“Hey, how are you?”
“I’m good, you?”
“I’m all right.”
It’s all too familiar of an interaction to most of us, but my uncle, Leon Goldstein, simply would not stand for it. Whenever asked how he was doing, Leon would reply with a full-bodied and resolute “Never better.” Not a smidge of cynicism, half-heartedness, or doubt to be detected in his response. If the man was alive, then that moment was his best moment—rain or shine.
Leon came from a generation that never uttered the word “mindfulness.” He would’ve looked at you confused, like an anteater suspiciously eyeing a fork, if you did. But this “never better” response to mundane pleasantries was his own way of taking stock of the moment, of expressing gratitude for the richness of life.
And a full life he had. A business owner, family man, a mediator, an active member of his community. When asked how he kept it all in balance, Leon once told me, “Well, after work every day, you have a personality adjustment hour with two gin martinis.”
Modern day humans incorporate all kinds of rituals into their day to cultivate mindfulness, from meditation to rigorous exercise to repeating a mantra. I suppose “never better” was a mantra of sorts for Leon, but the “personality adjustment hour” was his daily practice. He even kept it up on the go, bringing along a perfect martini travel kit that he’d bust out in the evening at campsites on family road trips.
After the day's work was done, he’d sit down with his wife, Betty, and they’d both have two gin martinis. And he was very specific about his green plastic bottle of Burnett's London Dry Gin, served cold with only the wave of a vermouth bottle over the glass to impart the slightest vapors into the air.
Now, I’m not here to make any claims about martinis making for a better life, but I do believe that rituals such as Leon’s personality adjustment hour, a time to sit still with friends and family to reflect on the day and create separation between work and home life, served him well as a piece of the puzzle to achieving his “never better” existence.
So today and on many days to come, I’ll lift a martini as a toast to Uncle Leon and the moment-to-moment pursuit of that lifestyle.