Please forgive the endless boasting in the last post. But the things people said were SO NICE.
So normally I’d be rushing around, cleaning, leaving last minute notes, last minute checks before heading off to the airport – well, over to Anna’s first for a quick hello and goodbye, because she’s driving back from Washington today – and then off to Paris. But no. And boy, am I glad not to be heading into the war zone. I was wrong, though, about the benefits of living in France; their university is not free but very cheap, they do pay for certain health benefits etc. But still, I don’t think there’s another western country with so many privileges, and the retirement age so low.
Instead, I will have a relaxed visit with my family across town and fill my weeks here, have already booked a bunch of things — going with Toronto Lynn to see Part One of The Mahabharata at the Shaw Festival on Tuesday, a huge event about to begin a world tour; to the theatre with Ruth on Sunday, and the week after to hear Bach’s B Minor Mass that I was sorry I was going to miss and now won’t. Hooray.
As I said to Ruth on our morning walk today, I am schepping naches, a wonderful Yiddish expression that means bursting with parental pride. A Thai lunch yesterday with Ken and Sam to celebrate Sam’s first year of sobriety (and Ken’s sixteenth), what joy. Ken brought photos of the first time he met Sam, when our mutual friends Lynn and Denis were visiting from France, summer 1985. We took them to see “Cats” that Edgar was producing, and then to Ken’s for dinner. Sam was 10 months old.
Sam chewing on the playpen, Anna in red behind, Lynn and Denis with their kids Christopher, Sarah, Myriam, and Jessica; Elissa not conceived yet. L and D now have eight grandchildren.
Sam posted on IG afterwards:
1 year no booze deserves a ceviche.
He gave me a photo he had taken years ago.
I love it.
I’m not surprised by his thoughtfulness or that he would possess something so dear.
My Ma’s friends have helped me over the years, with bits of advice handed down over plates of food at dinners or lounging out back in the garden. Anna and I knew her friends were cool as hell from the get-go, as her house parties were better than ours.
Thank you, Ma, for the gift of your friends and of course for lunch today.
And Anna and her boys had a wonderful time with their dad in Washington; he sent me a series of photos of visiting the train museum, having a skating lesson from an Olympic champion, and more I’ll hear about very soon.
But also, I have just finished a superb life-changing book: Four Thousand Weeks: time management for mortals, by Oliver Burkeman. He is simply saying, if we live to be eighty, we have four thousand weeks on earth, how can we best use that time? He’s urging us to forget out endless to-do lists and drive for achievement and “success,” and now our helplessness before media distraction; to focus on the few things that are fulfilling and let ourselves be. One task: to go to an art gallery and spend three hours before one painting.
I’m a very impatient person, a trait that has caused me endless grief, always thinking I should be elsewhere, doing something more important — the opposite of the mindset Burkeman is advocating for. This is how the book ends:
You have to accept that there will always be too much to do, that you can’t avoid tough choices, or make the world run at your preferred speed. That no experience, least of all close relationships with other human beings, can ever be guaranteed in advance to turn out painlessly and well, and that from a cosmic viewpoint, when it’s all over, it won’t have counted for very much anyway.
And in exchange for accepting all that, you get to actually be here. You get to have some real purchase on life. You get to spend your finite time focused on a few things that matter to you in themselves, right now, in this moment.
Because now is all you ever get.
… Precisely because that’s all you can do, it’s also all that you ever have to do. If you can face the truth about time in this way, if you can step more fully into the condition of being a limited human, you will reach the greatest heights of productivity, accomplishment, service, and fulfillment that were ever in the cards for you to begin with.
And the life you will see incrementally taking shape in the rear-view mirror will be one that needs the only definitive measure of what it means to have used your weeks well: not how many people you helped or how much you got done, but that working within the limits of your moment in history, and your finite time and talents, you actually got around to doing — and made life more luminous for the rest of us by doing — whatever magnificent task or weird little thing it was that you came here for.
So, my friends, off we go, into doing all the weird little things we’re here for. For me, this blog is one of them. Cheers!