If you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume you’ve managed to keep yourself alive so far as there’s no wifi six feet under. And there’s no consciousness in a corpse either although it’s becoming harder to tell whether humans are alive or dead these days.
Or even conscious.
In this capitalistic monsterhood that passes for a society, many of us go through life in zombie mode, juggling and hoping we don’t drop the ball. Any ball. Be it a professional or a personal one, or a pétanque one if you’re French and you like to live dangerously as those balls are made of metal. And no, the sport isn’t just the preserve of seniors — I learned to play as a kid with my Papi and there were many, many crushed toes and wayward projectiles.
We’re too exhausted to pay attention to the seemingly insignificant things that are nuggets of joy in disguise. To wit, feline purrs and headbutts, soup some you love made for you, the rustle of leaves on a windy day, the squawk of a seagull, the smell of the ocean…
As a result, those who shout the loudest are the ones whose message registers, which is unfelicitous news in a culture of bluster and bullshit.
“Look at me, I’m successful, I’m self-made, and I have descended to this earthly plane to show you exactly how it’s done so you can upgrade your loser mindset.”
Oh, and by the way I have a beachfront condo for sale in Iowa, so close to the shore you can watch the tide come in as you listen to the seagulls.
Keeping ourselves alive is a success in itself but unless we’ve stared death in the face, we don’t tend to celebrate it.
Or even appreciate what it takes to keep going.
Materialism has made us internalize the belief we’re inadequate in every possible way. Greed has become a virtue and we’re conditioned to want more and push ourselves to the brink of exhaustion and insanity to achieve success.
In the United States, success invariably means the 19th letter of the English alphabet adorned with two vertical strokes.
In a country where the only tangible deity is green and rectangular, failure to worship and enrich oneself is un-American.
If you’re poor, it’s your fault because you don’t dream big enough dreams; poverty is a failure of imagination, didn’t you know?
Squawk. Plop. This is what it sounds like when a seagull decides to empty its bowels on your head and it’s the sound I hear every time I read one of those hackneyed stories.
And yes, my brain box had the pleasure of being the repository of bird feces on more than one occasion as I used to live on islands. In France, we take being crapped on by a feathered friend as a sign of luck — whatever the bird — because we’re easily amused.
But I digress.
Life deserves all the recognition and appreciation we deny ourselves.
As a human with a brain that keeps trying to kill me, I make a point of hugging and praising life often.
Cancer is also killing my stepmom so my family and I are masters of enjoying the moment. Being bons vivants by nature, we already had a head start but I never once thought my life would become so full of everyday heroes. Like the ambulance crew who bent the rules to take on an unauthorized passenger; like the strangers on the Paris Métro who give up their seat, unbidden.
Like the friends who don’t bat an eyelid or recoil when I tell them going to stand on the train track sounds like a solution and who hold me whenever I break down, no matter how often I do.
Perhaps my definition of success is non-standard, perhaps it’s too pragmatic but at least it’s accessible and real.
What’s more, if you can keep breathing and are a keen observer, you too can achieve success right now and you don’t need to join my email list to do so.
Which is just as well as I don’t have one because I have nothing to sell.
If you want to do society a good turn however, please spread the message in whichever way you see fit. Better still, rewrite it in your own words as you reframe and redefine success for yourself and those you love. Or draw it, sing it, pen a poem about it; whatever your preferred medium, take it upon yourself to share joy and push back against bullshit.
Because there’s always someone somewhere who is drowning in despair and desperately needs an honest pep talk.
But whatever you do, please don’t feed the seagulls as they tend to get vicious when denied attention.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.