Birthday Reflections

Jack's Guitars

On Monday I celebrated my 75th birthday in NYC, so maybe this column should simply be called Surviving instead of Surviving Seattle. After all, my own father was dead when he was my age. I have to accept that, if everything goes perfectly, my life is about 75% complete.

Every day I am grateful for who I am, where I am, and how I got here. I didn’t choose to be born white, or healthy, or an American. But those three things put me in a tiny, tiny group that had a good chance at a good life on this planet at that time. When I get all puffed up about how cool I am and what a good life I’ve made for myself I try to remember that I had nothing to do with the most important factors that have given me a good life.

I’m grateful for so many things – my health, my smart, supportive and loving wife, my three successful children and their families, my wife’s children and especially for Lucie and Ben, my heartbreakingly beautiful step-grandchildren.

Along with the gifts and serendipity of birth, we do have to make decisions that direct our lives.  Some will be good ones, some bad ones, and sometimes, without making a decision at all, things happen that have cosmic consequences for our lives – births, deaths, wars, illnesses, accidents, lost jobs, and natural disasters. Who could ever have foreseen the murder of 20 small children and 6 of their teachers in Newtown, Connecticut? 26 young lives cut short by a crazed, mentally unstable killer. 26 young people will never see another birthday, wedding, or childbirth. So I remind myself, as I do about all the other good fortune in my life that I am really, really, lucky to be me.

Having said all that, the qualifier as I move into life’s next phase is that it is not really about survival as much as it is quality. What can I do to give myself a high quality experience for as long as possible? Here are my guidelines:

Love the people that matter – new friends, old friends, and family. Help them, comfort them, celebrate them and enjoy their company. Don’t waste time on people (including family) who treat you badly, even if they matter. It’s not your problem; it’s theirs. They will come around when their hearts open. Live your life with integrity and focus on the positive.

Don’t go to reunions. They are for old people who cluster together because the best parts of their lives are over. Don’t look back, look forward.

Go to happy hour at upscale bars. That’s where the young professionals with lots of juice hang out. It rubs off – and the conversations are interesting.

Hit the gym. Ride your bike. Walk to the store. Eat fresh, Stay fit. Get a massage. Everything feels better when you do.

Stay current. Keep abreast of fashion and pop culture trends as well as current events. Resist the temptation to dress like an old person – no high pockets or alpaca cardigans – but don’t dress like a dead teenager.

Treat each day as a work day. Get up. Get dressed (no jammies and bunny slippers). Drink a latte. Read the paper. Watch the morning news. Then – sit down and go to work – some kind of meaningful activity.

Check out the Weekend section of the local paper. Find a couple of events, films, plays, readings, or parties that sound interesting and get them on the calendar – even if you don’t know much about them. Surprise yourself. Be impulsive and creative. Many of them are free and will stretch your tiny mind.

Travel to interesting places. Fly Business Class if you can, but don’t let it deter you if you can’t. Exposure to other cultures will expand your vision and tolerance.

Work on a new (or old) skill you want to develop. I will never be a Hemingway, Clapton or Federer, but writing, tennis and playing the guitar give me enormous satisfaction and I will continue my relentless pursuit of improvement with all three.

Read, read, read – books are the gateway to freedom and wisdom.

Embrace the NOW. It’s all we have – especially considering a US Congress that ignores the national good in favor of its own bloviating self promotion.

This is about personal survival and the quality of life. In the meantime I have to Survive Seattle.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *