Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Who IS that man?

As you undoubtedly have noticed, I often share the average two-year-old child’s firm conviction that the sun, moon, and stars revolve around me—which is hardly an attitude conducive to a writer expecting to attract or hold readers. However, I suspect, since you have been so loyal in following these blogs, that while observing me rummaging through the dusty corners of my psyche, you have caught occasional glimpses of yourself. The major difference between me and you might be that while we share probably more things than either of us realizes, I tend to think and talk more about things you may be too polite to mention, or (rightly) consider to be nobody else’s business..

Human beings are, by nature and necessity, a complacent lot. We accept things without much thought, which is logical, for if we gave thought to our every action, we wouldn’t be able to do much else. We are assumptive. When we walk, we give not an instant’s thought to what we’re doing…of the infinitely complex coordination between our mind and our body. We operate on the unspoken but totally accepted assumption that what is, is, and what is will always be.

I spend an inordinate amount of time and space, I know, in reflecting on my physical and social shortcomings, real and imagined, and the horrified fascination with which I view the effects of the rapidly accelerating passage of time. I look in the mirror (but only when absolutely necessary) and the right half of my brain turns to the left half and asks, quite sincerely: “Who is that man? Surely it is not me! It can’t be me!” I use self-delusion as a cloak of invisibility that everyone but myself can readily see through.

And I’m fully aware that my constant bewailing of my physical limitations and the utter unfairness of it all is shameful in light of how many people with problems far more serious than my own maintain their silence with grace and dignity. I have never suffered in silence. When I outline in far greater detail than probably is necessary the perceived indignities fate inflicts on me, I know that small boy within me is, in effect, running up to my mother displaying a tiny scratch or cut on my finger, hoping she’ll praise me for being so very brave, and then kiss it and make it all better.

But I like to think that the reason I parade my losses in front of you is primarily as a cautionary tale: to encourage you to be aware of exactly how much you have and take for granted that other people would give anything to have. When is the last time you thought for an instant of how wonderful it is to eat a hot dog on a bun; to be able to open your mouth wide enough to get it all in and once having taken a bite, to be able to chew and savor and swallow it without a thought, and without having to accompany every swallow with some artificial liquid to allow the food to go down? Just stop for a brief second, the next time you are doing so, and consider just how very lucky you are.

My greatest problem, other than the realization that I always took everything I can no longer do totally for granted, is that I still cannot fully comprehend that I will not somehow wake up tomorrow and be able to do everything I could do ten years ago. I consider myself to be like someone who sees a roadside sign that says: “Caution: Bridge Out Ahead” but barrels straight ahead, sure the sign was not meant for me.

People with physical disabilities, or who are suffering or have recovered from serious illness and physical trauma of one sort or another can understand these things, in their own terms and as their traumas affected them. But there are so very many people out there…and I hope you are one of them…who, in their youth and/or perfect health are oblivious to their good fortune.

Just as you should never pass up the opportunity to let those you love know that you love them, you should never pass up the opportunity to stop to think just how very lucky you are. Now go have a hot dog for me.

New entries are posted by 10 a.m. central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back.

No comments: