Do you consider yourself a good patient? I certainly do not qualify as a skillful one. I am still haunted by my mother’s always and inevitable dictum, “What did you do to get this cold?”. Following that, she forever would offer the ultimate curse of the 50’s, “Did you go out with wet hair?”. Wet hair had the potential to wipe out my entire generation; as children, it was our 1950’s Armageddon. I was always prompted to own my responsibility in illness, my negligent partnership with those germs. I, the co-instigator, I had helped to create this cold. If I were a better child and made better child-choices, I would not be sick.
Come to think of it, I did go out with wet hair this last Friday, coincidentally the day I did get the cold. It wasn’t exactly wet; perhaps it was damp. It was, more accurately, slightly damp, hardly damp hair. And the temperature was relatively balmy, and I had on hats and gloves and scarves and sweaters and all sorts of wool-ish apparel. Nevertheless, I did get a cold. My mother was right. From beyond her grave, my mother was right. And to pile deception on top of irresponsibility, when asked by my wife if I went out with wet hair, I instantly replied with a boisterous and busy, “No, of course not”.
So, I got a cold. I spent the weekend prone, overdosing on my cocktail of immune strengthening remedies, tempting my grumbling stomach with just one more dose of each. Lying prone, with the remote control bungeed to my hand, as part of my healing process, I found myself strangely compelled to watch hideously bad made-for-Netflix movies. I am a committed Netflix fan; I will always celebrate the streaming process, bringing us instant and ultimate gratification. But, oh, no, these movies I was forced to endure, as if by some internalized collection of mean germs, were hideously bad. Somehow, they were part of my healing process. This is what illness makes me do, throwing viewing discretion to the winds, renouncing choice. Before streaming, daytime television existed as my doorway to healing. Now Netflix streaming is the portal to physical and emotional recovery, offering me deep surrender.
Out of the entire weekend of binge-healing-horrible-streaming movies, the one echo of decency and value was Seeing Allred, a thoughtful documentary about Gloria Allred, the civil rights’ attorney who has specialized in representing women and all victims of injustice and abuse. Although the press has maligned her as a publicity-seeking money-hound, the documentary focused on her commitment to righting injustice, stemming from her personal history of struggle and abuse. Gloria’s career has been dedicated to creating equity for women and insuring legal change for all.
Listening with one ear and watching with one squinted eye, I was awake enough to keep somewhat attentive. One line she said, however, during an interview, riveted me into an actual upright and seated position. She said, as a paraphrase:
In earlier times,
we women hoped and tried to become
a fortunate exception
to the discrimination around us…..
A fortunate exception! I was chilled through with the truth of this insight for me. I have been a fortunate exception to much oppression.
- Unlike so many, I have not had to endure sexual or emotional abuse from men.
- Unlike so many, I have not had to endure workplace discrimination.
- Unlike so many, as a recovering addict, I have not had to endure relapse, although the odds are stacked against me. (Data from the Journal of the American Medical Association tells us between 40% and 60% of people in recovery do relapse.)
- Unlike so many, I have not had to endure the curse of an economically oppressive per diem teaching status until this past year.
- Unlike so many, I have married a woman and live within legal sanction and emotional safety.
- Unlike so many—the list could continue.
Am I simply lucky? Did I pull the right karma cards this lifetime?
How do I live with my blessings in this time-of-trump, this time when those most vulnerable and least fortunate among us are under literal attack?
How do I appreciate what I have, relax into the bounty, while reaching out to those who are bounty-less?
How do I give back that which has been so freely given to me?
How do I assuage my almost-survivor’s-guilt, how do I abide my own entitlement, to be able to show up with more clarity and more purpose for another?
I feel embarrassed.
I feel privileged.
I show up again.
My Twelve Step program reminds me that more will be revealed.
I’m counting on it.
Dear Folks, what is your response to these ideas? Entitlement? Service to others? Managing privilege? Please send all responses and ideas onward. I am firstname.lastname@example.org