Life is like a protractor. You can be one end of the arc feeling high as a kite when life is handing everything to you on a silver platter. You might also have moments on the other end feeling shattered and utter despair because of some tragedy or a series of gravely unfortunate events.
For the most part, I hang in there in the protractor of Life along the 90° mark: even-keeled, going about my business while clipping along toward the 180° mark trying to make some goals happen.
But it’s inevitable that sadness and the god-awful would happen here and there to us, to people in our circles, or both. That’s how Life works; full of dichotomies in the realm of joy and melancholy, in light and darkness, in sickness and in health.
So while I’m just here, plugging away at the daily routine of my life and dealing with the occasional (manageable) curveballs, I can’t help but take a moment to reflect and sympathize on the sad circumstances in which some people in my life – tangentially or not – have found themselves. I see the arc of life can swing extremely from 180 to 0 when a high school acquaintance, about to deliver and welcome a beautiful second baby, thrust into embolism and stroke from amniotic fluid seeping into her bloodstream. The families from both sides now deal with the aftermath of both a blessing of a healthy baby delivered via an emergency C-section as well as the initial scare of whether the mother would make it or not to now, the challenge of long term acute care to help her rehabilitate the basic skills of speaking, eating and walking independently.
Or sometimes Life will push you towards the other end when you are hanging around 90 for awhile, as is the case of a friend who’s been doing well managing her life as a bookkeeper and single mom. And then an acute illness or an accident takes away the life of her former husband with whom she’s been co-parenting well and on good terms. Suddenly, her 11-year-old daughter needs to cope with growing up without a father, and she now lost her friend and co-parent.
Or Life will figure you don’t seem to have enough on your plate, like my friend who needs to single-parent it with her 9-year-old because her husband travels so much for work while she’s juggling her job and managing extracurricular activities of her child. And then wham! The mole on the back of her knee feels like growing and becomes diagnosed as Stage 1 basal carcinoma. Although the mole will be excised via a routine outpatient surgery, it’s a scary brush with cancer.
I don’t know if it’s true that the Universe will only give you stuff that you can handle, because some ordeals are really, awfully shitty. When you think about the examples I have given, and then think about even much worse scenarios of people in your life or even in your own life, what really makes one able to handle their business despite Life’s curveballs or fastballs? Is it the never breaking down and giving up? Is it the still going about one’s daily business of going to work and raising kids? Is it the asking for help and support? How does one really rebound from such harsh swings on the arc without crashing into the rock wall?
I don’t have answers to these questions. But despite Life’s uncertainties and sometimes, brevity, I’m sure of one thing: that the full range of experiences and emotions derived from them are what makes human life worth living, and that how we react and deal with all these experiences are what makes us such dynamic, complex and wonderful species. I don’t need to have felt personal grievances to empathize and sympathize with other’s tragedies because part of being human is to have compassion, to want to support my fellow beings as we go through life. I think about how I can help them and also how I would act and react if I were placed in their shoes, how I might grow because of the experiences. I say a prayer for them and their loved ones, I think about them from time to time, and for them and for myself, I keep calm and live on and do the best I can with what I have, because that is what you do in Life.