Sunday, May 13, 2007
What an interesting prompt. At first all I could think of is the trite second chances that are so often offered as solutions in our culture. You know what I mean, if at first you don’t succeed . . . etc., etc., etc. There’s It’s a Beautiful Life, Groundhog Day, even Click (which at the behest of my son, I watched recently—how many four letter words can one use in one movie? A lot apparently).
You can change careers, marriages, get forgiven after a fight, go back to school, get a sex change operation. Aren’t these all second chances? In my book, not really.
I’d say the reverse. You only get one life; make the best of it. This may seem unempathic and a bit cynical. Or maybe I’m just frolicking in my current, relatively functional existence.
But I don’t mean it that way. I’ve had my share of hard knocks (really, but you’ll have to read about it in my memoirs). But there was no room for sitting around waiting for a new life to come along. At some point I needed to get off my duff and keep moving forward. There wasn’t any alternative.
I see nearly daily those who deserve a second chance but aren’t going to get it: the single parent raising a mentally ill child, the psychotic young adult, the bereaved parent, the terminally ill middle aged woman. Life seems to say to them, tough luck, this is as good as it gets. (Great movie by the way). You don’t get to change your genes, delete all your bad choices (why did you marry and have kids with that piece of scum?), or turn back the clock.
So what to do? Isn’t part of my job to help people figure that out? To tell them that we will do our best to help them out of their chronic depression or chronic pain. But no false promises. You may have your disorder for the rest of your life. Your pain may be incurable. Your autistic child may never live independently.
If I can, I will try to “cure” with medication or psychotherapy. But sometimes I just try to help people cope. One step at a time, I say repeatedly. Let’s focus on what you’re going to do today. Let’s congratulate you for the progress made over a year’s hard work and look ahead to perhaps fewer days of disability than last year. Did you make one friend or pass your first college course after three years of trying? Don’t mind that it isn’t even for credit. Your mentally retarded child is lucky to have a mom like you; now let’s see what we can do about the tantrums.
I guess I don’t feel that life is about second chances. You can hope for change, to better your existence, to decrease your pain and suffering but this is all there is. (I’m not talking theology here.) Fight like the dickens to feel better. Fight like the dickens to have a life worth living. Never quit. There are solutions. There is progress. Change can happen. But, as I jokingly tell people sometimes, we don’t do personality transplants in my office. No brain transplants or time travel either.
Good luck to you all and Happy Mother’s Day.