Just at this moment I am realizing the hardship of being an animal - even an adored domestic companion. Sherlock, almost 17 years old, has managed to get up from floor to chair to my other table to the top of the four-drawer filing cabinet. There he is looking out the open window in that vulture posture, and yowling. It's a good guess that Carters' cats are out in the side yard. Instinctively, Sherlock wants to get in a fight with them, though he hasn't been in a cat fight in at least 13 years. And he does not have the power to go out there. That, the Dalai Lama has said, is what makes it worse to be born in the animal realm - the powerlessness. Not only can Sherlock not open the front door and run out, but he can't talk himself out of this self-destructive craving.
Earlier today we drove around and got my monthly pre-transplant (optimistic term) blood draw, went to the health club, ate lunch there, and managed a small grocery shopping, Tom in his power wheelchair, me in one of their electric carts. I never had to get up out of my chair, even to get some frozen Mahi-mahi, since a stocker offered to get it for me, and that was a good thing, because my left leg is really hurting. I had to quit after nine dignified minutes on the NuStep. Maybe a pulled muscle there, and I couldn't get in to see the sports doc until next Tuesday. Tom has adapted seamlessly to dropping me right at the door, unloading the groceries himself, doing all the driving, but I was still really tired after the shopping. Really. Knew I wouldn't make it to Soul Collage tonight, again. It seems possible in the morning.
If being happy came naturally, everyone would be. It is finally a beautiful spring day here, cool, blue with puffy white clouds, and the saucer magnolias quivering with bloom. I leaned back in the car and thought about the woman of around my age who was working as bagger in Kroger's. She brought our stuff out and loaded it into the car. Putting the cat litter in, she said, "I can't afford a kitty right now. We loved our cats, but Mommy's in assisted living now." She told me that twice.
I found myself remembering something the Buddhist nun Pema Chodron says in a taped talk, as I recall. She had just been through a long, demanding ceremony, and was hot and tired and her wool robe itched. She said, "And I'd never been happier in my life."
I said to Tom, "Can a person be happy when they're tired and have pain and uncertainty about the future . . . "
"You better be able," he said. I thought, it demands a certain way of thinking about happiness. For one thing, it isn't about having fun; because face it, you can't have fun that much of the time, as you know if you ever found yourself at a cabin on a lake in the rain.
I like the work of an author named Laurie Colwin, whom I discovered in the early eighties through her novel, Happy All the Time. I'm glad to see her work is in print, though she died young of an unexpected heart attack in 1992. Until then, she had the life I thought I should have been born to. At least, it looked much better than mine. But she didn't get to grow old.