First-World Problems

My day started out bad. I woke up with acid reflux. At worst it blocks my air tubes and causes me to struggle for breath so badly I know what it feels like to start asphyxiating. At best it burns in my chest and sends its nasty acid vapors into my nose and mouth for a few hours after waking up, all the while causing me to cough and increase the sensation each time I do. I’ve eliminated it for the most part, but it decided to slip in and give me a swift kick in the throat this morning.

After my stomach acid so unceremoniously woke me up my father asked me if I could take him to a city that’s just under an hour away by car. I did my best to say yes with a burning throat and watery eyes and needing to pee really badly. The reason I mention this is because my father has next to no mobility on his own, and taking him out for any errands or appointments can be a tiring affair as I have to do most of the heavy lifting, and moving a fully-grown human around all by myself is tiring and makes for a lot of back problems. I’m not trying to complain; taking care of my father in his time of need has been a highlight of my life. But the boots on the ground truth of it is that it is physically taxing.

My father also needed to stop off at the bank and to avoid me having to lug the wheelchair out of the trunk and lift him out of the car and into the chair, he just gave me the ATM card and told me the PIN. Only the PIN didn’t work. So I had to lug the wheelchair out of the trunk, lift my father out of the car, wheel him down to the end of the sidewalk because the heartless bastards who designed the shopping center couldn’t manage to put the handicapped parking spaces anywhere near the venues they were accessing (on a side note, I’ve found myself noticing the rather sub-par accessibility measures in place for the handicapped since I’ve been helping my father get around.) Anyway, as I was saying, I wheeled my father into the bank, he did his business, and then I got him back into the car and wrestled the wheelchair back into my trunk. All because the stupid PIN wouldn’t work. Nothing’s ever easy, it seems.

The hardships pretty much end there, as the rest of the trip went smoothly. It’s not a terrible burden, and I’m glad to be my father’s Johnny-on-the-spot. In fact, I only bring it up because of something I noticed much later in the day. As I was walking by the living room The Bachelorette was ending and they were showing previews of the next show. Andi Dorfman, the current Bachelorette, was crying and saying “It’s so hard,” or words to that effect, and later there was footage of her tearing off her mics in frustration and storming out of view of the cameras.

Now I’ll begin by saying that I’m not trying to pick on Andi. I’m just being opportunistic in using this one televised snippet to illustrate a broader point. I would guess that she isn’t a chronic whiner. We all have those “Woe is me” moments, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as we don’t stew in our self-pity. But at that moment I thought to myself, “I’d gladly trade places with you, Andi.” I understand she’s serious about trying to find a spouse, but let’s face it, she’s getting national exposure on her show and others, she’s having no-expense-is-to-great dates with dozens of hand-picked men in exotic locales and may even be getting a paycheck to boot. As I approach the beginning of my fourth year without steady employment and I face the prospect of having to start from scratch at age forty-three in some crappy minimum-wage hellhole of a job because the jobs that I have thirteen years of experience for never bother to even contact me when I apply to them, I can’t help but think that her problems are pretty damn good.

And when it comes down to it, my own problems are pretty damn good. Despite being completely broke, I haven’t gone a day without three square meals, shelter, and the ability to watch satellite television whenever I want. Yeah, things could be better, but they could be a Hell of a lot worse. I’m not wheeling a shopping cart filled with all my earthly possessions to a store to buy a loaf of bread with the pittance I panhandled from my cardboard box home on the sidewalk.

The thing that made me think this was blog-worthy was how Andi’s moment of frustration was sandwiched between two very different stories. After her show came the eleven-o’clock news, and the first story they featured was of a couple who had no running water in their house. The husband was disabled, so he couldn’t work, and he relied on his wife, but both were getting up there in years. They had a well, but it had run dry and digging a deeper one would run them up to around 25,000 dollars. Seriously? What kind of rip-off artist charges 25,000 dollars to dig a hole? I couldn’t help but feel for them, and it made the scene with Andi before that seem much more frivolous.

Prior to The Bachelorette was Dancing With the Stars. I admit, I watch that show. One of the stars this season is Amy Purdy. She is famous for medaling in the Sochi Paralympics, where she competed as a snowboarder – with two amputated lower legs. She has been quite frankly tearing it up in DWTS, and is rumored to be the favorite going into the final. That night she put on an incredibly moving dance that really summed up why she has been so inspirational on the show. She even ended the dance by twisting around in mid air holding a rope with one hand. Hell, I have two healthy legs and I can’t do that!

And let’s not forget the person who had been watching – or more likely sleeping through – The Bachelorette. My father is far worse off than I am. I’m sure he’d take my jobless woes for the ability to walk without falling down and speak without slurring his words. Sometimes when I’m feeling like my life is the Worst Thing Ever© I need only look across the room at my father and realize that I not only have it better than a lot of people, but even in my low moments I have the ability to help others. Putting a little perspective on my problems really does wonders for my morale. Funny how that works.