“I promised myself that I would maintain momentum. "Maintain momentum" was the imperative that echoed all the way downtown. In fact I had no idea what would happen if I lost it. In fact I had no idea what it was.” ― Joan Didion, Blue Nights
I am very bad at scheduling.
I am currently too overwhelmed to dedicate time to anything that interrupts from the breakneck daily routine that I have set for myself.
This is not healthy.
And, although I have a morbid tendency to over-schedule myself, and my appetites tell my better self I need to have it to be satisfied, it does not, I have found, actually make me happy.
So I spent a month with pneumonia and a bruised rib instead of going to see a doctor. Because not only did I not have time to schedule an appointment, but I was baffled by trying to find a doctor who took my insurance who lived in my neighborhood who was not booked until December.
What have I learned from my month with pneumonia?
Before I am next sick, I will decode the world of co-pays and deductibles, so I am fully armed with information when entering into the scary rabbit hole of health insurance.
More importantly, I take my health for granted. I assume that I will always get better, and that nothing I will do will have a lasting toll upon my body. I have always gotten better in the past, so I assume the future will hold the same experiences.
But, as I lay in bed one night, coughing, and feeling a piercing ache in my side as I heard a wheeze in between breaths, I wondered if my rib was actually broken, and had punctured my lung. I felt the wheeze and the slow burn of the angry rib. I wondered what the wheeze and the slow burn meant together. I thought, lying there in my bed: Renee, you're an idiot. Why have you not yet gone to see a doctor? Your body could be hurt beyond repair.
November is the month of the dead. Of dying. Of contemplate the ending of the year, of the universe eventually, of the cultures of the past, of the world (permanently, and as we know it), of life, of the trees on the leaves.
The leaves on the trees, I mean.
In recently watching a video of Katie Couric interview my new musical love, Skrillex aka Sonny Moore, I was struck by many things. One, of course, the jarring dissonance of their exchange. They barely spoke the same language. Secondly, a particularly interesting moment when Mr. Moore said: "I don't write music for old people, no offense." And Katie Couric laughs and says: "None taken." And Sonny Moore gets flustered (realizing that the self-exonerating coda he tacked onto the sentence was, ironically, the very thing that rendered it offensive), and protests: "I'm not talking about age, ya know? I don't care how old you are; I'm talking more about a state of mind. Like, I'm twenty-seven, I'm not that young."
Katie Couric smiles: "That's pretty young."
I am beginning to slowly realize that twenty-[fill-in-the-number] is not that old, so that my body operates now in a way that it will not later. My body now has advantages that it will not possess later. I am reaping all the advantages of youth, where I can foolishly put off going to the doctor for a month. That is why Katie Couric smiles at young Skrillex, and remembers how her body worked at twenty-seven, and how young it felt to be twenty-seven. She smiles, and knows that Skrillex cannot even imagine how young he is, because he has not yet learned to be older. And being as old as you have ever been does not mean that you are old.
But perhaps twenty-[fill-in-the-number] is old enough to feel that you are no longer young. In that, the world seems to be growing more mortal. Too many people have died for you not to encounter the fact that avoiding death takes effort on your part. That effort means that you now think about your friend's father with lung cancer when you reach for that drunken cigarette. It means that you think about your uncle's liver before you do vodka shots before the football game. Physical health no longer seems like a guarantee. And mental health? Dream on, Horatio.
You think about your mother's back as she trips on a piece of New York sidewalk.
The world seems more twisted and iron, with spokes and spikes poking out into your path. And your parents suddenly seem fragile.
Happiness no longer is a guarantee. Happiness seems to take effort.
Happiness seems like it is something that takes hard work: controlling your temper, owning up to your mistakes, acknowledging where you have gone wrong, saying you are sorry, allowing for the slow work of loving and the slow story of living to occur.
Health and happiness, which seemed like foregone conclusions have become painful, pain-staking pilgrimages. No longer set destinations, but slow, patient pilgrimages.
That's what I think of when I watch Skrillex and Katie Couric sit together. I think of how health and happiness are harder the older you get, and I think of how comparatively young and foolish I am.
Perhaps one can only be wise when one's knees stop working.