It’s just after 4 pm Eastern, and I just noticed that the date was March 23. This is an odd date to make note of. I mean there are nearby dates… March 26 is the sixth anniversary of my brother’s passing. March 31 would have been my dad’s 94th birthday.
But I know why it jumped out at me. It is the birthday of a very good friend and it also means that my birthday is less than one month from today, which means I have entered the last month of my 50s.
Can we just pause for a moment? You are talking to a guy who missed membership in the Forever 27 club for one reason only: that’s the year I met my wife. Essentially everything I had been doing for the five years prior to that meeting had been geared toward my goal of not living to age thirty. Not a terribly good goal, but I blame Bob Dylan for setting that as the line of demarcation for when someone can no longer be trusted.
On a nondescript Tuesday in April I will have achieved twice the allowable level of trust.
I’m tempted to feel badly about that prospect. Because, let’s face it, even if we’re speaking purely in mathematical terms, I’m a lot closer to the expiration date than I am to the “Brewed Fresh on” date. Couple that with the knowledge (knowledge I could not even conceive before age 30, let alone possess), that 20 years will go by in the blink of an eye, and I’ll be writing you a post about turning 80. Or maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll have written my last sentence by then, who knows?
So perhaps you can understand the temptation to be less than excited about all of this.
But I have a better idea!
I’ve decided not to despair.
I don’t know exactly how old Bobby Zimmerman was when he supposedly made his declaration. But I know that he had to make it to 75 to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
That’s only fifteen years from now! I could do that standing on my head, if not for the arthritis!
So rather than being bummed, instead of feeling old and irrelevant, I’ve decided to spend that energy encouraging you.
Remember how I mentioned today was my friend’s birthday? My gift was five encouragements. I’ve sent three texts so far that are solely for the purpose of bringing a smile. Celebrating a birthday, or celebrating anything right now might feel a little different than “normal.” (Who knew how fragile a word that would turn out to be?)
So HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EVERYONE! Whether it’s your birthday today or next month or whenever, here’s my present to you this year. If your birthday has already gone by, happy belated! If it is pending, read them anyway, then come back on your birthday and read them again!
You are the same person you were before the pandemic, just wiser. You’ve already learned the unintended message of all of this: LIFE IS PRECIOUS! And when we all emerge from the other side of this we have an awesome opportunity to look at each other with new eyes and realize just how valuable we all are to ourselves and to one another.
If you’re lucky enough to have a dog in your life, you have built-in on-demand unconditional love available to you. As I shared with my Facebook pals, my buddy Miles, which awful at social distancing, is anything but awful. He’s awesome. If you don’t have a dog in your life, it’s probably a little trickier these days to gain access, but until you can, know that Miles thinks you’re the best thing ever.
You are so much more than you can even begin to imagine! I honestly believe that all of us have at least one thing we can do as well as anybody on the planet. If you haven’t found yours yet, maybe this would be a ideal time to figure it out. If you know what your “thing” is, and you can do it in the world as it currently turns then do it! But even if you have found your niche in the world, you might be unable to practice it currently. Alas, had my “thing” been ballroom dancing, I might be less optimistic, but hopefully I’d have the insight to realize this is a great time to explore other things, and who knows what all of us will find out about ourselves in the upcoming months. And just to tie up a loose end, my thing is most definitely not ballroom dancing. Ballroom tripping around and flopping on the floor like a fish, yes.
You’re here for a damn good reason! Okay, I realize that depending on your personal cosmology this might seem incorrect to you. If you hadn’t already reached the conclusion that I was unhinged, you have now. Because, after all, everything since the Big Bang has been a parade of random chance, marching up to and well past the infinitesimal speck on the cosmic timeline that represents all of human history!
But maybe “the other people” are the ones who are right. Bottom line is the price of the proof is a pretty high one, and everybody has to learn on their own. There’s no textbook. (Or is there?) So given that perspective, the concept of “a reason” seems a little out of place.
But what if it isn’t?
What if, regardless of your big picture beliefs, we as a species, make a collective, conscious decision to envision LIFE as a shared thing. Because death is not. Even in a time when many are dying, ultimately each last breath is yours and yours alone to draw.
But life! Life can be shared, and we can decide together all the different things that can mean. For me it means viewing us all as cogs in the most elegant machine ever to assemble itself purely by chance, and the more we strive to find the place where we fit perfectly, the more smoothly the machine will run. If you’d like to see an illustration of what it looks like when cogs fit perfectly, I’ll be happy to show it to you, with the proviso that you may have to wait to practice yourself.
It looks like this:
Someday in the future you will get to tell people you survived the Great Pandemic of 2020. You get full-on bragging rights. When I was growing up the group that had the equivalent level of brag-swag were the survivors of the Great Depression. They got to tell me how absolutely everything in my life was easier than what they experienced. They got to explain to me how I was spoiled (by definition their fault, but whatev) and how I would never understand what it truly means to be hungry and… [cue the Peanuts muted-trombone “adults talking” sound]. And I have to say, some of the stories were a little far-fetched. Things like, “There were a hundred-six people living in a one-room tenement. We all shared the same moldy crust of bread for the whole of 1932, and we were grateful to have that!” or “My clothes were handed down to me from my caveman ancestors!”
(For the record, depression era folks, from 1983 to 1987 I did come to understand true hunger, and I grieve for your experience. I am sorry for what you endured).
BUT NOW, COVID SURVIVOR, IT’S YOUR TURN!
Now you get to hurl your horror stories at unsuspecting people born after the mist was dispersed. And remember, they don’t even have to be true! Try some of these on for size:
“Look at you two, walking together holding hands. When I was a kid that got you SHOT!”
“Oh, isn’t that nice. You’re going to the symphony. In my day if you brought enough people together to form an orchestra, they hauled you off to Gitmo!”
Of course you could just as easily look at the reborn world and smile quietly to yourself knowing that you were strong enough and lucky enough to survive the time where the very framework of society was tested.
And that we passed the test.