With shortness of breath, I’ll explain the infinite. How rare and beautiful it truly is that we exist.
Sleeping At Last –– Saturn
My son uttered a set of words the other day that seemed too old for his eleven-year-old lips –– “Every day, I get up at six thirty and think, This is my life? ”
With a dismissiveness too typical of a weary parent, I chuckled and replied, “Get used to that feeling.”
I should know better than to say a thing like that. We should all know better. I will attempt to express a truer perspective here, something more in tune with my secret heart.
My son possesses what some describe as an old soul. Sometimes, I watch him interact in a room full of adults, and I feel as though he is the oldest one there. How old were you the first time you woke up and thought, This is my life??
I’m sure I was older than eleven when I first sensed despair’s cold shadow upon me. Now I feel it often.
My trusty digital dictionary defines despair as, “overcome by a sense of futility”. When we awake with the question of This is my life? on the brain, it’s a sign we are overcome by futility. My son has yet to see his twelfth Summer, and he’s already picked up the same worry that haunts us all––the worry that no matter what we do, nothing will ever change for us. We are cursed with a lifetime of sameness.
One of my favorite fictional characters is David Dunn from the Shymalan film “Unbreakable”. Dunn is a man overcome with despair. At one point, he says to a friend, “Every day, I wake up with a deep sadness”. His friend later responds, “Maybe it’s because you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing.”
I think there’s truth in that response. But I would add to it: “Maybe you’re not seeing what you should be seeing.”
Mindfulness teacher Andy Puddicombe says, “When you go out, even if it’s someplace you go every day, it’s never the same, not even once. It’s all about noticing.”
In other words, it isn’t the world or our circumstances that need changing––after all, everything is always changing––it’s our perspective that needs to change. It’s our awareness that needs to change.
I estimate I have urinated approximately eighty-nine thousand times in my lifetime, give or take a few thousand. Of all those eighty-nine thousand pees, I can recall only four of them.
– I remember peeing in Vietnam, during a missionary trip. The day was hot and long. I and my fellow missionaries had been riding on a bus for many hours, and most of us were pounding liquids to stay cool and suffering full bladders as a consequence. The driver pulled over, and I, along with a couple fellow male passengers, bolted to a group of bushes at the side of the road. As I ran, fingers already working my fly, I heard one of the lady passengers shout, “Hey! That’s not fair!”
– I peed blood once. That one’s easy to remember, because it scared the crap out of me and prompted my first visit to a doctor in many years, which resulted in my first ever prostate exam. It turned out to be nothing, but I do wish I could forget this particular pee.
– I once had to pee into my Starbucks travel mug while stuck in traffic on I-5. I remember holding and holding that pee until my urgent need for relief exceeded my concern that a passing semi truck driver might glance down inside my Camry and catch me in an intimate act with a coffee mug.
– I recently shared a pre-concert pee with Michael Gungor. It was minutes before show time, and I knew if I didn’t relieve myself then, I’d probably have to go during the concert. I briskly exited the auditorium, asked directions to the nearest restroom, and speed walked down the hall. I plunged through the men’s room door and saw Michael Gungor saddling up to urinal number one. Even with his back to me, I knew it was him because of his hair. Urinals two, three, and four were all unoccupied.
When you encounter one of your favorite musicians in the men’s room, it’s important you don’t lose sight of standard restroom etiquette. There are rules.
Rule #1 – Whenever possible, maintain a “buffer” between you and other occupants. Only use an adjacent urinal if all others are in use! Check! I chose urinal number three.
Rule #2 – Eyes are to remain forward before, during, and immediately after urination. No Exceptions. Check! I kept my eyes on the Upcoming Events flyer above the urinal.
Rule #3 – Don’t speak in the men’s room. Not check! Sometimes, when faced with unusual circumstances, you have to give rules the middle finger. I spoke.
I thought about asking if he could free up a hand for an autograph, but decided that would have been untoward. So I played it safe and said, “I guess I don’t have to worry about the show starting while we’re in the restroom.”
What does this ridiculous story have to do with despair? Maybe nothing. Though I do find despair’s antidote in the words of one of my favorite Gungor songs –– “And remember, there is Wonder in it all.”
It’s possible we humans have walked the skin of this world for too many years. We’ve lost sight of how strange and magical and unlikely our Life is here. The universe is vast beyond comprehension, and in all that space, Life has made a home here, and part of that Life has developed consciousness — the ability to wake up in the morning and say, “This is my life?”.
Life is a wonder. There is no sameness. It’s a wonder just to be here, living off a dying star, breathing this strange air, sharing these strange thoughts and words with each other.
The next time my boy wakes up and says, “This is my life?, I’ll respond:
“Whatever you do, don’t get used to that feeling. Never get used to the rarity and beauty of your existence.”