09 August 2010

Another Birthday

A friend of a friend heard the following line from her shrink: What makes you think that every day has to be extraordinary? [This is neither a joke nor a hypothetical.]

My immediate reaction is that we [as in middle-class American baby boomers] are basically brats, and good enough is never good enough for us. However on second thought I realize that we have every right to believe that every day and every life should be extraordinary, but the word itself requires reconsideration.

This year I woke up in New York City at the quintessentially upper west side apartment of my deaf friend Carol. I awoke up in my comfy bed, turned on the tap and hot water came rushing out so that I might take a brisk shower and emerge clean and fresh. I opened a double-door refrigerator that protects our food and grabbed a handful of fresh blueberries... while Carol walking the dog, got me a hot fresh bagel, the real deal.

For much of humanity, any of these things are extraordinary.

My children are healthy and forging solid meaningful lives that will benefit others and bring them a lot of satisfaction. I talk to my friends on a regular basis, and see them when I can, and thankfully most are healthy and living mostly fulfilling lives. I earn just enough money doing work that is mostly satisfying and makes use of my [considerable] skills. My wireless internet connection at the moment is "excellent” so I can receive birthday greetings, ditto on the cell phone, which rings enough times this day to make me feel lovable.

Because of where I have chosen to live, I am rarely cold. When needed, I enjoy the warmth of my fireplace or heat running through pipes in the walls.

I make choices for myself. I do not fear for my life. I am occasionally hungry but never starve. I take long walks. I listen to great music. I read great literature. Some or all of these things every single day - is this not extraordinary?!

I read a good newspaper, including a hard-copy of the Sunday NYTimes, the New Yorker, Atlantic and Newsweek, more than enough to digest each week, as well as several on-line news sources that are well-written. And lots of books, books always in piles awaiting my attention. I have had the benefit of a good education so that I can think with some clarity about the world and sometimes hold lofty conversations with other smart folk.

I survive sadness and loss as we all do, and most of our losses are less than most others around the globe. I try not to think too often about refugees, victims of floods and earthquakes and the Taliban, or the plight of the poor and the incredible number of those unemployed, but I think about them enough to serve as witness. I consider this to be important – we need to bear witness and pay attention to what happens to others of our human race. My dear immigrant mother who had such high hopes and ultimately so little would look at my life as extraordinary. The little girl from the Bronx who has traveled and lived in beautiful places, and has the most wonderful friends. Not to mention two master's degrees and a lifetime of interesting work experiences. And the option of working less, from home, and hopefully traveling more, including more time in places like New York/CT and London where the people I love most reside.

I have health insurance, which I pay for, but I can afford to, and if I get sick, I have options. If needed, I can buy pain killers, although I have a personal naturopath, even better. And before too long, I will have access to that great public option: Medicare. One of the blessings of age.

I am learning to speak Spanish, slowly, painfully, as the synapses don’t quite connect as rapidly as they have, but I am learning to do this, and learning is the most natural of highs. Learning, and spending my birthday in the big apple.

We all seek higher levels of self-fulfillment and there is no reason not to aspire to more but, in truth, we all live extraordinary lives. Simple, satisfying, opportunistically extraordinary lives. Every single day. Happy birthday to me. xx

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