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"Life is hard."

I had a tax professor in law school who repeated that sentence like a mantra. That was it, just "life is hard." When my corporate tax class ended, the dozen of us tax nerds (we were like a gang) bought her a mug that said "Life is hard" down the side. (She was a 'round-the-clock coffee drinker, a Mr. Coffee took center stage on her office desk.) We tax nerds thought she was fantastic. The students for whom tax was a chore and a requirement called her the Dragon Lady.

Of course, she knew of what she spoke. She was an overweight chain smoker who was debating retirement as her husband was ill. She would stand outside in the coldest weather with the other smokers, desperate for her fix, and hack up her lungs. She taught us how the IRS could criticize, punish, fine, and imprison taxpayers for their misdeeds, intentional or not. Taxpayers found little sympathy in her class. If you don't want to pay income tax, she said, there's a simple way to avoid it. Don't have any income.

Every generation thinks they have it harder than the one that comes after it. Often, they're right. I know cavemen had it tougher than I do. I know those who lived through the Great Depression and the World Wars have battle scars I will never have (nor want, thank you). By the time my dad was my age, I was 18, heading out to college after being a pain in the ass for at least 13 years. He worked hard to pay for my tuition and all the other stuff I needed. Like food.

There are people in my generation who have it tougher than I do. There are people who I guess already qualify as the next generation who are currently serving overseas that have it infinitely harder than I do.

So I have a woman who loves me, a house full of nice things, a job that pays reasonably well with decent benefits that has moments of satisfaction, and a soft growing belly. There's no shame in that. Isn't what all my ancestors and predecessors lived tough for?

I'm not a tough guy. I only have moments of toughness.

DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME:

Years ago, my best friend Drew worked at a camp along a reservoir in upstate New York. The camp had a wood-burning sauna. One January, I went to visit. We fired up that sauna, the flame bright orange, crackling and popping in the frigid night.

The sauna was right next to the reservoir. While the fire blazed, we cut a hole in the ice.

We got in the sauna. Naked. Sat on wooden benches that felt like the sun. Sweat rolled down us like water in a shower. Salt burned on my tongue.

"You ready?" Drew asked. Famous last words.

I nodded. I didn't have words.

We screamed as we ran out into the dark and jumped into the water. I think my heart stopped. It leapt up into my throat. My testicles chased it.

We screamed louder. Then we ran back in the sauna.

I don't remember much else about that night. I'm sure we drank; we usually did. I do recall there was a lot of laughter.

But mostly, I just remember that rush when I hit the water. It hurt more than anything else I remember. So cold. I say it felt like my heart stopped, and for a second I did think I would die. But it was also glorious.

It hurt and was magnificent.

Life is hard, indeed.



[Posted for LJ Idol - Week 2 - Uphill, both ways, barefoot]

Comments

( 54 comments — Leave a comment )
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(Deleted comment)
thndrstd
Oct. 29th, 2009 12:17 am (UTC)
Thanks for reading. Sometimes I think "crazy" is a complement. :)
(no subject) - jenandbronze - Oct. 30th, 2009 10:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
thndrstd
Oct. 29th, 2009 12:26 am (UTC)
Thanks. I think . . .

No, I mean it, thanks. :)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - thndrstd - Oct. 29th, 2009 03:12 am (UTC) - Expand
pixiebelle
Oct. 29th, 2009 12:23 am (UTC)
In regards to the above comment, crazy can be a compliment :)

Yay for living it up is what I say!
thndrstd
Oct. 29th, 2009 12:26 am (UTC)
Indeed. Thanks for reading.
faerie_spark
Oct. 29th, 2009 02:25 am (UTC)
Marvelous!
thndrstd
Oct. 29th, 2009 02:29 am (UTC)
Thank you. :)
roina_arwen
Oct. 29th, 2009 02:47 am (UTC)
Niiiiiice... Ballsy, but nice! ;)
thndrstd
Oct. 29th, 2009 03:02 am (UTC)
Thanks. :)
cacophonesque
Oct. 29th, 2009 04:12 am (UTC)
Niiice. I've always admired people who do that whole polar bear thing (whether officially or no).
thndrstd
Oct. 29th, 2009 03:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading and the admiration. I won't do it again, but I'm glad I did it once. :)
carlamlee
Oct. 29th, 2009 05:49 am (UTC)
I think you made my heart stop at just the thought of that cold water.

We tax nerds thought she was fantastic. The students for whom tax was a chore and a requirement called her the Dragon Lady.

Oh, tax law. So many people have told me that you either love it or loathe it and I think I agree with them. I fall into the loathe side and so refuse to take it.
thndrstd
Oct. 29th, 2009 03:51 pm (UTC)
I went into tax with no preconceptions and I loved it. It was totally because of the professor I talk about in this post. If not for her, I probably wouldn't have liked it so much.

Of course, there was another professor who always there were 2 types of law students: those who study law and those who study tax.
tamaraland
Oct. 29th, 2009 10:51 am (UTC)
Great post.

Being married to a Finn, I have a few hilarious and extremely painful sauna stories I'm keeping close to my chest for the contest.
thndrstd
Oct. 29th, 2009 03:43 pm (UTC)
LOL. I'll look forward to some Finnish sauna stories.

Wait, that sounds dirtier than I intended. LOL.
gythiawulfie
Oct. 29th, 2009 06:29 pm (UTC)
Hahahahaha
*shivers at the thought of that cold cold water*

good post
thndrstd
Oct. 29th, 2009 07:04 pm (UTC)
Re: Hahahahaha
Thank you.
shadowwolf13
Oct. 29th, 2009 08:15 pm (UTC)
LOL I always wonder about people who jump into freezing water, wonder if they're missing something or if I am. ;)

Wonderful entry.
thndrstd
Oct. 29th, 2009 09:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
beautyofgrey
Oct. 30th, 2009 01:26 am (UTC)
I suppose the icy water isn't too bad, when you have a sauna to go back to. Still, you're crazy, in all the fun, silly ways. ;)
thndrstd
Oct. 30th, 2009 02:36 am (UTC)
YAY, crazy in the good way. That's what I aspire to.

Thanks for reading.
(Deleted comment)
thndrstd
Oct. 31st, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC)
Awesome and yikes. My skin didn't split open, but it was exhilarating and terrifying. I hope your experience was both as well.
majesticarky
Oct. 31st, 2009 03:42 am (UTC)
Oh I don't think I'd ever have gone in that freezing water! You're quite brave. At least you had that home-made sauna afterwards to jump in!
thndrstd
Oct. 31st, 2009 05:37 pm (UTC)
True. I don't know that brave and crazy are that far removed, especially when you're as young as we were then.

Thanks for reading.
comedychick
Oct. 31st, 2009 04:25 am (UTC)
Oh, man! I don't know how you could do something like that!
thndrstd
Oct. 31st, 2009 05:39 pm (UTC)
LOL. Sometimes you have to push your boundaries.

Thanks for reading.
(no subject) - comedychick - Oct. 31st, 2009 11:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
karmasoup
Oct. 31st, 2009 05:16 am (UTC)
This is fairly common in the part of the world where I landed... there's even a formal word for it, but damned if I know what it is.
thndrstd
Oct. 31st, 2009 05:50 pm (UTC)
For years, I had always heard about the polar bear plunge, and thought they were crazy. Then I did this, which was less formal and less planned and probably more dangerous.

Guess I'm crazy, too. :)
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