Tuesday, May 10, 2011

change. of. life.

I am pretty sure if we really grasped the fragile nature of this life, we'd all be shrieking, hair-tearing lunatics, too frightened to step out the front door. I, maybe most of us, live in an insulated state, making my little plans, setting out each day to accomplish this task and that one. It does not normally occur to me that any moment the earth might yawn wide beneath my feet, plunging me into a chasm of uncertainty that is the only real absolute in life. Who could live with that knowing? Who??

When a little over a month ago, my husband woke from a nap swollen and gasping for air, the earth yawned wide. I know terrible things happen to people every day; I'm no Pollyanna. Dreadful, unexpected, unplanned for events happen with fair regularity and we are none of us immune. Yet I don't think anyone can live sanely with a real time awareness of that second life, the swirling, fetid undercurrent below the good life we all expect and hope to live in. Down there lies sudden, severe illness, natural disaster, wars, murders, personal crises of every stripe, and devastating world events. It is silent, this tandem reality, yet as true as the one we live in most days.

Without beating to death the obvious, it is the most extraordinary thing to know the very instant, the moment, the nanosecond that life changes. "I can't breathe." Three words irrevocably changed my world from that second forward. A slow motion sequence of events, from those words through what came after, runs over and over through my mind, a five week looping replay, replay, replay.

And much did come after. There was much good, with excellent medical care, brilliant doctors, and compassionate caregivers. And there was one very, very bad night, when neglect and indifference stopped the heart I love for seven torturous minutes.

Even now, having been through the nightmare of weeks and weeks in hospital, medical care and medical mistakes, diagnoses and lack thereof, I find that I'm edging again toward that calm place where bad things don't happen. Truly, how else can we live? The alternative is an impossible ~ yet still powerless ~ hypervigilance. It's not possible to openly live with the truth of it, that we're swept along in this river of life bobbing in the sunlight, while all manner of uglies clutch and grasp at us from below.

Life changes in an instant, turns on a dime, the earth tilts on its axis. Only cliches provide some semblance of comfort, assuring that this is a widely shared human condition, that my little family isn't being singled out somehow. Satchel Paige said "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you." And I'll add to that, don't look down. Don't look beneath the surface. It's too terrifying. Better to live in that safe space above, where the sun shines every day. At least for the moment.

Have you ever lost your footing in a completely unexpected way? Were you able to get it back? Did it forever change your outlook on life? Tell, please. I know we're not alone in this, but it's a comfort to hear that from others.

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