Columnist Jim Cahillane lists his concerns when stress levels are sky-high

  • President Donald Trump awaits the arrival of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi at the White House in Washington on Monday. AP FILE PHOTO

Published: 3/21/2017 7:18:54 PM

People are whining that their stress levels are sky-high. Last November the voters elected a racist, hypocritical, blowhard, sexist, narcissist and lying TV personality as our 45th president. I too have a multitude of concerns; let me count the ways.

1.) I read the papers and watch the news. Probably a mistake.

2.) Donald’s rants personify Abe Lincoln’s cautionary advice that “It is better to remain silent and thought a fool than to speak (i.e. tweet) out and remove all doubt.”

3.) So-called President Trump cries that he is a victim rather than the cause of the ballooning lack of trust in America’s institutions: government, the courts, the media, the rule of law, plus religious freedom — and that’s just for starters.

4.) There’s good news for Lent, a time when Christians pause to take stock of their lives: Pope Francis advises us not to worry about how every sad panhandler’s dollars are spent.

5.) As one lucky American guy with an intact family whose members love and look out for each other, I have reason to say a daily prayer of thanks. I’m a fan of the obituary pages, though seldom shocked because bad news travels faster than any newspaper. I’ve begun to appreciate how rituals comfort us when, inevitably, loss enters our lives. Will Shakespeare profoundly compared our world to a stage in “As You Like It”: “And all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances.”

6.) Watching this administration swear in its gang of billionaire appointees reminds me of how casually I once took oaths. Joining the service I raised my right hand and swore to obey all legitimate orders. It was the 1950s when, in fear of communism, American citizens were asked to sign loyalty oaths under threat. Professors, teachers, government workers and others refused, well aware that such oaths were unconstitutional and un-American.

7.) “Without benefit of ceremony,” is a phrase used to put down lovers who act outside society’s norms. It’s gossipy at best and, I now think, likely said with a touch of jealousy. Because of my local Catholic upbringing, we chose St. Mary’s Church for a wedding that became a political campaign event because my father was running for reelection, and footing the catering bill. Our big day followed a two-year courtship in England and here. It was a ceremony for the ages with my sister, brothers, parents, aunts and uncles on hand. Monsignor Cummings came very close to losing a new parishioner when he prompted my nervous bride to “speak up so the witnesses can hear!” Some ceremonies you don’t forget.

8.) St. Mary’s is on my mind these days because of my late friend Ed McMahon and his battle to keep his parish church viable. As an attorney and parishioner, Ed had the bravery to stand up to the strongest of tides — cultural change, his bishop, the Vatican and demographics. Ed’s faith was deeper than my own, a great soul. Despite our being old friends, he disagreed when I wrote that the church was made up of the faithful, not the building. Real friends speak frankly to you, come what may. I miss Ed and today join in his sorrow that Northampton’s Gothic masterpiece is up for sale.

9.) Attending weddings brings out tears because they embody humanity at its high point. We bless and admire the couple at their insistence on proclaiming a lifelong commitment. Given America’s divorce rate, bravery seems too mellow a word. Times have sure changed a lot in 60 years. I read that 62 percent of new households in the UK are unmarried. These couples have children, houses and necessities that a wedding portends. Love comes along when our lives most need it.

10.) I attend more wakes and funerals than weddings. That’s OK, it’s the way of things. Ceremonies around life’s sunsets are important. Making the effort to show up is often difficult, but if possible we should remember a passing. Yogi Berra is credited with saying, “If you don’t go to theirs, they won’t come to yours.”

11.) I cry at weddings, less so at funerals — if, that is, the deceased had lived a full life. A proper ceremony has power to mollify pain. Whether attending wakes or sitting Shiva, we greet friends, recall happier days, and say a prayer for the deceased. I only know what Ronald Reagan Jr. believes from his joyless advertising campaign for atheism. Pope Francis has said that atheists who do good works are more heaven-worthy than Christian hypocrites who fail to live their faith.

12.) A befitting burial honors the dead and the living. I admire the children and grandchildren who step forward in tribute to their loved one in poetry and prose. Their grace moment passes quickly, a ceremony ends, but each tender memory lightens our hearts.

13. ) Russia is not our friend! Ergo, 45’s shaky “victory” must weather serious investigations of hacking and collusion.

Williamsburg author and poet Jim Cahillane’s latest book is “The Pilot’s Satchel.” He writes a monthly column for the Gazette.

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