I was talking with my sister-in-law, Erika, or Auntie Ekoo, as we call her, yesterday evening, when my phone made that beeping noise that means someone else is calling. It was my brother, her husband. We all thought that was very funny, that she called from wherever she was, probably home in Los Altos, and then Steve called, not long after, from his office in San Francisco.
That has never happened before, in the twenty or so years that the two of them have been together. That was a first.
This world has a very beautiful and quirky kind of energy, and it's great fun when you really start tuning in.
Talking with Erika reminded me of something her family used to do. They would have gatherings at their home in Briarcliff, New York, and afterwards choose the person they deemed "The Superlative Guest." I was never present for the choosing, but I loved to imagine the conversations that took place as they sorted through the events of the party or bbq or whatever had taken place, and chose the most interesting or most colorful or perhaps most thoughtful guest. I have no idea what criteria they used, but I love that they did it, dissecting a party that way.
I had a lot of fun looking through all of the birthday wishes I received via Facebook, I have to admit. I mostly loathe the thing most of the year, but when my birthday rolls around, it's awfully nice to feel all that love. And I find it fascinating, the different ways people choose to send birthday greetings. Some are simple, straightforward. Some people use imagery, and some now use that weird thing where you can choose a color backdrop for your message. Some are up early and on the ball with the birthday greetings, some get around to it a day or two later.
In the spirit of the Superlative Guest, I decided, this year, to choose the Superlative Happy Birthday Wisher. After reading through the messages several times, there was one that stood out, right from the start, really.
The award this year goes to ... Mike Colbourn. His birthday message: "Have the best day possible!"
When I first read it, it made me stop and think. The word, "possible" suddenly seemed filled with questions. What's possible? And if it isn't, why not? Am I aiming too high or too low? What does the best day possible even look like?
Do I try to have the best day possible every day? Or do I allow petty circumstances and irksome people and unanswered questions to get in the way? What, exactly, is the best day possible?
I doubt very much that Mike intended for me to go on a mind-bending side road with his lovely message. I am grateful that he took the time to write to me on May 19, but I'm really glad that his unusual birthday greeting made me think, and that's why he gets Superlative honors this year.
The thing that Mike probably didn't know was that he was using language I associate with hospice work. When a person is close to end-of-life, one of the things we try to help them imagine, as their days wind down, is what their best possible day might look like. It gives us a kind of goal and some structure and it helps to keep the concept of living fully in the forefront of everyone's thinking, even when life is heading toward her final bow.
"Maybe time running out is a gift," sings Jason Isbell in his very sweet song, If We Were Vampires.
It is. Time running out is a gift. But time is running out every single day and we need not wait until we are dying to think about what constitutes the best possible day. It's a great question to contemplate on a very regular basis, and so I thank Mike for that little wake-up and if you are reading this, Senõr Colbourn, I'll be a the mountain chapel for a wedding in early August and will bring your medal and chocolate chip cookies then. Congratulations and keep up the good work!
The rest of you have 359 days to to compose next year's winning entry. And hopefully just as many days lived in the best possible way. Amen.