DARE TO BE HAPPY
1 February 2003
Maybe it was the mimosas. But they had probably long-since lost their effect by the
time we were driving home from the Super Bowl party Sunday night.
It's a 40 minute drive from where we "watched" (yeah...right...) the
game, so there was lots of time to chat and process the things we had talked about with
other people during the course of the party. Ironically, Shelly and Ellen didn't know that
many people either, though they were good friends of the hostesses. So we were all getting
to know several new people.
Somehow we began to get very philosophical, and were talking about the stories behind
some of the women we'd met, the paths one takes in one's life, the effect those paths have
on your life....and the different ways one can choose to react to the ups and downs in
The next morning, I read a draft of an entry Steve put in his journal (a section he's
since edited out). He was referring to the entry I wrote recently about not joining the
convent and he was talking about his own not becoming a preacher and how his life has
changed as a result of that decision.
It reminded me of my conversation with Ellen and Shelly. Among other things, we
discussed the negative events in our lives--the painful things, the disappointing things,
the things that make you wonder, sometimes, if life is still worth living.
I expressed my feeling about how important all the events in one's life are. If I
hadn't gone through a, b, and c, I wouldn't now be enjoying 1, 2, and 3.
I look back over all the forks in all the roads I've traveled these past nearly 60
years and I realize that if I had taken the other path how very different my life would
be. Just looking at a few pivotal moments and how they changed my life...
Going to UC Berkeley was a big mistake for me at the time, but if I hadn't gone there,
I wouldn't have met Walt and wouldn't be sitting here today looking at photos of our
children. I wouldn't be part of the wonderful "Newman Group" and had all those
years of pinata parties. I hated the move to Davis, but without the move to Davis, I
never would have learned medical transcription, the kids would probably never have gotten
serious about theatre, Lawsuit would never have existed, we never would have met so many
people from all over the world.
Obviously the deaths of David and Paul were two of the most traumatic events of our
lives and I would rather have them back again, but if Paul had not died, I never would
have met Steve, who has become such a central figure in my life. Olivia and I would not
have become good friends and I probably would never have met Peggy, nor be planning a trip
to Australia at the moment.
We sometimes have control over the events in our lives, sometimes we do not. What we do
have control over is how we react to those events. It saddens me when people take pivotal
negative moments and use those moments as an excuse to never be happy again.
I think of my father and his reaction to my sister's death. He felt it was his loss and
his alone--he never acknowledged that my mother or I could be suffering pain at her loss
too. The loss consumed him--to the point where he was still angry and crying about it 20
years later. The sad thing was that in choosing to hang on to that pain and that anger, he
missed so many beautiful things in life. By her death, Karen became the golden child--not
the one who fought with him constantly, not the one he followed out to the car yelling at
the last time he saw her. By her death she became "Daddy's little girl," while
he kept the living daughter he still had at arm's length.
I also recall a conversation I had with my friend Michael, who lost so many friends to
AIDS that he vowed never to let anybody close to him again. Someone dragged him to The
Last Session and he met people who have become very close to him. He feels he has been
reborn and is very thankful that he allowed himself to be open to love again.
Maybe it's the polyanna in me, but I try to look on the positive side--to realize that
the old cliché about every cloud having a silver lining can really be true, if you are
open to receiving the good that may result from something tragic. If you close yourself
off to allowing any good to come into your life ever again, you aren't going to find
it--but there are beautiful experiences out there for people who are willing to risk being