Ups and Downs

“Life has taken you down a different road, and your GPS is broken.”

One of the many myths I believed about myself, deep into grown-up-hood, was that I had incredibly good timing. When it was time to make a life decision, even if that decision was to not make a decision at all, I made it (or did not make it), decisively and without looking back. As said above, this is actually a myth.

The reality was that when in one of life’s corners, I took what was available, crumbs or cake, and kept it moving. “Consequences” was a four-syllable word for “things I will probably ignore.” For the most part, my life was spent chasing employment, trying to find something akin to permanence, only to watch myself flub it after three or four years. At its worst, life was an out-of-body experience.

I am starting to understand a sentence: “Shall not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.” Perhaps I made a lot of errors, but no mistakes. I am not certain about that, but I continue making my amends. If I am here (check) and all is fundamentally well (check), then the road that I followed that brought me here brought me to a good place. There is nothing wrong with this road. I am a signpost on it for others.

I do not have many specific “MacGyver”-type incidents of situational brilliance in my life, not yet anyway. More often than not, my mouth has talked me into increased trouble instead of save me, like that time when I talked a New York State Trooper into giving me a ticket. (He did not, because paperwork. And to annoy me. I am grateful—now.) And I am not a physically resourceful person. My relationship with the natural word of objects and things is that of a reluctant participant, one who breaks unbreakable things and walks into street signs.

When my body started to change in my late 30s, when the symptoms of adult spinal muscular atrophy first showed, it came with a jolt. Only recently have I learned that this is a common experience among people with neuromuscular diseases. When walking becomes difficult—in my case because the nerves that had been sending (ever dimmer) signals to my legs (which had started to atrophy from receiving ever dimmer signals)—the end of normal walking comes as if everything had been just fine one day and the next day as if one’s shoes had been nailed to the ground or one’s co-workers had painted the floor with superglue. It is sudden and scary when the progression of deterioration is undetected and undetectable … up until the day it is not.

The strange thing is my behavior regarding this: I attempted to MacGyver my response. Rather, I attempted to manufacture a cliche of a MacGyver response. Very little was done consciously on my part other than to buy a cane and start to use the local cab service for any journey longer than my front door to my room, some of whose drivers actually carried me from their car to my front door—stone sober (I emphasize this because my history could imply otherwise)—because my legs had had enough for that day. I developed a mode of walking, a stiff waddle that I hoped would not attract attention. It did.

I attempted to “strong and silent” my way through it as if I was confident that there was a something better on the other side of a tunnel that only I knew I was in and in which I was traveling in a secret terror.

What would MacGyver really do? Probably what I ultimately did: visit a damn doctor. See a neurologist. I have learned to ask for help and even to (and this is a tricky thing) accept it. I still walk with a waddle but I am no longer counting down the minutes to a lesser and lesser able self, which is what I was doing before I knew what the heck was changing in my body. Accepting reality and using all the tools at my disposal, changing into the person who tries to do those things, that is making lemonade, I guess. That’s how I get to play MacGyver in my life. My GPS is finished re-calculating a route.

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This is a revision of a piece that was published more than a year ago.

The WordPress Daily Prompt for April 17, 2017, asks us to reflect on the word “Jolt.”

The WordPress Daily Prompt for January 24, 2016, asks, “When life gives you lemons … make something else. Tell us about a time you used an object or resolved a tricky situation in an unorthodox way.”

The WordPress Daily Prompt for September 18 asks, “Describe a time when you quickly switched from feeling at the top of the world to sinking all the way down (or vice versa). Did you learn anything about yourself in the process?”

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  1. jacquelineobyikocha · September 18, 2015

    Despite the struggle, you come across with such positivity. More strength to you and stay blessed 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · September 18, 2015

      Thank you so much for your kind words! “Blessed” was kind of the word for the day today, but you didn’t know that. It’s also a weird word for me to use, but it is a good life.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. wscottling · September 18, 2015

    I feel you on the “everything is working until it’s not” part. With me it was my lungs. They were working perfectly until they didn’t. Stupid lungs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · September 18, 2015

      “What?” That’s my girlfriend, responding to some sound that I made but thought I’d kept to myself.

      “Crazy legs. Dopey legs. Dumb-ass legs.”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. lifelessons · September 18, 2015

    Such great things ( your talent, your girlfriend) happening in you life and such terrible things (your health.) Of the three, I’m sure the most precious to you are your writing and your lover…which is perhaps what keeps you so positive. You are a hero, Mark…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. loisajay · September 20, 2015

    “I have learned to ask for help and even to (and this is a tricky thing) accept it.” I am so with you on this. I wasn’t smart enough to think of the answer myself, but then when someone offers it to me, I delay accepting it in case…you know, I think of something even more brilliant. Good one, Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · September 22, 2015

      My personal “rainy day fund” of brilliant ideas that I came up with alone was closed on me. The board of health boarded up my brain. I’m not allowed to think for me.

      Thank you, my friend, for continuing to read me and support me.

      Liked by 1 person

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