Is there any quantitative difference between the Hindu mantra “tumi baja re,” and the more secular Town Fair Tire jingle? Both occupy space in my frontal lobe, and both come as easily to my consciousness. Is one “better” than the other for keeping my mind from wandering away from the present moment? I think not. Both serve the same purpose, meaning can be stripped from either, allowing them to run in loops thru my wandering mind as pure sound and rhythm. Perhaps there can be an entire new cannon of meditation mantras drawn from advertising jingles.
so here i am, on my 55th birthday, taking a moment to contemplate the journey i’ve been on. there have been more stumbles than i could possibly count, and the path has taken more twists and turns than i can remember – more than enough in directions i would never have chosen. i’ve lost it – or thought i’d lost it – here and there. but when i found it again, i realized that the path i, and you, are on can never be lost. because, as someone wiser than i said, wherever you go, there you are. whatever path you are on at this moment, that’s the path you are on.
i know that everyone can look back and find windows and events in those twists and turns, events and windows that we all think are unique to us. i think of losing my mother very suddenly when i was 9 years old, and think that i am unique in that loss. perhaps in the specifics, but i am sure everyone can find similar defining moments of sharp pain, pain that proves that what doesn’t kill us, doesn’t kill us. and might even make us stronger. i’ve watched both of my beautiful children pass through harrowing circumstances that i tell myself no child should ever have to deal with. but again, save for the specifics, there are difficulties and speed bumps in all of our children’s lives. my children and my wife have all managed to make it to this day, together. and tonight, we will sit down to dinner (with my birthday apple pie!) together and celebrate the fact that through circumstances i cannot begin to understand, we are all here together. and the branches and roots spread out beyond anything i can imagine. for all of that, and though i may lose sight of it now and again, i am deeply and magically blessed.
people ask what i want for my birthday, a question i dread. sure, like everyone, i have lists of Things i think i want (my amazon wish list grows every day), but there is nothing on any of those lists that i cannot get for myself, and nothing that will significantly change my life one way or another. nothing on those lists are really all that important.
there is another list that i keep to myself, because there is nothing on that list that anyone can give me. it’s a list of things i have lost, things i will never have again. and even though i know that everyone has a list like that, some longer or shorter, for each of us, our own list seems the most important. i remember when my daughter was struggling through a serious health issue, i would unload my fear and pain on friends, who would often remark that they felt their personal problems and pains were insignificant compared to mine. i always told them that it wasn’t true. their problems were no less significant or difficult than mine. when someone tells me they are tired, or that their back hurts, or that they have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning, it is sometimes difficult not to come back with, “you have no idea what tired is,” or a snarky, “welcome to my world.” but i don’t go there; their pain and problems are no more or less significant than mine.
we all have fears about the future, and we all worry about the ones we love. it might seem to me that my fears about my future are arriving faster, and make themselves evident to me quite clearly, every day. i don’t think that is unique, though it might be.
i guess, in the end, we are all unique in our specifics and all the same in our generalities. we all tread our own paths, slaying our own dragons, tripping over our own stones, and falling face first into joy and love. so i am 55 years old today – a bit beat up and scarred, but here. and, as the saying goes, it beats the alternative. i think of the words of the dalai lama – “be kind whenever possible. it is always possible.” i pledge to go forward, being as kind as i can to myself and others. it is always possible.
when i finally realized
and accepted the truth
that i wasn’t just thirsty,
that i was really a fish,
i stopped those meaningless tasks,
abandoned the little streams,
and began this long dry journey
to look for deeper water.
-anthony russell white
To be juicy is to be:
a fearlessly joyous optimist, a troublemaker tirelessly afflicting the comfortable,
a passionate lover of good talk and tasty food,
an anonymous prophet hovering over the cosmological riddle,
a frequent violator of the ordinance against indecent exposure of the heart,
and a guerilla in the insurrection against the dream molesters everywhere.
something to aspire to.