I remember when I first got my driver’s license, I couldn’t imagine how anyone ever falls asleep at the wheel — or, for that matter, eats/texts/fiddles with the radio while driving. There was so much to worry about! So much to keep track of! I would hunch over the wheel, back tense, and give it my undivided attention.
Then I got used to driving and became as drowsy as the rest of them. (A horrible game to play with yourself is to look at the faces of other drivers as you pass them on the other side of the road. They are invariably a) half-asleep, b) actually asleep, or c) looking down at their phone.)
When I imagine staying at home with a newborn and toddler, I imagine it to be full of endless stimuli. How could I ever get bored? There is so much to worry about! So much to keep track of! Parenting is such a new concept — to me, anyway — that I doubt I’ll ever lack for distraction or something to do.
Am I wrong?
For Christmas, my husband got me a book with the subtitle “how to stop complaining and start enjoying the life you always wanted.” Should I be upset? All right, to be fair, it was on my wish list.
I’m not ready to undertake the book’s 21-day challenge, not even if it is the first day of 2019, perfect for fresh starts. But I will. The book says on average it takes people 4-8 months to successfully go 21 days straight without complaining, criticizing, gossiping, or being sarcastic. (If you slip up you start back on Day 1.)
Meanwhile, on an unrelated note, I’ve begun a list of Things That Bother Me:
- When built-in ribbon bookmarks start fraying, so you have to trim them and then they’re too short.
- When I’ve stopped before a crosswalk to wait for a car, and then the car slows down and stops for me.
- That feeling you get when you’re wearing leggings, jeans, and snow pants, and you have to go the bathroom.
- When drivers glance up and glance down, glance up and glance down. You know they’re texting. No one’s lap is that interesting.
- Houses with those laser-star Christmas lights that look like the house has green chicken pox. We have ours angled onto tree branches and it is much, much classier.
- When a parking lot is sandy and then I step into my car and feel the brittle sand rubbing the pedals under my feet every time I accelerate or brake.
- When you take great care to clip your nails over a sink or trash can but the clippings still go everywhere.
- People who clip their nails anywhere.
- Nearly all styles of parenting.
- Almost all children.
Recently I was reminded I will one day die.
I had gotten an MRI and was viewing the results: a bulging disc near the top of my spine. Even as the doctor tapped her pen on the offending bump, my eyes strayed to other bones, other features. My jaw, especially. My jaw convinced me I will one day die. It was the jaw of a corpse.
The MRI revealed something I knew but didn’t realize: There was a skeleton in there, with a skull like the kind on a skinless body. There were empty black eye sockets. Teeth that would fall out and turn to powder. There was a brain that might nourish a tumor, which would press on nerves. Meanwhile the doctor tapped her pen on the screen, its plastic tip hitting the slipped disc where a nerve was already being pressed. She suggested physical therapy, acupuncture, chiropractics, maybe an anti-inflammatory diet.
I came home and e-mailed my 74-year-old friend. He wrote back, “That was pretty scary, thinking of becoming a corpse.” And he’s a Buddhist who meditates on his death regularly.
Happy All Souls’ Day, everyone.
The entire braid of the self is coming unwound in a rush.
– Advice for Future Corpses *
* And Those Who Love Them