Happy New Year folks

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Stretch out your hands and count your blessings

By John Pawlak

I was my mother’s third child and her third son.  I never did understand why parents care so much about the gender of their newborns, but my mother sure did and the entire hospital wing knew it.  
As the story was told to me, she literally threw a tantrum, throwing things and crying that she had wanted a girl. The nurses even put a pink bracelet on me in an attempt to calm her down.
As she laid in bed fuming about “another boy,” they brought in the newborn of her roommate, a woman who was quiet and reserved and taking life as it came.  
And as it sometimes does, life came in a terrible form.  The woman’s baby was born without any fingers.  My mother felt horrible and rightfully so.  While she was carrying on over not having a daughter, this woman had been waiting to see her child, a child she already knew was deformed for life.  
It put things in perspective and my mother immediately demanded to see me.  Suddenly, my gender wasn’t an issue, but my mother could not be consoled until she counted my fingers.
I always found this story to be a powerful reminder that my life is good and that I all too often don’t take the time to be grateful for what I have.  It’s too easy to complain about taxes or the price of orange juice or that annoying music played in the background at the supermarket.  
We complain about the weather, drivers on the road, dogs barking at night, the neighbor’s kids, obnoxious commercials, not liking the color of a fence constructed four houses down the road, that stupid tattoo our niece got last weekend, the poor service we got at a restaurant, an ink stain on an old shirt we liked.  
Life is full of things to complain about and we don’t seem to get tired of taking advantages of the ease of highlighting our discomforts.
So every now and then (I admit, far too few thens and not enough nows), I do glance at my hands and I am reminded that my life is good.  I find myself laughing at the so-called miseries endured by my friends; the remodeled kitchen didn’t come out the way they wanted, a scratch on the fender of their Lotus Elise, some paving stones in their driveway the got chipped by their lawn crew.  
It’s like those stupid reality shows that promenade narcissistic brides who whine that the wedding cake is the wrong color of pastel coral. Yeah, life is tough.
And now a new year beckons us with the unknown and we happily discard the past and embrace an uncertain future.  Does this make any sense?
No, actually it doesn’t.  What makes tomorrow worth the wait is understanding that we are the culmination of our past.  New Year resolutions made to “change for the better” too often presume that the present isn’t good enough.  
Sure, we can always do better, but why devalue what we are or where we came from?
 OK, so you could lose a little weight. Maybe you should finish caulking that shower you retiled three years ago.  This year, you’re finally going to learn how to play that shakuhachi flute your brother bought you back in college.  
Or perhaps you’re thinking of taking up smoking so that you can quit.
Do you want to make a real New Year’s resolution?  Stretch out your hands and count how many reasons you have to be happy with what you have.  
Consider for a moment the less fortunate and resolve to be happy with the life you have.  Yeah, there’s always room for improvement and one should always endeavor to learn more, to do more, to be more. But in the meantime, try to be happy.
You know, smile for the heck of it.  Think of something that made you laugh in the past and recycle it, give those teeth a chance to see some daylight.  Look around your little world and soak it up.
And have a wonderful New Year.

John Pawlak
Los Alamos columnist