A nurse I knew once offered that (the title of this post) as a toast when we raised our margarita glasses at a gathering of suburban mothers. Our kids were all in kindergarten together, and we had met at birthday parties and school functions often enough that we decided to get together during the day while our kids were in school. (This was a district with full-day kindergarten.) We only managed it one time before the school year ended, so it stands out clearly in my mind. We had a light lunch of salad and finger sandwiches, then drank a pitcher of margaritas between us.
That afternoon is etched so brightly in my memory, but what shines brightest is the look on the nurse mom’s face when we all heartily echoed her toast. She had offered it as a cynical joke from the nursing world, but we embraced it with a humor that tempered the bitterness of its truth. She was genuinely moved that we hadn’t passed judgment on her for it, and that moment seemed to open up a safe space for all of us. We talked about the joys and nightmares of parenting, about the difficulties of finding balance between work and family, about home repair and yard work. We debated the merits of Ritalin, Valium, and various antidepressants, then saluted them all with raised glasses and the same toast.
That toast has become sort of a rallying cry for me, useful in a lot of different situations. Today, for example, I speak it in praise of the salutary effects of the medications my doctor prescribed to keep my sinus ailment from becoming bronchitis. I feel miraculously improved in a mere 24 hours, proof that my visit to the doctor was not at all premature or unnecessary. I suppose I should toast the doctor, too, and shall do so when I take my next dose of cough medicine. I could probably even use a shot glass to make it seem more festive.
What will you celebrate today? What miracle of chemistry — synthetic, interpersonal, biological, or whatever — has been wrought in your life? Let us raise our glasses together and salute them: “Better living through chemistry!”