Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gaining A Year

It was my birthday this past Sunday, and I have obviously since gained another year.  As per usual, this annual festivus is cause for some introspection, some reflection, and some cake.  Having consumed the cake, humor me as I dispense with some conclusion born of said introspection and reflection.

Approaching the big day, a very good friend did as all good friends should do and gave me a hard time in regards to my impending aging (apparently it all happens at once).  He asked when I would start lying about my age?  I thought for the briefest of seconds (I find that's how I do my best work) and remarked that I never lie about my age, nor would I ever.  You see, when I was 15, I was diagnosed with a very serious medical condition called autoimmune hepatitis.  Which is, as anyone with a medical degree could easily discern from the title alone, a disease in which my immune system attacks my own body (autoimmunity), in this case my liver (hepat) and causes it to inflame (itis).  After being ill for four and a half months, and receiving a diagnosis after a fair amount of jaundice and blood-letting at the very chilly hands of various phlebotomists, I was put on medication that suppressed my immune system and saved my life - medication that I am still on to this day.  Rest assured, my intention isn't to get all droopy here, or depressive, or melodramatic, or even a hybrid combination of the three . . . droopresslodramatic.  It's too point out a simple and long held belief of mine: age is a privilege denied to so many.

I will never lie about my age for the simple fact that if it weren't for my medication and the advances of science, I wouldn't be here right now.  I'm proud of how old I am.  I'm proud of the life I've lived.  I'm proud of how much living I've been blessed to be able to cram into these 37 years.  Furthermore, I resolve to pack as much living (or more) into my next 37.  After all, life is for the living isn't it?  It's this saying I think of when I read the more . . . shall we say dramatic . . . statuses on Facebook (or is that stati?).  It's a common theme for me, I realize, but when it comes down to it I think people should focus on the good fortune that surrounds them when they tearfully lament the burning of toast, or the dropping of glass, or the whatever of whatever that makes them scrawl FML.  Honestly?  To say f--- one's life over something so trivial?  I get it - it's hyperbole, but still - I think perspective is in short supply these days.

People will often ask online how I stay upbeat.  Well, I'll tell you - it's this.  It's everything I just wrote.  I stay upbeat because I remember how lucky I am.  Not just with family or career, in which I am incredible fortunate to be sure, but because I am here.  Because I am here to spend time with my family, because I am here to have a career.  My favorite thing to say when anyone seems frazzled, angry, overwhelmed, over-dramatic, or overtaxed is: "You are not in the Darfur, and you are not currently on fire.  Almost everything else we can deal with".  I realize it's an oversimplification, but the point is there.  I wrote in an earlier post that most of what we get so wrapped up in is make believe anyway, so try not to lose yourself in it.  This isn't to say I'm not guilty of getting wrapped up in the pseudo-importance of a moment either, but I try to regain focus by thinking about how lucky I really am.  There are people in this world who are literally eating dirt.  My life is just fine.  Help the people with the dirt.

As I've also written on here before, because of my medical condition, I have come to value and prize life over everything.  Not just the life itself mind you, but also the quality of that life.  No matter what you believe spiritually, we can all agree on this - you get one life.  One tangible, seeable, proveable life (not all of those words are real).  On that count we are all of us alike.  Having said that to take someone's life, or quality of life over a belief is about the the worst thing one can do.  Right now there are a lot of young men and women taking their own lives over other people's beliefs and the bullying that comes along with it.  Telling someone that they aren't natural or right because they don't live up to your idea of what is "right" or other is more than offensive, it's tantamount to bigotry.  Unfortunately it is also becoming State sanctioned bigotry when the lawmakers hide behind the veil of Propositions and ballots.  A government's job is to administer the workings of the country and serve and protect its citizens - apparently sometimes from other citizens.  I met a young man in Tampa this year who approached me for an autograph.  He wore a shirt that read, "Not Gay, But Supportive".  He couldn't have been more that 12.  I marveled at this young man and then wrote in his program, "The World needs more kids like you" before signing it.  Indeed we do.

Well, that's it.  Another terribly earnest blog post.  It started with birthday cake and sunshine and became political.  I am beginning to think that I can't actually write anything mirthful!  In the end it boils down to this: live your life to the fullest and let others do the same - heck, try to help others live theirs if you get the chance!  I certainly appreciated all of the birthday wishes from all my friends - Facebook and IRL!  So next time you get down about gaining another year on Father Time, remember what I wrote here and look at how lucky you really are.