Monday, February 25, 2008

A life like Leonard

Everyday I passed the sign.
It was posted in the hallway, thumb-tacked to the wall between the kid-sized bathrooms and adult-sized front desk. It read, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
Since I was seven, since this was second grade, I believed it.
I didn’t, however, particularly enjoy apples unless cooked in butter, brown sugar, and topped with crust.
These days I’ve switched the apple with a cucumber – for the alkaline benefits. And I’ve never been a big fan of cucumbers either.
I prefer their more tangy, edgy, half-brother - the pickle.

Eating responsibly is an inherently adult trait. No more hands in the cookie jar. No more chocolate before bed. No more snacking on play-doe. No more being seven.
I’m not a child anymore. In fact, this year I turned…never mind.
My concerns have rotated from hoping mom packed something other than peanut butter and jelly for lunch to getting into better shape, getting another paycheck, fretting over Presidential elections, fretting over cancer predispositions, worrying about crime, worrying about my future, wondering why I'm really here.

It's what we call being an adult. Childhood is over. Now it's time to grow up and freak out about everything.
It seems being an adult isn’t all that much fun.

The other night I watched the movie, “Awakenings.” It’s an older movie, made before Robin Williams put on pantyhose as “Mrs. Doubtfire” and back when Robert De Niro still looked boyish.
Based on a true story, it’s about Leonard (De Niro), a man in a coma for 30 years who awakens after being administered an experimental drug by a shy doctor (Williams).
I’d never seen it before. If you haven’t either, skip this next part.
By the end of the movie, the drug begins wearing off, the paralysis and body ticks come back, and eventually one day Leonard stops moving again, back in his unresponsive world.

However brief it was, Leonard lived. Whatever time he had, he spent it. However unfair life was, he fought for it.
He loved life. Even though he had so little of it.
Leonard had a choice. He could use those few weeks of consciousness by mourning his lost childhood, distraught over his future, and overwhelmed by the damage inflicted on his life. He could have worried and fretted and feared away every moment given.
Or he could use that time to simply enjoy….well…everything, whatever he experienced, whomever he met, whatever the weather, no matter the circumstance.
He chose the latter.
Life isn't about wars between apples and cookie jars or about playtime verses bed time anymore. It isn't quite so simple.
But then again, maybe in our constant race to get somewhere, to be somebody, to accomplish something, to fix everything, to organize whatever, we've made it a tad too complicated. Why can't it, ever so often, just be about living?
He may not have gotten much to live, but I think Leonard knew a lot about life.

1 comment:

kristin said...

Here's a quote that I think Leonard would have liked:
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover."
-Mark Twain