We use language indiscriminately. We say things like “I’m starving,” “I’m freezing,” “It’s killing me.”
We don’t mean we’re literally dying. Mostly, it’s casual and harmless, but I’ve been noticing, lately, in my own reactions or lack thereof, I’m becoming desensitized by such statements to the point where I hardly pay attention to see if the person saying it might actually be in distress.
It’s the classic case of “crying wolf,” and the problem is that no one believes you when you actually have a situation, like I did last week, that is truly extraordinary.
It’s not that people don’t believe you. It’s just that a sort of normalization occurs where we put things into the general context of our own experiences. So, we have to come up with new ways and expressions to get our point across.
I saw a photo of Picasso’s painting “The Old Guitarist” the other day and it reminded me how I fell in love with it the first time I saw it. I was maybe nine or 10 years old, a happy-go-lucky, middle-class suburban kid, but I remember being spellbound by the suffering I saw in it. The pain, poverty, hunger and loneliness. I also saw how the guitar was a tool of transcendence for the old man sitting in that gloomy corner.
Here’s my way of indicating that last week stands out as a truly unique time and experience in my life:
I’ve been on this Earth approximately 22,000 days and I seriously cannot recall a more physically trying time than the five days I spent moving our things from one place to seven other places. That’s right, seven.
First, we filled the rented POD storage unit, then we stacked boxes and appliances into a friend’s garage, furniture into another friend’s art studio, more boxes and more appliances into a horse trailer, our old classic car behind a friend’s barn, and all sorts of odds and ends scattered around my sister’s property.
Even after all that we still had stuff left over, so we rented another storage unit, and filled that, plus both of our cars from floor to ceiling. We had to do this because the place we’re moving into won’t be vacant and available for a few more weeks.
Friends offered to help, but the ones who did were either physically unable to do what we needed or were unavailable at the times we needed them. Others offered to hire someone to come and do the lifting for us, but we couldn’t seem to pull ourselves to accept such help.
So, we slogged on, heads down, nose to the grindstone, one foot in front of the other, box after box, piece after piece, from one location to the other, early morning ‘til late at night for five days in a row, to the point where my wrists and elbows cried out in protest, my back restrained me at knife point, my swollen brain throbbed, and my will was in tatters.
Ask people what are the most important things in life and you’re likely to get responses that include health, happiness, family, friends, fait…
You know those photos of the Civil or Revolutionary War soldiers marching home, all bandaged up and with makeshift crutches. That’s what I felt like.
I tried recalling other extreme physical challenges in my life including all the “Hell weeks” and training camps I’ve been through for football, or the summer of blowing off more than 2,000 hay bales a day to mulch over the many acres of grass seed we planted. Both of those were when I was 20 and in peak physical condition.
But nothing even comes close to last week, and given that I’m not getting any younger, I doubt anything ever will again.
For three days afterward, I slept more than 15 hours a day, more deeply than I ever have in my life; an indication of how much healing and recuperation was in order.
I suppose some readers might say, so what, so you had to move. Do you think that’s something of interest to the rest of us? Probably not. But I do know when the story of my life is written, the five-day period from June 26-30, 2019, will stand out as the most physically trying time of my life — and that’s no exaggeration.