Cliché alert: No matter how discouraging or outright difficult our days may be, it can always be worse. You may have heard that nugget from your parents. You may have learned it through an elective at the School of Hard Knocks. Or maybe your life is all rainbows and unicorns, so far.
I’ve done some moaning about our still incomplete 2016 harvest and now impossible 2017 seeding and what that means to us. I’ve complained obliquely about being busy. But it’s hard to go all out on that when so often it’s self-inflicted! I’ve engaged in some wishful, wistful thinking. Why doesn’t my tribe ever have a family reunion? Why don’t we have a lake lot and motorhome and the fun that comes with those weekend escapes to the beach? Why haven’t we had the cushions on our patio chairs since we bought them three or four years ago? Why are there only twenty-four hours in a day?
However, when any of us can pry ourselves away from the myopic focus on the good, the bad, the ugly of our minute-to-minute existence, we begin to see life differently.
We see the funeral of a sixty-five year old friend who died after a year-long fight with leukemia. A year of treatments that, ironically, “cured” the cancer but took him anyway because of complications from the stem cell transplant. A guy who was decent and honourable; a man committed to family and community; a husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, friend, colleague. A guy who’d worked hard and had the time and resources to travel the world and did.
Or the pancreatic cancer that is about to cut short the life of a fifty-four year-old. A woman who lost her sister to the same disease. A woman whose daughter chose to get married in her mother’s hospital room so she could be present. A woman who’s chosen to leave the hospital and die at home. A woman who I saw taking pictures of the décor at the Christmas party, who, at that time, hadn’t yet received a cruel death sentence. A woman who was creative and hard-working and loved beautiful things and good ideas and didn’t yet know that her life would be measured in weeks.
Unless we are living in total oblivion it is impossible to hear and think about stories like this and remain unaffected. To avoid doing the complex computations, permutations, transmutations, and any other ?ations you can imagine that result in comparing their story, their reality to our own. To the conclusion that, oh my God, I’m so freaking lucky or hell, yes, my situation is worse. We’re wondering what we can do to prevent such tragedy befalling us. How we can squeeze more life out of the life we have. How we’ve managed to dodge the really bad bullets so far. How long our luck can hold (hint: not indefinitely). How a more grateful focus on our blessings can make our days, if not perfect, then at least manageable. That, dear reader is the latest insight from where I sit.
Hazel Anaka’s first novel is Lucky Dog. Visit her website for more information or follow her on Twitter @anakawrites.