Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lenten Reflections, Day 5: Giving Up Independence

I’ve done a fair number of things in my life. Over time I’ve realized that the work I’ve done in various vocations usually gave me a sense of autonomy and some level of freedom to call my own shots (except when I was in the Navy. It’s okay to be autonomous in the military, as long as you are like everyone else). I’ve made decisions about raising my daughters, seeing to it that they were nurtured and educated. I feel that I’ve been fairly proactive about life.

I think that qualifies me to claim that I am fairly independent.

Now, as I prepare for a fairly common and non-life-threatening shoulder surgery, a bunch of people are telling me what to do, and I am obeying them. They’re telling me what tests to get done, what not to eat and when not to eat it, to get a driver for the trip home from the hospital, and so on. Most of the people calling me with these orders are woman younger than my own daughters. They are very nice, yet authoritative, and I do not question their demands. I hear, and I obey.

This reminds me that my independence is a big fat sham. I have become a jellyfish.

As I get older, I reluctantly accept the fact that my body is aging and requires the occasional repair. I haven’t had much need for physical repair in my life, so doing it now feels intrusive and inconvenient. I also suffer under the illusion that, once the repairs are done, I’ll enjoy the kind of vitality I had when I was younger. Not likely (I did ask one young nurse if I would be able to play the cello after my surgery. She said yes. I said that was great, since I didn’t know how to play it now. It was an old, stupid joke, and she totally fell for it. I love young people).

I have a dear friend, a few years older than me, who is in a nursing home recovering from a very serious illness. This condition has taken a heavy toll on her life, and I pray for her often. Her body and mind have suffered deeply, and a number of people—medical professionals, loved ones, friends, church folks—have gathered around her to help her in the recovery process.

She’s a strong, independent woman and now is resting in weakness and dependence. I suppose it’s a path we must all eventually take.

It’s interesting how we start our lives in the place where we end up. My hope is, when that time comes for me, to end things well.

In the meantime, I’m totally milking this surgery thing. I want to see if people will pour my coffee, volunteer to bring lunch to the office when I return, offer to do things for me that I can actually do, but they won’t know that because I’ll be faking that I feel too tender to do anything. It’s going to be awesome.

At least, that’s what I hoping for.

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