I am not a fan of odd years. I much prefer even numbered years. I’m not sure why, but it’s true.
The world lost some great ones: James Gandolfini, David Frost, George Jones, Peter O’Toole, Lou Reed, Esther Williams, Elmore Leonard, Stompin’ Tom Connors, and Nelson Mandela.
Words of wisdom, perhaps, in that; “If you’re going to play the game, you gotta learn to play it right.”
And man, they played this game right.
Because of them, we had the pleasure of meeting Tony Soprano. We were privy to The Nixon Interviews. We enjoyed listening to the hit songs, ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’, ‘Walk On The Wild Side’, and ‘A Sudbury Saturday Night’. We were entertained with the classic films ‘Lawrence Of Arabia’ and ‘Get Shorty’. And, of course, there was that magnificent and momentous Long…Walk… To… Freedom.
LIFE. The. Greatest. Game.
Sometimes it’s the little things: a warm summer’s evening, a train bound for nowhere, being far too tired to find sleep. Sometimes it’s the grand events: a promotion, a marriage, a newborn. And sometimes it is the voices, victories, and visions of others that provide an opportunity for guidance and grace. There are lessons, if you will, in all of these happenings.
I like to call these lessons aces. Aces, in a card game and in life, are those that we keep.
Every day we have an opportunity to discover these aces. Occasionally, it’s serendipitous; being in the right place at the right time, and experiencing ah-ha moments. In those instants, there is an ease to life; it’s like reading people’s faces, and you know what their cards are by the way they hold their eyes. But sometimes, a steely determination is needed, and just when one thinks they have it figured out, life will turn around and kick one in the ass and say, “Oh no, I don’t think so, not gonna work that way.” That’s when you’re out of aces. But most people will offer advice for something as simple as a taste of good whiskey.
Take it. Hand over your bottle and let ’em drink down your last swallow. And listen. Because life is nothing, if not shared. It’s all about timing and having the readied courage to receive; acknowledge that information or archive it for future travels. Breathe. Be humble in your tragedies and in your triumphs. Be. Humble. In. Your. Triumphs. Don’t ever count your money when you’re sitting at a table. There’s lots of time for that when the deal is done.
One of the secrets to surviving is knowing what to throw away, and knowing what to keep. We are the architects of our lives; every hand that we draw has an opportunity to be a winner, and every hand has the potential to be a loser. Any day, we can go either way. Some days we are electric, audacious, and inspirational, presenting the very best version of our self. Other days we acquiesce to a resigned acceptance that the best we can do is simply…get…out…of…bed. Life is about the good times coupled with the bad.
The closing of one year and the beginning of another often serves as a gentle reminder that our time here really is so very limited…
Those great ones, whom I referenced earlier – Mandela and company – they are known throughout the world and we are privileged to have witnessed a portion of their walks. But there are also great ones who walk beside us. And when they leave, we are left with something more intimate – our own very private and personal memories.
I lost a great one late last year. He (along with my mother) taught me to walk. Then, he taught me to ski and to throw a baseball. He taught me long division and to drive. He taught me an appreciation of country music. He taught me to win and lose gracefully. He taught me the importance of dedication, perseverance, loyalty, and that it was my duty to follow my dreams. He taught me to live.
And when he finished speaking, he turned back toward the window and faded off to sleep, and somewhere in the darkness the gambler, he broke even, and in his final words I found an ace that I could keep.
Here’s to a handful of aces in 2014…
*Some passages in this article taken from Kenny Rogers’ ‘The Gambler’
Cover image from: powernap.tumblr.com