HELP LINE: Be thankful for what you know now


“There” being Thanksgiving, which always puts me in a bit of a … bind.

See, everybody writes about Thanksgiving, and pretty much everybody will do it more eloquently than I.

Further, being who I am (which is the only person I have any hope of being), it’s highly unlikely that I’m going to go on about pilgrims, etc.

(Besides, I suspect that “pilgrims” might be a synonym for “immigrants,” which will only fuel the flames of somebody¸ so …)

So where does that leave me?

Well, the obvious go-to would be a recitation of all the things we should all be grateful for.

Of course, those kinds of things tend to get a little “preachy,” if not openly maudlin, then people tend to feel guilty if they’re not feeling thankful for this or that, then they tend to get mad and I end up worse off than I was before I said anything at all, so what am I to do? (It is all about me, you know …)

Well, if it is all about me, then what about … me? So, off I go to the mirror in search of Thanksgiving, and what do I see?

Certainly nothing to be thankful for: Just a grizzled old face that saw better days a lot of years ago (sigh) — but my best friend still loves me and doesn’t seem to mind.

I see artificial body-part enhancers, such as glasses (and more), and sigh again, but … I can see. And I can hear. And I can chew. And I can … I guess I’d prefer all those “cans” to all those “cant’s.”

For years, my standard response to, “How are ya?” has been, “Well, we’re warm and dry, we’re paying the bills and the cops ain’t lookin’ for us, so … we’re fine.”

Well, we are and we are and they aren’t.

I could live without the aches and pains and seemingly endless infirmities that seem to accompany not being dead.

And it seems that, because of all those things, I spend an increasing proportion of my time addressing, avoiding, preventing and/or mollifying said infirmities and I don’t have time. Well, actually, I guess I do. I mean, the fact is that I’m not dead, so I suppose it’s just a matter of re­arranging priorities, huh?

Doing this is more important than doing that, because if I don’t do this, I won’t be doing anything at all.

I didn’t used to know that.

Of course, what I did know was that I had a big, red “S” on my chest and was destined for immutable immortality, so just fly through the day and do the next thing and the next thing, etc.

And miss the journey, completely.

And that’s only one of the seriously stupid, unexamined attitudes that I took as gospel: What is true now will be true forever. Sigh … no, it isn’t, but I guess that’s something you can only learn from the journey, right?

If I’d known then what I know now …

What happened to all the drama of those younger days? The meteoric highs and cataclysmic lows? All those self-induced soap opera entanglements and enterprises that just naturally accompanied that high-powered lifestyle?

Hmm … I guess I learned how to avoid them or not cause them and settle for a bit more … serenity.

I used to know it all, you know.

All you had to do was ask me. (Or, in some cases, never mind asking because I’d vault to the opportunity to tell you.) Oh, dear …

And from there, it’s easy to get to all those I-wish-I-hadn’t things I did that I should have had sense enough not to do. Things I would never do now. I was just so swept up in the sound of my own wheels.

So sure, so smart, so slick.

If I’d only known then what I know now. Geez! Well, OK, if we’re going to stand in front of this mirror for this long, we might as well go all the way: What about the I-wish-I-hads? Hmm … wow … not much.

Oh, sure, I might have tweaked this or that, but for the most part, not really much because if I had, I might not be “here,” and “here” is actually amazingly OK (once you take the time to notice).

Actually, “here” is pretty amazing.

If I just had a little more time in each day … to do what?

To waste more of it being busily busy, instead of savoring what there is?

What’s the point in that?

What, exactly, do I wish I had done? Well… hmm … hmm, again …

You know what? I think I’m living my “bucket list.” No kidding.

True, I’ll probably never go hang-gliding in the Himalayas or snorkeling in the Dead Sea and (truth be told) I’ll probably never get around to actually getting to Mardi Gras.

Why not? Well, probably for all of the same reasons that I haven’t done them up to now: mostly, just not that important.

Just not important enough to miss anymore of right now, right here — living my bucket list, until the next amazing thing comes along that will make me say, “If I’d only known then what I know now …”

So, here’s what I know now: Thank you.

Have a happy Thanksgiving.


Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information &Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing

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