I Love My Life: Song & lyrics by my special friend Zachary Miles Lefkowitz, age 4 1/2, Sept. 2013
When at a wake recently with my 14 year old nephew, I recalled to him the time he was about to turn four and I asked if he was excited about his upcoming birthday. He began to cry hysterically saying he didn’t want to have any birthdays – this was because he spent a lot of time around my ailing grandmother who had just passed away in her 80’s and he made the very astute observation that getting older means you are one step closer to dying.
I asked now what it was about death that bothered him most. He did not hesitate for even a second and simply, and very seriously, said “Because you won’t have the exhilarating feeling of being alive.”
I thought this was a profound answer as folks around us were suffering at the loss of our loved one – Jake honed right in on the crux of the matter: We are alive, and we should experience and treasure every moment that aliveness brings us.
Over the weekend I had my first massage in over two years, and it really brought home to me these conversations in the most basic and visceral of ways. Being alive means we are here, in a very physical body in a very physical world. Our body is our vehicle to experience all that life has to offer so we need to love, appreciate and take care of it – and, we are also here with other human beings who we are meant to love, appreciate and take care of in a physical way.
Most of us tend to live in our heads, and are quite disconnected from our bodies and/or emotions. Getting a massage, whether by a therapist, or having a friend or family member give you a little hands-on tender-loving care affirms our being-ness, our aliveness, and our connection to and need for one another. Numerous studies have documented the necessity of touch especially for newborns and the elderly – it is literally what keeps them alive and determines their health and longevity.
Diana Ross famously sang “Reach out and touch somebody’s hand, make this world a better place, if you can.” If you’re lucky, you have close relationships where you can exchange physical, affectionate touch on a regular basis. If not, there are lots of alternatives like hugs and various forms of bodywork you can receive from others in appropriate ways and settings.
And sometimes the most special touch can come from a stranger, like from the tourist in Bryant Park over the summer who while having her photo taken nearby sensed/saw me distraught and crying (even though I thought I was incognito with my sunglasses, hair covering my face and downward glance!), and in one of the most generous, kind moments I have ever experienced, gently put her reassuring, healing hand on my shoulder for a few seconds as she walked by, saying with that one gesture, “I see you, I feel your pain; I don’t know you, speak your language or know why you are upset, but I am here to offer you what comfort I can as a fellow human being.”
So as we go further down this technological highway with its isolating side effects and embark upon the holiday season with the increasing commercial madness it brings, remember the basics: you are here, we are here, let’s love our lives and love one another and demonstrate that love and compassion in the most tangible and meaningful ways possible.
Not quite sure how? Give me a buzz, because like Robin Thicke says: I got it. You got it. We got the magic touch.