The other day I was horrified to open an automated “new post” email from a twenty-two year old blogger – she follows me so may well see this post of mine. In it, she detailed her past of bulimia and other self-harm, including cutting herself. It had started, she said, due to self-consciousness about her weight in her young teens.
I sat there reading her post with my mouth eventually – I realized – hanging half-open. I suspect I am
lots older more mature than many of you. Tales such as hers break my heart.
What she endured. And as we all know, she is hardly unique. I found myself thinking: But youth is for making memories that will make you smile when you recall them when you are older…
That excerpt is one of those happy memories sometimes I fictionalize in my novels. Of course I’ve also seen the decidedly unhappy in my family. A lifetime of heroin use killed an uncle at only age 48; and my sister (my only sibling) is also a troubled woman – but I do not understand what her fundamental problem is or what may have brought it on (and my parents always refused to tell me); and there’s more.
I have also witnessed sorrow, and even early death, among contemporary friends and extended family. In August 2008 – we are approaching the tenth anniversary – my sister-in-law’s brother’s five year old son caught septicemia after a fall on holiday in southern England and DIED. (I can still hear my now late mother’s shriek over the phone from America when I told her.) In February 2014, one of our best friends died after a long illness; she was only 45. Last week we were told privately by her sister that a lovely friend of ours – in her mid-50s – has breast cancer, and that it appears very bad.
Life can – probably to an extent will – wear you down over time. For many years, nearly every morning I have awoken not exactly eager to embrace the new day. My first thoughts are usually along the lines of, “Ugh, I’m still here?” This morning was no exception. It would be so much easier, my mind briefly pushes at me, not to be here or even never to have been here. For some minutes I feel almost overwhelmed, with my mind racing through never-ending troubles, assorted disappointments, and futilities, and even loneliness, and I wonder: “What’s the point?”
If possible, I force myself to ponder the sunrise.
I think of my wife. And I think of other family and my friends.
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Clearing the dishwasher, and making a coffee – maybe a cappuccino – I listen to music I like: pop perhaps, but often a film soundtrack, or classical such as Mozart or Bach.
I may think about God as well.
Some mornings are worse than others. (Today was pretty bad.) But I always tell myself that no matter how badly I may feel right now, it is only a moment. Moments aren’t forever. We all feel at least a tad down now and then. (Anyone who says they don’t is lying.)
I may reflect also on what I hope to accomplish in the years perhaps left to me. (I have a suspicion I won’t have a long life; I don’t come from a line of long-lived men.) I suppose, in a weird way, I feel now as long as I’ve got a book in the works, I can’t die with it unfinished. I’m driven on by the desire to try to make a distant unknown someone, somewhere, if they read one or more of my books, happier and to take their minds briefly off their own troubles, and maybe even through my writing and my experiences to spur them on in their own life in some small way.
The ugly feelings I awaken with gradually ease, and at last they do pass. Another day. Living is a series of endless challenges.
But of course a writer may die with a book unfinished. We will all die with some matters unfinished. Life is always an unfinished work.
The best way forward, indeed THE POINT in living is, I believe, to care for and try to help others.
It is understandable how some may feel we have only ourselves upon whom to rely in life. As individuals naturally no one else can live our life for us. But don’t think you have to face life alone. Don’t hide. (And park the Insta-envy. The glam you see on it is phony anyway; and, believe me, those people have daily problems, too, just as you do.)
Above all, remember you are – I am certain – cherished and loved by many just as you are. They would be distraught beyond words if you were suddenly gone. As you live each day, NEVER forget that.
For us “oldsters” to feel a bit beaten up at times by living is one thing. But to see disorders and despair in the young? Youth is not for standing in front of a bathroom mirror in secret and shoving a toothbrush down your throat to induce vomiting up your dinner.