The Decade That Wasn't as Bad as Its Rep
K has come to symbolize to me everything that is right about this world. Born with spina bifida and forced to wear a leg brace, I have never once seen her let that get her down, whether she's chasing her siblings across the yard, back in the hospital for more surgery, or dreaming about her future, she is an energetic burst of good cheer in a gorgeous face and it's not overstating the case to say she has this way of making the clouds part and the sun come out when she smiles at you. Life has been one challenge after another for K, but she remains a paragon of optimism. I honestly don't know how she does it.
I've been thinking a fair bit this year (with the passing of a few dear friends) about optimism. Wisdom, it seems, is the burden of age. Optimism, especially in the face of contradictory evidence, is the burden of youth and the young at heart. On the radio this morning, I heard the "man in the street" interview people about the decade that's passing. Despite turmoil and conflict from beginning to end of the last 10 years, the young folks he interviewed had big plans and big dreams. And even the grumpy older guy who was pessimistic about the future admitted that that won't stop him from buying lottery tickets (the epitome of optimism, if you ask me).
Someone recently scrawled on the wall in our local subway station that all in all things are actually not that bad. Indeed, compared to what Europe was like during WWII or the US was like during the Civil War or plenty of other places (Iran, Afghanistan, etc.) are like right now, overall life is pretty damn good here. Yes, there are hardships, anxieties, stress out the wazoo, and even heart-breaking deaths, but no one is bombing our city on a nightly basis or breaking in with machine guns and searching our home, food is plentiful (if expensive), the water and heat work in our building, we still have friends and loved ones around us. Even the act of contemplating how nice it would be to have a Porsche or a penthouse apartment is, itself, an extreme luxury we shouldn't take for granted.
Plenty of people are bidding "good riddance" to the decade this week. From Paul Krugman ("It was a decade in which nothing good happened, and none of the optimistic things we were supposed to believe turned out to be true.") to Time Magazine who called it "the worst decade ever," I have to wonder what zapped their memories. Surely they can recall worse decades with just a moment's reflection (the 1930's anyone?). Why all this mindless self-pity? (Because it sells newspapers and magazines?)
I intend to take away from the tail-end of this decade how happy I am to have my health, my darling Bambino, our friends and family, our gallery, and how if a 13-year-old girl with more on her plate than any of the chattering class will likely have to deal with in their lifetime can find the courage and strength to look forward to her own bright future, I simply won't be a part to wallowing in the negative or focusing on how horrible life has been. Life has been grand! And I so look forward to much, much more of the same if this is as bad as it gets.
Have a very Happy New Year! I wish you optimism and growth in 2010!
Labels: happy holidays