Often, when friends I haven’t seen or spoken to in some time ask how things are going with me, I begin by saying, “I have a wonderful life.” The truth is that I do have a wonderful life.
I live in a middle class neighborhood just outside of Atlanta. I have enough space in a yard to plant some vegetables and my partner tends a few rose bushes. We have a deck and can sit outside to enjoy the weather and the woods behind our home. We have jobs that allow us to pretty much pay our bills each month.
Most evenings, I cook dinner. We spend evenings at home talking, reading, and watching TV. This past Saturday night, we went out for dinner. We went to a little Hawaiian restaurant and had a delightful meal. Both of our dinners cost about $18.50. (We like going to places with good ethnic food where we can eat for less than $25.00 for two.) Then we came home and played a board game before going to bed. Yes, it’s a wonderful life.
Last week, a long time friend whom I first met in the mid-1980s visited while she was attending a conference. We got to know each other working with people with AIDS. We were among a group of activist who started organizations, lobbied, and cared for our friends as they were dying, one after another. We’re among the few who were active in that era who are still alive today. We both continue to be interested in integrated health and spirituality, things we found to be so very critical when we worked with dying friends when we were only in our 20s. We laughed and reminisced and told stories of those no one else remembers. It was a delightful day. Even though there were moments when I felt the pain of fear and grief from those years, I knew that it continues to be a wonderful life.
My cat of 19 years is nearing the end of her life. I adopted her in Miami. She’s traveled with me in my moves from Miami, to Tucson, to Pittsburgh, to St. Louis, and now to Atlanta. I often think of how she entertained me as a kitten when I lived in Miami – chasing after little balls I’d throw down the hallway and fetching them so that I could throw them again. With practice, she learned to carry two of the cat-toy balls in her mouth at a time. Today, she has difficulty just getting up on the sofa to sit with me and walks very slowly and deliberately from age. Given her health problems, I’m not sure if she’ll live to see the new year. I’m thankful for her years of companionship and in that gratitude I recognize that it is a wonderful life.
I could go on and on and tell you about my wonderful life. I raked leaves and lined up bags of lawn debris to be taken for composting. I spoke by phone to a friend who recently had a stroke, but is doing pretty well. I sat with an older woman for a while who is facing holidays on her own after the death of her husband to whom she had been married for more than forty years. I saw a beautiful sunset the other evening as I drove into the city. I thought about pulling off the interstate to watch it more carefully but decided that traffic was a bit too heavy for that. In all these things, it is a wonderful life.
What makes this life wonderful starts with the amazing experience of simply being alive. I’m not just alive but I also have the opportunity to experience a wide range of things. They are things I really look forward to, like happiness, laughter, and close companionship. There are things that are more difficult, like loss, frustration, anger, and the aches of growing older. There are things that are monotonous and things that are fulfilling. They are all part of the experience of being alive. It’s truly wonderful!
As I prepare for this American Thanksgiving holiday, I am aware that I am truly grateful for this wonderful life. Yes, I am thankful for all the experiences and dimensions of my life, both those I enjoy and those which are a struggle. In and through them all, I truly appreciate that I am alive and can embrace this rare and unique gift. What could be more important than that?
© 2013, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.