Sunday, April 24, 2011

When Life Gives You a Rotten Egg

My lenten endeavor was to blog daily- to take time to write about a thought in hopes of touching on an unexplored place within myself to see where it would lead me. Events conspired to challenge me- a 9.0 earthquake; a ten meter tsunami; a level seven nuclear disaster; an abrupt change in moving plans- we will stay in Japan another year; a sudden 'spring break' trip to the States with all the chaos of jet lag, travel plans, and new routines; and now, I sit writing at the bedside of my husband in the hospital. Easter Sunday he had a sudden onset of pain and vomiting which I initially thought was 'potluck food poisoning.' Turns out he has acute pancreatitis, likely caused by a blood pressure medication he has been taking. He looks terrible, but he is getting the treatment needed- intravenous fluids, heavy doses of narcotics for the pain, antibiotics, and he was taken off the offending medicine. I am grateful he has been diagnosed and is getting treatment by an excellent hospital staff, but it is hard to see any one suffering. It takes time for the inflammation to go away. I guess we won't be forgetting this birthday; it is also his birthday today.

It helps to be slapped around a bit by the fates to remind us of our lack of control. It really is about one day at at time. You can have ideas in the works and plans to shape the future, but it is best they remain a general direction. The essential part is to be in the moment- drive the car, hear the song, listen to who you are with, drink the tea, feel the warmth of the sun. All that thinking in your head is a distraction from this moment at hand.

Easter Sunday was a glorious day having fallen on the heels of a cold, wet, and rainy Saturday; the blue sky and warm sunshine felt marvelous. I got up at 5:00 a.m. to bake for the potluck at church. I have to admit I was proud of myself for sacrificing my chance to sleep in to make holiday bread. The Moose, my early riser, actually slept until 7:30! He hasn't sleep that late in a long while. I let the pride go and was happy just to see the almond kuchen bread turn out well.

Easter was also the last day for Father Kevin. He has been here the past four years, but now abruptly, he will leave. His sermon was touched by the same events we have all lived through here along with his unplanned for departure. He caught my attention on a point I had also begun to contemplate these past few weeks- positive thinking.

Positive thinking seems to be widely practiced and embraced, but I have begun to think more and more that positive thinking is a path to bull-shitting oneself. Pardon my frankness, but it covers up a fuller experience that needs to include the negative. The Chinese call it the yin and yang. We have the fallacy that if we think only positive thoughts, then only positive things will come. Saying it is, does not make it so and eclipses half of the experience. You know a beautiful day because you have experienced an ugly one. You know kindness because you have experienced cruelty. Being receptive and open to what the universe brings, being prepared for what you want, taking a step toward a new beginning- these are relevant; televising your positive thoughts and plans as if that will make them be seems a waste of energy mostly for what it fails to include- the other side. I trust my husband will recover from this illness because the doctors have identified the likely problem, and he is getting great care, but he is sick and in pain. There is good and bad parts to this moment. This is where Father Kevin touched a button for me in his sermon. I can't quote directly, but it was about the survivors of the quake and tsunami having suffered a great tragedy; there is no positive to this loss and devastation. That the survivors may find new ways, that people will come together to support each other, is good, but all the positive thinking does not undo the suffering. There is dark in the light, and light in the dark.

I always thought Pollyanna was about only seeing the bright side of life. When I got an iPad and free download, I found a story with a richness I did not expect. The character, Pollyanna, listens to and sees the person before her- not the image everyone else expects her to see, but simply the person she encounters at that moment. She talks about things positively in light of the dark side of the situation. From the usage of her name as a substitute for mindless positive thinking, perhaps too many people use the word without having read the book. Pollyanna is aware of the pain too and actively chooses a way around it while still acknowledging the life before her eyes.

When I became a mother I was in such shock as to how hard it was. No one talked about it. I was tired, I was worn out, the baby had its own ideas, it wasn't easy. It felt like a lie when someone told me how lucky I was. Well-meaning people encouraged me to focus on my healthy baby, but I needed an acknowledgement of the difficulty despite the blessing. How Life is richer for the contrasts and contradictions within itself; some of those experiences stink. When life gives you a rotten Easter egg, smell it and know it for what it is- a bad smell, no more, no less. There is no prejudice against tragedy, only in letting it define you.