Tuesday, November 27, 2007
I believe there comes a moment in life when you realise that “that’s it!” These are the cards you were dealt. You did your best with them, or your worst, but there’s no reshuffling of the deck, no second chance at a better hand. Nothing will fundamentally change. None of the great deeds you were going to accomplish will happen. The miracle you’ve always thought to be just around that next corner has never come and will forever elude you.
Certainly, you continue to fight, and dream, and build, and cry, and hope, and create, and love, and dream some more, but somewhere deep inside you, where the harshest of truths are held, sometimes unrecognisable even to yourself, lurks this cold fact. Maybe you’re living your perfect life, you’re happy, you have a great family, a good job, maybe you’re a published writer or whatever else meets your fancy. It doesn’t mean you have to be sad – you could be perfectly content - it’s just a fact.
Look around you. Look inside you. That is the place where you were born and this is your family; these are the choices you’ve made; this is the person you’ve married and not somebody else, this is where you live, in this house, in this town and not in another, this is what you do, these are your children, or maybe you don’t have any, by your choice or nature’s. I’m not saying that you’re not happy with your spouse or that you’re not content with your life. But, could you have done everything – or at least some things - differently? How would your life have been had you taken another decision at some crossroads? Do you wonder?
It’s not true discontent that I’m voicing, but a nostalgia coming from the idea of closed (or drastically narrowing, to be more optimistic) possibilities. Others are eighteen now, not you, others are starting their lives.
But when you have a relatively “normal” life, all this sounds trivial in the end compared to the tragedies that devastate other people’s lives. Just an example from yesterday’s newspaper: In 2006, after being forced to squat on the floor for three hours, 19-year old Private Andrei Sychyov, from the Russian army, developed gangrene and the doctors had to amputate his legs and genitals. And his future, of course. Talk about a bad hand…
And another pespective: On the drive home to my older daughter’s school, I sometimes catch a glimpse of a man or a woman; I see them because there is an old people’s home there and they get out for a stroll or just a breath of air when the weather’s permitting. Not together. He is thin, frail, wears huge round glasses, and has a walking cane. She is diminutive and needs a four-legged metal support, just to stand. I’ve rarely seen them move. And I think of them that they just exist, enduring each day, or maybe enjoying it and hoping for the next one. Yesterday, I saw the man and thought, what about this man, how was this life of his that brought him here, how good, how bad? Does all this existential angst mean anything to him?
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That’s probably one of the reasons why writing means so much to me. When I plunge into it, everything else is erased. I have a clean slate. I can start a new life every time, without discarding my “real” one. I have myriad possibilities, all waiting for me. I can open a new deck of cards and even cheat…