Thursday, April 7, 2011

Listen to Rocky

When you reach a certain age, it seems to me that things just start to go wrong.

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.


  1. So - I had just posted this on Facebook.
    One of my friends says "Today is not going to be a good day." Another one says "Yup - it's a good day!" - I wonder which one will get what is expected? As for me I shall wait to see how the day unfolds. Have a great day everyone.

    And then I read today's post. They seemed to fit so I linked to your post via Facebook. - Thanks and you have a wonderful day. I am going to.

  2. Thanks for the link, Jay... and "WELCOME" to your friends who are new to The Burrow :)

    The sun is bright in the sky over my mountains this morning - I'm going to have a good day, too.

  3. I try to live that way. I like the thought, probably there's a quote that goes along with it, that we cannot control the actions that happen to us. We can control our reactions to them. On the times we lose control and react without thinking, we can go back and do what we can to correct it. That is especially true for those still raising children (sheep inspire some of it too). Life happens to us and then we make of it what we will. Sometimes we like what it brought and sometimes not so much but we always have control over how we react to it.

  4. An excellent post. I love your attitude, and the new Suzi. I never knew the old Suzi. Perhaps I wouldn't have liked her as much.

  5. You have PERFECT timing. I had this exact conversation with my newly 12-year-old last night. I am copy and pasting this and printing it out and we will read together over dinner, and he will know that not only his mother feels this way. And not that middle school and being 12 doesn't stink, but it is sure not the worse thing that could happen to you. And you get to choose.

  6. At some point in my long life - and I wish I could remember exactly when! - I realized that I could choose to be happy. It might have been while I was reading Victor Frankl's book, "Man's Search for meaning" about being in a concentration camp.It certainly was not while I was in 7th-8th grade, coming homing many nights crying from something the "mean boys" at our Catholic school had said to me. I do sometimes wonder if my adult sunny attitude might strike some friends as being "Pollyanna - ish", so I keep a bit of that old snarkiness around, especially when talking about politics!

  7. I have a quote I keep here at the office.

    finish each day and be done with it.
    you have done what you could.
    some blunders and absurdities have crept in;
    forget them as soon as you can.
    tomorrow is a new day,
    you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. - emerson

    I read this every day I'm here in the office. I do the best that I can and everyone else should too. We can choose to be happy and spread happiness or we can choose to be angry and hurt and thus those around us are affected by this attitude.

    AB, I think your attitude has been a tremendous help in your recovery. If you can overcome this horrible event, you can deal with anything.

    Sending hugs.

    Megan xxx

  8. I'm a big fan of the Dalai Lama's comfort with emotions. He lets them all play across his sky as they come, because they are all human. As long as a determinedly positive attitude doesn't interfere with that rich wash of being, I'm for it. So often, though, we Americans think we're supposed to herniate in the effort to be positive at all costs. It takes finesse to sort out attitude from emotional range, as you do.

  9. Viktor Frankl and the Dalai Lama and Emerson.... Rocky's in good company, it seems.

    Nuance, Nance.... I love that you get it.


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