This is both what I want and have in my life. It’s not everything, but it’s been a full life. I’m old enough to have attained the things most important to me. And not. It depends on how one looks at it. The difference between success and failure, contentment or emptiness can be your attitude. This is not to say that there are no real losses. Of course there are. Deaths, partings, endings are inevitable, but they don’t define our life, however painful they are. Nor are we defined by the worst things that have happened to us.
I’ve done most of the stuff I wanted to do, been most places I wanted to go. I took chances. Sometimes the risks paid off. Other times, the results were unfortunate. I regret the chances I never took far more than those I took that didn’t work out.
Look at your life, see good times and happy memories — or focus on failure and losses. Life is never all joy or entirely miserable. There are good times and bad. We all fail. We all succeed. Life is like a baseball season, made up of wins and losses.
We have ultimate freedom to choose which is more important and how we evaluate the balance. In this one thing, we answer only to ourselves.
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I was turning 60. It had been a terribly difficult five years. I had felt the wings of the dark angel gently brush across my face. You know death is close when the dark angel does not frighten you but seems more like a friend, come to comfort you in a difficult time.
I’d pulled back from that edge. I’d had a vision telling me to live and I did. I do.
It was less than a year later when my personal calendar flipped to 60. I could no longer pretend at youth. Sixty, is not so old, but it assuredly is not young.
Nor is it middle age. Sixty is the leading edge of years termed golden — a cynical stab at making a sow’s ear into a silk purse. The downward slope of life’s mountain is perilous. Sharp turns, unexpected twists, unseen hazards blocking the path. They poke and hurt.
Friends depart or are too tired to want to be social. They move to far away places you cannot visit. You lose your will to battle airports and security. Your passion for travel no longer burns hot. Email and telephones, but it’s hard to hear on phones and even email messages are more succinct.
When I turned 60, my husband colluded with family to throw me a party. This was no easy feat as the pool of friends had so greatly diminished, yet somehow, he did it. I saw faces I loved, hadn’t seen in a long time, and some I’d never see again, though I didn’t know it at the time.
There were friends from every place in my world … family I would never see again. It would be the last time my brother would visit because in a year, he would be gone. I look at the pictures and probably 40% of those guests have moved on to another place, hopefully a good one. The gathering was a great though bittersweet gift.
Life goes on. Good times never end. Always, there are days of laughter but softly, softly there is the ticking of the Big Clock. We don’t miss chances to visit, moments to share.
We live in the now, fully for it will not come round again this turn of the wheel.
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Racket had gotten out of his cage. Nothing unusual about that, except that usually when I let him loose, I’d make sure to put away anything I cared about to avoid having Racket destroy it. It was futile but I felt obliged to try.
Racket, as his name implied, was a charming, noisy Sulpher-Crested Cockatoo. He was the perfect example of why cockatoo owners invented stainless steel perches. Racket could reduce anything made of hardwood to splinters in seconds. He had gone to work on the sofa not long ago … not the upholstery. I think the upholstery wasn’t a sufficient challenge for him. He had gone all out to redo the carved wood frame, perhaps with the intent of correcting the original artist’s errors.
The arm of the sofa nearest his cage was a pile of wood chips and splinters. No evidence of the original design remained. Having completed his work on the sofa, he had refocused his efforts towards acquiring wisdom. He began ingesting the Encyclopedia Britannica, one volume at a time. At this time, he was about half-way through the project. I could see that he’d had a busy morning and had consumed two more volumes.
There wasn’t much I could do about it. I had no where else to put the books. The flat was tiny and there was no storage space. Racket couldn’t spend all his time in a cage. Parrots need freedom, at least an hour or two a day. They are smart birds. They need to interact with the world, with us, to explore and have fun. Racket was doing what Cockatoos do for fun: tearing apart everything on which he could lay his beak.
I wasn’t sure who’d let him out that morning. Probably one of the kids. But he couldn’t stay out all day. I had to go to work and no sane parrot owner would leave their bird loose, unsupervised with no one at home. Or at least no one sane would leave this parrot unsupervised.
I shuddered at the thought of how much damage he could do given an entire day to wreak havoc. It was time to put him back into his house.
“Come on, sweetie,” I cooed. “Time to go home. Mommy’s got to go to work.”
“CAWWWWWWW! SQUAWK!! ACK-ACK-ACK!” (No M’am, I have other plans) he said. Ah those melodious tones.
He was a tame bird, bad habits notwithstanding and would stand on my hand, nibble on my ears. So far he hadn’t taken it into his head to remove my ears, though he had tried to rip an earring out. But tame and obedient are in no way synonymous. He knew I wanted him back in his cage and he clearly didn’t want to go there. I needed a proper bribe or he could easily elude me for hours.
“Come along, baby,” I continued, sotto voce. “Mommy needs to get going and we don’t have all day to hunt wild birdies.”
I offered him my arm and teased him with a piece of watermelon in my other hand. He was ever so fond of fruit. Finally, after trying his birdy best to get the fruit without having to climb up on the arm, he gave in and climbed aboard. Quick as a wink, he was back in his cage, a squishy piece of red fruit dangling from his beak.
I pondered how much worse this would have been if I not have been able to get him in hand and instead, had been left with two just like him safely hidden in a bush. It boggled my mind.
Every morning, as I limp down the hallway from the bedroom to the kitchen, no matter how stiff I am with arthritis, no matter how poorly I’ve slept, as soon as I get to the kitchen, my heart becomes lighter.
“Good morning, fur children,” I chirp. They woof and growl and gambol and pant. They know it’s cookie time for the canine contingent, but coffee time for me.
I make a brief detour to turn on the coffee pot. Priorities.
There’s no more time to waste. Eager faces surround me as I approach the huge dog biscuit container on the table in the corner. It’s shaped like a giant dog biscuit — lest I forget. The dogs , with their acute senses of smell, are more than aware of where to find the biscuits. Eyes not required.
They know my hands are the true source of all biscuits, so they watch me with their eyes. Excitement mounts.
Bishop is an Australian Shepherd. Lacking sheep, he stares at me, with the apparent objective of engendering guilt. It works pretty well. He is also Bonnie’s love slave.
Then there’s Nan, the Norwich Terrier. Nan stares, but adds sound effects. Grunts and agonized moans. She’s starving she says. She hasn’t eaten in … minutes. She will repeat this performance whether she is still chewing the biscuit she just got or it’s been a whole night since her last treat.
And last, but not at all least, there’s Bonnie. She bounces up and down, bounds around the kitchen like a mad thing, twirling and spinning, yapping and prancing. She’s young and full of joie de vivre. Shortly, she will be full of biscuits.
They all believe if they don’t remind me, I will forget them and their cookies. These dogs have never missed a treat or a meal in their lives but you’d never guess it.
The sun streaks in through the windows, the smell of coffee fills the room. Joyous gurgling and crunching from the furry ones and I’m off to the office to check my email and see what surprises the night has brought. Another day is begun.
Happy morning to all!
Sunlight is sneaking through the blinds. It’s morning again.
Brain to Marilyn: Hey, get up. I’ve got stuff to do.
Marilyn to Brain: Shut up. I’m tired. Let me sleep or I swear I’ll take a pill and shut you down.
Brain (sullen): Fine. Be that way.
Marilyn drifts off to sleep for half an hour.
Brain: How about that dream I sent you eh?
Marilyn: That was horrible. Why did you do that?
Brain: I thought it was cool the way I turned butterflies into flying monsters. You didn’t like it?
Marilyn: No, I did not like it. And right now, I don’t like you.
Brain to Marilyn: Logic and Emotion are going at it again. Wow, this one’s a real knock down drag out fight. Loud, huh.
Marilyn to Logic and Emotion: If you guys don’t cut it out, I’m going to stop this car and you are both getting a time-out.
Logic and Emotion together: HE STARTED IT MOM!
Marilyn to Logic and Emotion: I don’t care who started it. SHUT UP! I need some sleep!
Logic and Emotion together (meekly): Sorry Mom. Don’t be mad …
Brain to Marilyn: I have a message from Spine. She says you need to take something for pain. Spine is unhappy.
Marilyn to Brain: Spine is always unhappy.
Brain to Marilyn: Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Oh, and Bladder wants a trip to the bathroom.
Marilyn: Oh fine. (Muttering all the way)
Marilyn gets up, hauls self to bathroom. Comes back with Tylenol. Takes pills, crawls into bed pulling covers up over head, sighing as she settles into the embrace of the best bed in the world.
Brain to Marilyn: Hey, I’ve got a great idea for a story! How about our little morning chats, huh? Wouldn’t that be cool? Come on, get up before you forget the whole idea. Lazy daisy get your butt outta bed.
Marilyn to Brain: I haven’t even had 6 hours of sleep. I’m too tired to write.
Brain to Marilyn: You are never too tired to write! Get up, get up, it’s morning again.
Sounds: Dogs howling, yapping, more howling.
Marilyn: Can you make the dogs shut up?
Brain: Sorry, no direct access to doggie brains.
Marilyn to Brain: Okay. You win. I’m up, I’m up. Coffee. I hope we aren’t out of half and half. I’m never going to get a whole night’s sleep, am I.
Waking up to the light in the bedroom, my day begins with coffee and ends where it began. Not exciting, perhaps, but it’s a form-fitting world for me and mine. I wanted this to be an ordinary day, like most days. There are busier days, days spent away from home, at doctor’s offices and (alas) working … but this is a regular average day in my life. Nothing special, nothing fancy. Welcome to my little world.
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