No shining pearls of wisdom here, but man, do we ever take the gift of health for granted. If you’ve spent any time in hospitals or with a loved one who is sick, you have probably learned this lesson, profoundly.
I’ve been blessed, twofold, in life. First, I’ve never suffered a major accident. I hurt my back pretty badly doing chin-ups this week, which set me down this road of thought. Still, the only injury of any note that I endured was once dropping a picture on my toe. The nail came off–yes, that is as gross as it sounds. Quite unpleasant. But, toenails regrow, and even the memory of that pain faded to insignificance. I don’t cringe and gasp when I see a wobbly picture-frame. My second blessing in life came in the form of a partner who suffers constant, debilitating injury every day; being an above-the-knee amputee. We’re lucky that I have such a dismissive mind for cosmetic details, as many people find the prospect of even being with an amputee repulsive. I’m not paraphrasing, people have actually said that to my partner before. Due to whatever strange chemistry is within me, the amputation never even registered in my head. Its a leg, but shorter. The hopping is cute, is what I would think. For me, there are far more important things in life than someone who walks with a slight hitch, or occasionally winces from (phantom) pain. Does this person treat you well? Do they respect you? Do the two of you share ambitions, goals and dreams together? Granted, these lessons came after a slew of horrible, superficial, emotionally abuse relationships–though development rarely comes without an investment in pain. And you know there are positives, always, wherever we chose to see them. For example, my partner and I can fit into a bathtub easier than a couple with four legs! Cuddling on the couch receives the same benefit.
Life truly hinges on perception. Not just what we see, but how we choose to perceive it. Despite a violent, seemingly unstoppable cancer, my mom maintained her infectious hope and enthusiasm until the very end. We honestly never thought she would die. She had everyone, including the doctors convinced. Despite being an amputee, my partner isn’t disabled by his disability. By comparison, my griping over my back and a rather hard work-week are paltry concerns to voice. Which is not to say that just because our problems are smaller than ‘big-picture’ issues, that we should just shut up and bear it. Again, its all about perspective. We live in a communal society, where lessons are all around us. Unfortunately, the only lessons most people learn come from personal experiences (usually painful ones, as I mentioned), and not anecdotal episodes. A terrible shame, really, as the world can teach us infinite mercy, beauty and gratitude if we only pay attention. Pay attention. I think that has become my new mantra in life. I never looked outside of my navel until my late 20s, and I’m glad that now I finally see the world beyond a bellybutton. At last I can weigh my grievances against others, and sincerely see, and know, the people around me. We’re incredibly insular as a society, and this is exacerbated by our addiction to these fractured social networks that we carry around with us on our phones and tablets. As a society we have become used to doing things alone, while in the company of others. And this ins’t a reflective quiet. Its not like Rilke and his prose on “protecting each other’s solitude”. I’m driving down Tangent Road (as I often do), so back on course with the conversation. Reflecting on others for wisdom, right. I think that’s where I left off. Simple lesson: do it. Do it often, notice yourself paying attention to others. Applaud yourself, if need be. Listen, really listen with your heart to a person’s story. Now we can’t go around with an ear for every old rambler’s tale, we don’t have the time for that. But for the people you love–your family and friends–its a necessity. My mother was, and is still, one of my best friends. A lot of that growth happened when she became ill, and I was forced to focus on her due to her health. We were always close, but never friends. Not like that. I believe that it all ties together: health, happiness, a sense of community and belonging.
One of these things–health–we don’t have nearly as much control over as we might like. Certain illnesses just happen. Cancer doesn’t give two-shits if you eat well, do a moderate amount of exercise, and get lots of sleep. I’m sure that those decisions will lead to a nicer standard of wellness to begin with though, and can stave off the encroachment of disease, so there’s that. As for how we interact with others, who we chose to love and learn from, well, we have control over that too. When our lives are miserable, we have mostly ourselves to blame. No one likes to hear the most fundamental of life’s teachings. I could have spent the weekend feeling sorry for myself. Actually, I did indulge that despondency for a while. It never helps, and just makes you feel worse. Eventually, I took stock of life. Reminded myself of all the things for which I should be grateful, made a list (I love lists) and carried on. Life usually rewards us for doing–what else drives us forward other than our impetus?–and I woke up this morning with my back a little less sore, a couple of work issues ironed out, and a new interview on FoF that went live without my knowing!
Hmm…how to wrap this one up. Since I mentioned Rilke, and I’ve gone into a few different realms of thought here, I’ll leave you with some esoteric and beautiful prose from the man himself. Enjoy. Listen. Learn. Love.
All the best,
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”