Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dinner With Friends

New York

This reverie began with a taxi coming within 24 inches of my right thigh before coming to a screeching halt on Fifth Avenue last Saturday morning at 9 a.m. I completely lost my composure with the driver who sat in his cab a captive ( since I was raving while I stood at the car's hood screaming " What were you thinking?" He wasn't thinking, just driving too fast through the 79h Street transverse between the west side and the east side of Manhattan.

Here I am, four days later, and still thinking about it. About my brush with death. February is tough without near death experiences. But I'm beginning to get punchy. Bring 'em on, part of me says. I can take the predicted "snow hurricane" that is supposed to visit the northeast in two days bearing down with multiple inches of snow, gridlock and inconvenience. But the other part of me wants to find a beach. Last year at this time I was just about to find a beach in the middle of paradise in southern Thailand. ( For those of you who are new to this blog, check the archives for all the vivid details. )

The past months have been spent running down rabbit holes in search of the work I want to do for this next decade. And there have been more dead ends than underground mansions in my quest to " make a difference" during what is arguably the last full tilt of my career. Even so, I have gotten a tour of New York's healthcare, not for profit and humanitarian sectors. What an immense playing field. What amazing talent. What enormous challenges/problems/barriers.

And I continue to have one foot on the dock with another on the bow of the boat, trying not to do the splits. I continue to want a presence in Pennsylvania where I have had roots for almost 30 years--and still mine the richness that New York offers in so many things that I value--the arts, possibilities doing work that might make a difference with the healthcare of the marginalized, a chance to live in one the most interesting places in the world right now ( recession or no recession ). And, then, of course, there is my family here, my beloved grandchildren, my nephews and their children--and a new grandchild soon to be born.

I look out my windows toward the darkening western skyline dotted with the lights of thousands of others' homes,where others dream, nurse their disappointments, navigate their worklife. We are all having our dinner hour in some way or another. Some out of a can, some served by a domestic, some drinking it. Some skipping it.

But for some reason, tonight it feels to me as if we are all in this same soup bowl together trying to find our way. Measure success by the small steps, I say to myself. Focus on "other" as the Dalai Lama teaches.


I went to Sarah Lawrence last night for my first creative writing class of this semester. "Write about an ordinary day" our teacher had assigned in an email earlier in the week. One of my classmates who was diagnosed with ALS two years ago at the age of 56 did just that.

It is his written words that stay with me tonight.

"Ten inches. That is my view of the outside world, the ten inch space between the bottom of the window shade and the sill, the slight vista I can make out as I lie propped up in bed. I wake periodically and monitor the progress of the night. Before I was sick, my wakefulness tortured me as I tossed and turned. But now I am content to stare out through my narrow portal while I listen to the shallow breathing of my wife and the dg lying across the foot of our bed, their rhythmic ins and outs synchronized like a pas de deux. I have learned just to be. "

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