Hard Truths Abolish Life’s Peripheral Pleasures (for Jean)

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Living with mental illness reminds me of the perpetual tightening of sight associated with macular degeneration.  A close friend’s mother is facing a destiny of dusk, the light of day dimming earlier and earlier like the cold and snowy late months of fall.  She’s waiting for disease to throw the switch as though she hadn’t paid her utility bill.  She asked me one afternoon during a summer visit, how dark is dark; how blind is blind; once it’s dark and I’m blind will I continue farther into the cave and deeper into its darkness; or is my blindness an unmarked dead-end?

I sat in front of her incapable of producing some quip of levity to lighten the despair.  I didn’t know how to answer.  Or, what to say.  The absence of chit-chat hung between us like humidity.  Finally I answered the only way I knew how: honest and awestruck.

I said, I’m not living with an insensitive eventuality; my conditions (serious mental health and cardio-pulmonary compromise) are likely to flatten me, like being crushed by an immense breaking ocean wave, or belly flopping into the speeding approach of pasture, absent of any canopy of resistance my last minutes hopelessly free-falling like aimless snowflakes.  Then it happened.  Stopped.  Quiet and conscious while the tiniest pieces of life clung to daylight, right before it too, daylight, stopped.

acandystoreYou and I are the little boy and little girl whose noses are pressed flat against the confectionary store window.  Our yearning is painfully apparent to the plumply indulgent chocolatiers who’s moving each bit of life with the careful determination of a chess master to capitalize on each enticing, heavenly, and scrumptious creation.  We’re accustomed to forfeiting the peripheral pleasures which adorn life for those unscathed by physical mutiny.  We’re weary of the world’s pace, gaining speed to get anyplace but right here on this bench.  And we’re disinterested in watching a generation plow through a banal life ignoring its dangers and instead pursuing schedules chock full of unwieldily opportunities and difficult-to-deny distractions, especially those who’ve never stared into the intense and stoic countenance of a doctor about to tell you the most incomprehensible truth.

To wonder and inquire about your predetermination is natural and reserved for the courageous.  To have courage in light of the truth you must’ve stopped pursuing distractions, stopped running away from things, and stopped denying your mortality.  And life’s hard truths can only be understood by the courageous.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 7,300 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 12 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

This Christmas, He Gave Me A Look From Outside, Inside.

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“Surprise!”  is what I used to say, years ago, early on in our twenty-eight year relationship.  Back when we hadn’t really yet learned each other’s tastes (or better, tolerances).  Fifteen years ago I’d stand there, his gift balanced by my sweaty hands, my nerves knotted and twisted like the Strangler Fig tree, praying for his hullabaloo upon opening the gift, followed by a tight embrace, further followed by his quick kisses like a woodpecker atop some pine. A decade ago I’d pluck the gift from beneath the tree with little ceremony, hand it to him, then sit back and watch as he tested-then-tore layer by layer of packaging, similar to a child tasting her way through a box of chocolates.  The past few years like a couple of archaeologists, the dig was more fun than the discovery!  At last he found the gift and I present-modernwaited for the inconclusive and rudimentary sentiment followed by a brief embrace and a kiss as light as a hummingbird.  Three years ago I’d started to hear “How’d you know I wanted this?” his amazement falling to the side of curiosity rather than tickling admiration, and my answer, diluted through the years like cheap gin, “I thought you could use this,” at which he cocked his head like our dog’s misunderstanding, and then I presented the real gift, “There’s a gift receipt taped to the lid should you choose to exchange it for a color more to your liking than orange.”  I’ve learned over the course of twenty-eight years that we buy lovers/partners/spouses clothing we’d like to see them wear, and definitely not the clothing they like to wear.  So after two decades of my repeated attempts to upgrade his personal style year after year by giving him exquisite gifts (which he surreptitiously found ghastly) I learned that a gift receipt, like the “get out of jail card,” nullifies my responsibility for his disinterest in modern style, and ensures that he can exchange the atrocious article for an object of his liking.

But this Christmas his gift to me was different than the previous twenty-seven.  Very, very different.  Absent was the gift receipt.  He handed me the gift without fanfare, explanation, or apology.  He simply said, “Merry Christmas.”

Hidden beneath wrapping paper we’ve had for twenty years was a book.  But not some book he’d like to read.  No, this was a book I’d already read and reread; I had a greater degree of familiarity with the final pages, but the earlier pages popped once more like bubble gum.  The book he gave me was “Becoming not Became: The First 100 Posts,” by T.M. Mulligan.

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I was dumbfounded then speechless then crying.  I was flabbergasted to hold Mr. Mulligan’s first 100 posts printed on heavy, magazine-grade paper and hardbound.  It’s rare indeed, to hold yourself up to yourself, to be reflected, to permit yourself to be tickled, concerned, angry, interested, and entertained.  I suppose narcissism might come to mind; but if you’re beautiful or handsome why not enjoy a modicum of self-appreciation.  Or, like me, those 100 posts represented dear friends, young and old, whom I haven’t visited, but whom all came together under the same roof for me.  I shall take my time reading these posts and thoroughly enjoy each one’s company greater than before.

Thank you so much, Nick.