Friday, August 20, 2010

Feeling Blue

When I was working in a liquor store 10 years ago, I had a customer who was consistently negative. I had to call her Debbie Downer. Naturally I would ask customers "How are you?" after greeting them, but at one point I made a promise to myself to stop asking her about how she was. I was never able to fulfill that promise. I only caught myself after doing it, when it was too late and the usual response "Oh, don't ask, I'm miserable. I work way too hard and get paid too little (Mind you, she's telling a stock boy who was working 7 days a week and making $ 5 an hour) I have to take care of this and that, I don't have enough time to blah blah blah……." And the complaints kept on coming as if it was the end of the world. I always smiled and said "Hang in there, tomorrow is another day" and went on with the transaction. One day I talked about the weather, a typical thing to reference when you have nothing in common with someone "Oh winter is starting, we're gonna lose an hour of day time soon" and immediately, as if she knew I was going to talk about winter, she responded " An hour! wait till it's dark by 4:30 and cold and miserable then the rain that only God knows when it would stop. And with the rain comes the mudslides and the threats it has on houses and………." Dear lord, did I say Tsunami was coming to LA? I just wanted to be polite and say something about the weather instead of saying "How are you?". I remember that customer because I was always able to see some kind of kindness in her eyes and I knew that happiness was somewhere within, she was not able to find.

One day, I wasn't feeling well, I really don't remember what it was, but she came to the store and saw me not feeling hot. She asked what was wrong, I might have mentioned jokingly that I was getting older. I wasn't 30 yet. And Debbie Downer immediately said "Wait till you get my age Tony, the joints will hurt, the memory will be long gone, the back will ache, the head will spin, the eyes will weaken, the stomach will get poisoned, the …. " Now you can only imagine the look on my face with my eyes wide open and my lower jaw hitting the floor, and in my head I kept telling myself "It can't be that bad, it can't be that bad, don't listen to her Tony, it's not true" and before I knew it, she was comparing me to a car that gets old and needs spare parts and annual maintenance then semi annual then quarterly maintenance and if I were lucky, it will go down to once a month. I wanted to disassociate myself from that conversation and from that woman who was only 50 so bad that day.

And today, I'm feeling blue. I guess her words sound vivid and loud in my ears. I don't think I understood her words back then, but I do now. I kept on telling myself,  be grateful, it could be worse. And yes I'm fully aware of that. But I'm sharing in my blog for the first time that I'm complaining. It's been a few years since the pain in my groin started and no doctor was able to give me a straight answer about why and how and what happened to get to a point where pain starts after I take a simple 10 minute walk. Then an inflammation took place somewhere in my body where also no Doctor was able to tell me how it happened and how to avoid it in the future, thank God they were able to treat it (I think, I'm not 100% back to normal yet) then my inner ear got infected and at one point I couldn't hear from my right ear anymore, however I tend to think I hear well now (I have to, otherwise it would show in my songs). Then a struggle with a wart started and kept on going for over two years and now it's gone I would like to think. And this week, after two months of going back and forth to different doctors, I found out that I have a meniscus tear in my right knee: the kind of tear that needs surgery. The surgery involves taking away 30% of it without replacing it with anything else, which according to the doctor, would increase the possibility of arthritis in my older days. But are my older days far away anymore?

Sometimes we sympathize with people, we feel sorry for them, for their conditions, we even associate their pain with other people who went through the same. We dare say at times "I understand, it's really tough, I can only imagine how painful that must be" But that's not true, we don't understand or even have the ability to imagine unless we personally go through it. True, the only way we can get a real taste of people's health issues or sadness and feelings, or financial difficulties is if or when it happens to us. Sure we say to the loved ones "I feel your pain and I'm here to support you" and that's great, I'm not taking away from it whatsoever. But no one can understand it like the ones going through it.

I sometimes ask myself "I'm only 36, why is this happening already? I want to be able to walk and jog and hear and smell and touch and enjoy life" and then again I remind myself to acknowledge what I still have. But I'm only human, and having a cut in my skin hurts, so what do I say when it's more than that? This is my secret complaint, I still see myself as a lucky and privileged man. And I'm grateful for all the blessings. But sometimes, rarely I'd like to say, I can be Debbie Downer, however, I will not deal with it by going to the liquor store. That, I don't have the curiosity or the need to understand.