Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The things you drop

A friend of mine from college has a slightly peculiar habit. In every house and apartment he's ever lived in, as far back as I can remember, there have been coins scattered across the floor -- pennies mostly, but also nickels, dimes and quarters. When he comes home and unloads for the day, he absentmindedly lets small change fall out of his pockets and wallet and messenger bag, and just leaves it wherever it falls. The funny thing is that this same friend is saddled with extensive debt. I guess he'd say that with the amount he owes, it isn't worth his limited time or effort to gather small change off the floor -- that money is practically worthless.

My maternal grandmother used to play the violin in high school and in the early years of her marriage. By all accounts, she had a well-tuned ear and was very talented. I say "by all accounts" because, from the day I was born until the day she died, I never once heard my grandmother play the violin. She still had her instrument when I was young, kept in its case on a high shelf in the entry hall closet of her home. But she had such a busy life, so many other important things vying for her time, that after a while I suppose she couldn't justify spending even a few minutes to practice her playing. Eventually the violin never came off the shelf any more, and after decades of neglect it became virtually unplayable.

And then there's me. When Captain Midnight and I were married, I was overweight but otherwise in good health. I knew our family had a history of diabetes, and I'd been advised to exercise regularly and eat nutritious foods, but I couldn't be bothered; I was too busy doing other things. And let's face it, swimming and healthy eating aren't nearly as appealing as websurfing and chocolate. Year by year, as I ate whatever I wanted and neglected regular exercise, my genetic predispositions combined with my unwise lifestyle choices to kick-start insulin resistance in my body -- so quietly and gradually that I didn't notice a thing. So in 2011, during a routine medical exam, I was shocked and dismayed to discover that I had Type 2 diabetes. I'd lost my health -- one of the most valuable things I owned -- without even realizing it had slipped away. Barring some medical miracle, I'll never be fully healthy again in my life.

I've stated before that time has a tendency to boil us down, eventually reducing us to the most basic elements of our personalities. I'd guess that as we age, we drop some things because we no longer value them the way we once did -- say, maintaining a perfect manicure, or wearing a particular brand of watch, or folding dress shirts just so, or any one of a number of other once-cherished behaviors that don't make much difference in the grand design. But I suspect there are other things -- valuable things, which ought to be kept and cherished -- which we drop through basic neglect or an inability to perceive their true value. It's so easy to let health, talent, faith, hope, friendship, love, and so many other precious commodities of the soul rot away for lack of daily maintenance.

So here's what I propose: join me here, at the dead end of May, in taking stock of the things you're letting drop in your life. Ask yourself: what in my life is worth dropping, and what is worth keeping? Consider carefully the things you're not making time to do in your life any more, the beliefs that are eroding away, and what kinds of thoughts or activities you're allowing to take their place. Are you trading up, or down? It's easy to make mindless choices that impoverish your life by stripping away valuable parts of your personality.

And don't be too quick to devalue your beliefs, your traits, the things that make you you, as unimportant. Even the supposedly worthless coins on my friend's floor might be worth giving a second look. You never know whether one of those dropped and forgotten bits of small change might be a 1913 Liberty Head V nickel, valued somewhere between $3 and $4 million.


MarieC said...

Oh, now you are making me THINK!

Soozcat said...

Yeah, I'm annoying that way. ;)