Saturday, November 5, 2016

On Character

Now that I've sufficiently survived surgery physically, the psychological stuff is creeping in.

Creeping is apropos.

People keep telling me I'm so brave or so strong to go through it all and then to be up and at 'em so soon after. But I just happened to survive. There was nothing brave about it. I went through with something scary that could likely save my life. If I hadn't, I would have considered myself cowardly, but it doesn't follow that, therefore, it was an act of courage, but, rather, something in the middle. It's just the reasonable thing to do. I just showed up, went to sleep on the table, and woke up and kept breathing. It's just dumb luck that I'm recovering so quickly. Continuing to exist isn't so much an accomplishment as it is a thing that we do until we don't.

I'm full of weird little phobias that I hadn't really noticed before. I don't like thinking about how my body works. I'm fine with other people's surgeries and gory pictures and videos, but I don't like to acknowledge that my body is full of veins and arteries and muscle tissue. It gives me the willies! And now it feels like there's a metal grate strapped to my chest, but it's just my ribcage!! It's cold and hard. I haven't really touched it yet. It's pretty gross. I was never very busty, but it makes a difference losing globs of fat off your frame all in one go.

I'm hyperaware of every corner in my home now: doors half open, tops of chairs sticking out from the table, the flailing elbows and knees of my gangly adolescent. I'm a total klutz at the best of times, regularly hitting the trim of doorways with half my body as I try to make it through that three-foot-wide opening, but if anything happens now, it's gonna hurt like a son-of-a-bitch! Just thinking about it gives my chest a freaky, cold, tingly feeling! Every angular shape has taken on an ominous tone.

Why did I buy killer chairs??
Why do I even live here??

And I'm nervous about that movie trope when a character makes a decision to further their life, and then they die anyway of something different because no matter what we can't change our fate. Even thought I don't rationally believe in fate at all, not even a little bit, it still kinda feels like the risk of getting hit by a mac truck are higher for me now. Actually I'll probably get brain cancer from sitting in front of Netflix and Facebook and Blogger for two-weeks straight. I've seen all of the movies, and I'm only halfway through my couch time.

I went for a haircut yesterday for the first time in years, just to get my hair washed after a week of not being allowed to shower, and I can't figure out how to do it in the sink without leaning on the counter, which just isn't going to happen for a while (yikes - chest tingles!). I just needed someone with one of those tilty chairs. They should have them at the back of every CCAC so you can get cleaned up after getting your dressing changed. Anyway, sixty bucks later and my hair's sticky with product and all poofy. Is that the style now??  I immediately put it in a pony tail. But I dragged my daughter along in case I passed out walking two blocks. She asked, "What good am I going to do?" but she came anyway.

So, for this I'm not really courageous or strong. I am sometimes both of those, but this isn't a thing to be remembered for. Except I think I'm more thoughtful than I would have thought previously. I was concerned about my kids missing school to sit with me, and the nurses being uncomfortable while they have to bend over me to work, and it kills me that I missed commencement at school this year. But that's pretty standard mom stuff.

Character should be lauded when people stand up against the masses. It's a sign of character to keep doing the right thing when people call you names for it - like Aaron Swartz (watched this great doc yesterday). I'm only just this year not a total freak for actually believing climate change is something to worry about. All eye-rolls and side-eyed grins and open palm to forehead gestures I've tolerated and yet soldiered on, that takes strength and courage up the wazoo. Because it's so easy to be like everyone else, to be a mass consumer and sit on the prosperous team that looks shiny and gets places quickly. And I don't think I actively helped further the momentum of the movement despite attending marches and joining groups and forwarding info and talking about it until people can't stand me; I just worked hard to avoid adding to the problem and to try to help by spreading the word in any way I can through reasonable but gentle persuasion in an attempt to avoid a backlash. It's an accomplishment in that it takes effort just to be heard at all, not that it saved the world.

The many of us who try to spread the bad news know we won't be praised for our courage or strength. But we do it anyway. That's what character's all about.


The Mound of Sound said...

Marie, sorry to be a jerk but this is not the time for selling yourself short. Acting on good and powerfully rational reasons is much less commonplace than we try to make ourselves believe. If that was the standard, if only, try to imagine how the world today would be different than it is.

We do what we do not because we're arrogant enough to believe that it will make much difference but because we hope it will make some slight difference. We hope it will bring a greater awareness, that tiny bit that, when added to all the other tiny bits, brings us closer to achieving the critical mass without which change is all but impossible. It's when we stop trying, when we give up that we're really screwed.

Marie Snyder said...

I reject the labels for these acts because I have a problem with noble traits assigned to the basic will to live. I think we're remiss when we relegate esteem for acts that are anything but other-centred. It just feels wrong, like we're watering down what it means to have character until it no longer really exists.

Being reasonable? Yes. I'll buy that. But being strong and courageous? Not so much. However, after going out for a walk and back, I think that just applies to me, or, that is to say, it can't be generalized. For some people it takes a huge amount of courage to carry on, just to live, to care about life. That comes effortless to me. I'm driven to survive. Not enough to work out, mind you, but enough to get preventative surgery.

Lorne said...

Just to add to The Mound's comment, Marie, I think the choice we have is the choice to either ignore the inner voice and go with the crowd, or listen to that voice and act appropriately, however we individually define that. I think the latter choice is the choice of character, because it is not necessarily the easy choice.