“What is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads”–Albert Camus
“May I be I is the only prayer-not may I be great or good or beautiful or wise or strong.”–E.E. Cummings
#1 I am grateful for house and home. Sometimes the most “ordinary” can be the most extraordinary. We could very easily take something we are so accustomed to having, something that we expect to be there; for granted. This is particularly important when the world is so full with people without permanent housing in “stable” nations; and living in daily desperation in refugee camps in areas of armed conflict. I say “house and home” here, not because I intended to cover a song that was so well covered by Luther Vandross; but rather, because there is an important difference with a distinction here. I am grateful for my house/home because I have constructed/developed it as a place of peace, inspiration and instruction. I think first that a home must be a “temporary” retreat, a sanctuary and soul restoration space; away from the twisted values, insincerity and inauthenticity in the world outside your door. It’s the place where you can find and be you. The house/home will follow your lead (taste), won’t be judgmental, and will reflect your personality. For me that means art, art and more art; it means “collecting” things of interest to me. It also means having a study that transforms me when I pass through its doors; the floor to floor, wall to wall books (and a library system that probably does not resemble any known system in the world; and yet I know where everything is!); the drafting/painting table, the writing desk; and of course the little wall space allowed, covered with art. I always feel at home, at home. Not living in a place of peace would seem to me to defeat the whole definition of “living-space”.
#2 I am grateful for a family who exhibit the most extraordinary patience and understanding with me. I pray for them, and think about them, without failing, every day. Since I was in my 20’s I have been on a sort of mission; and so I have missed a lot of events, and a lot of transitional events particularly in the lives of the young people in my family. When I was a principal in Brooklyn I had a cousin (Imecca Welsh) who was also a student; and for 4 years, every time I saw her, I grew a little sad, (I was happy to see her!); I was sad because she caused me to remember my family, and how much I missed them. If love is the true motivation in the call on your life; then it will truly motivate every part of your life. I think two of the most overrated and useless emotions are regret and revenge; and so I try to avoid them both; but there are some human times, when I wonder if my family knows how much I love them and miss being more involved in their lives; and what I do, I do for them. When I look at how wonderful and positive they have turned out; I realize that the divine “promise” (service will build a hedge around your family) made to me many years ago, still remains unbroken.
#3 I am grateful for the really few friends (true friends) I have; these brave few resist every effort on my part to play the part of what one of them called: “The most outgoing introvert she had ever met in her life!” I grew up with this terrible habit of really enjoying (usually with a book, but it could be baking, planting trees or working on my stamp collection) my own company. I probably don’t fulfill any of the standard regulatory requirements for what is usually associated with the title: friend. I will however, make great sacrifices for them when it is required (they say I am a good friend, but I don’t see it!). I hate talking on the phone. I like to be around people I trust and like; and so when the social group gets larger than 2, I can get nervous and uneasy. I don’t do “home visits” (I am trying now, but it’s hard); I don’t want home visits; don’t do “male bonding stuff”; parties, sporting and social events are a no-no. But the amazing thing is that all of these folks are unbelievably intelligent, knowledgeable, confident, and powerful and have full creative and productive lives. And so they don’t mind if, as occurred a few weeks ago; I called one of them to help a former student with a situation. We had not spoken in months; but it was as if we had just spoken last week! One of the important lessons I learned recently; (and here we go with the ordinary showing up as extraordinary) is that a friend must “like” you, (Sound simple right? And someone is saying: “I knew that”.) But I mean, really like you; as in liking, respecting, and (if not sharing at least) appreciating, understanding your idiosyncrasies and creative interest. I think that ultimately your friends, and you must be members of the same cultural-intellectual-spiritual, “tribe”.