I imagine that many of us have said, “After this, I promise I will never complain again.”
That’s how I felt after reading Dave Egger’s What Is the What or visiting a friend with cancer or simply reading about the latest disaster in the newspaper. Really, how small our complaints feel in the face of the steady surge of tragedy and suffering that rolls through so many people’s lives. And yet, our memories are short. A mere tickle in the throat and we are feeling so sorry for ourselves.
So I got sick. I have a cold. The shift from lush Salzburg to arid Madrid and some ill-timed air-conditioning, combined with what should understandably be sheer exhaustion from teaching so much without a break and dealing with so many organizational details in the midst of travel, hit me and sent me into self-pity mode.
I hate getting sick! I hate feeling less than my whole self, unable to meet the world head on because everything is turning inwards to fight off the bad germs. It’s bad when I have free time because I can’t fully enjoy it and it’s bad when I’m working because I have to keep going. I’ve had some of both these few days in Madrid and while the teaching remains pleasurable, I feel terrible that I’m such lousy company in the dinner gatherings afterwards. Coupled with lunching in a noisy cafeteria with folks talking to me in Spanish, a language I’m almost fluent in, but still requires effort. My old ears simply are unable to filter out the clang of silverware and squeals of kids in the other room.
And speaking of getting old, which I will frequently as I hit my last week of 59, I did a game today where people had to walk counting to the beat and stop when they reached their age. Who was the last to stop? You guessed it. Out of 60 people.
Truth be told, it is a bit sobering, but mostly it feels fine. A physically graphic picture of how I’ve walked farther down the path than they have and have gotten to see some wonderful sights.
I hope they’ll see it someday as well, but for them, it’s just a guess at this point. I’ve been there. How’s that for trying to put a positive spin on mortality?
So wash your screen after reading this, just in case germs travels with electrons, and remind yourself that we have no right to complain whatsoever. Though, of course, we will still do it.
As for me, it’s time for a nap.
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