Most of us, somewhere in the bottom of the script that defines our lives, have a hidden, unacknowledged little codicil that could be entitled “The Way It’s Supposed To Go.” This document stays unexamined until some life event veers so far off that it triggers a whole cascade of (mostly negative) responses. This was not “The Way It’s Supposed to Go,” and not just in terms of getting a piece of apple pie when you ordered key lime.
We all have this internal script, and everyone’s is offended at some point. Recently, I have discovered one of my own places where life has veered off the script, and this hip is it. I was not supposed to be pretty much debilitated at 53. I was not supposed to have my life circumscribed to things I can do without walking much. (Granted, I like a lot of these, and I can be pretty creative, but it would be nice to walk across the room without pain, not to mention walk the dog or even stroll around the yard and pick flowers. We want what we can’t have, I guess.)
It’s impossible not to think about this in terms of my Beloved, too, who wants a person he can ride bikes and hike with, someone who can wander the streets of strange cities and carry medicine bags into jungles. He never says this, but I know he longs, too, for the day when I can do these things.
Maybe that day will come. I’m fortunate in that hip replacements are pretty standard procedures and the outcomes are very good. The odds are excellent that I will get my life back – but they’re not 100%. And if I don’t? It all depends on how good I am, and how good the people I love are, at letting go of the script.
Today has been a day of wrestling with this, and there’s a part of me, maybe a pretty big part, that wants to whine about how it wasn’t supposed to be like this, about how much the pain limits me, about how vulnerable and fragile I feel when my 22-year-old son has to carry me upstairs. I stopped taking my arthritis medicine on Tuesday to prepare for the surgery, and that means that lots of things hurt now, not just the hip. It’s oh-so-easy to let the pain turn into anger and depression, and the anger and depression turn into misery for me and the people who share my life right now.
When that cycle starts, I have to take a time-out. This morning, it was on the back deck, where a small, nondescript bird was singing so hard and loud that its little feet lifted off the telephone pole in the alley. The part of me that resents things snarled “I bet its hips don’t hurt,” but the rest of me, the part that was loving the feeling of the warm sun and cool breeze, and the grapevine with clusters of ripening fruit, and the fuzzy companionship of the dog, bitch-slapped that “other” me, and not a moment too soon.
As a person of faith, I believe that nothing is pointless, not even suffering. I really do believe that; it’s not some random straw to be grabbed in a desperate moment. Even when I am brutally reminded that I am powerless and mortal, and my life has taken a 90◦ turn off The Way It’s Supposed To Go, I have choices. Like all choices, some are better than others. If, God forbid, I kick the bucket soon, I would prefer not to waste my last days whining about how much this sucks. And if I don’t, then I will have had two good weeks. Either way, the people I love will be happy that I am here with them, and not wishing that I would shut up.
I have to put this truth where I can get to it often: The Script Is Fiction. It was never real, certainly never a contractual arrangement, and we can’t make life follow it. To be alive in the world and in love with the terrible beauty of it, is to suffer disappointment and grief. Those things are real, but often they are “real” measures of how far life has veered from the script, and their power is proportional to our hold on The Way It’s Supposed To Go. Like the puppy on the porch and the bird on the pole, all I have is the now, and all I want is the grace to live in it.