Thursday, January 6, 2011

To live or not to live

I was reading a review of a young adult book in which the protagonist is in a place in which she must decide whether to come back to life or to go onto death. It was "If I Stay" by Gayle Forman. This otherwise positive review raised some questions for me. The protagonist was a young musician who lingers in the in between world between life and death. The questions she faces, I would think, present itself to all of us at one time or another whether old or young whether to continue existence in this world or not or to give up the struggle. Is this a new question? Can it be labeled suicide? No, I don't think so. That is a package, neatly wrapped and put under a tree. Most questions are not put into a box.

A year ago, the pain of just moving was immense for me and although I never considered giving up the struggle of existence, it did occur to me on many mornings as I looked out my bedroom window that it just wasn't worth getting up and engaging in the world. Younger people often think of the older person as not having much benefit to anyone and never consider their existence of much value anyhow, so if you are one to listen to others you might think it wasn't of much use. I wasn't one to listen so I got up but too many times I did not. It was a form of living death to lie there and to read and watch television.

Today, I am in bed and this laptop is in my lap. I have the flu. Last night it was worse and I feel so much better, but the bug is lingering on. Luckily for me, I bought some things to read yesterday but unlucky for others I probably was contagious too although I did not know it. Sorry, to all that I came in contact with.

The question of staying in this world is not a quaint or odd one at all. I certainly entertained that very subject on many occasions growing up. I am optimistic by nature and figured that I would be in a better place than in the dysfunctional world of childhood. Besides, childhood had books and that was of immense help to me. I did not care for school very much but I loved college especially graduate school. All of those years spent in dull and desperate classrooms were worth those wonderful golden times in graduate school. If I had the money and the opportunity, I would go on and get my phd. I have no idea what I would do with it, but if graduate school was anything to judge, I would probably enjoy my time in getting a doctorate in English literature.

Every morning when each of us opens our eyes, there is an implied decision on whether to continue in this world. I can see how life in other places would make that decision harder to make or having a worse health condition making some people's decision to go on a very brave one. I have lost some weight and am in better health than a year ago. I also have no serious financial difficulties but know many people who do. Some people do not even have a bed to wake up from. The world is not a fair and equatable place. Some people have far more than I have too.

I served in the military during the Viet Nam War and saw the cost of war up close and can imagine what our troops must be going through right now. I can imagine those who had no choice as to wake up or not, parents and relatives who woke up to the news that their sons or daughters were not coming back alive. My brother did not come back alive but as a shell until even that wasn't there anymore.

I am far less sure of life and of the day now than I was years ago. I was so arrogant in my youth. It's hard thinking about how I was in years past. I was so sure of myself and of my opinions. I see people on television wearing tea bags with such strong opinions. The only one that I am sure of is "I don't know.". If anyone would have asked me years ago, I would have had a litany of beliefs all lined down my journal that I was sure of and that the world should take notice. I can only chuckle at that now.

So, what does this all have to do with being healthy? I guess it is a sense of honesty with myself. Many years ago, I knew a ballerina who was sure he could control what illness would come into his life. He was in wonderful shape and danced wonderfully. He is in great shape now but teaches and rarely dances. He told me he had had skin cancer several times and it utterly scared to death him when the doctor told him. He had beaten it, but he had thought he could not have it if he did not want it. He was sure he did not want it. He thought the doctor was jealous of him and was lying to him so went to another doctor who told him the same. He did not even stay out and get suntans. I remember the first time I got cancer. Cancer was what everyone else got and not me. I was not as beautiful as my friend or in such great shape, but unconsciously shared the same fantasy.

The older I get, the more walls come tumbling down. I have never broken a bone but I have had pneumonia. I had some hearing loss although I protected it jealously because I love music and was a musician. I have arthritis. My eyesight is not as good as it used to be so I don't see the wrinkles that are gathering on my face and the additional freckles that seem to come every year are just that, freckles and not age spots. The other day, my grandsons were looking to see how their life lines were on their palms and I looked to see if mine showed if I would live long or not. Then I realized I already know I will live long. I looked anyhow. I have a long life line.

My doctor will be prejudiced against my medical needs. Doctors used to pull out all of the stops to save my life. The older I get, the less inclined the medical establishment will be willing to do that. I need to think about options about end of life measures. I can't if I am not realistic. To live or not to live used to be a huge and monumental question. It isn't anymore and to be honest it really wasn't in the first place. I am just getting a bit more honest with myself. I am also living in a more realistic world instead of the movie I saw myself in. I was such a drama queen.

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