Friday, April 28, 2006

Altered States

When health issues forced some major lifestyle changes on me a few years back, I couldn’t foresee what profound and lasting effects they would have on my life. In retrospect, I have to say that there was probably as much good to come out of them as bad, so I’m not complaining. Not too loudly, anyway. I think it has something to do with being able to turn whatever lemons life delivers into orange juice.

Knocked for a loop by a triple-whammy of chronic pain, chronic sleep deprivation and chronic fatigue, holding any kind of job was out of the question. Apparently, so were Social Security or Supplemental Security benefits. The loss of income was devastating and, slowly, my support infrastructure began to crumble as my savings drained away.

One of the first things to go was my car, a 1985 Honda CRX. In need of a clutch that I couldn’t afford, insurance I couldn’t afford, and license tags I couldn’t afford, it made more sense to sell it than it did to park it and let it devolve into a pile of rust. With the proceeds from the sale I paid a month’s rent, updated my eyeglasses prescription, and bought a used Gary Fisher mountain bike, among other things.

Being afoot, being unemployed (and unemployable), being broke, and getting evicted all had hidden benefits, as I would later discover.

Being afoot taught me that a bike is a good substitute for a car, and that it’s possible to break one’s addiction to oil. It also got me acquainted with neighbors I might not have met, otherwise.

Being unemployed taught me that entrepreneurship has potentials and advantages not shared by traditional employment.

Being broke inspired creativity and resourcefulness, and taught me that I really didn’t need all the things I thought I did, and that by consuming less I was helping to save the environment.

Getting evicted taught me that once one leaves the perceived safety and comfort of a toxic mold-infested home behind it’s actually possible to get well.

Yes, there’s been adversity, and an ongoing struggle to overcome it. Still, adversity hasn’t been all bad; unpleasant as it is, it’s given me some valuable lessons, provided new insights, changed attitudes, opinions, perspectives and values.

But what adversity has given me, most of all, is hope.

That, and a royal pain in the neck.

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