Whenever I have dinner with my friend S., the conversation inevitably veers to a discussion of faith, or rather our current struggle with a lack thereof. I’ve had sciatica for nearly four weeks now, with pain radiating down each leg from what feels like hot pokers sticking in my buttocks. In a fit of desperation, I googled the Mayo Clinic website the other day. “Typically, sciatica affects only one side of your body” and resolves “in a few weeks,” it said. At week four, my progress had worsened.
“I’m not friggin’ Job!” I shouted out in pain to no one in particular when I got up to go off to my temp job one morning last week. I hobbled downstairs, made a pot of fresh-brewed gourmet coffee, glanced at the latest headlines, and immediately felt like a privileged fool.
“That’s a funny story,” S. said when I recounted my childish outburst over dinner.
“Well, I’m tired of hearing people say everything happens for a reason,” S said. I nodded. S and I clinked glasses. That little chestnut occasionally holds true, though more often it doesn’t get you very far, I thought, reflecting on Maureen Dowd’s Christmas Day op ed entitled “Why, God?”
Five days later, on December 30, it was my father’s birthday, or at least it would have been. His life was snuffed out 27 years ago at precisely the same age I am now. I’m baffled how in all those years my mother never once asked God “why?” I did nothing but when my husband first left me. No satisfactory explanations, of course, ever followed.
S. and I ate dinner and quickly abandoned our pointless post-mortem on why things hadn’t, or hadn’t yet, gone in accordance with plan, turning to the Kipling Method’s more concrete queries. “Where should I move after my daughter graduates since I can no longer afford to stay in my house?” I threw out. When will the seeds of my writing labors begin to bear significant fruit? What do I do next? Where can I find a kind and decent partner to share the rest of my life with? (Really more of a “who” question, and where and how can I find him.) How do I know for sure that I’ve even been following the right path with my writing and working for divorce reform or whether it’s that other guy living down under who’s been guiding me or my own big fat Buddhist, capital D, Delusion?
S. and I theorized, posited, cried and clinked glasses again. We talked signs and indications. Three hours later we left the restaurant as confounded as we’d entered it, albeit lightened.
When I got home I signed onto email as I usually do before heading off to bed. A message had come into my website while S. and I were eating dinner. A man named L. (he didn’t say where he was from) had been surfing the Internet when he came across an article I’d written excoriating no-fault divorce. After 27 years of marriage, he was in the midst of his own divorce.
“Your article brought hope – something this country’s marriages need…thanks,” he wrote.
“Hope is such a strong word,” S. said when I told her what had happened. You can’t touch it, of course, and you can’t put it in the bank, and sometimes it simply makes no intellectual sense. As a reason though, I suppose it’s pretty hard to top.