Would you please indulge me in this opportunity to wallow on this less-than-momentous day? I've just received my Medicare card and first Social Security check. Prematurely, mind you, my infirmities having caught up with me. Maybe you'd wallow too.
My mind is lingering over the most irrational thoughts that may bode of my future as one now counted among the "disabled." So please reassure me of how much I still have to give to my family and friends and community. Please tell me how many productive years still lie ahead of me, if I would just exercise more often. Please confirm to me, with deference to the poetry of Browning's Rabbi Ben Ezra, "the best is yet to be, the last of life for which the first was made." Please chastise me for my ingratitude at cursing my good fortune relative to the homeless, poor and spat upon.
By dint of the dyslexia born of depression, I have seen the word "disabled," but read it as "useless." I have read it as the epigram of my life.
Useless. In my most lachrymose times, I look at the card and check, and feelings of uselessness overwhelm me. No, I have not been able to find gainful employment in my chosen profession for seven years. "Experts" have calculated that I had more to gain by being declared "disabled" - too bipolar to hold down a real job among real people working for a real boss meeting real deadlines.
Were I 60 and simply retired, people would think me lucky to have days to commune with my keyboard, the dog and what we'll make for dinner. How many working stiffs would doubtlessly tell me they'd love to trade places, collect their check, chuck their boss?
But I am 60 and ordained "disabled." How can I not feel it so acutely when the disability is mine? Here's the real rub: I know that my existence still makes a difference. People are still touched by the things I write. I still can pull together the critical mass of good-hearted, bleeding-hearted and discontented people to make civic and charitable causes happen. I still can get a yuk out of a biblically relevant joke that I crack at my ragtag weekly Bible class.
Yet it's the finality that is killing me -now having been declared "disabled" by societal mandate. No, no, don't you see that I am perennially 16, still a silly teenager still full of puns, double-entendres, goofy voices and practical jokes? In my mind, I am immortal. Now, I face the reality of being named elderly at age 60.
How much of a man's worth is bound up in his employability? Worth should come from one's ethereal, spiritual majesty. Right. Tell that to your preacher, not to someone whose nose is rubbed in a Medicare claim each time he visits his doc. "Take a little nap every afternoon," he says. Then go get the mail and watch the cycle revolve around another letter from the Social Security office, all the while struggling with the thought that I am still far more hippie than Yanni.
I could make a friend, call a friend, but .... I could go to the lunch for seniors at the synagogue, but ... so much self-destructive self-pity, the weight of depression. Linda, my wife, knows better, God bless her, and constantly reassures me. My shrink will listen impassively to me. The meds help me avoid sleeping until 4.
Tomorrow, rationality will once again prevail. Promise lies ahead. I know that the best is yet to be. I will feel it again and even preach it. It's just that today mortality means to accept that a smile can just mask the fear, and even the feelings of uselessness, announcing that one has already arrived at the "last of life" for which the first was made.
But, you see, today my Medicare card and first Social Security check arrived. So thanks for the indulgence of listening to my transitory wallow. See, I'm feeling better already. I think I'll go take Minnie for a walk.