There are huge events in our lives that removed those we love. Top on Margaret’s list---her husband who died six years ago. Barbara lost a great deal when after a 31-year-marriage her husband walked out. Most recently, she lost the use of her right dominant arm and hand. That is temporary, of course, but for now it’s a gargantuan loss.
So, the other day, when we were feeling sorry for ourselves we shifted gears. In the spirit of healthy thinking, we started to dwell on what we have and our blessings. This quickly segued into all the things in life that we can't or don't want to live without. Our lists, we realized, make every day seem that much more beautiful, interesting, and palatable (in some cases, pun intended.) Some are prosaic and some extraordinary, at least to us. So we’ll tick them off and explain how each item on our individual list shapes how we live our lives right now to make tough circumstances bearable and maybe even its challenges surmountable. This list is where we feel at home. Safe. At peace.
1. Good chocolate. Forget drug store brands. I go for the best. The list is too long to name them all except at the top is Bissinger’s and Kakao chocolates in St. Louis, Jacques Torres in New York City, and Fran’s in Seattle. A great mood elevator.
2. Books that introduce me to other worlds. They transport me out of my home temporarily. It’s comfort food for my psyche. Also, magazines and newspapers, print versions only, which give me a special window into the world.
3. Volunteering. It's like a warm soothing bath every time I tutor a child, read to inner city children, or help kids with a writing project. Selfishly, for me, it is not just about giving back as much as about what I get in return.
4. Computer service. I am technically challenged and recently hooked up to a service remotely for a monthly fee. When my computer was hacked, a computer guy at the service told me what to do and whom to call…credit bureau for a fraud alert, LifeLock for protection, while he erased all the stuff the hacker had inserted on my computer. Then, he calmly walked me through the paces about how to change passwords and more. The best money ever spent. Thank you, Chris.
5. Treadmill. It’s my most treasured possession. I don’t have to leave my condo to exercise. I simply throw on a torn tee, stick my hair in a pony tail, and walk. I am using my own equipment (no sweaty gym gear). Most important, a brisk walk on my treadmill helps me burn off excess energy and keeps me in shape.
6. Black down coat. It’s like wearing a warm quilt in the dead of winter. And it’s lightweight and easy to throw in the washing machine to clean. It wins hands-down as my favorite item of clothing.
7.My children. They are the center of my life, my core, and the glue that keeps me going especially after the death of their father. Although only my eldest son lives in the same city as I do, just knowing I have three kids who have my back wherever they live comforts me when I feel alone in the world.
8. My sisters. Nobody knows me as well and takes me on unconditionally. Although I can get snarky with them from time to time, I know that I can rely on these two to forgive my transgressions. They have my back at all times, are fun, make me laugh, and make me cry. No two people in my life are as welcoming, compassionate, and helpful. And there is no agenda.
9. Solitude. I covet time to be alone, live in my head, think, write, read, visit a museum and linger as long as I want to in front of great artwork or go to a classical music concert and luxuriate in the music.
10. Hope. This is the ingredient that got me through the worst experience of my life; the death of my husband. And each day, I navigate my new life based on hope that has enabled me to remain healthy and learn how to be happy again.
1. Resilience. I learned from my late father that things don't always come easily, but hard work and another heave-ho can make the difference. It did when my parents were both ill, and I knew I had to take charge, when I went through two tough years of infertility, moved multiple times and had to make new friends and find new work, dated 350 guys until I found "Fixup," and now fight like hell to get through hand therapy to regain use of my hand and arm.
2. TV, magazines, new cookbooks. Others make fun of it. I admit I love TV and am a news and political junkie. I also consider it as a place to escape and watch soap-opera-style series, from Downton Abbey to Parenthood and Damages. Don't call while I'm, watching unless it's an emergency, please. Another reward after writing all day is for me to soak up food, furnishings, gossip from a host of favorite magazine subscriptions. I love when a new issue arrives in the mail. And new cookbooks are always piled near my bed. I'm not yet an online foodie, though I love the Food 52 blog. I love thinking up new meals and planning another dinner party. Current new favorite: Ina Garten's Cooking for Jeffrey and that mile-high devil's food cake on the cover with fluffy white icing.
3. Me time. Whether it's to soak in a bubble bath, painting, cooking, taking a walk or going to a Pilates class, I try to schedule something for me now that I've raised my daughters and they have flown the coop.
4. Thanksgiving. It's the one holiday I get at my house where everyone comes to me since relatives have taken Passover and Rosh Hashanah. I make a big deal about the table decor, favorite recipes, from onion soup dip and a soup shooter to my cornbread stuffing, two kinds of potatoes, that string bean casserole for one daughter and pies. I extend the table for as many who want to squeeze around.
5. Shared texts. My two daughters and I text daily--so happy they let me in to news about work, friends, what they're cooking and my grandsons, the loves of my life.
6, Gal pals. They got me through my awful divorce, make me laugh, let me cry, and heard all about my insane dating, then welcomed Fixup. They care about me and my family--including my mom, 97, whether they live 25 miles away or 300 and check in regularly.
7. My house. It's old, costs me too much, always needs something done, but I bought it on my own after my divorce so I'm very proud I made a wise choice. I doubt we will be together forever since that second flight of stairs is tougher to climb yearly, and it's too far from my girls. But it has provided a haven when I needed a new place to live, and it's in the best town in America.
8. My health. I try to stay healthy--eat well--most of the time, not drink too much, watch pounds, go for checkups, and so on, and when it fails--a broken arm--lets me know loudly little else matters except having good health insurance.
9. My work. I love what I do, not every assignment but my work stirs my brain cells, engages me with others and offers a great sense of accomplishment. And having a writing partner to read and edit work is the best. I love that we work so well and always have another project jelling.
10. My piano. I learned to play on this beautiful Steinway baby grand I inherited from my folks, My mom played on it, so did I, and then so did my girls. My grandson is next. When my father had dementia he still remembered the piano, which he gave my mom for their 15th wedding anniversary. He could still call me up and ask, concerned, "Where is my piano. I think someone stole it." I'd calm him down and say, "It's safe with me. Don't worry." It's a possession that's in our family forever.