by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

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It is easy to see what courage looks like.  We observe it in the acts of those who, in spite of intense danger or inconceivable suffering, or endless determination, an individual continues to live on. To move forward.  We see it in the movies where it makes us feel safe and in control in events we know we may never survive.

But what does courage sound like? Does it reveal itself in words, in songs, in other types of media?  Perhaps real courage sounds like Silence.  The silence of grief that cannot be expressed in words.  The silence of a heart being shattered.  The silence of hidden tears and silent screams.

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And what does courage feel like?  It may be different for every person, yet, individually it contains some singular similarities. Our feelings, much like hearing, is silent beyond ourselves.  Emotions, an element of feelings, come at anytime, day or night.  It cannot be quantified, perhaps because we may not be able to find a beginning or end in its infinitesimal existence.  You see, feelings go beyond emotions. They are deeper, often jumbled together with anger, love, gratitude and sadness.  We feel what we feel.  Attempting to put feelings into words can be exhausting, exasperating, and mostly ineffective.

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Courage, like feelings and hearing is also Silent. It is very much present. There is both a sweetness and bitterness in courage. The sweetness of living through a reality that many may never experience.  The bitterness resulting from that very same experience.  It is not about the “why me”, “how come”, or “what ifs” of suffering. Simply having the courage to accept the experience for what it is— an experience that changes a person from the before to the now – and beyond.

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We spend too much time trying to define/identify courage. Most results are superficial at best.  For if, as I believe, courage is found only in the Silence… the empty spaces between the noise and what is seen, heard, and felt.  We often miss or mistakenly identify courage.  Its potential seed lives in most of us, yet, it can only be germinated when or if the time presents itself.  For some of you reading this piece may think, “What the heck is she rambling about?”  For others, those who have lived the courage, you may only nod your head and silently say “true”.

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by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

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It has been several months since I wrote the last blog. Honestly, I chalk it up to lack of motivation and simply feeling I had little else to say that would be worth anyone taking the time to read. Some individuals even commented on how many of the past blogs were a bit depressing. No kidding! Many of these  individuals may have never had the combat experience or served in the military. It is difficult to understand something that has not been experienced. Humor at times can be difficult, especially during the holidays when you live with a person suffering with Post Trauma Stress. The experience is so not funny.

Yelling at those who don’t seem to appreciate or understand this type of suffering would definitely be something I’d have to mention in my next visit to church and confession.  Just hope it might be a different priest who won’t say something like…. “Well, seems like you haven’t made much progress in this area”.

At this point my entry into heaven would be further compromised. At the very least I would be on Santa’s naughty list.

So, why am I writing a new blog now?  Because it is Christmas.  My favorite holiday (along with Easter, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day…).  Really, I love the smell of the season, the food, the lights in and outside of homes, carols, and the various displays around town. Unfortunately, as much as I love Christmas, I am reminded of how many of our veterans find this particular time of year a huge challenge. Christmas may be an unpleasant reminder of all that was lost – those who never returned home and those still serving in harm’s way far from home. Depression, anger, feeling alone and removed could be emotions that have to be dealt with once again. It is hard to be jolly or even be around those who are jolly when you are fighting to just keep your head above the waters of Merriment.

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Tonight Tony was talking on the phone with a friend and veteran who was facing another season of cheer and trying to simply get through it and keeping his emotions/temper in check. During the conversation Tony mentioned that it was this time of year when he was in Vietnam and severely wounded. He lost many of his men during a horrendous battle and later spent months in various military hospitals trying to heal from his injuries. All these decades later it is not the physical wounds that test him the most. It is the emotional aches that make the holiday season taxing. Instead of all the Ho, Ho, Ho,….. I know that certain days he wants to scream, No, No, No More!!!

For years I had no idea of what he faced or continued to face. My delight during this time of year only exacerbated his loss thus causing more than one argument. Now that we both know better, we finally do better. I try to be a bit calmer in front of him, and he tries to take better care of his emotional needs by having more quiet time, going on long walks or taking Bailey pheasant hunting. And both of us focus on counting our blessings.

 

We’ll be darned if we let the PTS Grinch steal Christmas ever again.

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Christmas Tree Glow

by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

 

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A few weekends back we attended the first reunion of Wyoming Vietnam Veterans in recognition of the fifty-year anniversary of the beginning of the Vietnam War.  For many it was the first time they had ever been thanked or honored for their service. As with most gatherings, there were parades, activities and several inspiring guest speakers. One of the speakers, a DSC and Silver Star recipient, Lee Alley of Wheatland, Wyoming spoke of his experience. Yet the message that resonated with me was when he noted that so many of our veterans are “Not Yet Home”.  The way he could tell was simply by looking into their eyes which still held the gaze of combat.

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There have been numerous articles, books, and blogs, including ours, that refer to this condition. Merely returning home from war does not mean that the individual has forgotten all that went on during his/her time in war. Although too many civilians (and even some veterans who have never experienced combat) seem to infer that coming home means being home. What few people fully understand, including some combat veterans, is the heart and body carry the burden of war. The mind continues to hold the traumatic events and the cells of the body alert the person to any sight, sound, taste, touch, or smell that even remotely relates to the dangers faced on the battlefield. The feelings of peace and security do not yet necessarily exist just because one is back home. Memories refuse to fade and may become even more vivid. The heartache and horror of war remain raw within mind, heart, body, and soul.

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Not Yet Home is the albatross around many veterans’ souls.  Forgetting is not an option.  Trying to reintegrate into a “normal” world takes an immense amount of energy, and it is a goal that even those who have been home for over forty-plus years have not yet achieved. Living with the images, pain may be the new “normal”. What is hopeful for those suffering with Post Traumatic Stress is that with patience, support and practice a person can still live a productive, joyful life. Perhaps, Not Yet Home is the best one can achieve.

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And that may be good enough.

by Tony & Janet Seahorn

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!
 
Following is a special Christmas message hosted by Tom Brokaw.
The video is certainly worth the pittance of time it takes to view.
 
Christmas from Heaven is the story of the humble beginnings of what became a beacon of hope to a war-torn land.

The story of Gail Halvorsen, a young pilot in the US Army Air Corps who was assigned as a cargo pilot to the Berlin Airlift, in which US forces flew much-needed supplies into a Soviet-blockaded Berlin.

On his missions, he dropped candy to children and became known as the Candy Bomber.

Blessing to All.
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hjz8yu5MWC0&feature=player_embedded
 
(Click on Full Screen  right bottom of video)
 
 
Christmas 2014

PAY ATTENTION

Filed Under American Patriotism, Tears of a Warrior, Veteran's Day, Veterans, War | Comments Off on PAY ATTENTION

by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

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In teaching, one of the first principles we discuss is how to gain and keep your students’ attention.  The reason… attention is the first thing that must occur in order for a person to think beyond what is happening at any moment in time. An interesting fact about attention is that the mind is always paying attention to something… maybe not the “thing” we would like it to be attending to… but, nevertheless, it is attending to something- the good looking gal across the room, the day dream that is more fun than the lecture, and God help us, anything that can pop-up on any tech device.

And so it is when our country, our communities, our neighbors think about our veterans. Veteran’s Day is now over and perhaps, for a few, our country, our communities, our neighbors may have thought about our veterans for a few minutes on that day. During that one short day of the year, perhaps all of these groups paid attention to our veterans, in between the various department store and furniture sales.  Yet, for many veterans, Veteran’s Day was merely another day that served as a sad reminder of all that was lost – their friends, their innocence, and for many their physical and mental health.

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Americans are such a blessed, fortunate people. For most of our history our major conflicts have been fought overseas, away from our land. Other than our early history, especially in the last century, we have avoided having to watch our cities, our neighborhoods, our families destroyed by enemies. We haven’t had to pay attention or live the horrors of war. The action wasn’t right outside our homes. We didn’t have to wait for the bombs to fall, the guns to fire, or the foe to knock on our door late at night and carry us away into the darkness.

These are the things other people in other faraway lands have experienced. These are the things other people in other nations are forced to pay attention to… every hour of every day. Few Americans have had to endure the brutality of war. They might read about it in the daily news, watch it on TV or the internet, or even pay to see a movie. It is a very crucial lesson for each and every one of us in this country to see, to understand – for the enemy is not far from us. Paying attention to our veterans should be a reminder each day of the sacrifice they and their families have given for our freedom. We cannot, however, rely forever on the sacrifice of a mere few to protect the rights and independence of the many.

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Pay attention, America.  Pay attention and be ready to give as much as our veterans have always given.

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by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

Chris 1 

“Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.”

Francis P. Church

            At this time of year it may be hard for many to believe in much of anything, not to mention a person named Santa Claus. Nevertheless, I still love the story of how the letter, “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” came to be.  It was written way back in 1897 by a man named Francis Church. Mr. Church was an editor of the Sun newspaper and when receiving a letter from a small girl by the name of Virginia O’Hanlon asking if there was a Santa Claus he wrote his now famous letter. You see, Virginia’s father told her if something appeared in the Sun it must be true. Golly, how times have changed. At any rate, I still find his response to the small Virginia a reminder how important it is to believe in the kinder, sweeter things in life. How miracles surround us every single day, but in our despair we may only be able to see the cruel, bitter, and oftentimes heartbreaking fragments of the moment. Perhaps reading Mr. Church’s famous letter might remind us all of what is really important during this holiday season. His words are as enduring now as they were way back in 1897.

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The answer as published in the New York Sun was:

Virginia, your little friends are wrong.
They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

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Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

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You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

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If you are finding yourself in the Grinch mode, read Virginia’s letter and think about whatever is good, precious, or beautiful in your life and choose to believe.

Chris 5

U.S.S. Indianapolis

Filed Under American Patriotism, Cleatus Lebow, Tears, Tears of a Warrior, USS Indianapolis, War | Comments Off on U.S.S. Indianapolis

by guest writer, Terry Creekmore

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USS Indianapolis

A Poem about Cleatus Lebow,  a World War II survivor of the U.S.S Indianapolis.

Written by Terry Creekmore, Tsgt (E-6)  Wyoming Air National Guard.

 

The old man shuffled through a gas station in the flat north Texas land.
Unremarkable except for the hat he wore as I paused and shook his hand.
USS Indianapolis the hat said on its brim.
I’d read the books and heard the tales as I stared in awe at him.

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Cleatus Lebow was 87 years old when I shook his hand that day
But his life was defined by a mere four days and the memories were there to stay

Four days that few remember

Four days he could not forget

Four days that haunt the nightly dreams of those survivors who live with regret

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~ Heroes walk among us still today and their stories need to be told ~

Normandy, Bastone, the Canal and Iwo will make your blood run cold
Few remember and fewer still care about those events so long ago
But few have endured the terror and pain of the hero Cleatus Lebow

The Indy was a proud ship that now only sails in lore
She delivered the bomb to Tinian and helped end the greatest war
It only took twelve minutes for her to sink beneath the waves
Nine hundred men in the water but only 300 would be saved
The heat the cold the thirst the sharks all took a terrible toll
The men who survived would forever be seared to the marrow of their soul

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~ Heroes walk among us still today and their stories need to be told ~

Pusan, Inchon and the Chosen Few

Battling in that terrible cold

So many heroes of that forgotten war are quietly growing old
Yet their sacrifice and bravery have never been extolled
Few remember and fewer still care about those events so long ago
But few have endured the terror and pain of the hero Cleatus Lebow

The navy needed a scapegoat so they court-martialed Captain McVay
The justness of the verdict is still argued to this day
The letters and the guilt and the ridicule made the holidays particularly strained
So in the fall of 1968 he put a bullet through his brain
Another victim of those terrible days
When the sea and the sharks made a living hell and sanity lost its way

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~ Heroes walk among us still today and their stories need to be told ~

Route Pack six, Ia Drang and Khe Sanh but the nation was so cold
There are just some things you can’t apologize for and this is certainly one
The spitting the jeers the taunting the tears they just can’t be undone

Now they are old. Most of them gone. Only thirty-six survive
Those four days are history now and only our memories keep them alive
We can never repay the debt we owe as that generation fades away
All we can do is to keep the faith and from that we will never stray

~ Heroes walk among us still today and their stories need to be told ~

Firefighters, Fallujah and Seal Team Six
the bravery never gets old

The torch has been passed and now this generation is writing its own history
Honor and tradition can still to be found in the deserts and the mountains and the sea
But they have big shoes to fill because the Indy is forever on patrol
Crewed by the souls of 900 sailors on a mission beyond their control

Few remember and fewer still care about those events so long ago

But all of us owe our freedom to heroes like Cleatus Lebow

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by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

 


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            If you have never been to Lubbock, Texas it is a flat, dry, and very youngAmericanCity. It was founded in 1911 which was a bit surprising considering that today it is home to around 250 thousand people as well as the well-knownTexasTechUniversity. TTU has the largest campus of any university in the United States and an attendance of close to 35,000 students. There are few places one can go where they don’t see some logo or item related to the Red Raiders. I must admit I really liked their black, red, and gray colors…. a very classy look for their entire plethora of apparel, knick-knacks, jewelry, poster, etc. Texas Tech is also home to the largest Vietnam archives in the world.  People from anywhere in the world can access their files through internet with little or no cost.

However, here is what impressed us the most about the university and its personnel, it is a very veteran friendly campus and tries to honor its veterans and their families every day. Last week, before Veteran’s Day, it hosted a four day event celebrating veterans and families. On Wednesday they oversaw their first Veteran’sSummit. It was a day of learning about the challenges of returning from war and transitioning into a community where less than one percent of the population has been fighting the last ten years in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Various professionals, including Tony and I, spoke of the difficulties of living with Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injuries.  A doctor addressed the complexities of vision problems veterans face. Several veterans, including a panel of four young men who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, shared their experiences in combat and how that impacted their ability to reintegrate back into their families and neighborhoods. Their stories were both heartbreaking and informative. COL David Lewis shared what Lubbock is doing for veterans along with how essential it is for every community to have a Veteran’s Court that deals with those who find themselves involved with actions that landed them in jail or mental health facilities.

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Friday evening, the community and university put on a banquet for Purple Heart Recipients and their families. Several Gold Star families (those who have lost loved ones) were part of the event and Medal of Honor Recipient, Doc Ballard fromKansas City, was the Keynote Speaker.

One of the most remarkable parts of the four day events was when almost 500 Purple Heart Recipients were treated to the Texas Tech football game. Before the game began, paratroopers floated into the stadium with Old Glory flying behind them. One of the jumpers was Dana Bowman, a veteran who had lost both legs in a fatal skydiving demonstration in 2001. His courage is a testament to how incredibly resilient our men and women in military are when they are in combat and even more so when they return. As he stated in his speech, “It is not the disability, it is the ability” that matters.

For most Americans who have never had to fight for our precious Freedom few realize – especially our young population – what it is to live without Freedom. We must all guard against complacency and never take for granted the gift that each American has been given because of the service of our military.  God Bless our armed forces and our many veterans and their families. Freedom is never free.  Let’s support and heal all of our veterans every day of every year, not just honor them one day a year. It is the least we can do.

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by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

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            So many questions… most unanswered … fill my mind. Questions such as – What is suffering?  Why does it exist in our world? How do we lessen the feelings of hurt, pain, anger, and hopelessness? Very few responses are suitable for any one person, any one situation. Yet, it seems like nature is one of the few healers in our world of chaos and woundedness.

Last week we were privileged to be a part of a Healing Waters activity at the Blue Valley Ranch inKremmling,Colorado. Twenty four vets from FortCarson who are part of the FortCarson’s reintegration program and several who had been former members of the military took part in the program. For four days and nights Project Healing Waters Staff, along with community members and fishing guides volunteered their time and boats to wade fish theBlueRiverand float theColorado. Everyone strived to make the veteran’s activity a nurturing and healing experience.

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Long before the adventure began, participants began learning about the art and craft of fly fishing.  They learned the various life cycles of flies and many even took up fly tying which has proved to be a very important part of their life-long healing. Once the group arrived at the ranch they were fully equipped with expensive fly rods, fishing vests, hats, and other fly fishing necessities. Each veteran was accompanied by a personal guide to assist, coach, and make sure every need was addressed during the four days on the water. BlueValleyRanch is a good steward of the land and the staff works hard to ensure a high level of commitment to their warrior guests.

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But here is the fundamental mission of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing… it is not to merely provide a few lovely days in beautiful surroundings. The primary mission of Healing Waters is to give each wounded warrior an introduction to an activity and potential life experience that can help heal their mind, body and spirit… It is simply not enough to go away for a few days and fish. Staying in touch with the guides, roommates, or others who have touched their hearts is essential. The guides and Healing Waters partners are around to take the participants on future trips. They are available to talk, to go for coffee or a meal, and to merely be an extended part of their new family.

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Yes, Healing Waters most definitely provides comfort and hope to any traumatized individual. However, it is people who heal people. It is communities that offer support and nurturing, and it is being with animals and beautiful surroundings in nature that help a wounded soul believe that even in a harsh world, there is still immense beauty waiting to be experienced.

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Quite simply it is the unpretentious comfort of nature and humankind that brings one back to believing in the humanity that is still present even if one can’t immediately see or feel its presence.

So, go to the river to heal, and be sure to include your faithful dog companion to complete the experience.

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by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D

Religion does not heal. People heal people. They do it through love, generosity and acceptance.  Look. Listen. Heal.  Oh so simple yet so difficult to achieve.

For four days we were with a group out of Canton, Ohio who were conducting a conference called the Warrior’s Journey Home. It started with the interesting collaboration of a church pastored by Dr. John Schlup and a Seneca wise woman, Shianne Eagleheart.  Through Shianne’s sharing, she taught several members of the congregation the spiritual and physical healing of the Healing Circle. My brother, John, has been a living example of the power of Native American spiritual customs and blessings in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

 The purpose of the Healing Circle is to give an individual a safe, nonjudgmental place to be – to listen – to learn and to share his/her trauma experience(s).  Sharing is not an expectation like in many traditional therapy groups.  It is merely an invitation if one is inclined to disclose his/her words. The sharing is only for those in the circle to hear. Stories must never be disclosed beyond the circle unless given permission by the person speaking.

So here is the really cool part of the sharing, there is a hand carved stick that looks like a walking stick.  However, this stick is truly special because the only person who can speak is the person holding the talking stick. There are no time limits a person has to hold the stick and no one can get up and take the stick from that person. When the speaker is through disclosing  his story he will place the stick back in its place or hand it to another person.

Oh, and another powerful trait of a Healing Circle is questions are never asked of the speaker.  Wow, unlike modern therapy, there is no interrogation, advice, or “extra” comments. One may be given a hug or a small a glass of water by a listening member, but that’s it.  By moving through the circle an environment of listening and caring is generated.  Perhaps this is why the Healing Circle is such a special experience for veterans.

To make the experience even more powerful a drum and drummers may be present.  Shianne’s partner, Bob honored the group with his handmade drum.  Healing Circles often begin with native songs and drumming.  The beat of the drum mirrors the rhythm of the heart. This mimics the ancient ceremonies meant to simulate a mother’s heartbeat when the warrior was in her womb. It calms the thoughts and anxieties of the attendees, and gives each person a way to begin and end the Circle experience. Like the mystical poet, Rumi, advises, the circle empowers many thoughts:

“What you seek is seeking you.” 

“Most people guard against going into the fire, and so end up in it.”

 One of my favorite old Chinese proverbs says it all,

“You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.” 

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