Thursday, May 7, 2020

Day Four Thousand One Hundred and Fifty . . . Going Up?

10:24 AM
May 8, 2020

I woke up this morning thinking about elevators.

Humans have a very peculiar relationship with elevators. We give up a lot of our power to a semi-automated box with numbers, buttons and lights on a regular basis. Depending on location and purpose they may even be designed with a window or two. Or it may be completely clear and on the outside of a building adding to its cool/elegance factor.

I'm sure there are people who chose not to use them. I shy away from them when I can just for exercise sake. But this internal agreement has its limits. I'd say five (maybe six) floors is all I'd really want to climb for health's sake. And of course this all is dependent on if and what I'm carrying. I'm lazy at heart. It doesn't take much to sway my resolve.

The four floor apartment complex I live in here in Kyoto is a new building. And as such it's got a cute little elevator that's big enough for maybe four people. It's got windows on its doors to see each floor as it goes by. There aren't that many tenants here and so I rarely see anyone waiting for it--I think it's happened once that I had to ride with somebody else. Sometimes I use it, but mainly I take the stairs. Regardless of whether or not I can see the floors going by I've still managed to get off on the wrong one on occasion.

But the elevators I woke up thinking about today are not the kind with windows.

No, I'm talking about your standard issue, big, boxy elevator that you walk into and the doors close and if it wasn't for the light above you it would be black as night.

We make so many casual, unspoken agreements on a day-to-day basis. So many things we do where we put our trust in something or someone else to work like it should--an ATM, revolving door, subway, traffic signal, etc. I'm not a statistician but I'd say it's safe to assume that those agreements more often than not end up all shaking out about even, or at least winning more than losing. I'd like to hope so. Either way I'm not going to look it up.

But your average, department store elevator comes designed with a feature that we all rely on in exchange for putting our trust in it. This goes beyond just safety and the assumption that it will stay powered, maintained and safe.

I'm talking about the numbers we all watch as it moves.

They may be digital or they may be (in the case of an old-timey version) an arrow that follows an arc with numerals on it as it goes up and down. Every elevator has to have them because we rely on these numbers to know where we are in relation to where we want to go.

If those numbers weren't there it would make using an elevator a challenge to say the least.

Can you imagine getting into an elevator in an unfamiliar skyscraper needing to go to the 50th floor, pushing the button marked "50" and not knowing absolutely for sure when you've arrived? Of course this is a ridiculous question. Nobody would ever design a system like this. It's counter-intuitive and just bad business sense. The whole point of an elevator is to get you where you need to go quicker than you could using your own limbs under your own power.

The numbers on the inside tell us what to expect so we can prepare and make our move. Sometimes I picture myself being announced to the audience of a late night program. The doors open, the band kicks in and God help anyone standing in my way. We got a show to do, people!

Can you tell I'm an only child? Can you?

I'm writing this while I sit on our bed, just after breakfast on May 8th.

At midnight I will be 50 years old.

Holy shit.

How did this happen?

I mean, the easiest explanation was that I was born on May 9, 1970 and I haven't died yet.

But seriously . . . this is how it feels.

This is what it's like to have a half of a century of life under one's belt.

This feeling of the closing of a book "Alex Johnson: 40-49 In Words And Pictures" is a very strange and surreal one.

It's exciting, nerve-racking and a little bit worrisome.

I know, I know, I shouldn't make a big deal out of it. It's just a number.

But god damnit it's my number. And to me it's a big one.

And when I say that, it's not that I feel like I'm old, per se. More so I feel like I'm incredibly lucky to have made it this far. Hell, I had some good friends who didn't make it this far. They had some of the same lifestyle issues as I did and came up in the same era and under a similar set of circumstances as me. But they didn't make it through this crazy maze of choices.

Who knows, maybe they made it as far as they ever were going to and I'm just a nut who thinks we should all have the opportunity to live out the full average lifespan of a human.

If that were to be my case I'd have a good 26 years left to do stupid shit.

But it's an average because . . . well, not everyone's lucky enough to make it that far. And my friends who died in their 40s play into the math. It's just the sad side of the percentage.

But sitting here staring at my empty yogurt and fruit bowl looking back on my last decade I have to sit and smile for the joy and new experiences it has brought me.

When I think about what it felt like to be in the last year or so of my thirties and to have just lost my ballast--my mom and aunt--to have gotten sober, bought my first home and . . . and to have met my future wife.

It's all almost too much for me to really take in.

But it actually happened. Ten years ago Jodi and I celebrated my 40th birthday and began our journey from the farthest edge of the east coast to the middle of Japan where we are writing our latest adventure tale.

But these elevators I woke up thinking about today. They have numbers so you can see where you are on your brief journey between floors. We rely on them for the short time we are in their care. I've never been purposely led astray by an elevator. I may have missed my floor because I was looking at my phone or just not paying attention (which is almost always because I'm looking at my phone). And we trust them to work and not snap off in mid-ride like in the movies. We expect them to work and at least in my case they always have.

But this whole life thing.

To me it feels like an elevator with no numbers.

I mean, I can feel it's pretty far up.

I can see in my reflection of the shiny door that my face tells the story of almost five decades.

I guess as long as I'm alive that this elevator I'm in is going up. But I have no choice but to believe it is from the way it feels deep down inside. I have to know that what I'm doing has been building on what's come before it--that it's been growing, expanding, learning and evolving.

I can feel in my heart and soul that I've lived several distinct lifetimes: precocious child, mama's boy, inquisitive adolescent, unabashed hellion, wanderer, rocky rocker rock star, insolent party boy, substance abuser, deathwish enthusiast, seeker of redemption, lovestruck fool, clear-headed creator and assumed expatriate.

And with most of these lifetimes comes a place in time, a way to put my life into some sort of order. Because as haphazard as my time on earth has seemed at times there's definitely been an arc to it all, not that an elevator travels in an arc. No, that would be a bridge. But I'm not going to digress again.

Tonight before I go to sleep I'm going to push the button on the inside of my elevator and when I wake up it's going to be the 50th floor. But I won't have any way to prove it means anything because I won't really be able to see the outside to tell how far up I am. I just have to trust that I am where my birth certificate says I am in life and believe in my capacity for trusting and loving whatever I find outside when I walk through the doors.

Not like I have a choice.

It's trust and love or nothing as far as I'm concerned.

Trust and love is all I have and all I have ever wanted.

Trust and love is all I get from the most important person in my world.

Trust and love guide me through my day.

Trust and love will let me sleep deeply and soundly into the night.

Trust and love will be what I hope to leave as memories of me when my time is done.

50th floor: trust and love.

Life is unpredictable. Nobody knows for sure what's around the corner.

I want to be alive for a long time from now. I've got things to eat, stuff to do, shows to watch and dumb jokes to hear and tell.

But, you know, nobody ever gets into an elevator thinking they won't be eventually coming out.

Maybe I'll take the stairs for a while.

Thanks for reading,


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