Relaunch of my blog and answering the question, why do it?

Anti-climax has its place I suppose. This post was originally going to serve as my reentry into the blogosphere. News events prompted me to change that plan with a well-received blog post about Meryl Streep and Donald Trump.

Before that, I last posted a regular blog entry in mid-May as I retired from the Walter Cronkite School at Arizona State University.

I promised in that last post that during a planned hiatus, I would decide if I was going to continue the blog and exactly what form it would take if I did continue. I also needed to sort out why and whether I might continue.

This blog was born as McGuire on Life, Disability and Grief in August of 2014 out of three needs. A) I needed a broader canvas for my thoughts and feelings than my blog McGuire on Media offered me. B) I wanted a forum on disability to discuss my book, “Some People Even Take Them Home.” C) I needed to bare my soul about my grief after my late wife, Jean Fannin McGuire died in June of 2014.

My hope was that my personal experiences might offer comfort at the same time I provoked people to think deeply about grief and disability. I am convinced personal stories intrigue, stimulate and educate.

Contemplating the relaunch of the blog forced me to confront why I should do it. The truth is writing the blog on any kind of a regular schedule is perilously close to work and I just retired from that practice.

Rumination led me to realize that writing is not really work for me. It’s how I think. I add flesh and blood to all the weird ramblings in my head by writing. I need to write.

I also need to touch people. Few things make me as happy as the realization that my writing touched someone. My book, “Some People Even Take Them Home”  did not sell near as many copies as I’d like. Yet, writing that book is one of the most satisfying experiences of my life. I know it affected some people profoundly. For a writer, all you really need is to affect one person.

I admit to a deep desire to encourage people to think through issues and prompt them see things in a new light. I completely understand my opinions are my  opinions and I am wrong a lot. Writing on a public blog allows the give and take from an audience that will make you painfully aware of your errors in judgment and will applaud your successes.

So that’s why I am relaunching the blog. I changed the name to McGuire on Life so that all the old subjects are fair game, but I can also broaden my canvas to include travel, retirement and the people I meet on those new adventures.

I am still disabled. I still have a disabled son. I still think a lot about illness and grief even though I have found a delightful new love. Those topics will remain a part of this blog.

After I retired, I needed new business cards. My new card says Tim J. McGuire, Life Enthusiast.

At root, that is who I am.  To the frequent consternation of the two women I have lived with, I wake up every morning bubbling and happy and usually stay that way all day.

We are at the point in American history where too many people are  struggling to be enthusiastic about their spirituality, their politics and their futures. I don’t propose a Pollyanna approach. If I were to redo those business cards I might make it  “Realistic Life Enthusiast.”

I hope you will find that describes these blog posts.

Tim J. McGuire is the author of “Some People Even Take Them Home.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My 66th birthday, and the first without my late wife, looked quite different

I turned 66 Tuesday.

That modest language seems appropriate rather than exuberant verbs like celebrated. And yet, nothing about birthday 66 seemed unimportant or trivial.

For the last several years I have been complacent about birthdays. “It’s just another day, ” was my frequent refrain. I said that once Tuesday and it felt false, even phony. I regretted it the instant it escaped my mouth because it wasn’t true.

This birthday was a big deal but not for its opportunity to drink, party and make a special fool of myself as I did many more times than I should have on my life’s journey. This birthday made a special mark on me because gratitude took its appropriate place after last year’s death of my wife Jean.

As I told several well-wishers Tuesday, the point now is to keep having more birthdays. The importance of appreciating the gift of life becomes far clearer as I enter what I hope are the last 20 years of my life. As one birthday greeter said, “Happy birthday, Tim. Every year is a gift.” That is so true and such a vital thing to remember. I wish it was a perspective I could say I have had all my life, but I’d be a liar. It has taken age, wisdom and a little fear of death to help me realize that sense of gift.

It is definitely true, though, that the realization of life as a gift has been informed and given urgency by Jean’s death. Every time I said “the key is to keep having them,” I thought of Jean and the fact that she will never have another. I didn’t tear up every time I said that, but I do think it has strengthened my resolve to live my life more fully and with more gratitude.

Wednesday morning a woman who desperately wanted a copy of my book offered to pay for it. She can’t afford it and I can, so giving her the copy with a warm inscription was really pretty small potatoes when it comes to kind acts. But, the joy on the woman’s face and her enthusiastic and genuine promise to “start reading it right away,” made my day. It also reminded me that brightening people’s lives and doing kind acts every day is a crucial way to recognize the blessing and gift of each day we draw breath.

Tim J McGuire is the author of “Some People Even Take Them Home” A Disabled Dad, A Down Syndrome Son and Our Journey To Acceptance

Rounding the corner on grief

Grief is like no other journey I have ever taken. It’s a bit like going from Minneapolis to New Orleans by way of San Francisco, New York and Florida. It is not a straight-line, north-south trip.

I am also convinced that during the trip it is mighty difficult to assess your location but I am going to make a stab at it. I think, believe, sense, suppose, postulate, assume, understand and any other speculative synonym you can conceive that I have turned a corner on grief. I can’t tell you when I turned that corner. I am convinced the grief journey seems clearer in reflection, but I can tell you five things about why I believe I have rounded that corner and what it is like.

1. Rounding the corner on grief is not a place. There is not a mile marker or a sign that tells you that you are done and have completed the journey. I certainly have not. I still grieve often. Just ask my close friend Bob Brown who held my shoulders as I sobbed in church on All Souls Day or that driver on the highway the other day who stared at me as I cried. I suspect I will cry over the loss of my wife Jean for the rest of my days but those tears are now punctuated with a sense of genuine celebration over what we had.

2. It is not forgetting. I still find many things that cause me to think fondly of Jean and even a few things that tick me off. And then I wonder why I let something so small tick me off. Then I grieve again. Remembering Jean fondly and respectfully is, in my mind, a crucial part of my journey.

3. Rounding the corner on grief is realizing I am not feeling consumed with overwhelming sadness. The pit in my stomach, or perhaps it was a hole in my heart, that I felt from the moment Jean died has grown dramatically smaller. It even goes away for hours at a time.

4. I realized I had rounded the corner on my grief when I started finding great joy in other people. For a time most people just pissed me off. Happy people, sad people, well-intentioned people, mean-spirited people, innocent bystanders, and especially happy couples, they all just really honked me off. That’s gone now and people usually make me happy. I let some people make me happier than others. I have even started thinking about and making plans for the future. Several weeks ago the future was an abyss that I needed to avoid thinking about at all costs.

5. I have become comfortable with the fact that my grief is ever-present. But it has softened over time. It no longer over shadows my every moment. I have recaptured vitality and joy when teaching, watching a college football game or having coffee with friends. I don’t think there is a set time-frame for grieving. No calendar pin points the arrival of acceptance and hopefulness for a future without the one I loved most in the world. I believe the time spent in deep grief is as unique to each individual as DNA. For me, being sad, angry and hopeless are suits that just don’t fit.

I still grieve Jean. If she wants to come back I would welcome her. But she’s not coming back and grief will not consume my soul. Instead Jean is a celebratory memory for whom I will still cry, but I know Jean would want me to be happy so I am off to do her will.

Considering what people think of us

A lot of us try to talk tough. We shout from the rafters that we don’t give a good damn what people think of us. We say we don’t care what they say and that we can rise above it. We tell ourselves “to thine own self be true,” but we seldom believe it.

Most of us obsess about what the people down the hall are saying about us. We are deeply hurt when some mean-spirited assessment of our behavior or character gets back to us. We primp physically, we buy the best  we can afford and we present our most charming selves on days we don’t feel at all charming, just so we can “impress” people.

My favorite spiritual author Anthony DeMello is brutal when he describes the self focus of humans. He writes in his book Awareness: “I press a button and you’re up. I press a button and you’re down. And you like that. How many people do you know who are unaffected by praise or blame? That isn’t human we say. Human means that you have to be a little monkey so everybody can twist your tail and you do whatever you ought to be doing.” DeMello adds “But is that human? If you find me charming, it means that right now you’re in a good mood, nothing more.”

When people berate us, criticize us or belittle us it tells us far more about them that it does us. An older friend was recently devastated when a peer told her how horrible and selfish she was. It was the peer who was acting horrible and selfish but the peer has to live with that. Meanwhile, my friend is devastated because, like most of us,  she actually does care what people think of her.

These days I am trying to let the wisdom of a friend guide me when I am victimized by gossip, mean-spirited observations or when somebody just has no use for me. She says “what other people think about me is none of my business.”

I know that’s not new, there is even a book with a similar title, but the phrase was new to me. I find it profoundly shaping advice. It tells me I cannot be concerned about outside opinions. It tells me that I better know who I am, know what my gifts are and I need to know how I use those gifts to help and serve others. If I am confident in my personal assessment of myself, I simply don’t need to know or care what others think or say.

I need to own me and my actions and not let the wagging tongues own me. I need to live, give and love as I see fit, not as someone else dictates.