It’s hard to me to remember, but I proclaimed 2011 my year of living joyfully. I was going to study philosophy, and try to understand how to appreciate life more, be happier, more resilient.
One of the hardest things in the world has to be rebounding from challenges and tragedies with our soul intact. Humankind has had to do this from its inception. Do you think our ancestors, whose life expectancy was 30, who watched their family and friends get eaten by wolves or whatever, or starve, or suffer from horrible diseases, weren’t terribly depressed?! I think about the horrors my husband’s family endured during the Holocaust, or my great-great grandfather who fled Ireland during the Potato Famine. The Flu of 1917 (Hey, it killed Edward Cullen, too!), WWI, WWII, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Rwanda, etc, etc, etc, etc.
In the infertility community, we all know about people who haven’t gotten the call. But what about the people who have gotten the call, but adjust to challenges and tragedies relatively well? Who are well-functioning, cheery, happy-seeming people? How in the world do they DO it?
I had a little glimmer of good news today. The bulls-eye on my back blurred a bit. I am driving this ridiculous tank of a car while my station wagon gets fixed. Every time I see it, I laugh. It’s a Nitro and looks like the official vehicle of the American Wrestling Association. It could not be less like my polite, safe Volvo. Yet, it’s fun to try on this identity. Instead of listening to NPR like usual and its usually downbeat programming about the Euro Debt crisis, my stereo is programmed to hip hop stations.
“You and I” came on and brought me back to when I was 16, and went to a Halloween party where a Rick James CD was on a heavy rotation. Our homecoming queen had celebrated her victory a little harder than necessary and she started puking. It was so scandalous. And my best friend and I mingled in our black cat costumes, the strict caste system of high school broken with the humbling of our queen. We danced altogether: the cheerleaders, goody-goodies, the drama people, the athletes, the nerds. And it was glorious. Turns out, Rick James is a great equalizer.
Listening to Rick James today reminded me of an interview with the great writer Laura Hillenbrand. Hillenbrand’s first book was the astonishingly good “Seabiscuit: An American Legend”. She was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Disease in her early 20s. Chronic Fatigue sounds vague, but some pathologists now think it might be a form of leukemia. It was devastating for Hillenbrand. She had tortuous episodes of vertigo and had to give up any hope of having a family. What she did instead was spend any “good” time researching and writing her first masterpiece. Once completed, she went into a tailspin of vertigo so severe that she couldn’t move. She published an account of her illness in the first person in The New Yorker that was terrifying: at one moment you are a brilliant, beautiful student at Kenyon College, the next you are completely incapacitated.
In a recent interview with the Washington Post, she said something that haunted me.
“Laura Hillenbrand, in her Washington home, says she copes with her illness by detaching herself completely from aspirations. ‘I hardly ever listen to music anymore because it arouses all of this yearning in me,’ she says.”
How incredibly sad is that?
See: yearning. I think yearning may be a key ingredient in keeping us alive and seeking joy. I don’t have a lot of yearnings, per se, but listening to “You And I” brought back a good time in my life and made me want to dance. That CAN’T be bad. No matter the pains, the accidents, the illnesses, the boredom. There is, within us, yearning to be happy, whether it’s by eating a treat or dancing or singing, or watching a good movie, or riding a horse. Some of those are within our reach.
My greatest yearning now is to finish my own book! and help others get published.
What are some yearnings, little or small that you feel, beyond reproductive plans or parenting?