Friday, March 12, 2010

Queen For A Day

Ok, you gotta be sort of old to remember the very first "Reality TV" show in the early '60s. My family loved Queen for a Day. (It's worth googling if you're young--unbelievable. Makes "Real World" seem tame almost.) But anyway, four women were chosen each day from the studio audience. They appeared on the stage one at a time to tell the TV world about their own financial or emotional hard times. You got it! The contest was to see who had been through the worst stuff--who had had the greatest tragedies and misfortunes. These women contestants poured out their gut-wrenching stories about crippled children, houses that had burned down, torn up washing machines, lost hearing aids. It was like Dial-A-Tragedy--as a TV game show.
After pouring out their hearts and their life stories, the studio audience clapped---yes--to set off an applause meter. The more gripping the story, the higher the meter went. ( Caring for a chronically ill children really set the meter off!) Having elicited the loudest applause, the "winner," draped in a sable-trimmed red velvet robe and a jeweled crown, was escorted to her throne while Pomp and Circumstance (which we called Circumcise) played on. There, on that throne, the newly crowned Queen for a Day was showered with the gifts she had requested in hopes of pulling her life out of the ditch. Come on, folks, you can't make this stuff up. But! Boy were we glued. We even fought over who we wanted to "win." "But Agnes lost her husband, her child has polio and her refrigerator broke down." Everybody clap now. Clap loud!

My friend, Susan, emailed me the other day after one of my posts. She said, "Marianne, God does not do triage. Everything is important to God. No matter how big or small, it matters." Ooops. Maybe I have given the impression that all of you readers need to be taking care of somebody with special needs if your life is going to count. Not true. Not true. When the earthquake hit Haiti last month, that was a full blown tragedy, right? At the exact same time some of you had lost jobs, suffered from a kidney stone, were visiting a son in rehab, were mourning the loss of a wife, were fearing that your marriage might be over. It's not about having the worst thing or the most tragic thing. We are not vying against one another to be "Queen for a Day." That show is over. It's just us now. So, how are we going to care for one another? How are we going to care for ourselves?

My step husband and I used to go to a support group for families with children who had special needs. Of course, in keeping with our very own irreverence for "labels", we called it The Retarded Club. There were all sorts of parents there with all kinds of special kids. We all showed up ready to win the title of Queen for a Day (that was a true confession) because we all thought our lives were harder than the guy's sitting next to us. Oh Lord. Why do we do this sort of thing? Actually we eventually just stopped going because it became clear to us that we didn't have any "street cred" in the group because Taylor only had Down Syndrome. No walker, no tubes, no ventilator. No sable-trimmed robes for us. Not hardly.
Here's what I know: Life gives us all different stuff. Some of you did seem to get the "easy" package. (I bet you'd argue with me, though.) I got Plan B, option #2. What matters is how we live this life. What do we do with what we have? How do we show up in this world----for ourselves and for one another? It's not what happens to us, but it's how we react that is the critical ingredient. Would you agree with that? My mother used to always say that thing about lemons and making lemonade. When she started that, I knew something bad had just happened. We were going to have to pull out the sugar and stir--and stir.

But let's go back to doing triage. We can each do our very own form of triage. Just ask yourself, "Is this important? Am I really bleeding? What's the worst thing that can happen if this is true about my life?" Am I willing to do what it takes to get out of this ditch?
Ask one of us for help, why don't you?
We've got a robe for you to wear.
We've got gifts to share.
No applause meter needed.
We'll all come to the throne with you. Pull up lots of chairs.