Is there anything more glorious than feeling better after being ill? We often take our human bodies for granted, and whimper when they’re damaged. But wondrously, for most of us, the majority of our ailments can be repaired by modern medicine.
We take a lot of things for granted until they’re gone or disappear for a while. Sleep, for instance. I’m blessed to be an ‘insta crash.’ When I’m tired, the slip between awareness and deep sleep goes almost unnoticed. I sleep, perhaps dream, and then awake, refreshed and ready for another day.
But so many suffer from insomnia. There are those who dread night time, because their struggle to get a good night’s sleep is like trying to wrestle a wild animal into submission. And over time, that becomes what they expect to happen, and so the dread becomes normal, and waking up achy and groggy commonplace.
We take walking for granted too. And yet the differences in how we walk are mind-boggling. I’ll never forget watching this short film a lifetime ago, and marvelling at how very differently our bodies can move. The images have never left me, and when I see a real life example of some of the more extreme walkers, I even mentally hear the music that accompanied their animated gait.
That’s the thing about being human; what seems commonplace loses it’s mystery and beauty over time. Every decade, more wonders appear in our world, and we cast aside the things we had before, sure that our old toys are no longer relevant or worthy. And yet, someone from a place that has not reached our level of technology would seize upon what we so eagerly toss on the dust heap, with joy.
It’s all relative. We’re constantly balancing where we are with where we’ve been, and where we hope to go. We make internal compromises, knowing that some of our actions will harm us, but assessing just how much harm we can do to ourselves without suffering unduly. It is the human condition.
Over a lifetime, it becomes harder to shrug off what we remember of how it felt to be innocent of experience, and to embrace the new that is always beckoning. We remember how vibrant and alive we were as kids, and how passionate our emotions felt, and how everything we experienced was for the first time, fresh and intense and life-changing.
We get better at the things we do, or maybe we just get more experienced. Either way, we become blasé, and start to judge those who’ve only just learned what it feels like we’ve always known. We forget the joy of novelty, and heaven help us, sometimes we mock those trying to do what we once did for the first time. How dare they try and do it differently and in their own way?
And with every year our fragile shells are getting older and less flexible, prone to wearing out and being damaged by a misstep or an unlucky chance encounter with something greater than ourselves, be it a virus or a Mack truck. Or a corporate raider, or a venture capitalist, for that matter. That’s when the rubber meets the road, and we find out what sort of base we’ve built for ourselves, internally.
If we were very lucky, our parents prepared us for both the good and bad that everyone encounters in life. I was blessed with a mother who survived hard times in her youth, and who instilled in me her ability to bounce back from whatever came along. Just last night I dreamt that I was penniless, homeless, and friendless, but in the dream, my mum appeared to show me the humour in the situation, and soon we were laughing and singing, ready to face the situation and begin again. Now, that’s a solid base. I’m a lucky woman to have had such a strong mother, who could put aside her own fears and troubles to raise me with the ultimate gift; the ability to survive any catastrophe that comes along, and to remember that we are stronger than adversity.
We live in interesting times. Some would say, we always have. Forces will always struggle to contain the masses who want autonomy over their own lives and thoughts. Change is inevitable, whether it be for the better or the worst. And yet we wonderful and very human beings seek to control what little we can; our bodies, our families, our fortunes, our realities.
In every generation, there will be those who revere the past, and those who want to destroy or rise about it. There will be those who say that today’s art is puerile and lacklustre in comparison to the art of their day. Some will plod along, making the best of their lot, while others will aim for the stars. Both will both fail and succeed. And it was ever so.
So, as awful as it is, it’s a good thing to get sick once in a while. Illness forces us to stop for a time, to step off the treadmill of what we and others expect of us. It’s a time to drink hot soups and read trashy magazines and sleep for hours while our antibodies and immune systems work tirelessly to get our fleshy selves back into a state fit to return to what needs to be done to keep us viable in our lives. We learn who cares about our well-being, who is kind, thoughtful and helpful, and sadly, we also learn that life will go on without us, no matter how important we think we are to the planet. Illness keeps us humble, because, in the end … we’re only here for as long as we’re supposed to be.
To quote David Lee Roth … “life goes on without me …”
(first published in Don’t Believe A Word I Say, September 13, 2015)