never lose the magic & wonder of childhood, the passion & intensity of adolescence,  & the excitement & energy of young adulthood. As I age, I hope I can maintain all of these characteristics while also embracing the wisdom, diversity, & knowledge that come with getting older.