What an astonishing world! I awakened this morning to a Facebook message of birthday greetings from a man who once managed my IRS installment plan and, now retired, has befriended me in the virtual world. When I opened the browser on my laptop to write this blog, the Google doodle for today commemorated my birthday and took me to my own Google profile (which I promptly edited!).
On a whim, my friend Jessica and I have come west to Denver for the Labor Day weekend. We're ensconced in a room found on Airbnb, a virtual room-renting directory which provides connections that would not be available but for the Internet. This one has not been a rousing success, being slightly less commodious than the listing description portrayed. But it has a Keurig and free wi-fi. It's a learning experience.
Our first glimpse of the Rockies from the highway made us giddy. Jessica took pictures with her "real" camera and a grainy shot through a dirty windshield with my phone. Today we will drive to a park so she can bike with a friend, and I will continue to Westminster to have lunch with my stepdaughter Tshandra and meet her husband, Sean, and my fairy granddaughter, their six-year-old Grace. The mountains provide a backdrop to one of the most idyllic birthdays I could have imagined, at this age, at this stage, given everything that has unfolded in the last year.
It's no secret that I did not expect to be alive at sixty. That I am still astonishes me. Though I've famously bragged that I promised to live to be 103 and intend to do so, in truth when a doctor gave me six months to live, seventeen years ago, I believed him. I've been told there is no medical reason that I'm still walking; one doctor shakes his head every time he sees me and calls me a marvel. Every lab test finds a new active virus; I've reached the point where I don't want to see the reports -- just tell me what I have to do to keep trucking. Or plodding -- I'm content with that.
I still wear the blessings bracelet that my friend Jane gave me, and which I cast aside last year when my world fell apart. I reclaimed it this spring and intend to honor its calling every day. Today, my blessings can barely be named in all the whitespace that this blog post has to offer: A son who checks on me daily and still asks my opinion yet has grown wise enough that I usually rely on his; a vocation which brings me extraordinary satisfaction even though it also affords me the occasional ulcer attack; a comfortable home, quaintly appointed, on a street where people know my name; health insurance (though expensive, it has broadly covered so much that I can't believe the company nets any profit on me!); the shared sons and daughters whom I hold in my heart, even the ones whom I do not see; and friends -- an amazing number of friends, without whom I do not think I would have survived the last eighteen months.
I have two blogs in which I record different types of meanderings. The "Saturday Musings" typically recount stories of events which I have experienced or observed. "My Year Without Complaining" chronicles my attempt to foreswear moaning and seek a joyful life. Today the two here merge, and I hope those who read this will tolerate some self-indulgence. It's my birthday -- may I be forgiven a little sentiment? I hope so; I hope so. And thank you for it.
As you wander through your Labor Day Weekend, I urge you -- each of you, all of you -- to count your own blessings. You don't need a string of beads on silver to do so. Cast your eyes around you. Even if you don't have that which you think you want, I feel certain you will find many people around you for whom to be thankful; circumstances that provide some measure of pleasure or fulfillment; comforts which cradle you in your most weary times. I hope you will be thankful for all of these, especially the loving faces of your partners, children, and compatriots.
I offer you one of my favorite quotes, taken from The Little Prince, by Antoine d' St. Exupery: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.
My birthday wish for each of you, on this, the sixtieth anniversary of my entrance into this world, is that you will see with your hearts and fully appreciate the wonders of your world -- as I have done, though perhaps too little, perhaps too late. I am immensely grateful for everyone that has come into my life, including those who have exited. The fabric that I call myself has been enriched by each and every thread woven into it. I would not wish away any piece of what I've been and done. I'll take it all, from the pain to the pure; from the frightening to the fabulous. It's all connected, it's all glorious, it's all my life. While the benefit of backwards gazing gives me pause to reconsider some of my choices, still, when I sit in the quiet of my birthday morning, I feel nothing but immense gratitude.
Here, in this space, in this place of thankfulness, I intend to dwell for each and every day that presents itself. I hope you can do likewise.