Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Raise that Glass!

Listen to Judith Viorst, author of 37 books and an expert on life, loss and love:

“There is a vast difference between youth and age,” says Viorst, 79. “When we are young, we think there are yes/no, black/white, on/off answers to the big questions of life. One way to understand the complexities of life is to understand that for many questions, the answer is all of the above.

“In other words, life is not about seeing the glass half empty or half full. The point is that you have a glass.”

Viorst told me that when I interviewed her last month for the St. Louis Jewish Light prior to her appearance at the St. Louis Jewish Book Festival. I had interviewed her before and would do it again in a heartbeat – she is charming, elegant and smart.

Today is a good day to remember that I do indeed have a glass.

Today is the day after I learned that my company has decided not to keep the promise they made when I retired in 2005 -- come January, they will charge me $580 a month for my health insurance.  

Today is a week after I learned that a friend has inflammatory breast cancer.

Today is a month after I learned that another friend is likely facing heart surgery.

Yes, today is the day to remember that the glass is not half empty or half full. The point, as Viorst says, is that we have a glass.

When I got the news yesterday afternoon about losing the free health insurance – a sword dangling over my head since I left the Post-Dispatch five years ago – I felt as though I had been body slammed by a frozen turkey. Minutes later, G and Amanda (my second son and his wonderful wife) pulled up, visiting from Pennsylvania, and in the back seat was Griffin, their smiling, curly haired 2-year-old.

Seated in my apartment, I said to Griffin, “ You are adorable.” He looked at me for a while and said, “YOU’RE adorable!” And I was. Am. For the rest of the afternoon, Griffin pronounced almost everything adorable – the fire truck I gave him, the server at the pizza place, the sales clerk at the Sports Basement and the slippers Griffin’s parents bought him.

How adorable is that?

Back at home yesterday, after I had waved “bye” to the adorable family, I was on line grousing with other Post-Dispatch retirees about our Thanksgiving “bonus.” Jan, who as a management retiree got cut off two years ago, put everything in perspective: “When faced with a ‘surprise’ such as the loss of paid premiums, I just ask myself if I'm sorry I left in 2005. The answer is always that it would have been nice if I'd left five years earlier.”

On Monday, Shannon Duffy and the Newspaper Guild will spring into action to start the process to try to force Lee Enterprises to give back what they never should have taken. Meanwhile, my insurance agent is looking for options to compare with what Lee is asking me to pay to maintain my insurance through them.

I went to bed mad, mentally clutching tightly to the money I have – about $46 in my wallet and more in savings and investments. I woke up in Fairy Godmother mode. I dressed and kidnapped someone who couldn’t justify spending money on herself to buy something she needed. I drove her to Macy’s and bought the modestly priced item for her.

“This is not about you,” I said when she thanked me. “This is about me. I have learned that clutching money gives way to fear, fear ushers in hysterics and hysterics divert me from bringing in more money. Buying something for you reminds me to have faith in the future.”

We stopped for coffee and guess what? We each had a glass -- and were grateful.

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