For some people, that age is 12. Adolescence, filled with acne and addled senses, makes every day a lousy day. Some people never manage to get past those years. Stuck in their sad sack soup, there's not a lot of room for sunshine and smiles. When you leave your teen years with a chip on your shoulder, a chip reinforced by the daily hurts and slights of middle school and high school, you develop a protective covering. That carapace keeps others at bay while keeping you safe within your "no expectations = no disappointments" zone.
It's a lonely way to live.
For some people, it starts when their athletic career is over, when there is no frisson of excitement as they walk into a room. Suddenly those aches and pains which were just a part of the game are now just a regular part of their regular lives. Machismo meets the mundane, and mountains become molehills.
Some of us manage to get through college and young adulthood miraculously untouched by trauma or treacly sentiment (I'm really working hard on these alliterations...). We've watched from the outside as others lost parents and jobs and children and opportunities and we wondered how they did it, how they survived, how they coped..... all those same questions which are being lobbed my way these days.
Old age comes upon us like this, I think. One day all your parts are in fine working order, ship-shape, able to withstand a heavy rain or a doctor's appointment. The next, you are on your way to an MRI for an ailment which was discovered during the treatment of another misfortune which was only diagnosed when you went in for your annual check up and your blood work was unusual.
Once things start to go downhill, it's hard to turn them around. It's not the broken hip which does you in, it's the pneumonia from lying around because moving hurts more than you can bear and where would you go anyhow? One day everyone in the diner stands up and applauds when you open the door, the next you are slinking into a back booth, ashamed that you've fallen so far.
The events are out of your control. Life sucks.
And this is where Rocky comes in. Rocky, who's had a hard time these last few decades. Rocky, who's always got an ear for a friend's troubles and then, abashedly, begins to share her own woes. Our woes overlap sometimes, and it's good to have an old friend around to listen to the gunk which sometimes just has to pour out. She listens to me. I listen to her. I'm better at some things, she at others. On this one she is spot on :
Attitude is the ONLY thing you can control.I couldn't help myself; I put her on speaker-phone (did you see the one in The Good Wife last night?) and typed her words as she spoke them:
You have a choice every morning when you wake up. That's a gift.
Look around you - you don't usually have a choice.
You can be pissy - you have every right to be - it's your choice.
But remember, it's your choice.Would that I had had that tattooed on my forehead during the Cuters' formative years.
She's relinquishing control over the most basic aspect of another's life -- attitude. She's recognizing our inability to control much of anything, and giving us a tool to provide us with control over something. And the end result is so much more pleasant.
When people ask me how I stay so cheery, I think it's because my attitude is the only thing that I can control. I couldn't control the shooter. I couldn't control the fates which brought Christina and me and him to the same corner on the same sunny Saturday. I coudln't control how fast my hip heals nor how quickly my scars fade, though I could help them along just a little bit. I couldn't control my comings and goings, nor my body's ability to move through space.
That was a spiral I was determined to avoid. What started out as a flippant answer to an oft asked question became a mantra for my recovery
The sun came up this morning and I am here to see it. By definition, it's a good day.Because isn't that better than listening to me sigh? If I sigh then you'll sigh and pretty soon we're all stuck in the muck, weighted down with the finality of it all.
If I'm determined to be upbeat about what is without question the most awful thing that has ever happened to me, if I am determined to remember that Christina-Taylor would be totally peeved if she knew that I were sulking and moping around, if I am determined to bring some good out of this horrible sequence of events, then I have to start at home, right here, with me/myself/I.
I really was a snarky New York heathen before this all happened to me. A happy snarky heathen, but a snarky one all the same. Along with 6 units of blood, my snarkiness seems to have been left behind on January 8th.
Like Rocky says, I have a choice.
I choose to smile.