Today I am being and doing all the things in the title a little more than I did yesterday.
These are not ground breaking statements, in fact they are what I jotted down from a Wordle poster I was spending more time reading than I should have done during a tedious meeting the other day. But they stuck with me, and as I usually remember very little, being cursed with a memory like that kitchen implement with very small holes in it, I feel that this imbues them with a certain 'specialness', a truthfulness if you will.
Now I honestly believe that I have a very good life, I am happy and I want for nothing that is necessary to keep body and soul together. Okay, so I don't have that pony I've wanted since I was seven and neither am I Mrs Jake Gyllanhall, but those gripes aside, I am very lucky. Of course, it is human nature to not recognise this (by choice or happenstance) most of the time. There are so many things to divert the mind after all... from the big and universal - the state of the world, government screw ups, economics and the environment for example, to the small and personal - the traffic, the weather, work, having to clean out the litter tray when the cat has JUST COME IN FROM OUTDOORS! What, was it too cold to use nature's bathroom or something?
Anyway, to return to the point. The reason I am being happy as opposed to simply thinking about it or recognising as an afterward that I was happy, is because of a young man I met today. He is 16, confined to bed and brain damaged after an accident three years ago. One moment, an ordinary boy on his way to school maybe, thinking about the weekend, perhaps texting his friends or kicking a football around and the next - a lifetime of operations, hospital stays, 24 hour care and losing everything he must have wanted to do in his life. All in one unanticipated, random second. A second that determined he was in the exact time and place where tragedy could and did occur.
I read in his notes that he had lost a lot of his communication skills and understanding but that he liked to chat if a conversation was started. If there's one thing I can do, it's start a conversation and keep it going. I have had a lot of practice in showing interest in subjects I know nothing about, from car maintenance to gaming and I know from experience that if the other person is on familiar ground, there is little I need to do to make them feel secure and confident than just let them run with it while smiling and nodding in appropriate places. A great element of being a good teacher is being a passable actor. I don't mean that these are not valuable and interesting conversations to be involved in, just that they are not necessarily topic foci that I would choose if asked. I learn a lot of interesting stuff this way that I would not ever even have thought to ponder upon.
So, I introduced myself and he held out his hand to shake mine (he's lying flat on a bed) and announces 'I'm (name), pleased to meet you' so I responded with, 'Wow, you are such a gentleman, how chivalrous, offering a lady your hand. I don't know any other young men who do that" and he snaps back, quick as a shot, 'Well you must know a lot of rude men then' and laughed. Straight away, he was human; funny; sharp witted; kind and more than that, he was his own personality - he was living, he was enjoying life and he wasn't just a cipher, a 3D version of all the things I had read in his notes which by the nature of medical notes, were essentially a list of things he could no longer do. So we chatted; about nothing outstanding or mind blowingly original - about dogs, school, hanging out with his friends, the way he 'rules the roost' within his family, watching tv, eating ham sandwiches, pizza toppings and being Italian. I spent about 20 minutes with him and then left before he became too tired.
He, along with two other young people I have recently met, who have also had their lives changed forever through accidents, have really brought home to me how very, very precious life is and how quickly it can be taken away.
There was a real sense of, for a better word, grace, about this young man and the way that he was coping with his altered self. Can he remember how he was before? I don't know and in many ways I hope that he can't but that is from my perspective and assumption that knowing how you used to be and trying to reconcile that with the here and now would be unbearably painful. I am not sure if I can fully appreciate his experience from my charmed postion. For him, however, it appeared simple; it was about being in the present, not worrying about the past and not being concerned about the future. It was about communicating in a way that was meaningful and recognised by somebody else as important even if ultimately, in the grand scheme of things, the conversation was unimportant. Perhaps the not being important, the being ordinary and everyday was the best thing about our conversation because it is what everybody else does all the time - what we all take for granted; passing the time of day sharing and being appreciated for who we are right now, not who we were or could be.
So, though it may sound somewhat Pollyanna-ish, today I noticed the birds singing in the carpark as I left work, I appreciated the sun as it went down and I gave my children an extra big bedtime hug and told them that I loved them rather than assuming that they somehow know it intrinsically.