She’s never been a doctor-goer, but since the beginning of the year, she’s been in her doc’s office a fistful of times and in the ER twice. She called today, frustrated. After listing her symptoms, she listed her habits. Decades of smoking. Late nights that are, in reality, early mornings. Unexpressed feelings. Overexpressed feelings. Inappropriately expressed feelings. Pizza and donuts. Soda and sofa. What felt okay in her thirties feels like holy hell in her fifties, and she’s more than a little irritated.
When she wants to know how to fix something, she calls me. It’s kind of our thing. I don’t always know the answer, but she always thinks I will. In some (okay, most) instances, I have been able to provide the information she asks for. Work stuff. Marriage stuff. In-law stuff. Mom stuff. Money stuff. Technology stuff. Health stuff. Happiness stuff. But I know my limits. I’m not a doctor-goer either, but some of what she’s been dealing with would have even me up on his table. I told her that.
Then she said something that historically would have come out of my mouth, but not hers. “I know exactly what’s wrong and I know what it would take to fix it.”
She quit smoking five or so months ago, after a frightening incident. She knows, she said, she needs to get a handle on the pizza and donuts thing, on the soda and sofa thing, on the denying her emotions until they burst forth thing. She needs to sleep on a grown-up schedule; no more alternating no sleep with ridiculously long stretches of sleep. “So you’ve got this,” I said.
She sighed. “I know what’s wrong and I know what it would take to fix it. What I don’t know is how to make myself do what it takes.”
We’ve known each other all our lives. Fifty-something years. She’s carried me through some deep crap and I’ve done the same for her. I know her ugliness and she knows mine. I also know her beauty. The tenderness she hides under gruff bravado. The hurt and fear that come out sideways as anger. I know every single one of her sore spots and how they got that way.
Our conversations are often long. And odd. On an average phone call, we’ll start with a proposed problem and then cover a good ten or fifteen topics: religion, a funny incident from when we were kids, her worries about her mom, the political climate, what we’re having for dinner, why we think we’re screwed up, why we think we’re awesome, her wardrobe, my fabulous grandkids, food additives, winning the lottery, yada, yada, yada. It’s not so much that we cover long lists of topics in single conversations that’s odd. It’s more that we transition seamlessly from subject to subject and somehow find our way back to whatever we started with, having solved that first question by way of a dozen not-related stories that somehow make sense to us as the natural byway to the answer. And it works. We hang up satisfied. Plan in place. Problem solved. Often brilliantly, I might add. That’s part of why we’re awesome.
Today’s conversation started with her frustration over her health and her question was simply this: “How the hell, with my long established ways of being, you know, me, do I get myself do what I need to do?”
We went from there to the hospital bill (outrageous!) and then weaved our way through Clinton/Trump, her husband’s propensity for spouting off and not understanding why people take offense, our favorite bakery and how their donuts are the best in the history of donuts but still can’t quite compare to their carrot cake, how quickly her vacation week (and my vacation months!) flew by, her serious jones for a pecan crusted chicken salad, an update on her little brother, a rundown on her latest visit with her mom, my perpetual annoyance with our dog, her deep love for their cats, and finally, God.
She and I are both believers, but we see God in very different ways. She sees a Guy in the Sky with a fairly detailed list of rules who will one day demand explanations and restitution for infractions. I see Source from which everything emanates providing a limitless pool of possibilities from which we, as bits of that very same Source, are free to drink. I believe God is everything, there is nothing that is not God, that we are not separate from God. She sees the degree of adherence to God’s rules as the barometer of good versus evil. I see being joyful as the indication we are living in connection with who we are and the degree of lack of joy as the barometer of our resistance to that connection. Neither of us feels any need to sway the other and our differing views about God cause us no conflict.
A minute into our God-talk, when she mentioned being a ‘child of God,’ I had her answer. “What if you, a child of God, were to honor that relationship by tending yourself the way you would tend God?”
“If you were tending God, you’d feed Him pure, whole foods, prepared with care and love. You’d celebrate the enormous gifts of walking, running, and swimming, and you’d relish time spent in His natural world. You’d encourage Him to balance work, play, and rest. And you’d please Him by honoring His other children by treating them with that same care, expressing your emotions, but tempering them with love and the awareness that they too are children of God.”
Silence. Then another sigh. “Yes. All of that. Doesn’t sound easy.”
“No, it doesn’t. That’s some serious Mother Teresa shit right there.”
“It is the answer, though. At least the ideal.” Then she laughed. “You think God would like an occasional Captain and Coke and a couple of hours at the casino?”
And that’s more of why we’re awesome.