Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

A Thousand Natural Shocks

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My mother almost died last week. At least, she could have died if the blood clots she didn’t know she had had broken off and stopped her heart. Fortunately that didn’t happen, and she’s home now, taking her blood thinners and glad to be alive, as are all of us, her friends and family. I am profoundly grateful that the clots were found and dealt with before the worst could happen, but for some reason I haven’t felt the elation at this outcome that I believe I should.

So what’s wrong with me? Why am I not jumping for joy? I certainly have shed some tears – saying goodbye to the excellent nurses who took such good care of my mother got me all choked up. Hearing her voice returning to its normal pitch and resonance warmed my heart. Seeing her laugh hysterically at a funny story made me smile and laugh, too. But that sense of overwhelming relief, that feeling that “wow, we really dodged a bullet!” and the accompanying lightness of heart – none of that has happened for me, and it bothers me.

Maybe it’s because I still haven’t stopped steeling myself for the possibility that all this could change in an instant. Even after they started her on the blood thinners and instructed her to stay as motionless as possible, there was a period of time, measured in hours, that she was still vulnerable. Even there, in ICU, with doctors and nurses all around her, the worst could have happened, and there is nothing more they could have done to stop it. Even as I arranged the stuff on her tray, and pulled her blankets up around her shoulders, and kissed her head, I knew that she could be taken from me at any moment. For some reason that tension, that fear, hasn’t left me – even though she’s officially out of danger.

Maybe it’s because I’m older, and death is closer to me and to most of the people I love. I haven’t spent a lot of time up to now thinking about death, but the certainty of it has taken up a small but definite place in my mind. So for the first time in my life I know that death isn’t far away, and I’m not sure how to adjust my worldview to accommodate this new presence in my consciousness.

Maybe it’s because I’m feeling a bit weary of life right now. In the Shakespeare play, Hamlet talks about “the heartache, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to” as he contemplates his own living and dying. I sometimes feel that weight of life, that tiredness that comes from facing, over and over, the trials and tribulations that come with being a human being. It gets old, all the facing up to and dealing with and moving on. I imagine most everybody feels this way at one time or another, and probably multiple times. It’s part of the tour package.

Whatever the reason, I have felt that something fundamental has shifted in me. I’m generally an ebullient person, loud and lavish in my love of my loved ones, and I don’t think that’s changed. It’s more that there’s a new note in my song, a low, solemn tone that runs softly underneath, lending a depth to the music I make. I don’t think it will keep me from soaring, but instead, maybe it’s there to keep me more grounded. If that’s true, then that’s a good thing, even if it’s a bit sad. But maybe we need a little sadness to fully appreciate the joy.

photo credit: juhansonin AliveCor iOS screenshot via photopin (license)

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