Friday, November 18, 2011
How to do Good
There isn't much action in my life -- I'm sick again, depressed again. I balance enduring pain with taking pain medication, my stomach is upset by the antibiotic, I can't drive, I'm lonely, I'm afraid I'm going to have to have that major surgery after all - I hear you clicking on to another blog as I write. No one wants to listen to the internal struggles of that old person, or the same old frustration, the small triumphs of patience with the medical system, the envy of younger people who have goals and plans. It's a bitch. But for me, struggling to come up with some positive spin, some way to cheer you up so I don't depress you, has become too hard. So has enduring the positive thinking of people who still believe you can do anything with enough determination. They don't know what neurochemical depression is, period.
Last week we stopped by the church to see if my pink rain-jacket was there. It was the most useful and best coat I ever had - bright warm pink with a multicolored flower lining to the hood - I always got comments on how cheerful it was. And the arms were cut big, so it would go on over the fleece jackets I have to wear right now, since I can't get things on and off over my head because of the broken right arm. Worse, it had in a pocket my elastic gauntlet, a half-glove I wore on the right hand to minimize swelling - that's the arm with lymphedema. That coat is somewhere, but we've looked everywhere we go and can't find it.
I ran into Rev. Mark in the hall, and he asked me, "How are you doing?" like he meant it. Maybe this is what makes a person a minister. That ministering to the people who have dropped out of life and become invisible. I told him, how it's hard, and we had a five or ten minute talk. Mark is a trained professional. Like other ministers in our church he doesn't dispense wisdom, he engages with you, shares and listens. I was so down - sick as hell again with a UTI, discouraged - I could feel the bolt of healing it gave, like a shot of warm light. That and a homemade dinner from an understanding friend got me through the week.
If I could give one lesson from old age to those who have not yet been dropped down on this foreign plain, it would be, be open to seeing and hearing your old mom, your grandma, the 90-year-old lady next door. To do that you need to be open to your own discomfort with the realities of aging and sickness, your realization that you too could be suddenly disabled, confused, too tired to shower. Just listen. Don't do that reactive thing of rushing on or saying some imperious thing that will fix it. (What you need to do is . . . ) Maybe that half-deaf old lady has done everything possible for her loss of hearing and there isn't a good fix.
If you want this in spiritual terms, it is love, or it is paying attention. Maybe they are both the same thing.
p.s. Then there's persistence. Tom insisted we stop by the Spine and Sport clinic, who said on the phone they didn't have the coat. And there it was, hanging on a hanger on the coat rack. No gauntlet in the pocket. So.