In the olden days, before PVR and Netflix, we used to watch television commercials. We didn’t like it, but the only other options were mute and dragging my lazy butt to the kitchen for a snack. So we endured. If a marketing department had done their job well, then a piece of those commercials would stick with you for days, even years. A jingle, a logo, an image… haunting you in the most annoying way possible.Staples Business Depot had one of those mental burrs – the easy button. The ad goes like this: a harried office worker runs into a problem, is utterly overwhelmed and in desperation presses a large red button with the word ‘easy’ printed across it. POOF! – the issue is resolved through the magic of superior business supply mojo. Meanwhile, the narrator declares, “That was easy!” The ad campaign became so popular that they actually began to sell the large plastic buttons in their stores. We had one kicking around the office I worked in. Most do.
I never really got the joke. At least, I assume it’s supposed to be joke. The directions on the package instruct you to identity a difficult issue. Push the button. Listen to the message (a tinny voice declares, “that was easy”). Smile. And move on with your day.
I spend a lot of time wishing for an easy button in my life. I’m pretty sure a lot of my worst habits can be traced to this desire. I’m pretty sure a lot of our first world problems can too.
My daughter was in hospital again this week.
We’d been passing a head cold around the family for days (proving it’s not always good to share). But she seemed to be on the mend, just in time for spring break and, best of all, music camp. We decided to take advantage of our in-house babysitters and go on a date, before the teens left on their camping trip. On the way to the restaurant, Big Sister called to let us know that B was acting sicker than before and her temperature was climbing. By the time we raced home she had spiked a real fever, then coughed until she threw up. Cue the familiar and frantic dance of cancer families in an emergency.
Things can go very wrong, very quickly these days. We’ve been spoiled with several uneventful months cancer-wise, and I hadn’t even realized how much the terror and exhaustion was fading. I sat by her bed for hours and felt sorry for myself (I do that a lot these days).
Even with modern medicine on our side, something I am so deeply, deeply grateful for, there aren’t many shortcuts or quick fixes for our girl. The options range from uncomfortable to grueling, and even then there’s no guarantees. While there are times when it’s a blessing that she lives entirely in-the-moment, there are other times when it’s so frustrating being unable to reason her through the procedures she most hates, especially when she’s feeling rotten. Even though it’s necessary, I am heartily sick of holding her down while she screams and thrashes and cries in betrayal.
Pneumonia has, thus far, been one of our easier emergencies. We’re now home in our own beds, and every morning we drive back to the hospital for a few hours. I found myself telling a friend how everything pales in comparison to the heaviest chemos. Which is the most horrible thing to celebrate.
I think about that stupid easy button a lot. Imagining a world where it actually existed. Not just for cancer, but for all the things that make my life hard. POOF! Problems solved. Sickness cured. Anxiety gone. Disabilities erased. Relationships restored. Everyone agrees with me. Happy. Happy. Happy.
Why can’t life just be easy?
I don’t actually have an answer. There will probably come a time when I can wax eloquent about the beauty of struggle or the lessons we learn through the fire or some sentimental drivel like that. But right now I’m tired and frustrated. And I’m in no mood to ice over the shit and call it cake.
Life is hard. It just is. It’s unfair and it hurts. One of the things that seems more clear to me now than ever, is that we waste an enormous amount of time and energy distancing ourselves from sitting in this reality.
If not engaged in outright avoidance, we prefer to channel our experience of suffering through some pre-determined narrative to make it more palatable. You know the stories. The ones with a villainous other who we can blame for all our troubles – because anger feels so much more powerful than pain. Or the one where I am an overcomer, harnessing the power of <insert religious or self help or political or whatever story line> – where any feeling or experience that exists outside the lines must be brutally repressed.
There may be some truth in these interpretations of events – either an injustice to fight against or a power which transcends my suffering. I’ve certainly experienced both. But there’s more to every story than that.
Life is not easy, and neither is it simple.
That should be a depressing thought, but I find it liberating. No more tilting at windmills. No more sticking to a script. Instead I can just be.
After all, easy is a modern invention. Fast food and instant everything grooms us to expect POOF! Humans have been living hard lives, even harder than mine, for thousands of years.
Can I trust life, and God, and my own humanity enough to face reality head on… to dig into it and let it unfold? Unedited. Unpolished. Unrushed.
Life is hard and life is complicated. Important things usually are.So here’s me, just as tired and frustrated as ever, but feeling a little less sorry for myself.