Rendered Fat Content


John Singer Sargent: The Birthday Party (1885)

"Each birthday just reminds me that the lifeday's the thing …"

I can't say how much I appreciate all the birthday greetings I received yesterday. I can declare that I deeply appreciated each and every one and would have written a lengthy response to each had the volume not overwhelmed me. Many insisted that I should take the day off to celebrate, which I did, but probably not in the way any of my well wishers envisioned. There was no cake. In these Damned Pandemic times, no gathering. No party, no favors. No rabble roused, nothing soused. I celebrated as I damned well pleased, as I secretly prefer. I engaged in my usual activities of daily living a tad bit more mindfully than usual, appreciating what I had, not seeking to acquire any more than I already possessed. No presents. No pretenses. I reheated leftovers for supper, fled to bed early, and slept a sleep of angels. Happy, happy birthday, indeed.

I remember when I was about ten, my parents organized a birthday party for me.
This had never before happened, for we were not the sort of family to muster many parties. We were large enough to stay self-contained and to not need to invite anyone over to achieve a quorum. A birthday usually managed a cake or pie with candles and ice cream, a candle blowing ritual and same-old song, and perhaps suspension of dish doing duty that evening, if lucky, but little else, for we had a life to live and ample complications without bringing any kind of celebration down upon ourselves. Christmas and Easter were plenty without appending five more obligatories to the calendar. I fled that party and listened through the upstairs register, not liking the notoriety, wishing everyone would just go home.

I hadn't then learned how to become the center of attention. Now I've more than assimilated that lesson and so I hold good reasons to avoid being seen as the center of any attention. I'd much rather melt into the crowd. I much prefer to simply carry on without overmuch fuss. My ideal celebration raises no roofs, pops no corks, entertains no guests. It's quiet and focused. It might, as mine yesterday did, prominently feature a lengthy mid-afternoon nap so disorienting that I awoke in an utterly alien world. It took me a half hour or longer to figure out where I'd landed, unable at first to understand that it was already after five in the afternoon, however unlikely. It seemed like five in the morning to me but the angle of the sun was wrong. I sat dazed and disoriented for the longest time. My presence, and little else, eventually became my present to myself.

I spent the end of the morning engaging in a most warm and welcoming Friday PureSchmaltz Zoom Chat. Of the almost one hundred eighty Friday PureSchmaltz Zoom Chats since I started the practice back at the very beginning of This Damned Pandemic, this might have been the most collegial, the most warming for me. Who even cares where the conversation veered? As always, it meandered just where it went and was utterly unguided by either agenda or intent. It was a dance of pure presence, just what it was in each moment, heading nowhere but just where it found itself, undirected. It might have been a sign of the practice's maturity that we no longer feel the need to impress each other. Presence seems adequate to entertain and delight. A meandering conversation might be the most reassuring experience, the most satisfying present. No need to disguise it with gaudy paper or ribbon, a conversation might be just what it is and prove more than adequate.

My life seems to have settled into a rhythm of its own, remarkable if only because it no longer seeks to become. It has found its eigenvalue, the state it assumes whenever its present. It's not on a diet or an exercise routine. It's not trying to become anything. It's not in the business of producing something. It's satisfied, hoping above all else that it might maintain its quality of experience for at least a little while longer. I fear only squandering this great and glorious blessing The Muse and I appreciatively inhabit. We recognize, after so many dog years spent in exile from this space, that this is it, this life is the present we might otherwise wish that someone might give us but which we could only ever give to ourselves. Each birthday just reminds me that the lifeday's the thing, the time spent simply imbedded within the bless
éd normal, everyday activities of living. Happy Birthday to me, indeed.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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