If This Isn’t Nice
My birthday was on friday. For years I claimed I adored my birthday because I love cake and presents and attention, but the truth is, I’ve always hated my birthday. It’s historically been a day spent in neurotic pain and anxiety worried about who would and wouldn’t remember it (namely my parents who had a very spotty record of acknowledging it), and often unable to be present and enjoying the day that was available. This year feeling the anxiety rev up once again as the day approached, I decided to admit this pattern to both myself and my husband. As a result I was able to feel more present and grateful for what was happening that day as it happened.
Any reader of my comics will see hints that I have been through some periods of darkness in my life. I had a very chaotic and painful childhood, which lead to a chaotic and painful adulthood until I was in my 30’s. So far my 40’s have been some of the richest and deeply happy years I’ve ever known. It’s like some basic things got arranged and put into place and I’ve been allowed to live a more realized life. All I have to do to feel a sense of relief and gratitude is to remember what my life was like at 11 or 28 and I cannot believe what a cushy and nourishing life I currently live. I have the best home life I’ve ever had. I have people in my life I cherish. I have work that I’m deeply engaged in. There is literally nothing else I need. It’s nice not only to experience these things, but to KNOW that I am experiencing them.
The internet is rightly criticized for showing a curated sense of life, which makes us all feel painful bouts of status anxiety and comparison. It also gives license for a lot of weird bragging on display. That’s not what this little missive is, so forgive me if it sounds like it is. Even with all these ducks in place, I still experience all kinds of shit and struggle–I’m ALIVE and ME for pete’s sake! Still, as one of my favorite writers Kurt Vonnegut wrote about his beloved Uncle Alex:
One of the things [he] found objectionable about human beings was that they so rarely noticed it when they were happy. He himself did his best to acknowledge it when times were sweet. We could be drinking lemonade in the shade of an apple tree in the summertime, and Uncle Alex would interrupt the conversation to say, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”
So I hope that you will do the same for the rest of your lives. When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment, and then say out loud, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”
On my birthday my family went into New York and spent the morning at the Museum of Modern Art. It was Gus’ first time going and I was over the moon that he was not only willing to go, but EXCITED to go. As I sat with him looking at an exhibit I suddenly realized I didn’t want to be anywhere else or with anyone else. In other words, I was happy.
If this isn’t nice, what is?
All this is really to say everything that others have said and probably better: If you’re struggling, me too. If you’re struggling, it gets better. Getting older is so far awesome. Also, it beats the alternative. Also? Thank you.