The Glorious Domino Effect From a Toppled Landmark
“And I hope when I get old I don’t sit around thinking about it
But I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
A little of the glory
Well time slips away and leaves you with nothing, mister, but
Boring stories of
Glory days …”
Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” is a wistful reverie about the power of nostalgia to make us laugh and cry. It’s funny, touching, rousing, and catchy.
I belong to a Facebook group that facilitates a return to my days of yore, however glory-filled or not they were. It is made up of alumni from the high school I attended.
Recently, an uproar erupted among some group members over a school district decision. The old high school will be demolished in early 2022. Suddenly, it was hailed as a cherished treasure, the spawning ground of countless “glory days.” A petition was initiated to spare the edifice’s destruction. Tours were offered to the public, so people can have one last look. Videos of the visitations were shared for those unable to attend.
The building stopped serving as the high school after my freshman year. Despite only spending nine months there, the news of the structure’s imminent fate got me waxing nostalgic. Glory, much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. My “glorious” highlights during my short tenure, in hindsight, were admittedly commonplace, but were spread throughout the building. They included a hallway introduction to falling in love, dunking a basketball — underinflated though it was — for the first time in the gym, and attaining honor roll in class.
That short jog down memory lane prompted an extended sentimental journey. The catacombs of my brain released a flood of autobiographical tidbits — at the time, self-judged to be notable — from many other years. With 2021 perspective, I objectively resurveyed them all.
The luster of the majority of my feats dimmed noticeably. Some were devalued entirely. But a few stood the test of time. There remain specks of glory in my former days.
Curiously, my mind didn’t serve up any reviewable recollections from after ALS’s intrusion into my life. In the past, I have intentionally pondered what my meager post-ALS legacy might be. In this case, my subconscious seemed to be inferring that we shut the camera down because there’s nothing worthwhile to film.
In what may have been an example of a self-fulfilling prophecy, I recall leaving my neurologist’s office following diagnosis thinking, “This is it. Life is over.” Any promise of fulfillment or achievement was summarily dashed. I was the embodiment of the title of the Moody Blues concept album “Days of Future Passed.” Whatever potential my “future days” once held had been unceremoniously “passed” over.
If it weren’t for ALS, would I have become a captain of industry? Would I have written a critically acclaimed novel? Could I have become a scratch golfer? Would my recreational landscaping projects merit mention in Better Homes and Gardens? No, no, no, and no. But the fantasies would remain intact.
ALS can be a vaporizer of dreams. Aspirational goal-setting, much beyond day-to-day survival, is liable to become an exercise in futility. In my case, in order to avert a state of constant identity crisis, frequent recalibration has been required. The awareness that my psyche deemed all post-ALS activity as being unworthy of “glory” consideration prompted yet another reset.
During my rerun of the erstwhile “Oh Ricky, you’re so fine” delusional episodes, one surprising conclusion was apparent. The few souvenirs that, years later, I retain pride in have nothing to do with the outcome. Instead, it’s the effort exerted that elevates my retrospective regard. Peak performance — relative to my circumstantial capacity — attained and sustained frames my isolated “glory days.”
The same optics may be applied to life after ALS. Of course, my peak has shrunk dramatically, and will continue to do so. That said, I still can push myself to extreme personal resource utilization, and a frame of reference for authenticating glory, in my diminished state, may be rationalized. It may be that none of my ALS journey passes this new muster. But at least it’s open for debate.
That’s the collateral damage that ALS inflicts. It forces doubts about self-worth, value, and contribution to arise.
James Ian, a singer-songwriter battling spinal muscular atrophy, recently released a song that tackles this predicament head-on. Titled “Spaces,” it speaks to the inherent gifts emanating from those who are disabled, regardless of the “space” the cause of the disability deposited them in. My favorite of Ian’s lyrics are:
“You can see it on my face, yeah
I’m not invisible, I’m an original
I’m so much more
Than what you see or what you bargained for
I’ll make this world a better place, yeah.”
Glory, glory, hallelujah!
Note: ALS News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of ALS News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ALS.