Life has a tendency to string you along for a while, giving the impression that it’s all rather predictable. Then one day you wake up and find you’ve turned into a giant insect and wham! The world is suddenly a very different place.
Of course not everyone has an experience quite as extreme as Kafka’s unfortunate protagonist Gregor, in his story The Metamorphosis. For most of us those unexpected events that you didn’t see coming may be relatively common, although still life changing. You lose your job, get in a traffic accident or break up with a partner and suddenly the sense of stability is gone and all bets are off. It reminds you of just how fragile a construction our lives can be and how a single decision or chance event, somewhere back in time, can potentially ripple through the universe like a personal tsunami, overturning your plans and hopes like so many little boats.
Perhaps what is most extraordinary is how people are able to cope with even the most devastating misfortunes. Imagine seeing one’s home destroyed by bombs: losing loved ones, your job / business and whole way of life and being forced to flee in the hope of finding sanctuary. For most of us it is hard to get our heads around the pain and stress of such horrors. We read the news and perhaps for a short time feel some sort of connection and sympathy for such refugees in their time of need. Then many of us in the ‘developed’ western nations return to fuming over a delayed train, a slow supermarket checkout or a disappointing cappuccino foam.
A good half of the art of living is resilience.”
― Alain de Botton
It makes no sense to berate ourselves for our sometimes shallow and selfish ways. All we can do is try to keep a sense of perspective on our own problems and nurture our compassion for those considerably worse off (as well as donating whatever time and / or money we can spare).
My own most recent ‘curve ball’ has been in the shape of a sudden onset of a vision problem in my right eye (formerly my ‘good’ eye). Seeing a ‘blob’ shape and some blurred vision sent me scurrying to the eye doc for tests and a diagnosis that was actually far less scary than the name sounds: Central serous chorioretinopathy. What it translates to is a usually non-sight-threatening condition, a little bump (or hillock if you will) in the retina that renders central vision rather blurry and distorts straight lines. The prognosis is quite positive – these things usually clear up on their own in a few months, without requiring treatment. I’d cross my fingers but I’m not really superstitious and It’s hard to type with crossed fingers.
Something like this can set the mind racing, you imagine all sorts of terrible outcomes and scenarios. Or at least if you’re me you do. Within a day of first noticing the problem I was already internet-self-diagnosed with a plethora of hideous conditions and practically naming my guide dog. Such are the travails of the neurotic hypochondriac.
It’s at times like these you start to think about how many things we all take or granted. Our amazing senses usually work so smoothly, day after day, that any interruption to normal service comes as a very rude shock to the system.
Most of us will probably never experience fleeing a bombed-out home, or indeed waking up as a giant cockroach (hopefully). But many of us will at some point deal with unexpected challenges, stresses and difficulties of all sorts. In times such as these we can feel grateful for the support of loved ones, the marvels of modern medical science and the fortunate availability of cheap alcoholic beverages. Yoga, mindfulness meditation, and stoic philosophy all have their uses, but sometimes a couple of beers or a decent glass of wine really is just what the doctor ordered.
It’s probably comforting to think that should the worst happen and we do find ourselves one day coping with life as a huge freakish insect, at least we can still enjoy a few drinks, snacks and some suitable movies. Plus they say cockroaches could survive a major nuclear conflict, so there’s always a silver lining if you look for it.
©Text copyright Jason Lennick 2016. All rights reserved.