Monday, November 24, 2008

On Birthdays and Bombs...

Today is my birthday. I share this birth anniversary date with Zachary Taylor (12th president of the US), Pete Best (Beatles original drummer), William F. Buckley (journalist), and Jack Hello (great human being I know). For fun this morning, I Googled November 24 birthday...and located a plethora of information about me and the aforementioned bunch based on astrology, numerology, and cartomancy. It's a little creepy, actually, how well these theories describe me. Here's a bit of the good news: Your opinions are strong, and you enjoy sharing them with others. Your imagination is powerful, and you can use this strength creatively in your career, but you may tend to make mountains out of molehills on a personal level. You are an entertaining conversationalist and your mind is active, alert, and interested. Although stubborn at times, you are warm with your loved ones and you are generous with your time. Anyone out there want to argue with that description of me? I am in the middle of the decade marked on one end by a milestone birthday and on the other by a "wow, you're old!" birthday. The number is absolutely insignificant to me. I can still do anything I want to do, still love new ideas, new foods, new thoughts. I enjoy sharing an evening with young people and with old people. I have not given up on tackling the list of things I hope to be able to do someday (play the piano well, speak Spanish fluently, write a sitcom). I still have my good health, my solid circle of friends, and my beautiful family... But life over the last couple of years has made me ever so aware of what really ages us. Whatever the number on our year ticker, the ride on this Journey's road can become so rough we feel the ache in every bone and the creak in every joint. The celebratory nature in the core of our beings can be kicked into a dark corner by loss and fear and hopelessness. The youth that sits gracefully weathering on our faces can quickly turn to old faces of pain and worry. The years don't matter. The fears do. Which brings me to this morning's news from Baghdad. 20 dead in two of the blasts touched off by a female suicide bomber standing at the entrance to the US Green Zone. The majority of the dead are civilians who were trying to get to work. The violence comes as Iraqi lawmakers prepare to vote on a deal with the United States that will allow American forces to stay in Iraq for up to three more years. Three more years. How would that feel if you lived in Baghdad? As I sit here in my reflective birthday mood this morning, I am keenly tuned in to the privilege I have to feel young. I have never begun a day wondering if I might lose a friend or family member to a random bombing in my city. I have never had to walk alongside an armed soldier to buy my groceries. I have never buried a brother or husband or son dragged out of my house by militants who believed they posed a threat of some kind. I have never had to ponder war much beyond the front page of my newspaper. War is not the only thing making us old these days, to be sure. But it seems to be the one thing we can actually stand up to and say: Stop the madness! Remind President-elect Obama today that we expect to be out of Iraq in 16 months. While you're at it, let him know how you feel about war. Consider it a birthday card to me. Then breathe deeply, hug your children, smile at your spouse, let someone move ahead of you in traffic, hold the door open for a stranger, give the homeless woman on the corner a dollar. Celebrate this life of peace and comfort that we enjoy. Do it for your beautiful face. Peace.

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