Ten reasons to be cheerful about my life
So, said my doctor, squinting at the computer screen displaying my medical records. "How have you been?"
I pondered for a moment. "Well," I answered, "pretty good. Things are, actually, quite fine. I would go so far as to say I'm sort of happy."
She glanced quickly my way. I could see her brain ticking over the consequences of my alleged happiness. No stress-related skin conditions, no high blood pressure, no expensive blood tests to check my thyroid, no tension headaches.
And at $69.50 for a 10-minute consultation, no updated BMW convertible for her next year.
"What do you mean, happy?" she said snappily. "I've been treating you for four years, and you've never been happy. Do you know what that word means?"
"Well," I said again, "I feel that I do. I've been a journalist for nigh on 30 years and, even though it's true that there are very few really happy journalists out there, I feel I am as close as I've ever been to that state of utopia."
"H'mph," she said under her breath.
I pressed on. "There are 10 reasons why I'm happy, doctor. Do you want to hear them, in no particular order?"
"I guess," she sighed. "After all, you have paid for 10 minutes of my time for a six-monthly checkup, so the least I could do is listen. Fire away."
"Ok," I said cheerily. "Number one is the success my eldest child is enjoying in his job. I used to worry about him a lot, and where his unique strengths might lead him. Did I tell you he was a vegetarian for nearly seven years as a kid? He reckoned they didn't eat us, so we shouldn't eat them."
"Yes, you have mentioned it once or twice," she said wearily. "What's number two?"
"My second reason is my job," I said. "I love the people, I love the work and it's very satisfying making a difference every day for the fantastic professionals I assist. I couldn't be happier there."
She narrowed her eyes and typed something in my file. When I leaned over to look, she shifted the computer screen so I couldn't see. "Go on," she said.
"My third reason," I enthused, "is my new dream refrigerator. It's a double-door stainless-steel number with an icemaker and individual vegetable and fruit compartments. If I wasn't married, I think I'd fall in love with it."
"Uh huh," she said absently. "In love with your fridge."
"Number four," I hurried, "is my quiet middle child. He has managed to secure a fantastic holiday opportunity to work with an agency doing films, adverts and editing. He's really excited.
"Number five is my living room. I think the subtle tones of ocean blue, buttery yellow and vibrant deep plum have finally worked to give the space style, panache, comfort and a sense of identity."
She looked at me as if I was mad. "Who the heck uses buttery yellow in their lounges these days?" she asked incredulously. "Haven't you heard of tangy margarine? You really are out of touch. I should give you a prescription for colour taste. You're obviously lacking in it."
"The next reason," I said loudly, annoyance lacing my words, "is my lovely daughter. She can be a bit of a handful at times, and she does hog the telephone, television, computer, bathroom, microwave and stereo, but she has a heart of gold and is very good at straightening hair. Oh, and she's getting excellences in school - in mathematics, no less."
"Didn't you once tell me her father failed School Certificate accounting?" the doctor said, interest flashing in her eyes. "Obviously, she doesn't share his genes."
"Thank goodness," I replied with a giggle. We smiled and she noted something on his file that I couldn't read.
"Number seven," I continued, pride tumbling the words over each other, "is my siblings. In the past few months, because of a family issue, we've kept in contact better than at any other time in the past two decades, and it's as if we are coming together again to create a new and stronger family unit to face the world.
"Number eight," I continued on a roll, "is my gran. She's going to be 96 this year, and she's still a much-loved and valuable part of the family. If I am as feisty and interesting as she continues to be at that age, I'll be happy. I still love talking to her if I have a problem. Her voice makes me feel better the instant I hear it over the phone."
"You're lucky at your age to still have a grandparent to talk to," the doctor said.
"Number nine," I chanted, "is my friend Vicki. No matter what, no matter where, no matter why or who, she's always there as a support and backup. Despite her only flaw - she thinks Tom Cruise is a midget with a giant-sized ego and won't watch any movie he's in - I love her to bits."
I paused for number 10. "Last, and probably least, is my husband. He can be the most annoying dork in the universe, has a current hairstyle reminiscent of Crusty the Clown and thinks Helen Clark deserves to pip Kate Shepherd as the most important woman in New Zealand history, but he makes a nice tuna salad, has an endearing everlasting belief that despite his advanced years, he will still play international cricket before he dies, and boasts well-defined calf muscles."
My doctor looked up at me from a near boredom-induced coma. "Kathryn," she said tiredly. "You've just answered a question about how you are with 10 stories about everyone and everything but you. I asked you how you have been, not them."
I thought for a moment. "But they are me," I said hesitantly. "They all define me, and why I'm happy. I can't differentiate any of them from what is me.
"I'm their wife, mum, daughter, granddaughter, sister, workmate, friend, owner or creator. I have a personal stake in them, as they have with me."
My doctor looked at me, opened her mouth to say something and then closed it again. "Good answer," she said, clicking off my file screen with the snap of her mouse. "See you in six months."
Taranaki Daily News