Life is full of ups and downs, good times and the not so good. It is all too easy to give too much time to dwelling on the not so good. I was particularly struck by a recent op ed in the New York Times by Lindsay Crouse suggesting that we “……can make any day the best day of the year”. It made me reflect on our family Thanksgiving dinner. This year there were twenty five of us gathered. Some grandchildren were missing either because of work or school commitments. The ages present were from twenty six down to fourteen. And for the first time instead of having three tables for dinner according to age we opted for multigenerational sitting. It was an attempt to acknowledge that our grandchildren are growing up (how could the time have gone by so quickly?). It was a start in adjusting to some life changes. We will do the same seating at Christmas. At each table we went around and asked – if the person wanted to – to share what they were most thankful for in this past year. I thought the answers offered a special glimpse into the individual lives of our precious family.
‘And because we had had our Thanksgiving go around the table question, I was particularly intrigued by Crouse’s reflections on having a best day in the past year and discussing what constitutes a “best day”. By the end of her op ed she is promoting best days in the future. She feels that she has often missed out by focusing on the past. She feels that sometimes the what she called “polished photos” of past events did not truly represent the event. She talks of wishing time away in this pandemic time of our lives. She talks of having a nostalgia for the past that was causing her to miss out on the joys of the present or to be excited about what the future has to offer. And so Crouse decided to start picking out days in the future which would be best days. This new tact has worked very well for her. She gets excited as one of these best days approaches. It is not that she is disregarding the future days not designated as best. She is just realistic that all days can not be best.
How we live our lives is up to each individual. Particularly as we age there can be too much focus on the past. I am certainly not promoting a total blackout of the past. Two weeks ago Jerry and I drove to the University of Virginia with our son Jim, his wife Lisa and sons Jimmy and Joshua to see their youngest daughter Meggie, a UVA third year, sing a solo in the Virginia Belles concert. It was so much fun!!! An added bonus was that we were joined at the concert by our son Joe, his wife Lane and son Quinn and Quinn’s friend Elizabeth. Quinn sat next to me. He too is a third year and a member of the all male UVA Hullabahoos – also an a cappella group like the all female Virginia Belles. There are certain protocols at a cappella concerts. Quinn was my guide through these protocols. Meggie was amazing. This whole weekend was a memory I will always cherish. This will be some good looking back!
On Sunday, November 28 the fashion designer Virgil Abloh died. He was the artistic director for Louis Vuitton. He was 41 years old, married and the father of two children. For two years he had battled a rare form of cardiac cancer which he did not publicize, not wanting his illness to define who he was. He continued to be excited about life even as he battled his life threatening illness. I did not know of Mr Abloh before his death but have been so moved by the many newspaper stories about him in the last few days. I like the concept that he did not want to be defined by his Illness. At some point this is a decision we all may have to make.
It is all too easy to go through life not focused on the people and the life happenings we should be thankful for. That is one reason I particularly love the Thanksgiving/Christmas time of year. It is a special time of reflection and of looking forward. When I was a child I thought that we were fully formed as a person by the time of grade school graduation – that all time after that was just expanding the person that was already formed. Thank heaven at some point I began to realize that it is never too late to have dreams and hopes and desires for the future – that it is never too late to change. It might not be easy but if we are not satisfied with where we are in our thoughts and desires it is never too late to do the work of changing – no matter what age we are.
In general – except when we are on vacation, I do not like the idea of just letting the days roll bye with no particular plan. To again repeat the words of Harvard professor Dan Gilbert, “Human beings are works progress that (sometimes) mistakenly think they are finished.” Till the day we die we must continue to be excited about life and the opportunities it offers – some days that is easier than others.