On Sunday morning, I was blissfully wandering amongst plum blossoms and browsing amongst happy vegetables at the local farmer’s market. On Sunday afternoon, I was lying in bed with an ice pack and four Advil coursing through my blood stream. All from the simple mistake of carrying home a too-heavy bag of food the wrong way. In the past twenty years, I’ve had the agony of my back going out now and then and while this was not a full-blown-can’t-move-get-thee-to-the-chiropractor-catastrophe, it was enough to send me tail-spinning into mild depression. I actually haven’t had a big problem for the past five years, but it only took two seconds to remember that feeling of limitation, of having to calculate one’s every move, of feeling so much less than my whole self. And then that sense of self-pity and rage against the world. “Why me? I was so happy this morning?!”
In the big picture, this is pretty small potatoes compared to the long list of catstrophes awaiting us at any moment. I was able to walk and drive yesterday and though I’m still on the edge, a few more days of careful activity with ice and aspirin should bring me back to full strength. But it is a reminder of our fraility and vulnerability, of that uncomfortable truth that no matter how much we try to control and direct our lives, we are constantly at the mercy of microbes and muscles, not to mention bad weather, bad politics and bad luck. As the old proverb reminds us: no matter how wonderful we feel here today, it all can be gone tomorrow. In a flash.
Which brings me to the season finale of Downton Abby. What the hell?!!! Was this the writers trying to instruct us with a profound truth or a cheap shot to get us to tune in next season? I’m cynically inclined toward the latter. Even Masterpiece Theater has succumbed to the formula that only disaster keeps us hooked in. Who would want to tune in next year to a happy family?
Well, I would. I’m of the camp that literature and art is there to tell truth and that includes facing head-on the terror of this life. But it is also there to hold our hand and comfort and uplift. I’m still a big fan of the happy ending, because though mortality waits around the corner, the beauty of a hard-earned here today is every bit as real and necessary to remember.
So off to bed with ice to continue my catch-up watching of Season 2. Just at the point where Matthew is about to recover feeling in his legs. He had despaired of every walking again and suddenly there's hope. Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!