Sigh! (And yes, it really does deserve an exclamation point.) For the last year oftentimes I have struggled to write, uncertain of my emotional and psychological footing. My opinions are lame, (being only opinions after all.) I’m also exhausted of others’ opinions, their precious positionalities suckled close to their solar plexus. Consequently, watching the state of the world and my place in it has been nothing short of confusing. Just when I think I get a grasp on making sense of things, or even one small corner of things, murkiness creeps in.
In the past 12 to 18 months people have been born but many have also died. The pandemic has been nothing short of bizarre in its population birth-death cycle. And who knew a virus could be so controversial! Some people feel afraid to not wear a mask out of personal and communal responsibility while others have felt the pandemic is all a hoax, justifying their own self-righteousness. A greater majority of folks (mercifully in most places but not all) feel a sense of duty to mask up for the good of all.
Between the rapid decline in democracy and societal norms, it may be that America is in a death spiral, irreversible in its demise, as certain to keel over, gasping as an individual human body does as it gives up the ghost. The longer all of this chaos and division go on, I do not see how America can recover any more than I can reverse my own aging process. Collectively we are all responsible, having ignored the cancerous tumor born out of deception and lies as if it had smoked cigarettes for two hundred plus years!
As I age, my body is breaking down too, slow but sure. I know in my bones that’s the way of things and yet it seems I fight against acceptance of it. I have never been terribly good at grace under pressure. Even though I’ve had lots of experience of the pressure! My trials and tribulations have been numerous and sometimes extreme, although, in the main, my life has certainly been that of relative ease and comfort. Oh, the drama of it all!
It makes me irritated that I have lost physical capacity—and for all I know mental capacity too. There are things that I do like about the aging process. For example, I don’t care much about impressing anybody about anything anymore. When I watch younger people do it, all puffed up, I can’t help but laugh at myself that I even operated in that mode. It truly is a marvel, and now it seems an embarrassment.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
I have recently moved to another town in Sonoma county, safely ensconced in a tiny house out back, by a shed, on my son and daughter-in-law‘s property. I used to joke with my son when younger to just put me out back in a shed when I get old. By God, he’s done it! Now I get to joke about me and Elon Musk living in a tiny house—just not together! Ha! A stale joke maybe but one in which I still take perverse pleasure. A mixed blessing, this easier downsized life yet with it, an accompanying loss of personal voice and scope. Like Alice in Wonderland, I’m literally and figuratively shrinking!
For years Audrey Hepburn had a very small apartment in New York City, sparsely furnished. She mostly used it as a weigh station, a respite between Africa trips for the UN children’s program that she managed. To this day, I take comfort in her boldness, clearly in full control of her decision. Sometimes, when I’m feeling sorry for myself I think of Christopher Reeves too. How miraculous it seems to me that he soldiered on after barely surviving the polo accident—a whisper of an excruciating existence that ended up a roar, creating something so incredibly positive for others. How brave he truly was.
MENTORS AND ROLE MODELS
There are others. Helen Keller often surfaces in my consciousness. My disabilities pale in comparison. Yet she, along with other heroes of mine, provide a potency—an inoculation if you will—allowing me to stave off a darker grief when recontextualizing my own physical losses. What would I do without these larger-than-life role models? While I wish I could sit in a room with each of them, holding hands and comforting them along with myself, the mere thought of each of them sustains me at times when I have felt the worst.
And so I trudge on, until dis-identifying with the body altogether, resting instead on the buoyancy of spirit.