22 April 2013

Things that surprise me: 1. That I am still alive

Every morning, I wake up. It's not deliberate or thought out. It's the most minor miracle you can think of, yet it happens. One day, it won't.

Both my great-grandmother, my mother, and George Bernard Shaw have all said the same thing: that they often are disappointed to wake up. They would have preferred to die in their sleep, quietly, and be done with the whole thing.

Yet, your cells keep on driving you, whether you like it or not. It seemed like a monstrous, disgusting thing in my grandmother. She desperately wanted to die after a stroke, but her body wouldn't let her. The beast, life, still pulsed, those cells, those bacteria, the million pullulating beings that participated in her life would not let go. Until she starved herself.

I should be even more surprised to be alive than I am. Statistically, though, I'm a decent bet until 73 or so. I haven't taken a lot of deliberate physical risks, although the ones I took were stupid, and, in a regular and rational universe, I should be dead by now.

Driving at 90 miles an hour on a two-lane highway with your headlights off at night is not a formula for longevity.

Why is it that activities that bring you closest to death make you more alive? That's surprising in itself, isn't it? You'd think that nurturing plants or care taking, or keeping to strict and regular habits would infuse you with a full and robust sense of living, instead of crushing boredom. Certainly, more than indulging in such toxic behavior as doing lines of cocaine off a girl's belly. And yet. . . Maybe I'm simply confused.

Keep in mind that we're not including about the random accidents that nearly killed me off. Those are only surprising in retrospect. Partly you're outraged that they happened at all.

Me? You nearly killed precious me??

I make no special claim about these, no skill or bravery there, just. . . random luck -- although naming it so harrows the Irish blood left in me (don't even whisper those words luck or good fotune, lest you lose them). But, you slide on ice across three lanes into oncoming traffic one fine morning, and it's not skill but just timing that saves your sorry, pulsing, and suddenly sweaty ass.

I remember so many simliar near-deaths in my life -- as you probably do in yours. The hand on the poorly insulated cable in my grandmother's utility room. (I still feel the awful shudder it made in me). The unnamed, unknown  pharmaceuticals. The rock that whizzed by my left cheek. The blood from an arterial wound from cut glass pulsing out so quickly, so dark, and so much of it on the linoleum.

You'd almost think it was destiny. Until, of course, you look at the crowd around you, pushing their way to the checkout line.