In a parking lot I ran into someone the other day and we chatted about the issue of what one might call quality of life. He was a bon vivant, an acquaintance, not a friend exactly, who was telling me, even admonishing me that at my age I should be enjoying a high quality of life. He told me that I should join his country club and play golf. He also said that he had a certain favorite spa where he regularly has his chest hair removed. He was recommending it to me.
Now I just had my chest hair removed, and it was rather painful, not something I would like to repeat. My removal was not at a spa or a country club but at the cardiologist, where a nurse took a dry razor and shaved my hair away. No shaving cream, nothing, just a rhythmical “rip, rip, rip,” and voila, no chest hair. But pain? Yes, and the pain lingers even now, two weeks after the fact.
I did not tell him, however, that I like my chest hair just where it is. Rather, I merely listened, taking mental notes, as writers are wont to do, and wondering if this fellow couldn’t make for a good character in a book.
Of course, I could hardly fail to contrast this experience with two things. First, I thought of a candle that has been in the news recently: it is supposedly scented like a woman’s private parts. On the one hand, this fellow’s instruction to grasp for the highlife seemed to me rather like that candle: it may smell a certain way, but it is in fact a deception. The candle is obviously not a woman’s privy parts and its smell is likely to be but a poor imitation; (I here admit that I haven’t smelled it, but I have smelled strawberry-scented candles that don’t smell like strawberries). But even if it does have an authentic odor, it would likely be a bit embarrassing to have it burning, especially when someone shows up at your door who can recognize its imitative scent. Not easy to explain, I imagine. I mean if it were scented like hot cocoa, the neighbor might say, “Making cocoa?” and you could respond, “No, I just got a cocoa scented candle for Christmas,” or the like, and no one would bat an eye. But the other candle would be, well, harder to explain.
The second thing that I contrasted this fellow’s quality-of-life advice was with the situation of a dear friend who is going through the decline of his mother. She now resides in a nursing home where he visits her daily for rather lengthy stays, and loves on her, hugs her, arranges her affairs, and cares for her as best he can and as much as time permits. She herself has, one could say, a rather poor quality of life, as she is in a wheelchair now and is also showing signs of dementia. But her quality of life, however poor, is made better, much better, because of his sustained care and love.
And my friend, the caregiver? My friend has a very high quality of life, in my opinion. Why? Well, it’s no doubt because of something that he and I were talking about the other day: we agreed that if you’re living life correctly, if you’re living life well, you’re probably looking after the needs of others over and above your own needs. Love, you see, has a sacrificial quality to it, which of course is what Christmas is all about, and, in an even deeper way, Easter, as well.
So, I leave you with this thought: if you’re living life well, if we are living life well, we are probably caring for others around us much of the time, trying to give them as high a quality of life as possible. And that, in turn, paradoxically, will smell better than any cocoa- or strawberry- (or otherwise-) scented candle and in fact give us a high quality of life, one surely less painful that having one’s chest hair plucked or rhythmically shaved.