Mike Matthews photo

Mike Matthews

Eight years ago, famed musician Peter Frampton found himself with a constellation of unusual physical symptoms including tight ankles, weak legs, and balance problems. He tried to ignore the symptoms and dismissed them as problems with getting older for four years — until he finally visited a neurologist and eventually received a diagnosis of Inclusion-Body Myositis (IBM), which is an extremely rare inflammatory muscle disease. Myositis disease also includes Dermatomyositis,(DM), Polymyositis (PM), and other varieties of inflammatory muscle disease, but Framptom’s IBM diagnosis is especially cruel and devastating to him because it will likely affect his finger flexors, which are essential for playing a guitar. There unfortunately is no cure for any type of myositis and Frampton recently announced a farewell tour. The beloved musician universally received the outpouring of love and support that he deserves.

On Feb. 3, Rush Limbaugh revealed he has received a stage 4 advanced lung cancer diagnosis and the next evening, President Trump awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom — which is an award that is up to the President’s discretion — during his State of the Union address. President Trump thanked Limbaugh for what he called “decades of tireless devotion to our country” and for the work he does for charities. The surprise award prompted some Democrats to yell “no” in the chamber and ignited a large internet and social media outrage. President Trump stated, “Almost every American family knows the pain when a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness” and this statement rings true for me and I know for many others.

I’ve enjoyed listening to Limbaugh at times over the years and will always remember how taking a drive while listening to Rush was the only way I could get my grandson to take a nap (like him or not, he has an outstanding deep voice). Being an independent voter, I also have enjoyed opinions from liberal media and take under consideration the source when forming an independent opinion. It is beyond the scope of my intention here to support that Limbaugh deserves the Medal of Freedom award, but he certainly deserves our thoughts and prayers. The contrast to the reaction to the illnesses of the universally popular Frampton and the controversial Limbaugh struck me as concerning

Have we become so polarized that we not only support people who we favor, but also we wish our “enemies” ill will? It seems that often the answer is yes. We all are one people, and even if it feels like taking bad-tasting cod liver oil, it is important to practice radical goodwill toward all people and wish them the best.

We recently were entertained by a good game in the Super Bowl. If the quarterback on your opposing football team is about to make the game-winning throw to a receiver in the end zone, does the defense take out a gun and shoot the quarterback? Hopefully our society will never descend to that level of open madness, but often it seems we are metaphorically shooting our “opponents” instead of deeply listening to the other side of issues. Let’s stop “shooting the quarterback” and try to get along better because we are much more together than we are alone. I usually do not recommend specific supplements, but a daily supplement of GFH (gratitude, forgiveness, and humor) can be a valuable prescription for anyone in these troubled times.

We need to be kind to each other, especially those suffering from illness and disability (even Rush). Every person is worthy of our love, encouragement, and compassion. The literal meaning of the word compassion is “to feel with.” It can take an effort with some people who you feel are challenging, but the dilemma of turning your judgment into compassion, of letting vengeance disperse into forgiveness, and letting go of your resentments toward all people is good for you, our community, and our planet. We live in a world where many people feel they have surpassed their boiling points and they are at the end of their ropes. My suggestion is to tie a knot at the end of the rope and hold on because things will get better. I’m feeling a real sense of hope everywhere I go because that is what I focus on; where your focus goes, your energy will flow.

In these threshold times, when we seem to always be in the crucible of extreme circumstances with a cascade of challenges, we all need to commit to positive change within ourselves and for our country and be a force for good for all people. Remain realistic and authentic, but stay enthusiastic about the unlimited possibilities for our personal and collective renewal and return to love for one another. We can’t control everything that is going on around us, but we can control ourselves.

To me, the best advise for navigating our current personal and collective odyssey remains: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” Even the great secular writer and rugged individualist, Ayn Rand, loved this quote.

Mike Matthews is a retired teacher, counselor and mental health administrator with a mission of creating a healthy and cohesive community.

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