There’s been a lot of whining lately here in The Green Study. My eyeballs are still apparently eroding and last night in taekwondo, I chipped my front tooth in a poorly-executed back roll. I feel like an old car groaning down the highway as various parts keep falling off. These are seemingly minor incidents in the big scheme of things (although exposed, burning eyeball nerves, not so minor), but it seems to be one thing after another. I have been feeling rather depressed and demoralized.
I found out over the weekend that a high school classmate who survived a car wreck at 16 that killed her best friend, died years later at the age of 41. She was beautiful and athletic and popular. She was everything that I was not. As a teenager I simmered with envy. So I’ve been walking around all weekend with this mantra in my head: “Well, at least I’m not dead.” I know – I’m missing the point, if there is one.
Since I value my beauty not, I got a haircut yesterday at one of those $11 franchise places. I wasn’t in the mood for chitchat and luckily the woman who cut my hair didn’t feel the need to make conversation. Apparently there was a contest for the surliest demeanor and surprisingly, I came in second place to the gentleman next to me.
Grumpy Gus had the misfortune of getting the perkiest hair cutter this side of the Mississippi, who grilled him with well-intentioned, but invasive questions. He wants to leave the state, since he’s retired. His kids live on both coasts and none of them want to come home. “They can do whatever they want. I’m not going to visit them. They chose their own lifestyles.” I’m guessing that it was any lifestyle that meant they didn’t have to be near Daddy Eeyore.
I walked out with a weird haircut but an inexplicable good mood. Hysterical people make me deadly calm. Grumpy people apparently make me happy.
There’s no way around this aging thing. I’ve been incredibly lucky thus far, but the chickens are coming home to roost. Taekwondo is getting to be too much of a contact sport. After a black eye last year from a misplaced head kick and various pulled muscles, I’m wondering how long I can continue. It’s not the injuries – it’s the recovery time that has changed. It takes me longer to recover and my desire to put myself in harm’s way is lessening.
So, there is a lot of sighing and pondering about the meaning of life and how I’d like to continue living it with as little pain as possible. I know that more things will happen – more medical events, more funerals, more disappointments. They will happen more frequently with fewer breaks between. How I react to them will determine my quality of life – the psychological war of being human is one that you can lose early on, like the man at the hair place.
Life is shifting gears. No longer can I waste time worrying if my butt is too big or my smile not white enough. Vanity is a luxury of youth. Now I must wonder how lifelong nutritional deficiencies will reveal themselves. I wonder if all that smoking in my twenties will eventually kill me. I need to pay attention to cholesterol and hormone levels. I need to recognize my limitations. Some limitations I’ve accepted graciously, but others aren’t going down without a fight.
There are friends fighting for their lives. There are friends with lifelong disabilities that make ordinary activities difficult for them to perform. There are friends who are gone too soon. Like most things in life, there are people in worse and better shape. I know, though, that it is spirit and perspective that determine quality of life. My spirit is struggling right now, but change is uncomfortable and it would be Pollyanna to suggest I would slip blithely into perkiness when things hurt that didn’t hurt before.
Perspective is understanding that the human experience is universal. None of us are getting out unscathed. We each have to decide how to deal with pain, both physical and emotional, and how much of our essence we will give over to it. I look at my daughter and know that someday, I want to be a mother she’ll want to visit. I want to know that no matter what trials and tribulations come my way, my spirit will triumph and my perspective won’t be a dark cloud that rains on everyone else.
I haven’t mastered graciousness in the face of troubles, but I’ve been getting a little more practice. It’s the warm up act, the opening band, the practice run. I’m luckily still alive for the challenge. A purposeful life in the face of adversity is no meek endeavor.