Earlier tonight I was driving home in the dark and the rain; I was also pretty tired. Tense as I always am under those conditions, I felt myself starting to relax only as I got closer to home.
A couple of blocks from my house, I stopped for a red light and although I could have done a right-on-red, decided to play it cautious—because I worried a bicyclist might cruise past I wouldn’t be able to see. But when the light turned green I assumed that no bicyclist, not even the most reckless, no-helmut-no-lights and clueless, would dare to run a red light on such a night. My foot on the accelerator and ready to go, something caught my eye through the lower, left-hand corner of my rain-splattered windshield: a young woman dressed in entirely in black and shielded by a huge umbrella who’d decided to cross the street against the pedestrian cross-walk sign. And right in front of me. As she passed my headlights she gave me this hangdog, apologetic, please-don’t hate-me look. And then disappeared back into the darkness.
I don’t hate her. I just marvel I didn’t hit her. Home, now, registering how tired I am and how likely it might have been that, so close to home, I could have completely let down my guard, it seems a miracle I saw her. Phew!
So: the Sunday night before Thanksgiving, I begin this holiday week with a heightened sense of gratitude. (What’s the difference between gratitude and thankfulness? Anyone? Anyone?) Which, tonight I take to mean: Don’t take anything for granted. Anything! Clean drinking water. Seat belts. Being able to vote. Toilet paper.
“What about the main thing in life, all its riddles? If you want, I’ll spell it out for you right now. Do not pursue what is illusionary -property and position: all that is gained at the expense of your nerves decade after decade, and is confiscated in one fell night. Live with a steady superiority over life -don’t be afraid of misfortune, and do not yearn for happiness; it is, after all, all the same: the bitter doesn’t last forever, and the sweet never fills the cup to overflowing. It is enough if you don’t freeze in the cold and if thirst and hunger don’t claw at your insides. If your back isn’t broken, if your feet can walk, if both arms can bend, if both eyes can see, if both ears hear, then whom should you envy? And why? Our envy of others devours us most of all. Rub your eyes and purify your heart -and prize above all else in the world those who love you and who wish you well. Do not hurt them or scold them, and never part from any of them in anger; after all, you simply do not know: it may be your last act before your arrest, and that will be how you are imprinted on their memory.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956
*I’m posting early, too!