This week has been a difficult one, with so many masked faces raising the ghosts of memories that I could wish had stayed well buried… memories of moments that I will not forget, no matter how much wishing I might do. Perhaps it is fallout from the whole virus crisis, perhaps it is something in the air… a collective reaction to having held our breath for so long while life has been on hold. It is often once a crisis begins to wind down, and the immediate need for action has eased, that the true scale of the emotions that have been simmering below the surface begin to make themselves known.
But, in spite of that, and despite it being a week of painkillers for breakfast every day, there have been many brighter moments, with Nature unveiling daily miracles and my son making plans that might make my life a touch easier one of these days. A week, then, of ups and downs… which is how life usually works.
The memories that came back, unwanted and unasked, took me back to my son’s bedside, over a decade ago. He was attached to so many wires, tubes and screens that almost every function of his comatose body could be read on the screens. Watching the monitors, I couldn’t help comparing them to the video games my sons used to play, where their on-screen characters had a life-counter. Nor could I help thinking how closely the human heartbeat resembles the life that it counts.
Most of the time its measured beat runs like clockwork, a predictable organic machine that its inorganic counterpart displays upon the screen as a series of peaks and troughs. There is a regularity about them, each beat made up of multiple events that must reach both apex and nadir before repeating the cycle.
The similarities with daily life are easy to discern… most of us are, in some way, regulated by the clock. It calls us to work, to meals, to the commute or the school run… each day has a pattern dictated by necessity and habit. Each day has its highs and lows… many of them also predictable and part of the pattern into which we have grown or fallen.
The wider events of our lives also seem to run in a series of peaks and troughs, with the good times preceded and followed by ones we see as not-so-good, at least while we are living through them. There is a vague trepidation about ‘what next’ when the rhythm falters and no predictable timescale to these swings from high to low and back, but we can be pretty sure they will happen. It is only in hindsight that we may realise that the troughs are as valuable as the peaks.
Many of these series’ of events seem to carry a common thread, a pattern that keeps bringing them around, again and again, until we learn how to break the chain. It is these similarities that can give us the insight to discern what we need to look at within ourselves in order to move forward instead of placing the onus on life and going round in circles.
Progress will lead to a new challenge and it may seem as if each bit of progress takes you to a new and more difficult level. The difference is that, just like a game, by the time you complete a level and progress, you have learned new skills through experience. You move forward on a spiral path, not in circles, and with each turn of the arc you are better equipped for the new terrain.
Not all life’s challenges are born of our choices or characters though. Like the villain in a game or a blip in the beat registered on the monitor, some things just happen without warning and we have to deal with them as best we can… ready or not.
It is then that all the troughs we have survived show their worth, allowing us to draw upon the skills and experience they give us while the peaks give us hope of a better day and a reminder that once the lowest point has been reached, the only way is up.