Why do we bother to live?
I was thinking about that the past couple of weeks, as I thought about what I had gone through and what the future might hold. The most difficult part is accepting, once again, that bad things can happen to me. I truly believed that my biopsy result would be normal, and that I would escape with just a biopsy (and only the bill for the biopsy.) As I consider the future, I find myself returning to that moment, that awful moment, when I disovered I might have cancer and I would need surgery.
My counselor in college gave me a list of cognitive errors (I think they’re called) and two of them that I do all the time are called The Crystal Ball and Black and White Thinking. Crystal Ball means predicting the future, and acting as if you know exactly what the future holds. Black and White thinking means thinking in absolute terms. I have been doing both of those for the past month. I saw the future, and it was all bad.
This question came to a head last Sunday, when I was listening to the French Open final. I went to the Roland Garros website and pulled up the live score tracker, and Radio Roland Garros. I decided ahead of time that I would leave the radio on as long as the match was going well, and as soon as it stopped going well, I would turn the radio off. I spent a lot of time listening to the radio, turning off the radio, and cleaning and purging my room, especially my overloaded bookshelf. (Am I really going to read both The Canterbury Tales and La Mort D’Arthur within the near future?)
Eventually, Rafa lost eight games in a row, and the third set. He went down a break in the fourth set, and the match was postponed until the next day on account of rain. I was positively sick, and devastated. At the same time, I realized, it wasn’t about the tennis.
I asked the question at the beginning of this post, “Why bother to live?” At the same time, I could ask, “Why bother to be a Rafa fan?” After all, being a fan of Rafa is not for the faint of heart. It’s often an agonizing experience, filled with genuine terror and deep anguish, and no one warns you of that when you sign up to be a Rafa fan! I mentioned that to a poster on Tennis.com, Lizzie I believe, who mentioned that she became a fan of Rafa in 2010 at the French Open, but little did she imagine what was going to happen next! I responded to her that, indeed, the life of a Rafa fan is indeed an intense, trying life.
With this in mind, I hoped for the best, but prepared myself for the worst. I told God that Rafa should definitely win the tournament, even though I don’t really think God affects the outcome of tennis tournaments, but I wanted to make sure that God knew who I thought should win. Nevertheless, I felt helpless and hopeless. After all, I had seen the future, and it was all bad.
The next day at work, I snuck onto Querido Rafa’s site, knowing that whatever happened, she and her other followers would put it in the right perspective. She hadn’t posted any new post, so I went to the comment sections. And there they were. Expressions of joy, of happiness, of euphoria. People mentioning seventh heaven and hugging and kissing in Rafa’s stands. Could it be…
I went to Tennis.com to confirm, feeling safe, and there it was, a banner proclaiming Hail to the King, celebrating Rafa’s unprecidented (for men) seventh French Open title.
For those of us who, in the midst of those excrutiating moments on Sunday, asked ourselves, “Why be a Rafa fan?” we got our answer in an emphatic fashion on Monday morning. Yes, the life of a Rafa fan is a life of emotional tourmoil and panic, but it also involves wonderful surprises and “the invasion of the purest joy.” And I realized, in a way, that life is a lot like that too. Living is incredibly difficult at times, sorrowful. But it can also be joyful and even glorious. That is why we bother to live.
On Monday morning, I chose to take two important personal lessons from Rafa’s win at Roland Garros. I have not seen the future, and it will not be all bad. Some of it might even be amazing.