What does my birthday, All Saints Day, the Election, and Charles Dickens have in common?
1.) All Saints Day and My Birthday
Growing up with a birthday on the day after Halloween, meant epic costume parties. I am not at all into spooky things, but I love any excuse to dress up and pretend to be another person or thing for a few hours. As I grew into an adult, I learned about Saint Days. Each day of the calendar corresponds to a particular saint, except November 1st is the Feast of All the Saints. It felt like an excellent day to have a birthday and celebrate with the great multitude of saints.
This year I turned 45. It’s a strange thing to grow older and still feel like there’s so much left to learn, so many places left to visit, so many more sculptures to make, and people to get to know. It feels cruel and unfair to only live as long as we do.
Since having cancer at 39, each year feels like a bonus round. Now that I’m five years out of treatment, my oncologists tell me that my risk of getting cancer again is the same as any one else’s. Yet, having had such a confrontation with extremity leaves its mark and there’s no “returning to normal.” In fact, the past two years of living through a global pandemic has shown us that perhaps there is no such thing as normal. So, I’m finding ways of living peacefully in my body and in this world.
2.) The Election
In true paradoxical fashion, the election is both REALLY REALLY IMPORTANT and at the same time politics cannot save us. Please make learning about the issues and voting a priority, but also don’t put all of your hope in a candidate. The past several years, democracy in America has felt very precarious. We are so divided as a nation and digital media companies are profiting off of our hatred of “the other side.” Sometimes it feels like we live on totally different planets.
How do we find our way back to one another? Remember that everyone does better when we work together and not against one another.
3.) It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
Charles Dickens wrote “A Tale of Two Cities” in 1859. It was a story set against the backdrop of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror, which compared to our current political situation, seems far, far worse. Dickens opens with one of the most famous lines in all of literature.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”Charles Dickens
Could we not say the very same thing about our current age? Your twitter feed would have you believe that the whole world is on fire and we are on the brink of extinction. It’s not completely untrue, and yet, not completely true either. We have made tremendous strides in many ways, but there continues to be very real suffering in the world. (If you want to read A Tale of Two Cities, you can order it from Bookshop.org. Bookshop.org supports local indie booksellers, unlike a certain conglomerate.)
So, while this November has me thinking about a lot of things that on the surface don’t seem to have much in common. My birthday, (the fifth one after cancer) All Saints Day, the Election, and Charles Dickens all give me hope in a future that may not be better on this side of the veil, but it’s a future nonetheless. It will continue to be the best of times and the worst of times. I am excited and hopeful about all the more opportunities I will have to travel, read, create, and enjoy good food with those I love.