By Julia Prentice
Recently I watched the movie Nomadland, and it brought home to me again the fragility of our human condition.
The main character has had tremendous upheaval and pain, and as a result lives a nomadic life, traveling and living in a van. In this situation life handed her lemons. Somehow she survived and squeezed the juice and turned it into her kind of lemonade. The bitter/sweet type of existence that was neither choice nor wholly unchosen.
Life has handed me some lemons as well: I am facing knee surgery and a concurrent move to a different home.
My left knee is very arthritic and painful. Before it completely incapacitates me, I chose to have a total knee replacement. But was it a choice? It is elective surgery, but my knee presents like an “80 year old,” and my right knee is the same. If I live another 20 years, my knee will not be functioning. So I am picking the timing of this surgery and planned it for when it was best for me.
As this plan was created and set in motion, my landlord decided not to renew our lease, having us rent month-to-month. Another lemon.
With a long recovery expected I would need to have a place where my health could be tended to. My husband would be forced to balance taking care of me while handling the endless details of moving. In a conversation with my sister, who is a nurse and whose husband had knee replacement, she said “if he has to have the other knee replaced, I would ask for him to go to physical rehab. Why don’t you ask your doctor if you could do the same?”
Suddenly, the lemon bitter taste turned to a flavor-filled orange juice dripped onto my tongue.
Here was a choice I could manage! I got the okay from my doctor. This planning had many twists and turns, requiring my husband and I to dodge and weave to find a workable solution.
But is this a choice? Lemonade could be tolerated. I could be on the couch surrounded by chaos trying to maintain my physical and mental health. I’d be risking time when I would be alone and on painkillers. But most likely it could be done. However, in “choosing oranges” the entire flavor of the experience has altered.
Sometimes there is no choosing when the lemon is hurled into our tranquil life.
Some, like the character in Nomadland didn’t find the orange juice and that is true for so many. What if we had no way to dodge the lemon?
The suffering could be intense, as it was for me. Stressed, my anxiety issues raised and my mood disorder becoming more disorderly, the picking through many options gave me more peace. It is worth it to forego the lemonade and find the sweet orange juice in a situation. Not easy, not without tremendous effort and self-reflection and support from family, friends and church community. But I found it. And sometimes, the fragrance and taste can be “chosen.”
And isn’t it all about choice anyway?
From the Connecticut originally, Julia now lives in North Carolina, US with her soulmate and their furry companion. Past careers include ASL interpreting, preschool teaching and tutoring. Currently she is a passionate Peer Supporter of persons with mental health challenges, a certified W.R.A.P. Facilitator and Certified Peer Specialist. In her spare time she’s a writer, knitter, crafter and singer. Her poetry is published in seven books, and several blogs.
Editor: Dana Gornall