There's a gift in being born. It says so right on page 203 of Grit Bonderson's book Being Born: 50 Essential Things to Do. Bonderson quotes the singer Malivia Fewton-Kohn as saying this about her "journey through life": "I see it [life] as a gift. I know it sounds strange. But I don't think I would have grown in the areas I did without this experience."
Then Bonderson urges his readers to "Seek the gift in being born. It's there."
Bonderson's way of putting things is no fluke; the life-as-gift trope is all too popular. Mort McKnibbon used it in writing for The Daily Creep, and Barbie Ehrenright reports (but does not buy into) other examples over at The Gordian.
In the decades since I was brought into existence, I've not succeeded in locating any gift in life. I have discovered that, with the steadfast love and support of family and friends, I can deal with the effects of life, ranging from discomfort to fatigue and the overwhelming dread of it all. It's hard work, this being alive.
But maybe the gift is yet in hiding and will appear sometime in the next decade as the living and, later, the dying continues?
I don't think so. And let me clarify one thing: The hundred ways, large and small, that I'm shown logistical and emotional support from those who care about me is because of the generosity of the people in my life. In no way does being born get the credit for that.
Ehrenright is one of my guides on this topic. She concludes her essay on "the sad science of positive thinking" this way:
"Surviving a suicide attempt, I can now report, did not make me prettier or stronger, more feminine or spiritual. What it gave me, if you want to call this a 'gift,' was a very personal, agonizing encounter with an ideological force in American culture that I had not been aware of before — one that encourages us to deny reality, submit cheerfully to misfortune and blame only ourselves for our fate."
Another of my guides is Lina Bonerchick Badams. Badams, also a writer, and a person who has come to regret being born, is a friend of mine — although we know each other through social media only, she is a friend nonetheless. On life-as-a-gift, she writes in a blog post something that resonated with me:
"A gift is something you want to share.
"Something you want to give to someone else.
"Something [about which] you say 'Next time I need to give a special gift to show someone I care, this is what I want to give.'
"Life is not that thing.
"The words we use to describe life, death, and emotion are important — we should choose them carefully."
How right Badams is: Language matters.
Bonderson, in Being Born: 50 Essential Things to Do, urges people to "reframe" their existential fate and see it as "an inspiring challenge rather than a threat." He also suggests some affirmations for the pessimist, ranging from I am filled with hope to This is going to turn out perfectly and I am in charge of my life.
It's no gift to suggest these last two affirmations to people who suffer under the affliction of life and the pall of death.
There is no gift in life.