I have a neighbor that I see about once a week or so. He’s an older gentleman (but not quite retirement age) and lives here with his wife. I get the feeling that they hit on hard times and this complex is a stepping stone for them as they get back on their feet. With the economy the way it is, it comes as no surprise.
Every time I see this gentleman, I say good morning (or afternoon or evening) and ask how his day is going. Almost always, regardless of the time of day, he answers that he is tired. I can definitely get behind that as I am tired myself at one point or another and if he is fallen on hard times, that would drain the life out of me as well.
But he’s always tired. Every time I ask how he’s doing. At the very least, I don’t think he’s ever told me things were alright or even just ok, let alone good or wonderful.
I find this in other areas of my life as well. The cynicism and sadness that seems to prevail over some people can become so thick it’s like they have clothed themselves with it as they would don a heavy, fur coat for an unseasonably cold winter in Northern Siberia. Some try to joke about it as though it makes such a heavy coat fit in the mildly pleasant weather that life can be. Others seem to be just tired of the burden of it all the time. Both don’t seem to realize how endearingly foolish they look wearing such clothing in what could otherwise be a paradisaical experience (though, admittedly, not always and for some not often at all).
I may be coming down on my tired friend too hard. Life can be rough and while I’ve experienced my hard times, I know they don’t compare to those that others have gone through. I may just be young and not felt the sting of life that comes before the sting of death. But I do believe that death has no sting as Brahms so eloquently set to music. I have to wonder, then, if life really needs us provide it with it’s own sting or if the idea that life is so hard is something we bring to the table ourselves. How many hardships are all the harder because we call them hardships? How many hardships would appear ridiculous if we called them easyships? Now I’m just being corny, but I couldn’t really see another way to move on from that one.
If you knew me in college, you know that when asked how I was doing, I would often say I was tired. And I was honest about that. Just not completely. Really, life was hard and I didn’t have a way to express just how hard it was for me at times. So I said I was tired because that’s how it felt. Not sleepy, just tired and weary to my soul. I wonder if my gentle friend would say the same? I wonder if there’s any way to be present for him having experienced my own version of that?