Last Thursday, in one of those ‘stupid clumsy me’ moments, I bashed my hand against a wall and screwed up my right thumb. As I’ve had my fair share of broken bones over the years, I didn’t think it was fractured and even managed to play guitar with it for a couple of hours with my buddy. Nevertheless, I had it x-rayed the next morning just to be safe; it was swollen and stiff, and the thumb, too!
While waiting for the x-ray report to come in, I sat thinking back to when I had broken both elbows in a bike accident a couple of years ago, on April Fool’s Day no less. I thought about how crappy it would be to start the New Year incapacitated, trying to get by with my left hand, especially as I’m right-handed. I thought about toasting the New Year holding a champagne glass in my shaky left hand, as well as typing this post one letter at a time in true ‘hunt and peck’ fashion. I considered how 2011 might be giving me one last kick in the crotch before it winks out of existence. And then, a sobering thought struck me, “aww was 2011 really so bad to me?”
About 6 hours before my accident, I had been reading the last post of Joe Bodolai, a comedy writer with many notable television stints to his credit, including Saturday Night Live (SNL). Eulogizing himself, he listed his life’s achievements in length, as well as noted his regrets, personal peeves and even his sardonic predictions for the coming year. He then closed his extensive suicide note expressing thanks to the many who had been a part of his life, as well as suggesting “I need to feel the good that I did and whatever good I have ever done for you is enough for me.” … Well, apparently whatever good he did in his life wasn’t ‘good enough’ for him to rest his laurels on and so he offed himself by drinking a mixture of Gatorade and antifreeze.
I didn’t know Joe personally, but I knew of his work, and I felt empathy for what seemed to me a very familiar sentiment, “All those years, all that good faith, and now nothing?” Such sarcastic expression of self-sacrifice and egotism is something my ex-wife attributed to me some years ago, as she paraphrased my own equally noxious rant of “I gave and gave and gave and got crap in return.” Her whack in my face with the ‘humility herring‘ gave me pause to reflect on my own selfishness at times, as well as on possible subconscious motives, completely unbeknown to me of course, for my actions. It also gave me a good laugh and shook me out of my self-loathing for a bit. Like I’ve said here many times before, it’s good to be self-effacing.
As a ‘person’, I often label myself a humanist. I also preach ‘unconditional love’ ad nauseum as a speaker, writer and shoulder to all those who need one to cry on. As an artist and creative sort, even on this blog, I’ve espoused ‘doing your thing’ for yourself, rather than ‘doing it’ craving the attention and adulation of others. I’ve also suggested finding a neutral zone between the needs of the artist – pleasing him or herself, and the obligation to contribute to the world at large – being willing to contribute to the enjoyment of others. Yes, I know it’s not always easy to strike that balance as you tip-toe between ‘give yourself a pat on the back’ satisfaction and “what will others think?” self-consciousness. In fact, I won’t even get into perfectionism, nihilism, and procrastination but … (insert pensive pause here)
Somewhere in the above paragraph is a point I was trying to make about human nature… which is obviously lost on me now. And, maybe that’s a better point to make: we can’t always control the way things work out in life. In the end, all we can do is ‘the best we can’, and at the end of the day pray that the next one will be better. It goes without saying that life holds no guarantees. In jest, my father loved paraphrasing the adage “God never promised us a rose garden.” Almost as often, he would offer a reflective ‘roll with the punches’ afterthought: “that’s the way it goes.”
Nevertheless, it’s the pragmatics of realism that are often lost on us, especially in the face of talent. It’s easy to reach for the sky, and even easier to ultimately cry ‘sour grapes’ when our grasp yields nothing in return. Depression is as easily found when expecting too much of yourself or others, as much as it is found at the bottom of a bottle of Jack Daniels or Southern Comfort. All too often, as it most likely happened to Joe, life has a tragic way of adding insult to injury. Indeed, that’s the way it goes.
We’ve all heard the idiom of not judging a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes … or her heels (for the politically correct). Sure, it’s a good idea in theory, but at times it’s difficult in practice, especially when we are obliged to uphold various values in society which predilect a presumptive predisposition not to ‘turn the other cheek’, so to speak. So, the real question is where does empathy end and society endorsed apathy begin?
We recognize ‘uniqueness’ as a virtue, unless one boldly goes where no man has gone before, and then we call it eccentric, odd, strange, inappropriate or simply out of step with the rest. On a daily basis we speak to friends, follow the news and sit in judgement. At times we exonerate, and then the next moment we vilify. To some we extend sympathy and encouragement … and to others we spit bile. Some we just ignore … or state the obvious: to the unemployed, “get a job”; to the homeless, “get off the street”; to the lost, “get lost”. Letting people slip through the cracks is excused, perhaps a bit too often, with the caveat “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one”, as Mr. Spock once rasped upon his death.
I’m not sure why it’s so hard for many to do the outrageous by stepping out of the crowd of onlookers and focusing on the individual in need. While not everyone can be saved, or even wants to be saved, sometimes all it takes is one small act to tip someone’s world back on its proper axis. A ‘penny’ here or a ‘thank you’ there matters. And, while we certainly can’t be everything to everybody all of the time, we can definitely try to be something to at least one person even for one moment, at the very least ourselves.
If for others:
- Tell the ones you cherish you love them.
- Give them a reassuring smile.
- Give them a hug.
- Show appreciation.
- Say thank you.
If for yourself:
- Give yourself a break and don’t beat yourself up.
- Pamper yourself at least once a week.
- Forgive yourself.
- Let go of your fear.
- Give it one more day, and then one more after that.
We’re often told that life is what we make of it – and that we should make the most of it. Yet, all too often life seems a cruel mistress. Delusion, despair and depression set in. We wake up and can’t discern the slowly fading dream from the ill-begotten nightmare of reality … some of it of our own making and some of it thrust upon us. On those bleak days, my advice to you is to seek out those you love or those who love you … and ask them to pinch you.
Going forward … with salutations
A year ago today, I started this blog, so celebrate accordingly. One year on and still going forward, I’m happy that I’ve come full circle. You see, starting this blog grew out of my desire to write something truer to my nature than other previous endeavors. At some point though, my internal compass went screwy, leading me to bigger and better ‘golden calves’ that energy wise led me astray. The funny thing was that the more I listened to others preaching about what I ‘ought to do’ as a blogger, the further away I got from what I wanted to do as ‘Jay’. Still, I’m happy that I stuck to my guns here on this blog and kept to my writing commitment and New Year’s resolution. In October, I even rededicated my efforts here as I relaunched the Wooly Yarn as a self-hosted blog on WordPress.
Another of the my resolutions for 2011, according to my first post, was to “figure out what it all means”. While I don’t think I accomplished that, I at least can say that a year later I’m a hell of a lot smarter than I was back then. Of course, a year from now, I’ll probably look back and say “boy, was I ever so dumb!”
Wishing all who read this post a Happy New Year! May you all live long and prosper.