Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Only Thing In My Life That Isn't Hard Is My Abdomen

Life wasn't meant to be easy. It really wasn't. Well, not for most people. There are those people (who don't really exist, because you don't know any and you don't know anyone who knows any) who have charmed lives. The concept of a charmed life is just that, a concept. Like winning the lottery and paying off your mortgage are concepts.

If one seems to have a charmed life, they should be living in fear of the inevitable difficulty or tragedy which will uncharm their charmed life. It happens all the time in books and movies, which are reflections of real life. The princess lives a happy, care-free existence in the glittering palace. The attendants take care of her every need. Even the elephants in the nearby forest seem to trumpet in tune with each other. Birds, butterflies, sunshine and all that. Then, while she is taking tea on the north balcony, the monster sneaks up behind her and devours her alive. It's going to happen. No surprises there.

If its going well, fear the worst.

You are having the perfect day. Work is flowing smoothly and everything is falling into place. All your private phone calls have been for good things and you had very few work-related conversations. You got out of attending 3 meetings and the cafeteria even served your favorite dessert. Can't you see that you are heading inexorably towards a homeward-bound car crash? Isn't it obvious that something is going to go wrong? Why didn't you prevent the accident by giving yourself a paper-cut on the way out of the office? While uncomfortable, it is much less painful than rolling your car down an embankment. Face it, life wasn't meant to be easy.

Still don't believe me? Here's a real-life case in point. "I thought it was a dumb way to die", was Jeff Bezos' recollection of his could-have-been-last-thoughts when he was the passenger in a near-fatal helicopter crash. Money.cnn.com views the helicopter crash as a metaphor to Bezos' "charmed life" - oh yeah, "But then came the dot com crash" they write. If everything is going perfectly then expect that dot com crash because, baby, life wasn't meant to be easy.

Then you have it going the other way, too. You are down in the dumps and, suddenly, you make it big. Rags to Riches. According to a Forbes.com article in 2007, "Almost two-thirds of the world's 946 billionaires made their fortunes from scratch, relying on grit and determination, and not good genes" So most of the wealthiest people in the world started off poor and then made it into the big-time. Not so charmed before; plenty charmed after, but still doesn't qualify as a "charmed life"because of the first bit. Points earned only later in the game don't make a perfect score.

But my strongest argument that a "charmed life" is nothing more than a popularized quote from Shakespeare is that people are human. That means they die. So even if the person's entire life is going great and they make it to 100 years old with nothing but good luck, success and happiness under their belts, they will still inevitably die. "He was doing great until a sudden heart attack killed him dead in a stalled elevator between the 14th and 15th floors during an electrical outage when an errant cigarette-lighter delivery van collided with a petrol tanker, which rolled into the lobby of his building, setting it on fire." Just one small incident can ruin such a perfect record. How charmed can that be?

So if things seem to be difficult and if life seems to throw you punches that you have trouble avoiding or absorbing, then just remember that those troubles are a blessing in disguise. Imagine if you had a "charmed life", you would do nothing but live in agonizing fear until something bad happened, petrified of the inevitable upsetting of the apple cart. Who wants that? Which is why I'm not so worried when sometimes it seems that the only thing in my life that isn't hard is my abdomen.


This post in in response to a challenge to write about "the only thing in my life that isn't hard is my abdomen".