Monday, August 6, 2007
Happy Birthday...to ME!
After my post on Michael B. Oren's frightening facts about terrorism and Israel, I wanted to offer something a bit more upbeat. Not that my birthday is particularly upbeat; I've come to the stage in life where I'm counting backward. I was 29 last year; now I'm 28. Or maybe 25.
First, I thank God for the innumerable miracles in my life. And especially for the ability and inclination to notice them. Every morning when I put on my contact lenses, I think about the people who, not too long ago, would not be able to correct imperfections in their eyesight, and thereby were less able to enjoy and appreciate the world. "...Pokayach ivrim!" I am grateful for God giving sight to the blind--well, in my case, not too blind, but certainly the world comes into functional focus once I place those plastic discs on my corneas. When, after donning my contact lenses, I look out my window and see Mt. Rainier, I am filled once again with excitement at the beauty and wonders of our environment.
I'm grateful, certainly, to be healthy. Every night as I lie in bed, I thank God for another day free of pain. Pain mars the existence of so many millions of people, and even something as small as the thin cut I somehow got on my pinky, can distract me from the bountiful good around me. And if I do have some minor physical glitch, I'm grateful it's not of the seriousness of those I include in my tfila. I do not forget what it was like even to lie in bed with the flu, quaking and sweating, or worse, bolting to the bathroom--but knowing at least that it was temporary. When I've been in that state of misery, I think of all my misdeeds, and hope my suffering might somehow atone. How much more so should I be grateful for each day I am free to pursue accomplishments with my mind without regard to infirmities of my body.
I'm grateful for my family--my amazing husband and our closeness; that he can be my best friend and yet someone who surprises me. My respect for him only increases, which not only reflects his qualities but also is a gift, as so many marriages flag and respect erodes over time. My children, each in his or her own unique and disparate way, fill my heart with joy and wonder--as they are developing and maturing and blooming. And the friendships I have, in particular with my dear women friends, and also with an array of fascinating and worthy couples, allow me expression and insight, laughter and the opportunity to extend myself in directions I would not have known.
What a world we live in. I've enjoyed all sorts of birthday celebrations, large and small, and while I revel in what I received this year, I am so fortunate that each day is a celebration. I marvel at a beauty in the world--the Rufus hummingbird hovering at our feeder, or even that I have so many clothes to wear. I have an enormous collection of "hand me ups," clothes rejected by my daughters. To me, they're perfectly good, and I wear them, and, okay, call me Pollyanna, but the fact that my daughter wore, say, the t-shirt I'm putting on, gives that too-short t-shirt that I have to wear a longer shirt under, a sentimental dimension. I think as we get older, we get more sentimental. Certainly more is precious to me now.
At the same time, less is precious. After 9-11 in particular, I understood the worthlessness of material possessions. I still love to buy colorful things, especially tableware that I can use to create Shabbat table designs, but I have far less need to hoard items "just in case." I'm too frugal to throw out much, and must use any piece of aluminum foil at least three times, but I'm finding it easier to let things go. What matters is time with important people, experiences, and, of course, photos and videos of that time so that I can relive it.
My birthday allows me to reflect on my many blessings, and also on the finite nature of life. I remember after my parents passed away, that the contents of their home--their face cream and tchotckes and memos and souvenirs of excursions--went into a dumpster. If I don't use that pretty greeting card I bought, it will probably end up there with all the other contents of its drawer. Is anybody actually going to want the little signposts of my life? Not likely. So I need to keep only what will continue to make me happy, use the cute post-it notes and fancy paper clips and gorgeous stationery, and not put it all aside for the future. The future is now, and if I don't walk in the garden today, the flowers there will die without my ever having taken note that they bloomed. There's sure a lot to do when you're 25...