Tuesday, December 13, 2005

My Top Forty...

Here I sit, on the eve of the first day of the second half of my life. In the words of the immortal James Brown, "I feel good." Tomorrow will be a busy day: breakfast at my Mom's house, Wednesday worship at noon under the teaching of my dear friend, Katie Crowe, followed by lunch with the kids, dinner with my husband, and an entire day threaded through with thoughts, prayers, journaling, and pondering the entirety of my life thus far, and wondering about what lies ahead.

One of my favorite songs by Billy Joel is called, "I've Loved These Days." In it, he recounts friendships, loves, and other highlights of his life to that point. In my own life, there are many friendships, loves, and highlights to be grateful for. I have loved these days, these 40 years of life on the planet. As I listened to Daniel play basketball on the driveway with his friends earlier today and realized that he's been building these friendships for over three years already, as I looked into her room and watched Kristiana set up her favorite toys for visit to imaginary worlds I cannot even dream of entering, as I stare into this computer screen and try to summarize what I am feeling right here right now, then I can truthfully say, "I've loved these days."

Sometimes when I think about the things I write here on the blog, in the essays I craft, and on the pages of my journal, I criticize myself for being a little too optimistic, for seeing life through rose-colored glasses a little too often, and skimming over the more serious events too lightly. Perhaps I am too cheery for some people, but my goal in life for several years now has been to find the light at the end of every long, dark tunnel, to find the lesson in every difficulty, and to look at the world around me with eyes full of compassion, peace, and love. It's not easy sometimes, I must admit. But with all the bad news, abuse, scandals, murders, wars, and mayhem that fill the airwaves and newspapers, I cherish this outlet where I can be positive, grateful, and hopeful on a regular basis.

Looking back on my life in the past few days, I have shed tears and laughed aloud at memories that have come back to mind. In no particular order, I'd like to share 40 of my favorite people, places, events, and remembrances.

1. Giving birth to my two children.
2. Earning my Master's degree from Wesleyan University with all A's.
3. Taking Kristiana with me up to the podium to receive that degree. She was 4.
4. Being with my father when he passed away in March of 2001.
5. Meeting and marrying Steve.
6. The decision to grow dreadlocs.
7. Discovering the literature of Alice Walker.
8. Being inspired by her to begin the practice of journaling.
9. Attending Poly Prep from the 7th grade until the 12th grade. Teaching there for two years after graduating from college.
10. Running the anchor leg on relay teams both in high school and college.
11. Going to Europe in 1986, especially Ireland, England, Amsterdam and Spain.
12. Learning Political Science and so much more from Carlos Egan.
13. Learning to speak Spanish fluently.
14. Going to Italy for the first time in October 2001.
15. Sitting alone in the cloister at the Santa Croce church in Florence.
16. The double rainbow in Bologna in 2002.
17. Moving to Charlotte.
18. Finding this house on the first day of house hunting in October 2002.
19. Sending and receiving email.
20. The first five minutes of being in bed on a cold winter night after a busy day.
21. Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby.
22. Beth Moore: her Bible studies, poetry, and contagious energy.
23. Teaching Women of Hope in Wilton, CT.
24. Resting my head on Steve's right shoulder.
25. Sinking into a warm bath, candles burning, music down low.
26. The way Steve proposed to me: "Gail, I love you. Will you marry me?" on a hotel marquis in Reading, PA.
27. Karen's visit this past weekend: what a fabulous surprise!
28. Being present for the births of all three of Karen's children.
29. Pinnacle 2000: seeing Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and many ports in between.
30. Traveling in New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Spain, and beyond with my children. They are such intrepid, trusting, willing, open-minded, wide-eyed adventurers.
31. Meeting and befriending Antonio Allende, my favorite Jesuit priest.
32. Listening to and singing Christmas carols with my kids while I play the piano.
33. My entire book collection: it's hard to pick a favorite.
34. Sunbathing, reading, and looking at the water off Palomino Island, Puerto Rico.
35. Settling in at a table in a restaurant or coffee shop, alone, pens and journals spread out before me.
36. Kim Hooker's trip to Spain in early June to hang out with me: so very cool!
37. Having my own bedroom and bathroom for three years of undergrad life at Williams College.
38. Explaining phrases like " the phone was off the hook" and "I must sound like a broken record" to my technologically advanced offspring.
39. Standing in front of Velazquez' painting of the Crucifixion of Christ in the Prado in Madrid. It moves me to tears every time I see it. Every single time.
40. Knowing that I could write 40 more highlights and not even skim the surface of the many blessings I have known in this life.

I have loved these days. I look forward to the days that are yet to come.
Yeah for me!

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