Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Up for grabs

One very noticeable aspect of growing older is that I no longer take so much for granted. I'm much more aware of the imperman-ence of everything, that however solid something seems, it could collapse at any moment.

As a child, I took most things for granted - my parents' relationship, my home, my school, my physical and emotional well-being, having enough money, living in a peaceful country and a dozen other things. It never occurred to me that some unfortunate twist of fate could end them all tomorrow.

As I grew older I became aware of the fragility of all these supposedly rock-solid circumstances. Relationships could end, my home could be repossessed, I could develop some crippling illness, my country could go to war. Whether one's life was going well or going badly depended on personal effort and also on luck.

My parents didn't just magically stay together. They had to work at the relationship, at dealing with their differences. My home was only there as long as the mortgage was paid. My well-being relied on my parents' love and affection. And so on. I gradually realised that all these apparent "givens" were not given but painstakingly arrived at.

And I took things for granted not just in the sense of assuming an inherent permanence but in the sense of not fully appreciating them for what they were. I didn't realise how lucky I was to have a supportive and settled home life when thousands of people are orphans or refugees or live on the streets. I wasn't aware of how privileged I was.

No longer taking things for granted is both scary and exciting. Scary because I realise just how easily my life could implode, exciting because everything's up for grabs and everything's negotiable.

My life could change utterly in the twinkling of an eye.

18 comments:

Ursula said...

Indeed. You "could" die. As results go you can't beat it.

U

John Gray said...

I am just realising how important this statement is

Bijoux said...

Well, children should be able to take things for granted, like food, clothing, shelter and love. If more children had these 'privileges' think how much better society would be as a whole. Unfortunately, children are valued so little.

nick said...

John: You mean no longer taking things for granted?

Bijoux: I'm not saying children shouldn't take things for granted. That's what they inevitably do because of their lack of life experience and their high level of trust. I'm not saying they should be disillusioned as rapidly as possible, that would be cruel. But yes, so many children aren't valued as they should be.

Cheerful Monk said...

I haven't taken things for granted for years. Nothing lasts forever, appreciate what you have while you still have it, I say.

nick said...

Jean: Indeed, appreciate what you have before it disappears. Which can happen all too easily.

chloe said...

Many children growing up in war and conflicts take nothing for granted and have much more life experience that you ever can imagine.

nick said...

Chloe: Very true. Some kids are forced to grow up very fast. As a child, my life experience was very limited and very sheltered, especially as I went to middle-class all-male schools.

Rummuser said...

I beg to differ. We must take it for granted. It has been granted to us to have a LIFE. It can be taken away any time and so while we can, we must have a ball depending on how we define 'ball'.

tammy j said...

life itself. like the old comedienne said..."it's a surprise every morning when I wake up." it's wonderful really. just to wake up!
when I was 17 and the marine was 14 our father had a heart attack and never returned from work that day. as most kids do I hadn't thought about any kind of loss. but then I realized that life is kind of like waiting for the next shoe to fall. so nothing since then has been taken for granted really. don't know that it was even a recognized feeling then but it just was there. and has since remained.

nick said...

Ramana: But surely if you're determined to have a ball, then you're not taking life for granted but making the most of it?

Tammy: Life is indeed like waiting for the next shoe to fall, disconcerting though that may be. And something like your dad's heart attack is exactly what opens our eyes to life's fragility.

kylie said...

I agree with Ramana, we have to take things for granted or the stress would stop us from being able to enjoy anything. The trick is to be able to change course when it becomes necessary.
One must carry on as if it will always be this way but when it is not this way any more, one must be able to start again with the idea that things will be this way and that we can rely on this situation. Resilience is all about making the changes as smoothly as possible

nick said...

Kylie: I think as we get older we develop a sort of dual-thinking. Yes, we still take certain things for granted (our job, our home, our friends etc) but at the same time we're aware that these things could disappear at any moment if we do something stupid, our luck runs out, the economy collapses etc. I agree, life would be impossible if we never ever took anything for granted for even a second. And yes, I guess the crucial point is to develop the necessary resilience that can cope with a sudden shattering life-crisis.

Jenny Woolf said...

I am thinking more and more about refugees and realising how lucky I am. With my ankle problem at present I am feeling fed up but then I think how much worse if I was a refugee with nowhere to go as well. What do they do when they have toothache? Or migraine? And young kids to look after, or sick old people to support? Doesn't bear thinking about.

Joared said...

I learned to take nothing for granted when very young, probably about 5 years of age. I was confident my mother would always be there for me, though within a few years I learned she had the potential for health issues that could alter life. To realize just how altered I probably couldn’t imagine, but fortunately that didn’t happen. So I did have stability, but with significant changes in the life I had expected.

I think of how disruptive life must be for children of immigrants and refugees. I wonder how this will impact their future lives and ours, in turn, as we do all share this planet.

nick said...

Jenny: Absolutely, refugees can taken nothing for granted, they're stranded and totally dependent on other people's support.

Joared: When young, we take for granted our parents will always be there to look after us, and if they suddenly become seriously ill or die it's an incredible shock.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I'm here to tell you, Nick, that life can turn on a dime.

nick said...

Agent: It certainly can, as you know all too well from your recent experiences.