Friday, October 15, 2010
Maintaining a sense of community
Carlisle has developed a strong sense of community due to many factors, including our volunteer spirit, small-town traditions and recognition that respect for one another goes a long way to ensuring a positive, productive environment. We should endeavor to keep the benefits and sources of this community spirit in mind as we confront potentially contentious events and issues, such as the upcoming elections and regionalization discussions.
Carlisle can take pride that its townspeople generally work well and cooperatively together. Residents representing a wide variety of views and affiliations are able to work side by side in a collegial and productive manner on town committees and within private organizations. This friendly, interactive community is further exemplified by townspeople rallying in support of residents in need, the town supporting important fundraisers such as the Carlisle Schools Spaghetti Supper this coming Tuesday and Carlisleans strongly embracing various traditions such as Old Home Day.
The contrast between Carlisle and Washington, D.C. is stark, with partisanship, acrimony and many other negative characteristics increasingly defining national politics and undermining governmental effectiveness. Sadly, this is often driven by a lack of civility and respect.
It would be nice to think that we in Carlisle could somehow influence our dysfunctional national conversation, perhaps by transplanting some of Carlisles cooperative and effective style. However, our time is probably more productively spent focusing on our own town, reinforcing those attributes that enable it to thrive interactively on most levels.
Fortunately, most Carlisle residents act responsibly and try to solve problems amicably. Even though Carlisle has its share of potentially challenging issues to address, one would like to think that civility, respect and a dose of humor could go a long ways to resolving potential controversies.
While we in Carlisle probably cant make too much of a difference at the national level, we can certainly make an effort to ensure that a respectful, collegial atmosphere prevails locally. These are essential ingredients to ensuring that our town remains a welcoming, effective and special place in which to live.
A few weeks ago, a very dear friend turned 60. She was taken aback, but mostly amused, when the birthday card arrived from the Council on Aging. Our husbands and I are all lined up behind her in the procession to get the hell out of our 50s.
Its not that life isnt good; were all healthy, our kids are great and mostly functioning as adults. There has been a lot of happiness in our homes, but each of the four of us has been sandwiched between our kids and our aging and ailing parents living far away, all while doing our best to carry on in a post-911 world of recession and uncertainty.
A few years ago, my husband and I would jump if the phone rang after ten, worried it could be a child in need. Now its the worry that somethings wrong with a parent. It seems like yesterday that I was tromping the hallways of the Cuming Building at Emerson for earaches, strep throat, and age-appropriate vaccinations; now Im there almost weekly to see some specialist with my elderly in-laws, who agreed last year to move here to be closer to us (thank heaven).
We four Carlisle friends are all fortunate to have had parents beyond the age that they had their parents. Weve enjoyed their wisdom and learned their foibles, but the distance and the combination of parenting and care-giving has taken a toll.
Ive always loved the Big 0 birthdays because I have truly found each decade of life better, more satisfying than the one before it. I really like the way my experience has paid forward; I have a wonderful new kind of work. The decade of my teens is the only one I wouldnt want to revisit. But I didnt feel that way at the time. Here, a few years to go in my 50s, I can say with certainty that Id like to forget a lot of what Ive learned in this decade.
I dont mind what Ive learned about aging; being with my parents as they ailed and died left me more at peace about mortality than I ever have been, but Im not so thrilled with the experience Ive had this decade dealing with bureaucracies, and worse, insurance companies on behalf of my elders. No 90-year-old should have to deal with the double-talk and sheer numb-headedness of an insurance company customer service department. I hope to spare my kids all Ive learned about this. (Heres what I tell them now: dont ask for the supervisor and work your way up. Go straight to the top.)
My friend and I have both experienced, as Im sure many our age have, that point where you realize youre tapped out, that you cant make one more phone call or take on one more task without exploding. Im learning, but havent mastered, the art of giving up, at least for a little while: to read an undemanding book, to go for a walk instead of finishing a project, to hit Kimballs with my friend instead of making a healthful lunch, to say no. Many thanks to my editor at the Mosquito, Maya Liteplo, for letting me know she understood and that self-care is important, and to my fellow Forum writers whove taken up the slack when Ive said, No, I just cant write another word.
© 2010 The