Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Friend Perspective

Normally, birthdays are times of general depression for me. Times where I reflect on how pointless my life has been in the grand scheme of the world. I'm no Mozart, DaVinci or Christ. I haven't won a Nobel Prize, solved a global problem or even made a financial mark. I'm a guy who lives essentially hand-to-mouth, with modest savings, and a debt load that far exceeds it. And, typically, the weeks leading up to my birthday are a Pandora's Box of angst and shoulda-woulda-coulda's.

This year, however, something shifted. It was likely a combination of many factors (as these things usually are), but they all coalesced after the death of my mother late last year, and forced a lot of my views - on life, love, loss, regret - into fresh perspective.

My mother was a young 66, and in her too-short time she had really lived: loving, traveling, teaching, touching other people's lives and truly appreciating her own. Her physical decline was slow, which was hard in so many ways, but which also afforded me the opportunity to be wonderfully conscious with her as she died. To ask her the questions sons want to ask mothers, and say the things that sons want to tell mothers (but far too often don't). Her passing renewed my appreciation for my life as well as the lives and relationships of those around me. And in honoring her life I began to  regard my own, and it's value in this world, in a new way.

I feel a bit as if I've finally gained an adult perspective on what it means to be alive. When I was younger (and not even by that much), I thought that the measure of a man was that great capitalist trinity of money, fame and power. I quietly believed that any man who thought differently was simply in denial – merely altering his perspective to match his reality. And, for some reason, I thought that made him less of a man.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for material goods. I love my iPhone and my new birthday flat-screen TV (just ask my wife). It would be great to be rich, famous and powerful. But I no longer think those things do, or should, define me. I am not made a greater man for having them or made a lesser one for not having them. Over the last few months I have come to believe that, though we may be measured by how much stuff we carry, the true reflection of a man is in those with whom he chooses to walk and, perhaps more importantly, those who choose to walk with him.

Over the past several years, my wife has waged a slow, progressive campaign of coaxing (some might call it begging, pleading or prodding) me to open my birthday up to my friends instead of burying myself in a hole and trying to ignore it. I think my fear had been that the more people who knew I was getting older, the older I would actually be. As if, somehow, not marking my birthday would nullify the fact that the planet had made another rotation around the sun while I was on it. What I've found, however, is that the more people who know – the more people I allow into the "circle of me" – the less lonely, and the more alive, I feel.

As one of that circle, you have chosen to walk with me through this life, and I am better, deeper and more alive for each and every one of you. It is, in no small part, because of you that I can look back on my life-that-was without shame or regret, and look forward to the life-that-will-be with great joy and anticipation.

Thank you.


  1. You're awesome and I love you!
    so great to see you and you beautiful wife-
    ....again? soon??


  2. How old are you? I forge. Are you really middle aged? Doesn't seem possible. Here's to another trip around the sun:)

  3. I almost posted a comment on the wrong account, but caught myself in time.

    Then I did not know what to say and it took a while to get my thoughts straight.

    I guess I can summarize by saying that Joan had some very clear ideas, focus, and objective.

    First was love of family. This was followed by her love of ballet and her work to spread this love to others. Then there was her strong desire to help others and to be there when needed. And then there was her insatiable desire to keep learning.

    Going thru her things I see that she was always working to improve her syllabus, studying ballet performances by looking at videos of performances (she has a lot of DVDs and VHSs of ballets (many the same ballet but performed by different companies), by listening to music (again the same music performed by different performer: her library is fantastic).

    And then she would visit other ballet schools to watch how they did things and help them with thier performances.

    Graduating Summa Cum Laude and her membership in Phi Betra Kappa, Golden Key, and Phi Kapa Phi show how focused she was on learning more about theatre. And then there were her studies leading to a Masters in Instructional Design. She did this not to get the degree, but to learn.

    And she did this without neglecting her family, students, and friends. She used Facebook, email, phone calls and letters to keep in touch with her friends that were once her students and their parents. But she never forgot them and tried to keep in touch with them.

    Sorry if I was long winded. I tried to get my thoughts straight so I could be brief, but brevity is not a skill that I excel in.

    I loved your post, but disagree about Birthdays being depressing.


  4. "Carpe diem" is such a simple phrase to say, but often a daunting one to live.

    Love your post. Love your dad's post.
    Pretty much love you, Dean. I'm so happy to share a path with you & Lyena in this life.

    And since I still owe you a lemon cake, may the DP celebration continue!

  5. So glad you have finally seen the light! ;)

    Glad to be on the journey with you. I adore you.

  6. what? so i was wrong all this time??


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