From the moment we were born till where we are as adults, things have happened to shape us to who we are right now. The collection of things happening that mold us is what we call ‘life’.
Yesterday, we went out as a family to watch a movie. As we were coming back, I noticed my middle son was coughing a lot. When I asked, he said his chest was hurting. So, he had to go to the hospital with his dad. When he came back, I reminded him to avoid ice cold water. This is not because I believe that it causes ‘colds’ and the variants of flu viruses. I just know that some things exacerbate a condition.
He then said: “It isn’t fair. I never drink cold water and I have colds and coughs. Ryan always takes a lot of ice and rarely has any colds.”
I felt his frustration and it made me feel impotent. It isn’t within my power to determine how things will affect him or any of them. I simply try to handle what I see and find ways to make things better.
My son was always prone to respiratory issues from when he was a baby. I don’t know why. Life has a way of picking what our struggles will be. We are not privileged to know the whys. Some people will not struggle through our struggles. They will have their own struggles that will never be issues to us.
That is the first thing about life. The discretion on what kind of obstacles that we will face will not be of our orchestration. You will be on your merry way when one day you just suddenly see yourself dealing with a matter you did not expect, plan for or deserve.
The second thing about life is that it is like a strong wind. It is like the gentle pitter-patter or rain. It is the tornado and it is the hurricane. Also, it is the little breeze that carries away tiny amounts of sand with each breath; till one day we find a gaping canyon where once the landscape was hilly and green.
Life will happen in frozen seconds. It will happen in chunks of decades. It will start a day at a time till one day you are stooped with a cane; shuffling into a church where people will stand to give the old person a seat. You will not be able to kneel and pray. The young agile priest will come to your seat to give you communion as you think about dying soon.
But it will also be weird.
Yesterday, you were the striker in your neighbourhood five aside football team. Running for hours under the sun and wolfing down a whole loaf of bread and still have the washboard abs you never worked for. Today, you eat a slice of bread and spend the next 24 hours bloated as you groan every time you stand up or sit down.
You don’t even know you have aged till you are exclaiming about the length of skirts and tightness of clothes; or the hairstyles of kids nowadays when just yesterday you rebelled with a kid-and-play haircut; while refusing to talk to your whole family when your mother forced you to cut the hair.
Life is also sometimes that dramatic thing that happens to you that makes you keep opening your eyes trying to wake up from the dream. Because it has to be a dream. You never imagined you would be going through what you are going through.
This thing changes you. Sometimes, it comes early. Life can be callous like that. Not caring that you are a kid and should not have to work through the trauma of rape or the death of a parent. Sometimes, life comes later. Just when you think that you have understood the game and maybe even think that you are special. Then life reminds you that it doesn’t give a shit about what you think you have worked out about it.
Life can be that abusive lover in the making. Grooming you. Wooing you. Waiting for you to be relaxed. To trust it. Waiting till you release the breath you were holding and embrace it. Then it tears you up and everything you every thought you believed or held dear.
When you are young and relatively new to life, there is a natural arrogance. Your head has been filled with all that nonsense of how you are the captain of your life and can determine your destination. This is before life steals the rudder from you and pilots you to wild places.
Then the fight begins. You want to take it back. To be the you that peacefully stared at the endless horizon of the ocean; watching the wind without any fear. But life is doing this shit. Shoving you out of the way. Asking you to be its passenger.
Some people fight to stay in control. To steer the boat back to the planned path. They fight long enough and hard enough and win. This doesn’t make life angry. It will doff its hat to the captain.
Some people give up and find a place to sit in the boat. They wait for it to capsize. Or watch out for rescue. Or even jump overboard and end it all.
It is easy to lose recognition of ourselves when we have been battered by life. But fighting for yourself is worth it.
Fighting to be kind.
Fighting to be considerate.
Or fighting to retain the innocence that makes you see the beauty in love and family.
I end with a tweet I put out a couple of days ago.
“I hate how life chips away at us till we don’t recognize ourselves. It is wise to protect yourself. But if that means a cage then who will protect you from you? You shut all the doors and windows till all you breathe are your recycled fumes.’’
Living is fighting.
Fighting is living.
Fighting is conquering life, so it never really wins.