Thursday, 11 February 2016

A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE - Taking a measure of days

Looking ahead to the start of my 80th year in a few months. I am enormously grateful just to do that. I am healthy for the most part, still active physically and mentally, as far as I know, and I am enjoying wonderful opportunities for work and play, days of re-creation.  My days begin and end with gratitude for the gift of time, places to go, things to do and those are more available than I would have thought about previously since I live as fully as possible in the present.
We are currently in Mexico for several winter months enjoying the tropical environment along the Pacific coast.  Some might say that we are retired but I think quite the opposite, opposite being a place where I often find myself compared to what others think.  On my morning walk yesterday I saw a couple who are bird watchers and we stopped to chat about what they’ve seen.  In two months, here at the edge of the ocean and jungle, they have seen 70 different species in two months.  Among our favorites is the black-throated magpie jay.  This couple from Texas have lived “on the road” for 15 years, energetic, active, hikers and birders. He carries binoculars and she carries a camera.  They are a team.
In the past three months I have worked on short-term educational projects in Barcelona and London, continued this blog, worked on a manuscript for a book called “Pearls From An Irritated Mind,” traveled in our thirty-two foot motor home and am trying to learn Spanish albeit at a snail’s pace.  We will accelerate that a bit when we move from here inland to San Miguel Allende in a couple of weeks.  Lifelong learning is just part of who we are.  My wife, Susan, was “in class” last night with her teacher in Bolivia, a class on “Advanced Memoir Writing.”  
We look at this upcoming election with amusement and amazement, talk with each other about the candidates and the process, and debate with our friends about these people who say they want to be elected so they can make things better.  As the UK said to the U.S. recently, “What are you thinking?” I would like someone to explain why we spend (waste) so much time and money with this spectacle.
As a country we have had both time and opportunity to “make things better” and while there is evidence that we are better off now than we were ten or twenty years ago in some very specific areas, it's debatable for the larger picture.  Some other countries seem to have figured things out better than we have, at least from my perspective, on things like health care, education, the environment, and child care.  Many have not and are suffering greatly.  I am looking forward to Michael Moore’s new film, “Where Should We Invade Next.”
In my 75th year I wrote an abbreviated memoir called, Seven Decades: A Learning Memoir and the following year, I published Your Child, Your Choice: Finding the Right School for Your Child. My first book, co-authored with a colleague, and published by Longman in1988, was Understanding and Enjoying Adolescence. It is both out of print and out of date.  I thought of revising and updating it but the number of changes in 28 years would require more than a revision.  Some developmental issues have not changed all that much but the world has changed significantly and rapidly.
We read continuously and I just finished Oliver Sacks’ memoir On the Move: A Life, as well as his recent work, Gratitude.  Other books we have enjoyed lately, in case you’re looking for one to read, include Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande; Circling the Sun by Paula McClain; Plainsong by Kent Haruf; and I am in the middle of Adventures in Being Human: A Grand Tour from the Cranium to the Calcaneum, by Gavin Francis.  Our weekly addictions include "The Huffington Post" and "The New Yorker Magazine."
We are connected digitally to the outside world via more than enough technology to suit our needs and interests. That helps us stay in touch with the world as a whole, with professional colleagues, our extended families of seven children, thirteen grandchildren, brothers, sister, their children and in-laws, plus Susie’s mother who celebrated reaching102 in January.  It’s quite a tribe all added together and we look forward to seeing many of them in the near future.  There is no substitute for face-to-face presence.
Life is not only good, it is full.  Our days begin early, before sunrise, and end early, soon after sunset. “You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done, which may take some time, you are fierce with reality.”   Florida Scott-Maxwell, The Measure of My Days.
Our hope for you, your families and ours. is a good measure of days, living joyfully, thankfully, engaged in those things that are challenging. rewarding, and satisfying. Every day presents choices and opportunities.  Try and make the most of what you will and if it fits, be fierce with reality.

PS - An earlier review "LIFE WORKS" is here:

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