Now. The moment. Today. Tomorrow: it doesn’t come.
I have just returned home after a 21-day stay in a rehabilitation center after fracturing my leg by falling out of lightweight wheelchair going down a ramp. I learned so many life lessons during the last three weeks.
I found out a forearm dragon tattoo cost a cartoon of cigarettes in San Quentin in 1970. Just before fracturing my leg, I visited the Ed Hardy exhibit at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco. One work, entitled 2000 Dragons, had over two thousand variations of a three-toed dragon. Hardy learned design variation early when visiting the tattoo parlors on The Pike in Long Beach, an amusement arcade where the sailors frequented. My mother was born and raised in Long Beach, and I spent every summer there until I went away to college. I heard my grandmother warn us not to mingle with the sailors and certainly not to go to The Pike. Anyone over sixty years old who had such a large dragon tattoo on entire forearm, I reasoned must certainly be a sailor. Three toed dragons are Japanese and five toed dragons are Chinese (generally speaking), so I wondered where this man had gotten his, in China or Japan, so I asked him. San Quentin. Then I asked how much it cost? Cartoon of cigarettes. Another Vietnam vet, a surgeon with the Special Forces, said that I asked too many questions. I agreed.
After one week at the rehabilitation center, I realized some people had been there years (my roomie for six years) and others were rehabilitating for one to twenty four weeks. There were people with dementia, with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, broken hips or legs, or recovering from a brain aneurism.
I literally rolled into Write About Your Life class accidentally while trying to go somewhere else, and we discussed three topics: Summer, What’s Good About Being Lazy, and What ‘s it All About. The gifted instructor used poetry, printed words, and music with lyrics that nearly everyone identified with. Each patient wrote words, poems if you will, about the topics. The instructor noted my entry into the class and mentioned all was confidential. I was there one and a half hours. The instructor read each patient’s poem to the group about each topic and we discussed. I learned most of the patients found Summer to be a lonely time of year and What’s Good About Being Lazy was permission.
But it was the answer to What’s It All About that helped me throughout my twenty-one day stay. How long have I tried to live each moment and not worry about tomorrow? Here I was with some people who have lived in the rehabilitation center for years, some nine years. What did they teach me? What’s It All About?
One woman wrote NOW in different styles, colors and sizes. All NOW. The Zen understanding of the moment. Today. I need to get stronger today. Tomorrow: it doesn’t come.