Posted in advice, aging, escape, family, Life, love, People, random, Uncategorized

No Promises

uncertainty

“There are no guarantees in life” – who hasn’t heard that phrase, many times, or even said it yourself? It’s pretty much the go-to saying for situations where something tragic or shitty has happened, and there is no other explanation but that. I mean, I’m sure there are others- probably super religious people bring God into it (I have been guilty of this a time or two, not because I am super religious, but because I am a big, faithful believer in God’s perfect plan for us all, no matter how awful things may seem), which probably isn’t very comforting for anyone besides the person saying it. When life deals us, or maybe worse, someone we love, a crippling blow-there is often a desperate feeling of not knowing what to say, or what to do, or how to help, if help is possible. That’s the thing, though- we feel this way because sometimes, there really is nothing. Nothing you can say, do, help, that will be of any use at all. That’s a hard one for us humans.

There is something to that phrase, though- “There are no guarantees in life”. I know most of us don’t dwell on it, but it’s true. Life holds much promise, but makes no promises to anyone. None at all. Sure, there are all kinds of inferred promises we live under the impression of, but they aren’t real. They make us feel safer without actually being of any use at all- sort of like the “Oh Shit!” handle on the passenger side of your car. We make a lot of assumptions from the very start about our lives, and everyone around us encourages this, and does it themselves. We assume we will grow up. We assume we will be teenagers, move out someday, get married and have kids, perhaps. We assume that we will grow old, and that someday, far, far, down the road, we will die. For lots of us, that’s the way it goes. For others, it is not.

By the time I was twenty-two, three kids I personally knew, had died. Being young at that time, those lives lost made an impression on me, but not the way they would have now, if that makes sense. At the age I am now, these deaths would be kids my daughter knows, and it would devastate me.  Even as I write a blog about there being no promises in life, I want to say “Parents aren’t supposed to outlive their children!” Knowing as I do that parents outlive their babies every day, it still seems like a rip off of the worst kind. It seems like the most unjust thing, ever. But it’s a chance we take, knowing, God forbid, things happen. We take what life gives us and hope for the best.

It’s sort of a miracle that we can even function in the face of all of this uncertainty, don’ t you think? That we aren’t terrified to go to sleep, let the people we love out of our sight, bother having children at all, knowing what we know…I mean, doesn’t it make you think we must be the most optimistic species out there, that we just go on about our business, cheerful, hopeful, unafraid- when any second could be lights out? Obviously, we don’t go around thinking that way (I don’t- I sure hope you don’t either!) or we’d go nuts, but the fact that we can just tuck it away, in the back of our minds, and not let it bother us much…that is amazing! I have certainly had moments, and even short phases in my life, where I was struck to the core by existential dread. I think we all go through it, here and there. It is sure as hell no fun in that bleak head space, when you aren’t sure what you are, can’t vouch for what you’re actually made of, and all your faith in what happens after we die has disappeared, leaving you frozen with fear of the unknown. “I want out!” I remember thinking to myself, in the grips of one of these little bouts. “Out, where?” I recall thinking immediately after, “It’s too late- the minute you are born, you are trapped on this ride, and the only thing worse than being trapped on is being let off.” Naturally, this thought did nothing for my panic, and I was forced to spend the rest of the night (isn’t it always late at night when this particular fear strikes?) practicing deep breathing into my pillow. With the light of day, the fear diminished, silly looking when I wasn’t so alone.

You may be wondering by now what the hell got into me, to make me write this. I’m sure it’s not one of my more hilarious reads. Well, it’s like this- as some of you guys know, I am a medical coder at a hospital. I won’t bore you with the full description of my job, but I do NOT do actual patient care. I work in the Health Information Management department, which you probably know as the medical records department. I spend all day, every day, reading charts for emergency room patients, then pulling from those charts the diagnoses so that the people in the billing department know what happened and how much to charge.  99% of the time, the charts I see are for people who come in, get some help, then go home. Anything more serious, and the patients are admitted, which means someone else codes their charts. So most of the time, it’s simple, average stuff.

But sometimes people die. When it’s old people, it’s sad, and I don’t feel great about it, but at least, usually, it was quick, and they had a long life. When it’s younger people, though, that is hard on me. Many times I have cried over a chart I was coding- not all of them deaths, either. There are terrible things that happen besides death-leukemia in a seven year old, metastatic cancer in a patient who thought they’d beat their disease. Burns on little babies…you name it. But the kids in their twenties who don’t make it, that kills me. The people my age who just drop dead- that scares the crap out of me. It’s not too uncommon either. Since I’ve worked in this field, I’ve had to see a lot of things I could have avoided, otherwise. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not, to be so aware of our frailty.

Then yesterday, on Facebook, I see that my friends boyfriend has passed away. Like, out of the clear blue sky, gone. She is someone I have known a long time, but not well enough to know anything other than that he died, and that he was our age, and that I can do nothing but offer my condolences. Pray. Another dose of reality, like a palm to the face, urging me to snap out of it! This is it, man, THIS moment, right now. This is really all you’ve got, because the next one isn’t promised. Do whatever you can to make this one shine. There are no guarantees in life, you know.

Posted in advice, humor, Life, People, random

How To Survive Your Disastrous Life

Hi guys! I never got around to writing anything today, but I do have this little “draft” that’s been hanging out here forever- please note, this was prior to my “little episode”, so if you hear a distinct, biting undertone to my writing, don’t worry…I’m not backsliding, just posting old stuff.  Enjoy!

I’ve been ruminating over different variations of this theme for weeks and weeks now (How to live life; Things I wish I’d learned earlier; How to not totally suck at life, etc…), but tonight it occurred to me that the one thing I have heard again and again, from many people, about myself is that I am “strong”. It has been my experience that when all sorts of people who do not know each other tell you the same thing about yourself, there is probably some truth to it. So, though I don’t really feel especially strong, I will concede that I do have certain attributes (both inherent and learned) that have made it less painful to live through the insanity and upheaval I have built my world upon. So, I will be happy to tell you my secrets in case you were considering trading your good credit, security and relative happiness for the bipolar white trash amusement park I call my own. Here goes:

To really flourish in a messy life, the best thing you can do is #1) Be young and be pretty. This will really give you an advantage anywhere you are. It’s not considered “PC” to think this way, of course, but let’s cut the shit, shall we? Young and pretty gets you in the door every time. Unfortunately, most of us don’t realize the power we possess until after we lose it. So the best advice I can give to young, pretty, chaos-prone women is-ENJOY IT WHILE IT LASTS! If you cannot be young and pretty, you need to be able to make people think you are, anyway, by thinking so yourself. I have seen really unattractive women pull this off so well that I forgot how unattractive they were and became jealous of how comfy they were with themselves rather than snarky about their bad luck in the face department. If you can’t pull that off, either, you really need to be willing to do just about anything in bed or clean houses and cook amazing food for free. Disastrous lifers often find themselves without a permanent home, and must rely on the kindness of friends to stay off the streets. Food and the ability to help out inspire that kind of kindness.

2) Okay, so number one was kind of a joke…although it was also kind of true. That’s not something one can count on for long, though (ever, in some cases) , and it’s really not all that important at all in the long run. #2, however, is for real: Have an amazing sense of humor- how can you tell if this is something you already have? Easy. Do you crack up at your own jokes all the time? Do you sometimes burst into laughter while driving, alone, in your car because you just thought of something hilarious? Well then, you probably do. And really, as long as you think you do, you do. We’re talking about how to survive your own life, so the ability to laugh, especially at yourself, is indispensable. Life is ludicrous and terrible, sometimes. Things go so, so wrong that all’s you CAN do is laugh. Or cry, I guess. Laughing is usually my preference, and it’s way less upsetting to the people around you.

3)Don’t be afraid. I’m not saying be an idiot, either, don’t misunderstand. What I’m saying is dragging your feet and digging in your nails to hold onto your safe little spot (even though we both know it’s just familiar misery) is lame. What are you afraid of? That you might wind up screwing up and letting all of THIS (see above) go for a whole new load of shit? Well, at least it’s a NEW load of shit! You have to keep moving forward. Even if you are afraid, you just do what you think you should do anyway. When I was twenty nine, I loaded everything I owned into my Camry and moved to another state, to a town where I did not know a soul. Was it nuts? Yes. Was I scared? A little, at first. Was it worth it? It may have been the single best decision of my life- I had nothing left where I was living, and no prospects. A bad reputation and a lot of burned bridges. So I bailed. The first year was an eye opener, and I saw how bad life could really get, having a serious drug problem in a gambling city. But I turned it around, and ended up being the best I have ever been by the time I left. So suck it up, and move, already!

4) Never relinquish hope and optimism. I feel like this really goes hand in hand with the sense of humor and ability to laugh. Laughter is nothing more than a burst of joy one can hear, correct? In order to laugh and feel joy, you must have hope. If you can find the silver dollar in a pile of dung, you are going to be ok. I remember having my heart broken when I was still in my early twenties- the pain was so awful that I physically hurt from it. I couldn’t see my way out of that overwhelming ache, but I remember thinking “Today is TERRIBLE. But tomorrow, it’ll hurt less, and it’ll hurt less every day, no matter what, because time takes it away, so I can get through today.”  I really remember thinking that very thought, in my car, in agony, on a gloomy day in Pacific Grove. I had hope. I was optimistic that sooner or later, I’d feel ok again.

5) Another thought I had at that time was “I wonder what I’m supposed to learn from this?” I don’t know about you, but I believe that there are big lessons when we are going through trying times. This belief really helps me put things in perspective, and gets me looking for the point, which makes me feel like there is some order and sense to things, after all. I really believe everything happens for a reason, and exactly the way it is supposed to.

6) Be likable. When you are friendly, outgoing, and happy, people want to help you out. They want to be near you, get to know you, be your friend. You need all the friends you can get in this lifetime, man.

So that’s where I left off…whatever my state of mind, I think it is still sound advice. Tell me what you think! What would you add?