36 questions, #s 7-9

Here we go again! If you’re just coming to this and wonder what it’s about, here’s the first post that explains, and this post covers questions 4-6. It’s fun thinking of my own answers to the questions, but what I really loved about the previous posts were your answers! I don’t care if you’re too shy to put them in a comment; some people emailed me or sent Facebook PMs. Whatever! Now, to the next three questions:

7) Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?

First, before I answer the question, I acknowledge that my hunches — secret or otherwise — are wrong 99.99% of the time. It’s that .01% that screws me up, because I can’t just completely discount them. So I have a hunch but it’s probably wrong.

Second, before I was ~16, I didn’t think I would make it out of my teens alive. I didn’t have a specific hunch, I just figured one way or another I’d die before I was 18.

Third, when I made it that far, I had this secret hunch that I would die in a car accident. I even had a specific image, that I’d be thrown from the car and lie in a grassy spot and die with my eyes open, looking at the sky.

NOW, my secret hunch is that one far-distant day I just won’t wake up, and I’ll be an ancient, dusty little bag of bones. So old, so dessicated, and so happy with the life I lived. That really is my secret hunch, and I hope it’s the .01%. Fingers crossed, and I’ll do everything I can to help it be so.

8) Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

here we are in Ubud
here we are in Ubud

Marc and I don’t appear to have a lot in common, and the fact is that we really don’t. We’re very different in important and small ways, too. There are things we have in common that you wouldn’t or couldn’t know — so in terms of this question, they wouldn’t appear to anyone. But things we appear to have in common (and do) are a passion for world travel, a love of New York City, and an understanding of suffering (and a corresponding valuing of exploring and making meaning of that).

9) For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

cloudsEVERYTHING! Gosh, everything. Even the suffering, because it shaped me and I got so much from it. Even the childhood, for the same reasons, and because it forced me to think about who and what I wanted to be. Even the losses (though I’m not grateful that we lost our precious Grace, I will never be grateful for that). I’m grateful that my life moved me around so much, even though I hated it while it was happening, because it taught me so much. I’m eternally grateful for having had my children. I’m grateful to have such loving relationships with my grown daughters, and grateful to be a valued and wanted part of their families. I’m grateful they are such good and decent – and extraordinary in their different ways – people. I’m grateful for my grandchildren, and for my daughters getting to be parents as they wanted to be. I’m grateful that my family does seem to have taken a 180-degree turn from the family I came from.

I’m grateful for my specific mind, and my specific temperament — both just the software I came with, so thanks God or genetic raffle, or some combo. I’m grateful for my friends everywhere. I’m grateful that I can make anything I want to make. I’m grateful for books and music and poetry, and the people who create them. I’m grateful for clouds. I’m grateful I have enough of everything, and I would be grateful if I had a bit more money. 🙂 I’m grateful I had the chance to go to college and on to earn my PhD. I’m grateful I can work for myself. I’m grateful that I get to travel so much and see the beautiful world, and all the people. I’m grateful that I’m in very good health, better than ever, actually, at 57. And I’m damn grateful to be 57. I’m grateful my first two hunches were wrong.

And all the little things: The way coffee smells. Chocolate. Rain, after a drought, and dry after rain. Cool weather and hot weather. New thick socks. And all the feelings, and the fact that I seem to experience them all on a regular basis.

And now your turn!

Do you have a secret hunch about you will die?
What are three things you and your partner appear to have in common?
For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

I would be annoying you to death right now…

…because every few seconds I sigh deeply and loudly and say, “Oh my God I feel so much better,” or “Hallelujah, I feel so much better!” or other such statements. Every. Few. Seconds. For a couple of hours now.


I slept last night. I slept last night. I SLEPT LAST NIGHT. And it was a good thing, too, because I started really going downhill yesterday afternoon. I could only cry and tremble. Sitting in my chair just felt too much, like I couldn’t do it. So I’d get over to my couch and stretch out and close my eyes—surely now I can nap—but there was just no way. It’s hard to explain what it is like. But it was pretty clear that I was deteriorating. I had already planned to take a Klonopin, but the way things went yesterday there was no doubt.

I got in bed at 8:45, fully Klonopined, and don’t remember anything. I woke up at 2:45 (six straight hours) and was happy enough with that, but I was able to go back to sleep (happy enough with that!) and slept two more hours. Eight hours. Eight hours of blessed sweet sleep.

And so my gratitude is overflowing this morning. Thank you, Genentech, makers of Klonopin. I’m not sure what would’ve happened to me if I hadn’t gotten some sleep. Hallucinations are common when you’ve gone as long as I went without even a minute of sleep, and that would have been very bad.

My situation is likely ongoing; the withdrawal process from the medication probably wasn’t completed by my night of sleep, but what do I know! Maybe it was. But even if I find myself entirely sleepless tonight, I’m starting from a new place, a better place.

Thanks to all of you who have been so loving and kindhearted to me during these last few days. I keep learning over and over and over how much the tiniest of connections can help. None of them can end the problem, but they sure help me keep going for a bit and that’s extraordinary. It also reinforces the thing I know: we are all connected, and collectively you are a net under me, just as I connect through others to be a net under you. We have to help each other. As Ram Dass says so gorgeously,

We’re all just walking each other home.

Happy birthday to me!

“Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.” ― Jhumpa Lahiri, Interpreter of Maladies

Today I turn 57. In the last year, I had truly extraordinary times, so many joyous times, easy happiness for months on end, one deeply painful issue that still hurts and in fact hurts more than I think I can bear sometimes, and one dark period and one deep dark black period. This is long, but I have so very much to be grateful for, and you’re in here, I promise you. I learned a lot about myself this year; what a treat, that you can keep surprising yourself for so long. I kept my promise to myself this whole year in terms of eating well and mindfully, and doing near-daily yoga and meditating and walking. I celebrated our precious and happy Oliver turning 1, and the news of my darling Marnie’s pregnancy with a boy, arriving at the end of February. Two grandsons, what gifts, as I watch my family, the little family I tried so hard to make, grow into the future.

Since my last birthday I traveled a lot. I went to NYC every month, except the two months Marc came here. I went to Chicago on Mother’s Day to see Marnie and loved sitting in her booth at Zine Fest and seeing people respond to her beautiful work. Right after my birthday last year we went to Laos and Cambodia; in March I went to Colombia; in July I went to Norway and saw the midnight sun; in 13 days I return to Vietnam for the fifth time. Seeing the world, a treasure I never thought would happen to me, but it has for the last 10 years.

This year I celebrated the birthdays of my dearest daughters Katie and Marnie, and their families, and my friends. With my book club boon companions, we read books, we ate good food, we laughed so much, we went to happy hours together, we saved each other in one way or another, and our friendships deepened even more. With friends near and far, I enjoyed love and friendship and laughs and commiseration. With Traci I had two lunches each month in NYC and hours of sharing ourselves with each other, such a treasure. Dinners with Craig in New York, though not nearly enough of those, always rich in laughter and feeling seen and known. I even got to see Sherlock this year, but not my darling Peggy. Dear friends in Austin, in other states, in Europe and Canada, and even on the other side of the world, down under — all very real to me, very important, dear friends. Although I already knew this, I learned even more about how critical friends are to a full and happy life, and sometimes to life itself. My friends saved me last month in a very real way. So many walked right into that deep, dark hole and held my hands gently and brought me back into the light, friends in Austin and New York and Connecticut and Pennsylvania and France and Australia, just staggering. Friends, riches beyond compare. Daughters, wealth beyond compare.

a friend interlude -- my book club women, so much love
a friend interlude — book club women, so much love. missing Dee.

kandoI have a chosen family that carries me gently and with so much love, and I feel the same. Sherlock and Craig, my brothers. Peggy and Dixie, my sisters. Don, my Jewish father. Nancy, my….no idea, just my dearly loved family. I feel like there is so much more to say there, but I don’t know the words. I’ve done without a mother for 57 years, so I guess it’ll go that way, but I have a big enough family to hold and enfold me. And then of course my birthed family, Katie and Marnie, who I simply could not do without. Their husbands, always so good to me and to my daughters. I’m so grateful for my sweet family.

Since my last birthday I read so many books, mostly for work, but some for pleasure: Did You Ever Have a Family; A Little Life; Do No Harm; four of the Karl Ove Knausgaard volumes titled  My Struggle; On the Move, Oliver Sacks’ memoir; A House in the Sky; The End of Your Life Book Club; The Empathy Exams; We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves; The Unspeakable; Kafka on the Shore; She Weeps Each Time You’re Born; Norwegian Wood; Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage; Station Eleven; Dept. of Speculation; The Laughing Monsters; West of Sunset; The Children Act; The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing; Loitering; The Bone Clocks; Everything I Never Told Youand Cutting for Stone. Of these, my very favorites were the four giant Knausgaards, A Little Life, She Weeps Each Time You’re Born, Station Eleven, Loiteringand Dept. of Speculation. And then there were so many I reread for the remembered pleasure, including the one I’m rereading for the 5th(?) time, Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. That always feels like an autumn book to me for some strange reason. So many I reread, I can’t even remember. The gift of literature, my oldest and most consistent love, I guess.

Every month but one, I think, poetry group met in my house and we shared truly wonderful evenings together, nearly all of the poetry beautiful and expansive and moving. Those friends taught me so much about poetry, and I’m so grateful for their generosity. I learned some new poets to follow, like Frank Bidart, and two of my friendships in that group deepened a lot. I found new music thanks to my very dear friend Val, who sent me an album of Imagine Dragons because she thought I would enjoy it, and at just the perfect time, and added a lot of Iris Dement to my library, thanks to my beautiful Traci. Around Austin and New York, and around the world, I ate a lot of fabulous food and will be drinking a whole lot of amazing tea (thank you Sherlock and Peggy). And I cooked a lot of fabulous food too, including this buttermilk biscuit jag I’ve been on and can’t seem to stop—especially since I discovered Tasmanian Leatherwood honey, and received some of Karyn’s delicious honey from her bees. Books, poetry, music, food, so many riches.

And the ordinaries, the moments throughout the days and weeks that give me peace and ease, or simple happiness, or even joy and bliss, which I am grateful to experience on a regular basis. My morning coffee routine, a deep pleasure never taken for granted. Weekly coffee breaks with Nancy, communion in the deepest, real meaning of that word. The real pleasure of my sweet little home, and the way I get to welcome people into it. Drawing, which I learned how to do this year, a regular joy and wonder. Nightly walks and stories in my ear, meditative pleasures. Sitting on my patio in the cool moments of a day, feeling the soft air on my face and the quiet joy of having my own space. My so-cozy bed, my refuge at the end of each day, crisp white sheets and a soft comforter.

Of course Facebook makes it easy for people — far-flung people — to wish you a happy birthday, but it’s always so surprising to get the emails, cards, gifts, and notes from people who remember. Like Kty in Paris, who remembered — how? how did she remember this? — that I love yellow flowers. People who remind me about Big Daddy or Mister Rogers just when I need to remember them — how do you do that? Little interpersonal touches that show me that somehow I live in the hearts of people in so many places. It doesn’t feel like there is a big enough gratitude for touches like these.

OandP090215No one ever knows what the coming year will bring, me least of all. I’ve noticed that the things I worry about most tend not to happen, and I never once imagined the dreadfulest things that happened. I guess, if it’s not too greedy, I’d like another year like this past year: daughters and their sons and husbands, friends far and wide, books, art, poetry, good food, travel, continued good health for me and Marc and everyone I know please. Gee, that looks like a whole lot to ask for. I expect and hope to travel to Chicago in February for the birth of Marnie’s and Tom’s son, and I expect I won’t get nearly my fill of my kids and grandsons, even little Oliver who lives up the road a ways.

I’m damn glad to be here and I couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you for being here with me, and for celebrating my birthday with me if you do. Thank you for living this life with me, for the ways you keep me going, the ways you share yourself with me, and the ways you encourage me with so much love. Thank you for the times you let me love you. I’m so grateful for this past year, which was an absolutely wonderful year in almost every way. Even the dark times mattered, even though I did not like the suffering. So happy birthday to me, and many more! On to 58!

p.s. I’ll bet you knew that I cried while writing every single word. xoxoxox

[redacted]

Yesterday a friend of mine wanted to acknowledge his mom’s birthday on Facebook. He posted a lovely photo of her with a caption noting that she was celebrating her [redacted] birthday. Maybe that was her request, not to broadcast her age. Or maybe it was just his assumption that she would prefer that.

This, I do not get. Maybe the day will come when it makes sense to me, when perhaps the gap between my age and how I look/feel is so big that I don’t want my age noted. I don’t think so, but of course it’s possible.

It isn’t that I don’t already feel this disparity with a big measure of surprise. One morning a couple of weeks ago, Marc and I were texting each other and including photos of the kind of weather we were having — his was dismal and drizzly, mine was sunny. I snapped a picture to text him outside, on my patio, right after I finished doing yoga. The sun was kind of bright and I obviously wasn’t taking care with my appearance because it was just a quick “how’s your day honey” kind of thing. After I sent the picture to him, I looked at it:

look at the skin around my eye, and beside my smile
look at the skin around my eye, and beside my smile, in this completely unretouched (obviously) photo

I have no idea when all that happened, when I developed a soft fan of wrinkles around my eyes, when my one smile line turned into so many. It isn’t that I mind them at all, it just surprises me whenever I see it.

Why in the world do people not want to say their age? I just don’t understand it. I wonder if it’s just that people often think it’s what they’re supposed to say — “29 again!” Maybe it’s only meant as a joke. But as obvious a statement as this is, it really is just a number. The only meaning it has is how many times you’ve been around the sun. There are some things your number means — you’re old enough to drink legally, to be sent to war, to receive your retirement benefits. Otherwise, it’s just a number, it really really is. I have a whole lot of numbers clinging to me, you know? 56. 81. 99th. 4.0. 128. 5’9″. 3. 35. Social security numbers. Telephone numbers. Driver’s license numbers and credit card numbers.

Not a fan of the grill. And I think I look better than she does, hmph.
Not a fan of the grill. And I think I look better than she does, hmph.

Those don’t tell you that much more about me than 56 does. Madonna is 56 for heaven’s sake, which means 56-year-old women wear grills and date severely too-young men. That’s what 56-year-old women do.

Or we are in extremely poor health and suffering a lot. Or we’re still trying to get the last kids out of the house. How many 56-year-old women are there? There’s about that many ways to be 56. So what does that number mean, anyway? 56 times around the sun, that’s about it.

I’ll turn 57 in November and (assuming I’m still here!) I will celebrate the hell out of it. In 2018 I’ll turn 60 and celebrate the hell out of that. In 2023 I will throw a big “woo-hoo I’m 65!” party, you know it. If that number means anything else, it’s something to be proud of. I am so proud to be 56. I’m so glad I’m still here, wearing my Converse and doing yoga. I’m so glad every day that I get another day. My number reflects that. 56, hell yeah.

those funny Buddhists

They are funny, you know. The Buddhists I know (not just junior-Buddhist-wannabes like me) are so light, they laugh all the time. All the time. They laugh at what they say, at what you say, at the weather. So funny, so lighthearted. I want some of that.

They’re also funny in their love of numbered lists. I love a good numbered list, don’t get me wrong, but I bow before the organization they’ve arrived at in understanding what it is to be in the world. Here’s a cheat sheet:

cheatsheet

Isn’t that great? And it’s the ‘minimal edition’! Essentially it just comes down to a couple of things, so all these various stages and kinds and precepts unfold out of that center. They’re very subtle in their thinking. Marnie studied Tibetan Buddhism in college and some of her books are still on my shelves — marvels of the outline, those philosophies. I love a good outline myself.

And have you ever seen Tibetan monks debating? It’s loud and includes this fantastic hand-slapping movement. I watched one video of senior monks debating junior monks about the hungry ghost, and OH the shouting and slapping.

Isn’t that funny? I’d love to know the origin of that strange hand slapping/sliding technique; I do know that when the senior monk stops speaking, he does that to indicate that the junior monk should respond. Such a ‘violent’ behavior for such peaceful people.

* * *

Last night I did a really beautiful Level 2 Vinyasa Flow class (“Evening Yoga Flow,” 45 minutes) with Jo Tastula, one of my favorite teachers at YogaGlo. At the end she led us through a bit of gratitude meditation, asking us first to think of one thing from our day that filled us with gratitude. Katie had sent me a video of Oliver playing with the quilt I made for him, and laughing and loving it, so that’s what I meditated on — and it’s a whole complex, that little video. Sweet happy Oliver, Katie as loving giggling mama, my lucky role in their lives, and the pleasure of having made something for my grandson that he loves. At the end of the meditation, which we did with our hands resting palm-up on our knees, we took our arms slowly out into a big circle up to touching our palms over our head, while we chanted an OM. Then as the -M rumbled in our chests we pulled our palms slowly down to namaste at our hearts. My gratitude swelled in that moment outward, to my teacher, to YogaGlo, to yoga, to my beautiful little home, to my place in the world, to my connections to others, to my beating heart and still mind, to the world to the universe to Being. I love it when that happens, don’t you?

 

beginning my 57th orbit

weird! I've had this exact hairstyle (and color) for a whole year. But not for long -- whole new deal at 10am today!
weird! I’ve had this exact hairstyle (and color) for a whole year. But not for long; whole new deal at 10am today!

A very happy 56th birthday today for me, because I am here to celebrate it! Hallelujah, I was born and lived and have had the most amazing life so far. Just amazing. I am grateful for my life, every little bit of it, the beautiful and horrible and sublime and ugly and ordinary. I’ve loved so many people and have cherished the love from people in my life. My heart has been broken — so glad my heart is open enough to break (and strong enough to heal). I’ve made a couple of tremendous mistakes that hurt people I loved, and I regret them, but otherwise I have no regrets. I’ve noticed sunrises and sunsets and clouds. I’ve laughed myself into tears as I drove into the desert. I’ve dearly loved books and poetry. I got to wake up. I earned my doctorate. I’ve surely been luckier than most in the friends department, especially since I am so shy. I’ve launched three people into this world who are making it a better place, and now there is another member of my family in this world. I started as Pete and I will end as Pete some day (in the far distant future, I hope!).

I’ve seen so much of this beautiful world and it often made me cry with happiness.

  • With an overfull heart, I stood in front of and inside Notre Dame, in Paris (twice!). I drove through brilliant yellow fields to see the cathedral at Chartres. I took the train through the Chunnel, and another train to Edinburgh and Glasgow.
  • I drank beer with friends in a pub called ‘Jude the Obscure’ in Oxford, England.
  • I slept on a boat in the middle of Halong Bay, in northern Vietnam, amid the karst pillars. They were eerily beautiful at dusk and dawn. I did Tai Chi at dawn on that little boat, and it was surreal.
  • I sat in a little boat in the middle of the Ganges in Varanasi, in India, and watched the nighttime ceremony to put the Ganges to sleep, I watched cremations, and then I watched the morning puja.
  • Standing atop Macchu Picchu, I saw a sudden and enormous flock of green parrots appear and fly right in front of me, and a heart-shaped hole open up in the clouds behind them. I panted in the thin air of Colca Canyon and watched condors glide on the air currents, and I rode a boat across Lake Titicaca.
  • I fell off a bicycle in Holland and was stared at by a stern Dutch man.
  • I ate an amazing waffle with chocolate and strawberries in the Grande Place in Brussels with Marnie in the midst of an otherwise very tense day.
  • I’ve snorkeled off the Yucatan so many times, and off Honduras a couple of times.
  • I saw gorgeous Ireland with Katie, my pretty green-eyed Irish girl. We seriously underestimated how long it would take us to drive from Derry to Belfast — on July 12.
  • In Dubrovnik, I learned how to see where the war destroyed the buildings by understanding the various colors of the tile roofs. I was happily delighted by Zagreb.
  • I spent three days in a boat gliding down the Mekong River in Vietnam and drifted among the floating market boats, guided by a man who fought as a soldier for the south — “on your side,” he told us. A tiny Hmong woman held my hand and led me over rocks in Sapa, in northern Vietnam near the Chinese border.
  • So many wonderful Lao people greeted me with sabaidee, and I learned that I love BeerLao. I fed monks in Luang Prabang, and ate enormous feasts in an alley lined with food vendors, $2 for a huge plate and a giant BeerLao. (And I will be going back in a couple of weeks!)
  • One stunningly beautiful day, under bright blue cloudless skies, I sat in a small boat going down some little river in northern Laos, among the mountains, with no idea exactly where I was. I could barely contain my laughter and tears and wonder. Me. There.
  • One Thanksgiving I stood in front of Angkor Wat waiting for the sun to come up.
  • I saw proboscis monkeys on Borneo, and a naughty macaque stole Marc’s drink.
  • In Malaysia, I ate very well in Kuching, and had the best tandoori chicken of my life in a parking lot in Melaka. All my other memories melted in the heat.
  • Standing in the great hall of the Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul, I cried because I never thought I’d see it. I stared up at the brilliant mosaics I’d studied in an Art History class in Alabama.
  • In Myanmar, I rode in a very quiet boat on very still water in Inle Lake among the stilted houses of Burmese people.
  • In Oaxaca I got food poisoning.
  • I bathed a pregnant elephant in a river in Sri Lanka, and chased a sperm whale in the Indian Ocean.
  • I drank some java on Java, and fought off monkeys in the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud, in Bali.
  • I watched the most beautiful sunsets on Santorini, learned I love Athens, and laughed with joy as I drove all over gorgeous, mountainous Crete.
Gosh how I love him.
Gosh how I love him.

I had the unbelievable privilege of bringing three beautiful people into this world, through me. I got to love and carry them before I met them, care for them, guide them as best I could, cry and fight and laugh with them, attend the weddings of my daughters, love their husbands, and now celebrate the next generation in our sweet boy Oliver. From them I learned what love really does mean.

This is my first birthday where I can say this and mean it unequivocally, from the bottom of my heart: I have never been happier. I like who I am (never been able to say that before). I look better than I ever have and am in the best shape I’ve ever been in. My 55th year of living seems to be the year I got it together in a deep way, and that’s OK with me. My beautiful life has been a creative act and I rarely took it for granted. I have felt like the luckiest person in the world. If you see me today, I will be tickled if you sing Happy Birthday. 🙂 And now I am 56, lucky lucky me. Not everyone gets to be 56. (And you should know that I cried while typing every single word, but you probably do already know that if you know me. Thank you for sharing my life with me.)

stages and changes

These days, this is the rhythm of an ordinary day:

  • Wake up when I wake up, which is usually between 7am and 8am.
  • Do my morning ritual before I get started with anything else.
  • Make my lovely pot of French press coffee. Read while enjoying my coffee.
  • Rinse out the pot, straighten the kitchen, make my bed, get dressed and ready for my day.
  • Work until ~4pm, then stop and do yoga for 45 minutes.
  • Work until ~6pm, stop and make dinner, eat it with relish.
  • Work another couple of hours, then take a 2-mile walk if the weather accommodates.
  • Quick shower, do my nightly routine, work another hour if I need to, or read.
  • In bed around 10:30-ish to read (and usually asleep within 5 minutes).

This is my routine seven days a week, and it has interruptions of course. Evenings with friends, time with Katie and Oliver, my precious social time with loved ones; out for a movie or lecture. That’s why I work seven days a week, because I feel free to interrupt my day with time with others. It’s a lovely rhythm and feels like an integrated, lovely life.

toes in the Adriatic, off Croatia
toes in the Adriatic, off Croatia

This morning while I was getting dressed I noticed my manicured toenails, my time to take care of my appearance; I thought about the fact that I’d do yoga later in the day, and take a walk in the evening; I thought about what I wanted to make for dinner, and my only concern was what *I* wanted to eat, what sounded good to me.

here they are late-teens, wish i could quickly find one of us all during the more rushing-around years
here they are late-teens, wish i could quickly find one of us all during the more rushing-around years

Then I thought about all the very many years of my life when those things were simply not possible, given everything else I had to do. I know people will say, “If it matters to you, you’ll find time to get exercise into your day.” And to those people I said, “Oh yeah? You show me when.” Once in a while I’d decide to get up at 4 and do some kind of exercise, the only time I could make for it, and I just couldn’t do it. My toes were unmanicured, my appearance was focused on just putting on whatever I could find that worked with the weather, exercise was a distant idea, dinner was not the same kind of pleasure it is now. Getting up when I wanted to? HAHAHAHA, that has never happened until now! Leisurely morning routine, what would that mean? Morning was slapping the alarm and rolling out despite feeling so exhausted I wanted to cry, getting the kids up and out the door, getting myself out the door, working myself into more exhaustion, coming home to make dinner for us all, spending whatever time I could with my kids, overseeing homework in the years I had to do that, tending to life/laundry/bills/housework/worries, and falling into bed way too late. I was always tired, I always felt like too little butter scraped over too much bread, but our bodies and souls were kept together and that was the goal.

a silly picture of a fun happy hour -- I was excited about the egg Debbie had ordered...
a silly picture of a fun happy hour — I was excited about the egg Debbie had ordered…

I have a lot of friends at my stage of life, and a lot who are still in the very busy child-rearing stage. When I was in that busy stage, it wasn’t that I thought it would always be like that, but I was just too busy to imagine anything different. There’s such a great pleasure to be had at this stage of life. SUCH great pleasure, deep and vivid. My children are out in the world living their own busy lives, that work is done and I’m proud of them, and so glad that I get to be with them and part of their lives. I’m comfortable in my own skin, I’m more relaxed and humorous about myself, I know and appreciate the tremendous value of each and every day, because I also have time to notice and revel. I have time and resources to travel as I wish. Life is so much fun, such a gift, and so precious. It was then, in the busy years, of course — but the real gift is having the opportunity to ride through the stages, whatever they are. What a gift.

What a gift. However busy life is, do not fail to notice that. Even when it’s about as hard as it can possibly be, it’s a gift to be here. Even when Gracie died — the most unimaginable pain  — even then, it was a gift to be there with my children, for us all to be together helping each other and sharing the agony. It was a gift to have such a family, to be connected to them so intensely. It was a gift that we all survived it. It was a gift that Katie did not die too. It was a gift that Katie and Trey had each other and were so good for each other, as they continue to be. It was a gift that our friends surrounded us and cared for us in so many ways. It was a gift that they stayed with us, still caring for us as the months rolled by.

It is an amazing gift to be 55, coming up on 56, and to be in such good health, no pains or worries; to have my kids such a big part of my life, and for them to want me in theirs; to have so many friends in Austin and New York, and everywhere else I’ve lived or made friends; to have my mind that allows me to work and to think and imagine, even if it’s kind of forgetful these days; to have the luxury of growing and expanding myself because I’m not having to fight to stay alive due to war or poverty. Man. How LUCKY am I? And how lucky are you, too.

Happy Saturday! It’s my friend Dee’s birthday and some of our group are having dinner with her tonight to celebrate her life. I hope you have something happy in your life today, and I hope you pause a minute to reflect on the gift of your life.