Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"The Tao of cocktail napkins..."

Admittedly, not the combination of words you'd expect to see, cocktail napkins being linked with spiritual paths and principles...but follow me for a moment...

Seems like I'm always picking up a pack of cocktail napkins from time to time to give as gifts, usually because they are particularly humorous or fit someone's personality to a 'T'. It's a fairly inexpensive gift that goes a long way as friends and family get to see them on occasion.

For instance, for the Martini lovers out there is the napkin that says simply,

"One Martini,
Two Martini,
Three Martini,

Shaken, not stirred, I'll presume. In like manner is one that I got many moons ago and, alas, I'm sure I don't have the words exactly right...regardless, the gist is there, as is the seed for this blog on the Tao of cocktail napkins (potentially, anyway):

"Get 8 hours sleep.
Eat healthy foods.
Exercise daily.
Get hit by a bus."

Now, before you say I have a twisted sense of humor (which I really, really do), consider the implications of that little napkin. Play by the 'good health' book. Get adequate rest for your body. Eat live foods, minimize red meat if not meat altogether, minimize sugar and processed foods. Get that heart rate up with regular exercise, weightlifting, brisk walks. You'll feel great, chances are you'll look great, and the world will look pretty rosy. Some will then get hit by a bus, making it all for naught (seemingly).

Which goes to say there are no guarantees in Life, unless you subscribe to Mark Twain's reminder that death and taxes are inescapable. Personally, I don't look for guarantees. I try not to have expectations, which is nothing more than looking for a semi-guarantee from someone else, basically. I can control what decisions I make, but I can't control the drunk driver that headed on an interstate in the wrong direction and wiped out innocent lives. I can't control Madoff and his Ponzi scheme that thoroughly financially destroyed individuals up through very effective charities. You just don't know what's around the next bend. The next sunrise. The next moment.

Gene is only 10 years older than me, roughly. The picture of health in body and mind. Vibrant. Funny. Kind and loving beyond the extra mile. Helpful at all times. He lives 2 doors down from the house project I worked on last fall, and though I knew him from earlier times, we chewed the fat quite a bit as I worked on that house, and for those times I couldn't be there to meet with crews or inspectors, etc., Gene would be right there with a smile and no questions asked.

Gene and his lovely wife are employees of Bank of America, which even for non-Carolinians is one of the financial towers expected to greatly scale back the next couple of years by tens of thousands of jobs...and they know they are more than likely high on the cut list for various reasons. No matter, as he's been entertaining thoughts of retirement before too long, and maybe relocating.

Health issues have abounded for them. His wife is a double cancer survivor (uterine and breast), and just recently was diagnosed with Parkinson's. It's a tough road ahead for them, but they have a wonderful love that will provide the strength they need.

Gene had a stroke late last weekend. A blood vessel burst in his brain and he has paralysis on his left side. To his benefit, he has his short and long term memories and mental faculties, though speech is slow and slurred for now. He'll be in ICU for at least another week, then should head into a stroke wing for a while longer. He may bounce back quickly or it may take a long time. While one's mind races with emotions and sorrow and prayers and more, soon enough comes that deep deep stillness and peace wherein you realize you've got a brand new ball game on your hands and you've got work to do. No time for a pity party. The 'cared for' is now the 'caregiver', and if they thought they needed strength before, they need another boatload of it now.

Gene can make and fix just about anything; one of his first thoughts after hospitalization was that he was upset he hadn't finished installing a new commode in the master bathroom, hence his asking for me to come and finish it. I have to say this new low-flush toilet has a funky, cool 'tipper' in the tank area...instead of the tank filling up with water in the traditional manner with a flapper and a float, this has a modern float sitting inside a smaller U-shaped trough that, when you flip the handle, the trough drops the water into the non-flappered hole below and flushes normally thereafter...I must say it was an ingenious design.

Yeah, do everything right 'by the book', and then get blindsided, big-time. It won't always happen. It may never happen. But the wise know it CAN happen. How each of us approaches each day and each moment in terms of mindset and attitude is the cornerstone of a life well-lived. Do you embrace each day or do you complain about it? That's a good place to start. And so we all have our trials and tribulations, some massive, and some small in comparison.

"Of course there is no formula for success except perhaps an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings."

Arthur Rubinstein (1886 - 1982)

What's important is that we never lose sight that we are all One, interconnected, and that there is always something that we can do for someone else. It is that compassionate outreach that this world needs, and it is that compassionate outreach that will help all of us to grow.

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