I am a useless git.

I have little worth anymore.

I lie around all day, barely able to do anything.

I am always tired, sleeping, doing stupid word searches. A load on society to say nothing of my friends and family.

I can barely contribute to conversations, in an intelligent way.

I certainly cannot do any work. Takes me ten times longer to do things now than it did before the operation.

Life is meaningless.

Is this all there is?
Wake up in the middle of the night to clean the bag?
Or wake up every four hours to take diarrhea pills?
Or wake up every hour to burp the damn stupid bag?

Waiting to see what new side effect is going to strike next.
Popping pills to kill any upcoming pain.
Listen to your voice running at half mast.

Surely there is more to life than this?

What is the purpose of all this suffering. Not me, but all the people who have chronic conditions?
Those who can barely get out of bed.
Those who lie in bed in wait of some sort of resolution. Some relief.

We are no longer the person we thought we were?
Who are we?

What is the point?

I am not sure there is a point as such. I am not suicidal or anything. At my deepest depression, I am still positive and look forward tot he next day.

But the question of what is the point is a troubling one. There does not appear to be a clear answer. Leslie and I had a long conversation about this. At one point she made a very interesting point. Someone suffered a great deal to bring us into this world. We owe that person to make something of our lives.

That in itself is enough to make life worthwhile.

You spend your life doing whatever it is you do. Waking up in the morning and going through your routine. Some less boring than others. I cannot help but think of a woman in a country like India who wakes up in the morning to go get water from the single source that is available in her neighbourhood. She carries the pail of water back to her house. Carrying  a pail of water is no mean task. The water spills all the way back.

This woman does this every day. She has to get to the water before the tap is shut off. No water if she gets there too late. Then what? This routine is repeated every day. Her stove burns wood. It is located indoors and will eventually pollute her lungs. Would you want this life?

Half a world away, we shop oblivious to the fate of so many. This is not a criticism. This is just the way life is.

We went to Swaziland in 1999 to bury my father. My sister and I would go shopping in the local area. I spoke with one of the sculptors selling those carvings of animals. There are a lot of these people peppering the countryside. I had a number of questions for him. where does he get the wood from? How long does it take to carve a piece? The usual questions to ask.

The wood, ebony, is getting harder to find. It comes from a particular area  of Swaziland that is to be flooded when a dam is finally built. The wood will then come from a place like Madagascar and will cost more. It will also be more difficult to provision. The government did not change their mind about the flooding of the valley. Takes a couple of days to make a carving, a couple more days to polish and finish the product A week’s work which he then sells to us for maybe $5 to $10. That is before we start bargaining so as not be ripped off.

We fly back to our mansions in Canada.

We took a trip to the South of France. I was looking at some table cloths and asked the guy selling these things about the availability of larger sizes. Without batting an eyelash, he asked if I come from Canada. Why yes, why do you ask? You guys live on Ocean Liners – a paquebot. It is almost embarrassing when you think about the amount of space we have at our disposal. Stuff we take for granted. Living in our mansions in Canada.

Some people living in third world countries do not know if they will get to work or not. They stand at the side of the road waiting to be picked up by someone driving a pick up truck. This is as good as public transportation gets. They do not get to work if no one picks them up. They probably worry all day about getting home after a full days work.

We talked to a guy in Costa Rica who walks to work every morning. Takes him one hour. The roads are not necessarily paved.

We get to drive to the corner store. Walk an hour to get to work? Get real. We live in mansions in Canada. Drive Ocean Liners.

Life is beautiful. Look around you. The guy in Costa Rica was not complaining about his life. The girl trying to get to work in Honduras was not complaining about her life. The guy in the South of France was not complaining about his life.

I lie in bed sometimes and look out of the window at the tree swaying in the wind. It is always so beautiful Radiant with all its leaves in the summer, barren and ghostly in winter, forming a silhouette against the sky. Beautiful in different ways at different times.

The picture of the week was taken at Danforth and Carlaw, in Toronto. A guy came out the back of one of the stores. He looked like a waiter. Taking a cigarette break. He asked me what I was doing. You get a lot of that when taking pictures. I told him I was taking pictures. Of what he says. Whatever. Garbage bins at the back of a restaurant are not picture making material, at least not to the waiter who takes them for granted.

We take beauty where we can find it. All we have to do is open our eyes.

Is life worth living? I think so. In spite of the bag.

Is it difficult? Sometimes. OK, lets not kid ourselves, very difficult when you have to deal with the unknown.

The biggest unknown when all is said and done is redefining who we are. We are no longer the person we  thought we were. Whether we had an accurate picture of ourselves or not, we have to start redefining ourselves. We are 20 years old again. Except, we are not starting from scratch. Nor do we have the energy and recklessness of youth on our side. We now have fear and uncertainty. Almost a sense of being betrayed after years of hard work.

What is our worth? Not to society even, but to ourselves. There is a lot written abut identifying ourselves through our vocations. This appears to happen whether we like it or not. An introduction at a party that results in the line, So what do you do? I mean for a living, results in establishing our worth. I am a doctor elicits a different value than I am a garbageman. In a bizarre way, both vocations save lives. Without the garbageman, a city would stink and the risk of disease would grow daily.

In spite of our best intentions, we identify people through their vocations. We identify ourselves the same way. Even if it forms the basis for the start of a conversation, the question is invariably asked. Why not ask the person what their religious beliefs are? Or their political leanings? Too volatile for sure, but it would never enter our minds to ask any other question. What are your hobbies? Huh? The vocation question is the safest bet on which to start a conversation. Incidentally, my favourite answer was given me on a plane ride. The guy beside me sold buses. Those big buses like the ones Greyhound and stars use. I had to laugh. It never occurred to me that people actually sold those things.

Chronic conditions change things considerably. We are no longer identified by our vocation, but by our condition. What do you do? For a living I mean. I survive, and you? What would be a safe answer. The cancer reply makes people cringe. I have changed my status on my various social sites to Retired, or On Sabbatical. The first elicits questions from some people, while the second just means you are away for a short time and will be back. No questions. I think everyone should go on sabbatical every seven years or so. Good for the soul.

A vocation. No longer Farokh the computer guy. Though I must say I find it hard to leave that world entirely. How about Farokh the photographer? The writer? The therapist? The God I wish I knew!

I am reaching a lot of people through this blog. You, the readers, are gracing me with your patience and thoughts. You have provided me with a venue through which I can ponder and voice my concerns. This is invaluable. Does not provide many answers, mind, but we have time on our side. As strange as that sounds coming from someone with a chronic condition, we do have time on our side. In my case, at least a couple of years in which to decide what my next vocation will be.

Finding oneself, discovering the new person within, reassessing your value to society, all make for an interesting journey to embark on. Fearlessly. With an open mind.

4 Responses to “Self Worth”

  1. I thought the first line was "I am a useless gift" and I thought this is going to be an interesting blog entry.

    In all my travels I have never noticed a correlation between wealth and happiness. Lots of sadness etc. from poverty, of course, but the happiest people I ever saw were the Sherpas in Nepal. Always smiling, sharing laughs, never a cross word and yet they had almost nothing. And it radiated to us foreigners – everybody who goes there feels it. So why is it so? Clearly we create our own meaning. Don't look for it externally, or from others, it is within (I don't think this conflicts with any spiritual view).

    As a retired person I get the question "what do you do?" all the time. My answer usually creates consternation (much to my secret delight I must confess) – "I attend to my life". I have no idea what I mean by that but it is somehow what I do. In the old days another version of the question was "what is your sign?". I once heard a person respond "faeces". I always thought a very wise answer.

    In the end though we are all just ripples on the pond and being a useless gift is plenty good enough for me.

    Rick

  2. you're wandering right into the core of identity and many of the feelings and questions therein… often we seem to believe the illusions of whatever answers we come up with to the limiting question 'what do you do?'. it can be such a relief to be able to say 'this is who I am' in the midst of all the complexities…. whenever a challenge arises that turns our somewhat ordered lives upside down, we have to regroup, and find out who we are becoming as a result. it's a tough gig, but it's always where the authentic juice is, isn't it?
    meeting my physical limitations has not been fun, but it does take me deeply into a different quality of becoming, and man, it increases my compassion.
    so many blessings to you Farokh.

  3. You have never been Farokh the computer guy! Computer Guy seems like such a small part of the package :)

    Lots of Love,
    Sharon

  4. I agree with Sharon. The computer guy is only a part of what you did. It is not who you are. Who you are – the kind and generous soul and friend, thoughtful and caring, always helping, always offering humor, laughs and a wise crack. The one who helps others in need (picking up friends to drive them to work – albeit a sometimes frightening experience if anyone has ever been a passenger in Farokh's car !!! Or mentoring a young, new employee like you did me). You are heart felt and the expression of love, compassion and forgiveness. You are a good soul that has and continues to make a difference in the lives of anyone that crosses your path.

    As for what you will do – keep entertaining the ideas and put no pressure on yourself to make a decision. You have many gifts and thus many options will appear. Take your time in contemplating them. And be kind and understanding of your body's need to rest. You have been in doing mode for so long that it's hard to just "be". I know it would be hard for me too, but it's the challenge that faces us all at various times in our lives………..times when we are forced to stop….and we can no longer busy our minds, so we begin to think, think, think. If you haven't read any of his work, Eckhardt Tolle's "A New Earth" is a great book about the mind, body and spirit.

    I love you, my friend.

    Marcie

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