Sunday, May 24, 2009

Barbie will always be older than I am,

but just barely.

I reached a couple of milestones last week. First, I received my invitation to join AARP. Ironic, in the sense that I seriously doubt that I will ever “retire”; I seem to have inherited most of the physical characteristics of my shortest-living related predecessors, and the government keeps raising the retirement age. I figure that, if I should reach that age, there’ll be a campaign against “the other ‘R’ word” (yeah, small joke). Second, I started using a pocket protector at work. I have been putting it off for some time, oh, at least 12 years or so. The practicality of the object has finally won out over the nerd/geek/maintenance guy stigma. What it does is now more important than what it means. It actually suits my bifocals, when you think about it. Like it or not, I’m one of the old guys, now. You should see the punks they’re hiring, these days. “Smarten up!”, we tell ‘em. They don’t listen.

Achieving a new number with a trailing zero always seems to bring some reflection. It’s an opportunity, welcome or not, to catalogue the things that will forever be lost from your grasp, still remain in the realm of possibility, along with what you do have. These days, I am more content (as in contentment, not volume, ok?) than driven, due more to those around me than from within. I have been blessed in some wonderful and often unbelievable ways.

I would have liked to play a stadium, just once. I did get to perform in Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Mo., one time, but it wasn’t quite the same. 10,000+ people and my Vox Beatle amp to cover the room – not even a meaningless connection to the soundboard to make me feel better about it. It’s amazing, the memories that stick with you. It could still happen, of course, but I’d need to get busy. Short of jumping the stage and wrestling that ugly green axe from Adam Clayton’s hands in November, I don’t see it happening. I have played some amazing venues, even signed a few autographs. Back then, I hoped they were IOU’s for a future payoff.

I’d have liked to have seen more of the world. I’ve seen a bunch, but still. It’s true that I’ve often traded insecurity for security, and I’m comfortable with that. Yes, I’m trying to be funny; that’s a funny sentence.  Read it out loud and it’ll be funnier.

One of the things I’ve learned is that I can pick through all of the yardsticks that exist in the human grid, and come up short. I’m not the tallest, wisest, richest, most intellectual, no great talent; I sit squarely near the middle along the bell curve of my species. I do have a few gifts, and I find most pleasure by trying to give them at my best. I’m my harshest critic, most competent and least productive therapist, and, the older I get, more and more grateful for those who bless me with their gifts of time, attention, love, and care.

Me, me, me. Blah Blah Blah. Thanks for reading. Thanks for your friendship and love, some of it crossing seas, continents, and even the difficulties of us both speaking English. I’m now in the running to be considered one of your oldest friends. You’ll just have to be more patient, more often, while I explain how it used to be.


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Bittersweet is a way of life

I have lived in some small towns, although the memories that exist are probably as much Mayberry as they are Globe, Arizona. I have lived in many small communities of various constructions, where everybody knew each other’s “business”. One of the differences between then and now was that, then, you knew more about them than just their “business”, you knew their context. You knew in much more complete way, why.

One of the things about being ‘connected’ in today’s world is that you often learn more than you should about persons that you don’t know in any other, larger way. While this broadens our knowledge, and has created new and diverse communities that span the globe, it is absolutely a different world that’s developing in ways where the old rules can’t apply. It’s also, at least for me, a challenge to the pursuit of contentment on my part, as I suspect it may for some of you. Those connections got to me, this week, in a way that probably wouldn’t have happened even five years ago.

I like to listen to Fresh Air , a PBS interview program. I download them as podcasts and listen to them in the car. As such, I don’t really screen them for content; it’s more often than not a pleasant surprise to hear who’s being interviewed. I’m not going to identify the particular subject of an interview I listened to on Monday afternoon in the car on the way home, but she was describing the abortion of her genetically abnormal baby. I found the first part interesting (and I really didn’t know where she was headed, actually) because she was talking about the different contexts of her world vs. her feminist Mother’s (I am not attacking ‘feminism’, please). Her Mother had been in the fight to win ‘choice’ – and part of that was a metaphorical world (hey! metaphors and meaning) that, for example, used terms like “fetus” instead of “baby”. To this ‘second generation woman’, those obfuscations (my term) were unnecessary – this was a baby that she was aborting. She then went on to describe a very difficult decision-making process with her husband. They didn’t think that their marriage would survive life with a disabled child. Her description of events culminated in a teary request to the doctor that the baby not suffer – he assured her that he’d give it a shot beforehand that would assure this. It was about then that I disconnected the iPod – I didn’t need to go any farther with her. It was not because we disagreed as much as it was just plain disturbing. There was no knowledge to be gained by me from reading her book, I live many of those kinds of moments every day. Her book is for others to read, not me.

These are difficult words to recount, even for me. I don’t present it to you lightly. Please stay with me for the next couple of paragraphs. I’ve had one of those discussions with my wife, before our firstborn, about what and how and what we’d do. We came to a different conclusion, but I fully understand the conversation and the possible outcomes. Now, I’m not that dour a guy, really, but her words continued to mull in my mind.

Thursday, came a reminder from a budding (in the sense that I want it to grow) friendship in Dublin that he’d seen his friend who’d just “buried her baby girl. She takes most comfort from the fact that they got to meet her and know her as a person. Only fifteen days.” Same world, different day. I didn’t get a chance to reply to his email; I spent the remainder of the day thinking of those encounters I’ve had with people – traveling, seminars, camps – where connections are made that affect us for a lifetime. I know what his friend meant. It was gratitude, hope borne of dreams, while, not fulfilled, realized through Love given.

This morning, news that Mya is finally home from the hospital after 55 days. Mya, whose Trisomy 21 became one of the lower priorities for her in light of a medical accident. Mya, the beautiful girl who cannot move, cannot speak, who, when I got to hold her what, 5 years ago?, made an impact on my soul that I can neither adequately describe nor expect you to understand, merely over the course of a few minutes. Mya, who has changed the lives of everyone I know who’s met her.

We have always been beings, seemingly, that do not understand ourselves well enough to know what we are capable of until we realize what we have done. Perhaps there is no other way.

My connections, this week, have taken me round and about, again, through the irreconcilable, the unknowable, the unthinkable, yet often redeemable human experience.
I mentioned contentment. I’m going to define it, for now, as the ability to make the right decision about how one will view one’s current situation. Moving from discontent requires thought, whether or not action is required. As my friend Glen says, “Relationship precedes Function.” Knowing. Being. Doing. I found contentment in the strangest of ways, on this Saturday. Guess what? “The greatest of these is Love.”