It was the first day of spring and the mercury hadn’t hit 50 degrees yet, but the restaurant wasn’t serving indoors and I needed some pancakes. So I sat outside in my winter coat and absorbed whatever warmth I could from the propane heater near my table, congratulating myself on how tough I’ve become and how well I can cope with dining al freezco.
Then it occurred to me that I’m not really that tough at all. For the people who live under the expressway at North Avenue, this is every meal, every night’s sleep, every new dawn. Braving the cold is a temporary discomfort for me. For them, it’s Tuesday.
As I raced to finish my breakfast before the syrup froze, I became increasingly grateful for the daunting experience of eating outside on a cold day; grateful for my usual good fortune in bypassing what is “normal” for too many others. I was cold and uncomfortable, and I ended up being grateful for both, thankful for the lessons provided by my temporary suffering.
Increasingly, I’m finding, gratitude is most meaningful on the downside. As I’ve mentioned in a prior post, It’s easy to be grateful when things are going well, but the deepest connections come from the setbacks.
During the winter, I was fortunate enough to spend some time in a couple of emergency rooms, an operating room and a hospital bed. The treatments extended over more than two months and there’s no question I would have been happy to avoid it. Still, I ended up grateful for the journey.
I was grateful for access to good medical care, of course, and grateful for the commitment medical workers were making for my safety. I was grateful for the fact this was only a temporary setback that would end at some point, rather than a chronic situation that would accompany me through life. And I was very, very grateful for Medicare, which processed more than $100,000 of medical bills, whittled the total down to $2,600, and left me owing just a few hundred bucks.
Finally, I was grateful for some valuable perspective about the minor nuisances that somehow command a huge portion of my attention, nuisances that disappeared from my awareness when something really serious took control. I was grateful for the opportunity to experience the pain and the discomfort that made me more aware and more pleased about the times when everything is fine.
It takes some work and a definite shift of perspectives to become truly grateful for the crap life can throw at you. Gratitude doesn’t make the bad things good or the hard times pleasant, but it does provide some added meaning to life, a bit of a payoff for the negative experiences. I’m just learning how to do it and the learning curve is far from smooth, but I’m finally starting to reap the benefits of my new education.
For which I am very, very grateful.
And while we’re on the subject, I’d be even more grateful is you’d click here to become a subscriber.
Screw the swallows and the robins and the Easter lilies and all the dog poop that has emerged from the snow bank by the curb. The real proof that spring has sprung is the crack of a bat and the smell of overflowing urinals.
Yes, baseball season is back with the unlimited potential of a Ponzi scheme and all the hope we’ll have abandoned by the ides of August. Welcome to The Show, although the best performances won’t take place on the field.
Now that Ringling Bros. has folded its tent for the last time, the greatest show on earth is in the stands at a baseball game. When it comes to acrobats, daredevils and clowns, nothing really compares…
Cast your eyes on the life of the party, vastly over-served already, as he squeezes through the row while carrying six beers and two plates of nachos. Watch the fans flinching in the row ahead of him—distanced only in theory—as he rubs against their heads with his nether regions and showers them with Budweiser and salsa.
Applaud the veterans of the high-school show choir as they try valiantly to initiate The Wave, even though the stands are empty and the opposing team is at bat.
Marvel at the young couple staring at their cell phones as they live-stream the game and lament that there is no way to view it in 3-D.
Admire the enthusiasm of the fans who stand for the last pitch…for the first batter, and the second batter, and the third batter…while everyone behind them is forced to stand, one row after another, in order to see the damned game.
Share the optimism of noobs who leap to their feet to cheer for a homer, while everyone around them recognizes that it’s only a pop-up to short.
Honor the committed men who buy, and wear, an entire uniform with the number of their favorite player. If the team uses up all its pinch runners and pinch hitters and half the players have suffered from groin pulls, these heroes are all suited up and ready to play. Just in case.
Venerate the incredible faith of young parents who bring their toddlers to the game and expect them to just sit and watch for three hours. (Yeah, we know it works all the time with Frozen.)
Soak in the sagacity of the drunk old guy in the next row, the one with three chins and two teeth, as he explains the best strategy for winning the game. (Hint: It has to do with getting more runs than the other team.)
Respect the kidneys of the frat boys in line at the men’s room as they free up space for the three beers they just bought at last call.
Support law enforcement by cheering for the brave ushers who prevent fans from sneaking into the box seats…even though it’s the bottom of the eighth and there are only 300 people in the stadium.
Yes, the game itself is a four-minute chase scene inside a three-hour movie, but there’s non-stop thrills and giggles just off the field. Sometimes it pays to think outside the batter’s box.
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I think I’ll cancel my plans for April 1, but maybe I can schedule a really great dinner, as I shift my calendar yet again…
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After a full year of this CV Diary, it’s time to take a look at what I’ve learned and the times I slept through the lectures, including…
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Welcome to the biggest conspiracy in the world, the great grandmother of all conspiracies, a plot so seamless we don’t even realize it’s a conspiracy at all.
Yes, it’s Daylight Saving Time. Since two o’clock this morning, or maybe it was 1:37 last Thursday, we’ve all entered into a plot to convince ourselves, and our poultry, that the sun and the moon and the stars and all the planets skipped a beat. For roughly eight months, we will tell ourselves and anyone who will listen that the natural order of the universe shifted ever so slightly, just because we decreed it so.
Spring forward, fall back, do the hokey pokey, it’s all a giant delusion that we agree to share. Yesterday, the sun set at 5:45. Today, we’ll all agree that it’s setting at 6:47. Then, in early November, we’ll take it all back and whine about how early the sky gets dark in the winter.
The whole concept is just a bit crazy. The very fact that we have time zones owes more to train schedules than to any underlying need. When every city had its own time, noon was when the sun was directly overhead and everything revolved around that consistent standard. Today, with typical human hubris, we’ve declared that the heavens revolve around our clocks, not vice versa.
In a very real way, though, technology has eliminated the need for time zones. Dividing the country, or the world, into standard times was a great idea for the railroads, but why shouldn’t I have my own time zone to meet my special needs? If I can stream my videos whenever I want, why can’t I change the hourglass to suit my mood?
F’rinstance, I love the idea of the sun setting late in the summer, but it sets before nine p.m. in Chicago. A few miles east of me, in Indiana, sunset is close to 10 p.m. Why should all those Indiana-inians get to dine out in the sunshine at 9:45 while I’m in the dark? Isn’t it my God-given right to live in a world where my sun sets at ten or eleven? Of course it is.
If I had my own time zone, I would always be on time for meetings, because we’d change the clocks to show the right time whenever I arrived. If I had my own time zone, I’d never have a late fee from Visa, because I’d just adjust the clock to make my payments meet the deadline. I’d never forget my wife’s birthday, or our anniversary, because I would just reset the time/date as soon as she reminded me. I’m liking this idea more and more by the minute, whichever minute I choose it to be.
Of course, I’ll need to be careful of the space/time continuum. Too much hopping back and forth to make time my servant could lead me to meet my future self and collapse into anti-matter. I promise to use this power only for good, or for really good pranks.
I haven’t quite figured out all the details for making this a reality, but I have eight months to figure it out before everyone wants to set their clocks back and I stop the motor of the world. In the meantime, maybe I can convince the fine folks at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich to just move all the world’s clocks up an hour or two and save me the aggravation. How could they possibly refuse?
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We hold these truths to be self-evident:
One of our greatest skills as human beings is the ability to hold both of these views at the same time, often within the same conversation, sometimes within the same sentence. If mental gymnastics was an Olympic event, we’d qualify for Team USA.
In reality, though, each of us is a sample size of one. That makes each of us unique, but it also means none of us is an average Jane. We’re all empowered by and trapped in the circumstances of our lives and our journeys, so we all see things a bit differently.
In my corner of the world, the Coronavirus is real, the state is woefully behind in managing the vaccination rollout, local businesses are suffering along with their landlords, and very few people are arguing about masks. When I’m writing these posts, that state of the world is part of my foundation, even though it might not be a match for a good number of readers.
Many of you live in areas where the economies have stayed open almost nonstop or in places where wearing a mask, or not, is cause for a confrontation. For all of us, our sense of how the pandemic is unfolding will draw more from what we see in our personal lives than from the news. Yes, we’ll read the stories and check out the videos, but the sources we pick and the way we interpret the news will depend heavily on what we, individually, think is the reality.
If we know people who have battled Covid, or lost the war, we’re more likely to take the whole thing very seriously. If we don’t know anyone who has had to deal with the situation, it’s more remote and less threatening. There are tons of exceptions, because each of us brings unique combinations of experience to the conversation, but all of us tend to focus more on our own friends, our own communities, our own challenges.
That’s the crazy part about all our interactions with other people. We think we’re talking to someone else who is like us, but we might be mis-communicating about almost everything. We’re usually aware of it when we’re talking to a doctor or a lawyer or some other specialist whose language is clearly different from our own. The gaps are less obvious when we’re engaged with someone who looks and sounds like us, but brings a whole different set of baggage to the journey.
Sometimes the differences are small enough that they don’t get in the way. Other times, you and your conversation partner are both fluent in English, but you’re speaking a totally different language. We can’t find a way to make our points effectively, because we don’t see the other person’s filters.
Before we can understand someone else, and be understood by them, we need to know a bit about what makes them unique. Otherwise, we’re just talking to ourselves.
As we enter our fourth year of the Dad Writes experiment, we hope you’ll sign up as a subscriber and that you’ll join in the conversation. We know we’ll benefit from your unique perspective.
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.