I’m reading Kayak Morning in a completely non-linear manner. Page 70 today, maybe page 30 tomorrow. Yet from the first time I slid my fingers across the binding at the bookstore, I keep opening to the above quote.
Powerlessness. There is a reason 12 step programs make acceptance of powerlessness the first step. Its the bread and butter of existence. Life has a way of humbling all of us with a profound loss sooner or later.
One year ago my mom was dying. I feared that she would die long before the parade of bad news that signified the end of her summer in Houston, but there was no room for doubt come August. Her fate was sealed, and I knew it. It felt like the moment when you trip, and you can’t catch yourself. You know you are going to fall, and there is nothing that can be done about but wait the long nanosecond till you hit the ground.
I was falling. I hated myself for being unable to save my dying mother. The frenzied telephone consults with oncologists across the country, the gifts of cancer cookbooks and headscarves, the daily telephone calls, the emergency antibiotics, the diligent bleaching of her urine bags, the lotion on the dry skin, the wound care on her nephrostomy tubes, it was never enough.Of course, I knew in my head it wasn’t my fault she was dying. But my heart couldn’t forgive myself for being a helpless, hapless human. For being powerless to stop her from slipping away from me.
We are powerless over everything that matters. The life and health and birth and death of those we love the most are beyond our grasp. We build lives that give us a feeling of control, the million inane choices that march along the fast food menus or channel listings for satellite TV (“fries or coleslaw? diet or regular?”). But when it comes to the big stuff, we often have no real choice. They simply happen, like the tides. And its not just the losses in life we have no control over; many important and wonderful things that came to pass in my life are more the product of dumb luck than anything I have or haven’t done to deserve them.
We are a little bit like buoys floating in the ocean, not completely submerged yet also unable to stay upright due to the forces of the universe relentlessly tossing us here and there, victim to the whims of nature with her blessings and condemnations.
But if you are powerless over your mom’s cancer, your brother’s job situation, your nation’s political bantering, your mentally ill neighbor’s hallucinations, your ex boyfriend’s violence, your child’s alcohol use, your friend’s pregnancy, is there any place you can elicit power?
In kindness. In reactions, or lack thereof. In attitude. In hope. In honesty. In keeping our inner light burning so we can shine our hearts forward in the world.
Maybe I should modify the quote…. I am powerless over many things that matter.