I got this nice email today, which made me smile. Yes, it seems weird to say that an automatically generated message can make my lips turn up, but these days I tend to smile a lot. Why? Well, for starters, I have a job that I absolutely love, one so rewarding that I feel like I’ve won some sort of cosmic lottery.
But the best thing in my life, by far, are the people –especially my friends. I really love the friends I have. Some of them are pensive, some are festive, some are offbeat, some are online, some are culinary, and some I barely even know. This morning, way before I started receiving automated emails, I heard from my friends. Some text messaged, some emailed, and some even picked up the phone to call.
My good friend Constance, who lives in Atlanta with her husband, Dale, and her French Bulldog, Riot,
called and we spent an hour talking about all kinds of stuff. I
initially met Constance in the course of practicing law, but we found
out that we were more interested in talking about creativity than
litigation. I am so lucky to have met someone wonderful like
Constance. In fact, I’m lucky to have all of the really close friends
that I have, especially my very close friend Becky.
How can I even begin to describe why we are close? Well, one really
important reason is that she loves my kids and loves helping them out.
Another, seemingly trivial reason: she has the most wonderful dog in
the world. My life is much richer because of Becky for lots of
reasons, let’s just leave it at that.
Last, and definitely not least, I have the greatest family in the
world. I was talking to someone the other day about my brother, trying
to explain how cool he is and how much he means to me. I wasn’t sure
how to explain it, but said something like this. You don’t get to
choose your family, and I know a lot of people who have a hard time
with their sibilings. I don’t understand that because if some magic
genie appeared and gave me the chance to pick anyone in the world to be
my brother, I wouldn’t even have to think. I’d pick Stuart.
Not because he’s my brother right now, but because he’s the sort of
person that if met him for the first time, I’d wish he were my brother
so we’d have the chance to know each other really well and help each
We went through a lot of strange times growing up, and we had lots
of chances to help each other out. I owe him a lot, and he’d probably
say something similar about me. The truth is, we don’t ‘owe’ each
other anything. Still, I’m very lucky to have him as my brother.
is the other great hero in my life. But it wasn’t always like that.
For a long time I didn’t get along with my dad, and there were times
when I even felt like I hated him Why? Funny, but I can’t really
explain it now and the whole thing just seems like a bad dream. I
faulted him for something that seemed monumental when I was growing up,
but now I understand him and I can’t figure out why I was so mad. All
those years while I was laser-focused on one molecular
misunderstanding, I failed to see this amazing gift radiating in my
face like the noonday sun. My dad has this wonderful way of
approaching the world, a way of seeing the good things and completely
ignoring anything negative. Of course, when I didn’t understand him
this only made me hate him even more.
I remember one time when I was a kid, I told him I had a headache
and he scoffed and said “children don’t get headaches.” I was taken
aback. Obviously, I wanted sympathy, and when I didn’t get it I felt
stung. Years later I realized that what he really was telling me was
“don’t let yourself be controlled by negative thoughts.” Back then I
would reply “that’s easy for a psychiatrist to say.” Turns out it’s
easy for anyone to say, but it’s pretty damn hard to actually do. My
dad has always known how to do it, and he tried to show me but I didn’t
want to listen. I’ve learned a lot since then. I can’t say that I’ve
gained complete control of my mind (I’m certainly not as upbeat as
dad), but I’m getting better.
The other day, Stuart and I were talking about the importance of
having the right approach to life. We both marvelled at how easy dad
makes it seem. That reminded Stuart of a poem that he had recently been studying.
He told me the name of it and right away I quoted the opening line:
“Tell me not in mournful numbers life is but an empty dream, for the
soul is dead that slumbers and things are not what they seem…”
Stuart was surprised that I not only knew the poem, but also the
opening line. “Don’t you remember how that dad used to quote that poem
all the time?” I asked. He didn’t remember. And then the moment kind
of hung there as we both silently considered how many amazing things
our father had exposed us to, and how so much of it seemed
inconsequential at the time.
Isn’t it strange how the most valuable things our parents show us
take a really long time to sink in? It’s like that for me with my kids
too. Sometimes they think I’m mean or that I don’t care about them.
Obviously, that’s not true, but I understand that point of view.
Fortunately, not as well as I used to.
I think that, mostly, we understand what we try to understand. The
most amazing insights are sitting right in front of us, but unless we
want to see them they are completely invisible.
Here’s what I’ve only recently begun to understand. It’s often hard
to see things the right way, and it’s always easy to wish for magic
genies. Unfortunately, magic genies can’t give us the things that we
really need. Figuring out what you need is trickier than some people
might imagine, at least it was for me. I’ve found out that I only get what I need when I appreciate the things that I already have. Isn’t
Something tells me that my dad already knows that.