Something unexpected happened this afternoon. I was driving home from picking up a few groceries. It was unusually warm and the sun shone as bright as could be. A couple of bicyclists rode by, equipped in colorful attire that proclaimed their commitment as cyclists. I felt a longing, a profound longing for all that I have lost. I wanted to be able to ride a bike, go for a run, spend hours in my garden, play tennis. I rarely allow myself these maudlin moments, but at times, they creep in, grab me and leave me tearful. There are moments my strong defenses are breached. I have to acknowledge that being this age and disabled was not part of my life plan. I still wake up surprised that something like this happened to me. I pulled myself together. This was neither the time nor place for self-pity. Particularly not the time.
When my children were little, I operated under the premise that once they were dirty, I might as well let them enjoy their time in the mud. It would all wash off later. I brought this same philosophy to bear last summer when I was struggling with making sense of my condition.
While I as in Spaulding Rehab. Hospital recovering from my second hip surgery in three months, I had a day that I felt totally defeated. I was in a wheelchair, sitting on the pier outside of the hospital. The hospital developed the dock in order to provide a variety of water sports --canoeing, kayaking and pedal-boating --for recuperating surgical patients. Despite the beauty of the Charles River on a warm, summer day, I railed against being in a wheelchair. I was angry with my physical impairments. I resented that the best my life offered at that moment was to sit alone on a pier in a wheelchair. I wasn’t going to rein in my misery. Not that day. “In for a penny, in for a pound,” my mother used to say.
The spigot of tears refused to turn off. Then it struck me. This was about containment.
No longer was I going to suppress how hard life could be at times. No longer was I going to be the good foot soldier all of the time. It was that day, a Sunday, that I proposed to all who would listen that the first Sunday of every month should be declared Poor, Pitiful Me Day (PPMD). If anyone, anyone at all, wants to moan about the hand that life has dealt them, in my perfect world, they should use the first Sunday of each month to wallow. Give themselves over to how miserable their worlds are. Naturally, there would be a range of conditions that people might bemoan. No judgements here. Whatever is causing grief in your life is acceptable fodder for PPMD.
In the movie, Something’s Gotta Give, when Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson) breaks up with Erica Barry (Diane Keaton), Erica is wretchedly heartbroken. Diane Keaton expresses Erica’s grief through a siege of tears and chest-beating misery. That kind of wrenching sorrow would be at one end of the scale I had in mind for Poor Pitiful Me Day. At the other end of the spectrum, I visualized the emotion commensurate with a broken nail. In other words, on PPMD, there is room for all-comers. The deal is, however, no whining and whimpering during the days and weeks in-between Poor Pitiful Me Days.
On PPMD, get out the spoon, the ice cream, the chocolate. Rent Bridges of Madison County, read Love Story. Call FTD. I am talking about letting misery rip. But be prepared. The shelf-life on this offer is limited to 24 hours. At the end of the day, it is essential to revert to a positive, life-affirming attitude.
A word of advice from an experienced practitioner, the last thing you should to do before going to sleep at the end of PPMD is to remind yourself that tomorrow will be a better day. If you don’t trust my opinion on this, just ask Annie.
|Note to self: This lone swan lost its mate. Save for PPMD.|