I’d like to print out a stack of cards that simply say “Perspective” so that I can hand them to people whenever they whine and complain about problems that aren’t really problems at all. I would ask the person to meditate on the word like a Zen Koan and think before they speak again. There are many times when I am wallowing in self-pity and could use a card myself. I’ve been in a very irritable and depressed mood lately and that has kept me prisoner in my house because I don’t want those feelings to contaminate anyone else’s day. There are so many moments when I believe I’m facing the most horrible circumstances imaginable: a dead husband who didn’t make it to 32. And then I watch a documentary like So Much, So Fast about a man in his 20’s who is diagnosed with ALS. or Lou Gehrig’s Disease as it is commonly referred to.
The film documents the five-year period starting off with his initial diagnosis and his steady decline. In those five years he manages to get married, have a son, and completely remodel two houses. And never once do you hear him say life isn’t fair or complain about his nightmare. He remains positive and hopeful despite the fact he can no longer move any of his limbs and can no longer speak. He withers away before the camera but does so with grace and courage. He nor his family waste time feeling depressed or angry but rather they to their best to enjoy every minute to the best of their abilities. One of the quotes from the film is “When one journey comes to an end, another begins” and I’m sure I’ve heard this before, but it didn’t strike me the way it did while watching this movie.
I realize my life is not the one I had planned but I was never promised happily ever after either. That only exists in ridiculous fairy tales in which everything turns out well, unless it was written by the Brothers Grimm of course. I think we are brainwashed into believing we’re all entitled to happy endings because that’s how most Hollywood stories are written.
Jason’s death was sudden and unexpected so there was no time to say what I needed to say. I would trade the rest of my life for just one more minute with Jason to tell him how much I loved him and how proud I was of everything he did. Then I think about diseases like ALS and cancer and how those families did have a chance to plan for the inevitable. Yet I don’t believe I could handle witnessing my healthy and active husband’s slow decline and drawn out period of suffering. I have to take small comfort in knowing his death was quick and he was doing something he enjoyed when it happened.
It ultimately comes down to perspective. My problem will never be as horrible as someone else’s.