I’ve always known that I’ve lived a charmed life. That’s not to say I haven’t had my share of heartaches, obstacles and challenges to overcome in my almost eight years on this planet. By charmed I mean grew up in a post-war era that mostly spoiled and nurtured their baby boomer kids and with parents who gave my brother and me plenty of love to balance off the discipline, who taught us the value of working hard and keeping a high standard of ethics, who gave us a safe place to live and all the bells and whistles their own childhood’s lacked.
By charmed I mean that I've been lucky enough to see positive changes in society over my lifetime for example when the Civil Rights Movement came along. Not overnight and not without a lot of growing pains that our world is still dealing with all these years later, but measurable changes in the level of racism none the less. Sure, some people are still finding it hard to leave blind hate behind, to treat others based on their character and not the color of their skin but what was once the norm is no longer true in younger generations. My dad spent the first 10-12 years of his life in Southern Illinois and had seen firsthand the hanging of a black man in the woods behind his house. He saw a neighbor laid out in his coffin, his family proudly having him dressed in his Klan robe and hood. One of my dad’s earliest childhood memories was of a black man being chastised for not moving off the sidewalk fast enough to let my dad pass by. Ya, my life was charmed by the fact that I never experienced blind hate and white privilege being so openly practiced and taught. One generation at at time, we are building a better world even though it will probably take yet another generation or two before we reach true equality.
By charmed I mean that by the time I became a young adult the new wave of the Feminist Movement opened doors that were closed to past generations of woman, a movement that told me I didn’t have to settle for the first man who came along and told other women they didn't have to suffer spousal abuse as something written in between the lines of their wedding vows, a movement that let me indulge myself into believing I could be anything I wanted to be. Just the idea of Equal Rights and opportunities for women let me spend my life trying on ideas for what I want to be ‘when I grow up’ like some women try on and buy new shoes. The shoes they wear for a season or a special reason then discard in the back of the closet. In my head I could have made a living as a marble sculptor, a furniture maker, a writer, a tailor, an architect, a Disney artist, a portrait artist, a photographer, a teddy bear maker, a poet and a print maker. In reality, I spent my work life being a floral designer in the bridal industry, a snowplower and a parking lot maintenance person who could put down yellow line stripes with the best of them. As the song says, life happens when you’re making other plans. But it's been a good life living with my illusions and zest for embracing whatever caught my fancy.
By charmed I mean my life until this year was in my hands to control and I haven't had any life experience to suffer through that millions of others haven’t also done and overcome---the loss of a parent, the loss of a spouse---and even now the lost opportunities and interrupted dreams are shared by people world-wide as we wait out the pandemic. Somehow, though, the rose-colored glasses I’ve used all of my life are out of focus, those glasses that allowed me to separate the learning experience from the pain and leave the latter behind as I moved on to the next shiny object, the next challenge. Try as I might I don’t think I’ll move past the world pandemic without paying the piper for my charmed life. I’ve had nearly eight decades of living under rainbows and counting unicorns, of naively believing I controlled my own destiny. Now I have sense of dread hanging over me. Instead of fight or flight I'm frozen in place and I feel like I’m stuck in the Beatles song, Help! ©
“When I was younger, so much younger than today
I never needed anybody's help in any way
But now these days are gone, I'm not so self-assured
Now I find I've changed my mind and opened up the doors
“Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being 'round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me, help me, help me?
"And now my life has changed in oh so many ways
My independence seems to vanish in the haze
But every now and then I feel so insecure
I know that I just need you like I've never done before”
Help, I need somebody! Help!