This is my favorite time of year. The bright colors, the nip in the air – love it. But it’s also my least favorite time of year. It’s getting dark earlier every day. My temper shortens with the days, while discontented feelings multiply. When the trees lose their leaves, I think of how much of life involves loss.
Me, myself and I need frequent reminders to count our blessings.
mal·aise: noun mə-lāz, ma-, -lez
1: an indefinite feeling of debility or lack of health often indicative of or accompanying the onset of an illness
2: a vague sense of mental or moral ill-being <a malaise of cynicism and despair — Malcolm Boyd>
*definition courtesy of Merriam-Webster Online
I’ve been walking around under a little black cloud lately.
I’m toting around a sack of malaise that sometimes has me teetering on the brink of despair.
Why? Various reasons. The health concerns of beloved family members, setbacks at work, missing my children, angst over the direction our country is taking, etc, etc, etc.
If I’m being honest, a lot of it is self-directed. I’m concerned with shuffling off of this mortal coil: the wrinkling, sagging, bagging, decay of the body, gaining back much of the weight I lost, the where-do-I-go-from-here that comes with being how-the-hell-did-I-get-to-be-55-years old.
In short, it’s a mid-life crisis.
How distressingly cliché.
I left my office after work the other day and took my crabby self to a local park hoping a walk would clear the mental cobwebs that were clouding my vision of the world.
I plugged the ear buds into my iPod and started out around the small lake in the park. After ¼ lap it penetrated my gloom that it was a perfect, early fall day; not cold, not hot. The trees had turned color suddenly, overnight it seemed. We woke up one morning and fall color was here with its intense, fleeting display. I started walking faster.
My favorite song, “Roundabout” , came through my ear buds, filling my head and lifting my spirits.
The sky was still bright at early evening, clear and blue, but the sun had started its descent. It painted the undersides of the clouds pink and made my shadow a stilt-walker, almost touching the lake.
I built up steam, both legs moving faster. My chubby, cellulite-riddled thighs did the bidding of my agile brain without conscious thought, smoothly and easily. My wrinkled, age-freckled hands clenched as I walked, limber and whole. My jiggling, applause arms pumped free and easy. The breath sounded loud in my ears, the way it echoes when you’re wearing headphones. Not harsh or strained, but forceful; evidence that I was walking strong. My lungs filled and pushed out clear and clean. My heart pumped: ba-da-dum, ba-da-dum, rhythmic, faster. I demanded more and it delivered – no problem.
I have all my Factory Original Equipment, except for two tonsils traded for ice cream in 3rd grade, and one gall bladder traded for pain relief at 40.
All those parts were operating together, if not in perfect harmony, then at least in some semblance of cooperation. This magical, human machine was all systems go and I was in control of it.
55! A couple hundred years ago, I would have been at the feeble end of life, the oldest crone in the tribe. People would marvel at my great age while setting me adrift on an iceberg with a one-way ticket to Valhalla. Nowadays, though, I am just in the middle (ish) of life with a long way to go, God willing.
I walked around the lake a second time as fast as I could without running. I strained to use all of my senses to experience my self and the spaces around me and I was filled with contentment. At the same time, I was ashamed.
I did nothing to deserve any of these blessings. I’m not an especially lousy human being, but neither am I an especially saintly one. There is no rhyme or reason for all the gifts I have. I can’t understand, and I can’t explain. It seems all I can do, the very least I can do, is try to appreciate.
Which brings me to this last part. It’s kind of a prayer.