There's no joke that can cover reality. I'm going to die. So are you, but what makes us different is that my death could be anytime...literally. I suppose the same holds true for you, too, if you're not careful. For me, extra care simply doesn't matter.
And because of who I am--a phoenix, as a friend calls me--other people who don't have my problem are actually jealous. It sounds insane, and you may think it's my pounding head talking and not the rational, educated, writer-philosopher I am. But it's not the pounding talking to you. The pounding tells me I'm right.
Simply because I soar instead of sink despite my torturous daily life--and it is--make no mistake, people. Try taking a shower when half your body doesn't work. No? Try getting dressed. Still no. Try dancing. Try running. Try crossing the street. Getting in (and out) of your car. And I'm this way, not because I was drunk and hit a tree, not because someone else was drunk and hit me instead of a teee, but because of circumstances beyond my control. Deadly circumstances. Fatal, even.
Everyday is a gift...why? Because I'm awake. I'm not dead. That's a gift??? Seriously? It's no gift to live each day knowing you're on God's timetable, as one doctor told me. Why can't I be on my own timetable? I earned it. And yes, I've earned your respect, too--even if you don't know me. Why? Because I lived through hell--I didn't choose it, it chose me. And I lived. But that's not all.
I made people's lives better. Every single day of my survivorship (as ludracrous as that term is--for now, it will have to suffice). I'm deferential, concilliatory, respectful, and all kinds of patient--with others, others who don't show me the same respect, though it's hard for me to take a step, and my life, such as it is, will be infinitely shorter than a person of equal health and age. And by the way, the joke is, I'm actually healthy--my heart is as strong as a 25-year old male; blood pressure, cholesterol, even blood sugar--extraordinarily healthy. Respiratory system--like that of a person 15 years younger. Perfect vision. Muscle-mass of a 25-year old, fit, healthy woman. I can lift more weight than most men. Teeth are healthy. No periodontal problems. And obviously, my brain is highly functioning--I can not only string more than a few sentences together, I can ponder everything and anything--from super-string theory to literary theory, from Dante's Inferno to Dante's Peak. I can write well in all genres and have published in all genres. I can calculate tips...in my head. Impressive, I know. But that's the REAL problem, isn't it? I'm healthy, except for a few bumps in my life-road, I could be like anyone else on the street...who wears a prosthetic brace and uses a four-wheeled walker.
And you know what? That stuff--my disability, my cancers--as awful as it is, NEVER depressed me. I kept marching along, trying to help others, trying to do good--I was both eager and grateful to be alive and I wasn't afraid to show it. But then something happened about 18 months ago--something that shouldn't have broken a person of my unfortunate fortitude, but it did. I say "unfortunate" when speaking of fortitude because needing it means you've lived through tough times...probably more than once. And that's always unfortunate.
Eighteen months ago, I was ripped in half. Eighteen months ago, because I was a healthy disabled person, an upbeat sick person, a well-adjusted, non-miserable, productive person despite my circumstances, I was discarded like garbage. Now, the little things that we all have to deal with, seem disproportionately large to me--almost insurmountable. if someone is nasty, as humans tend to be, what I normally would have brushed off without a thought now feels like being speared through my gut. Sorry for the violent analogy, but that's how it feels. My ability to see the good in people isn't gone, if it were--I'm not sure I'd still be here. But I don't believe in people anymore...or, maybe a more gentler way to put it is, it's deeply difficult to do so. And I'm very sorry to report that people haven't let me down in that regard. Not even once.
How I would love to expose you--even the rude person in the parking lot last week. So why don't I? I've had plenty of opportunities. But being in miserable circumstances doesn't make me equally miserable toward others. It would be easier for me if it did. I'm not sure why, but in this lifetime, easy is not something that comes easily.
And you'd think that it would be obvious. That people would understand, be compassionate, sensitive, and respectful of all I've been through, all I've done to overcome it, and unfortunately, all that's yet to come.
Think about it: You're 40, for example. About half your life is over, maybe a little less, if you're lucky. Outside of a broken bone here or there as a kid, the Chicken Pox, and a bad flu one season--you're relatively healthy. Maybe you have a few extra pounds--maybe you don't. But you've never had cancer. You don't have diabetes. You don't have any autoimmune diseases. NOW, you tell me--are you scared? Do you worry about how long you'll live? Do you think about when that ticking time bomb will explode? OR, do you think more about putting away for your retirement--because, see, you'll have one. Do you ponder that 20-year anniversary with your spouse coming up in the next seven years--putting a little bit away each year to go on that second honeymoon? Do you think about your children growing up, getting married, envisioning yourself there at every major milestone along the way, like the birth of your first grandchild?
I ponder those things, too--because I hope that, despite my circumstances, I will be there to retire, to go on that second honeymoon, to see my first grandchild. But hope is the red flag of fear. I can only HOPE while you, on the other hand, can DREAM.
So the next time you see a person who is disabled or elderly or military or a woman wearing a kerchief on her head because she's obviously going through chemotherapy--you'd better be nice to that person. You'd BETTER show that person respect. Because that person, whoever that individual is, deserves it--more than you.
It's easy to walk when you have two healthy legs--you don't get congratulated for that. But the people who rise above the crappy circumstances of their life, whether health, poverty, or social disadvantage...now those are the people you should be raising up. Those are the people who should be congratulated.
It's a New Year. I'm casting my sins away. My biggest sin? Silence.