Sometimes, when it is night time and I am alone in my house, I stand in my bathroom with only one light on and look at my eyes in the mirror. They are brown, my eyes, a mix of medium and light browns in the center, surrounded by sprays of black that grow according to type of light and mood. Which, one could argue, are often the same thing.

On occasion, at night, it’s not the color I think of. Instead, I think about what makes eyes glow, and about what dims them.

Do you ever think about the word “deserve”? I think about it quite a lot. It’s such a rich word, which I mean in all senses of the phrase. At its core, deserve is a word of indulgence.

Please make no mistake: I love deserve.

When anyone says, “This is wonderful news. You deserve this.” Or, “He’s an idiot. You deserve someone who appreciates you,” my anxious soul sighs gently and slips back into repose. Do I? Oh I do, it says gratefully.

But what does it mean to deserve? Who is the judge of this, and by what standards? When terrible things befall someone, do they deserve them? And when wonderful things grace another, is it possible they may not?

I certainly don’t deserve to lose a job, or to have a heart be bruised. I’m a good person, I like to tell myself, a very good one, and so I deserve very good things. “Oh no,” my friends will say, “you deserve great things. A great job! A great love! Someone who truly knows what he’s found in you.” I shimmer a little more brightly under these pronouncements.

Yet what is it that we deserve? A roof over our heads, clean water, good food, health care, companionship and affection, a series of interesting books, a cat curled up on a sofa or a dog at your feet, a few minutes of uninterrupted time to yourself, someone to tell you that you matter in this world. I could keep going.

If you dissect the parts of you that deserve anything at all but specifically the parts of you that most certainly deserve great things, it roughly breaks down to a list along these lines






in which all are tangible and real inasmuch as we ache in our own yearnings and psychic terrors in very true ways, as we do when we forgo sleep or any physical self-care for weeks on end.

An inventory of these five last night revealed the following: hints of improvement in the body and mind, a boost to the ego, a glimmering of renewal in the soul, and a bruised heart. On the whole, a balance that tipped toward good.

When I looked in the bathroom mirror, my eyes glowed for the first time in any number of months.

The word deserve is like the great lighthouse of the west. It is faith in the night, then the spotlight that leads us on our path. You will find the riches you deserve, the rewards that await you. Sail on in the darkness, little ship.


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