The Comeback Takes Longer than the Setback

by Clara Nipper


Why is that?

In spite of not being a sci-fi devotee, I have frequently wished to be a robot so that I can just make a list and set a schedule and stick to it and accomplish all the goals I set, bypassing entirely that weepy, scared, playful, sleepy, hungry, tired, pensive, discouraged, flexible, social, loving, weak link of human frailty that decides to take the day off and play with the cats or skate or spend time with friends or bird watch or go to bed early or relax with Pinterest and a popsicle (not being a vampire fan either, I asked Kris if she would be vampires with me and she said, "ewww, no!" She obviously didn't understand the point I was trying to make about the benefit of immortality. We would be together forever and neither of us would get sick or die. We fought about it, which is even more foolish, since it's hypothetical only-as far as I know-but now she knows to agree immediately when I say I wish we were vampires).

We've all experienced getting a minor cold that doesn't seem like much of a setback and then find ourselves playing catch up for weeks. And when the lovely holidays, or even great vacations are over, who doesn't heave a sigh of relief that things can finally get back to normal?

Don't get me started on fitness-how one day off equals a setback for a week. And having a short work week or a day off tends to make things harder on the return to the office.

It's just not fair.

So, I'm still struggling with a comeback; a returning home to myself after profound setbacks. After four devastating losses that knocked me out like body blows, I thought I would be "normal" by now; no, I thought I would be better than normal; I thought I would effortlessly reclaim my usual strict high standards of over-achievement and robot-like improvement and accomplishment like clockwork. But I'm not. I'm so flawed; easily angered and exhausted with trying. It's very humbling to my glazomaniac robot self.

Zen koan: I am sick to death of square one, but I am so grateful for square one. I do love and I do hate a new beginning. Square one is also known as a fresh start and the dawn of a new day.  Very hopeful-sounding. But love it or hate it, here I am. What doesn't come standard in the robot suit is the ability to feel heretofore unknown compassion and gentleness for those who are struggling too. Kindness really blunts my harsh critical judgment. And I get surprised by the amazing tenderness of people.

So greetings from the rough but beautiful road back. It's the square ones that keep you young, right? When you run out of square ones, you're done. I've got to go play with the cats now.