It’s not easy to come up with an idea for a blog post every week so it’s hard to resist the temptation to take advantage of a subject as obvious as the New Year. I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions so I can’t ramble on about that, however, I received a phone call at the end of the year that got me thinking. It was from a high school friend who had had a tough year, following a series of tough years. Despite everything he’s been through, his sense of humor was still sharp and acerbic and I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation. As we were winding down, he told me that he’d gotten his license to sell financial services and would I be interested in some life insurance?
I’m not very good at keeping my thoughts inside my head where they won’t get me into trouble, but this time I prevailed; conflicting emotional responses battled it out and called it a draw. My first reaction was irritation; so, we’re not old friends catching up? The next was sympathetic; I knew how difficult things had been and I appreciated his need to do whatever he could to keep body and soul together. While I kept all that to myself, I did allow as how I did not need insurance.
When we hung up, I thought about how lucky I was compared to my friend, and how tenuous it, writ large, all is. You can live responsibly, take care of yourself and your family, help friends and neighbors, but there are still so many things that are out of our control that even the best laid plans can come to naught in the end.
In the past year, two friends have had to give up their homes due to the recession-driven mortgage crisis (or was it the mortgage crisis that caused the recession?). These were good, responsible people, not ne’er do wells trying to beat the system.
Other friends lost parents and siblings and other loved ones this past year. I often rail against the birth/death system. It seems like such a bad plan to me. And the older I get, the worse a plan it seems. PBS did a two-part documentary on Woody Allen recently. Someone asked him if his relationship with death had gotten any better as he got older. His answer boiled down to no. Why do people think his preoccupation with death is strange? To me, it’s one of his most endearing qualities. I’m a little freer to concentrate on other things knowing that he’s worrying about death enough for the rest of us.
Years ago, Rabbi Harold Kushner wrote a book called, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. I haven’t actually read it, but I’ve always loved the title. He wrote it partly as a response to his son’s death at fourteen from an incurable disease. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that reading it will be a New Year’s Resolution, but I will add it to my list of things to do.
I will, however, resolve to try to remember that even when we don’t know it, bad things are happening to people so we should hold everyone in kind regard. I’m going to try to do that ─ every day ─ because it doesn’t seem like something that should be reserved for the New Year, does it?
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Judy, what a post for the New Year. I loved reading this. I don’t do New Year’s resolutions either. I’ve read When Bad Things Happen to Good People a long time ago and I loved that book. I’ve learned a lot from it, changed my perspective in life, etc. I’d call it one of the books that brought me to some sort of ‘enlightenment’, sorry to use a cliche here. I liked most especially your ending. Happy New Year, Judy.
Thanks so much for the kind comment. Happy New Year to you, too!
What rang a bell for me was the observation that writing a blog every week is tough. I applaud you for doing so–I think it’s a great thing for writers to do. Nonetheless, I’m resolving to write more every day and not let trivial tasks take over my day. And as for kind thoughts, that’s definitely a good resolve, even if you don’t call it that.
I’m not a big fan of death either. I did read Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. It was a sweet book, but he spent his time trying to explain how God loves us, but lets these things happen. I haven’t found anyone who has made a convincing argument yet.
Sometimes it takes hearing about a few other people’s struggles to put our own into perspective. Things could always be better, but things could always be much, much worse.
I don’t make resolutions either. But I do have dreams, which I hold onto year-round.
I always take advantage of easy topics for my blog posts. If you can figure out anyway to bypass the life death thing, please let me know.
More than a few times I have happened upon one of your blog pages – today, decided to subscribe. Thank you for interesting thoughts!
The book you mention; When Bad Things Happen to Good People, changed my perspective many years ago when I was looking for the right book to read during a trying time. He wrote exactly what I needed at the time. And I realized I have had a good life.
I am not afraid of life changes or death. That in itself, is freedom.
Thanks for subscribing. Now I’m feeling pressure to be interesting!
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