My younger son's eyes were bothering him yesterday. He could not shift them left and right without experiencing pain. Occasionally he felt "light-headed." And he had a headache. I set up a quick appointment with a pediatric clinic, which shuttled us along to a more expert eye doctor. The upshot, according to the doctor, was that he was suffering from an attack of allergies together with a mild case of migraine. The doctor gave my son some drops and reassured him he didn't have a disastrous disease and sent us on our way.
My son, at 17, was scared. He didn't say it to me overtly, but he did say it to his mother, who was in New Jersey visiting family and came straight home. He did not say it aloud to me, but I could see the wan fatigue in his face -- the ravages of fear that were more exhausting than the problem itself. I knew what it felt like and there wasn't a damned thing I could do about it: He had been betrayed. His body, about which he had held unspoken assumptions, had contradicted him, had slapped him in the face, had whispered that control and contentment were not in the cards.
How I wished I could spare him the recognition, the fear, the sorrow. I would have taken it all in a nanosecond if I could. But I couldn't. And my inability left me in my own whirlpool of raging impotence. This was my son, for Christ's sake! It was vital that I be able to help. It was visceral. Didn't the heavens understand? -- this was important?!
Betray -- to do something that contradicts what was expected or promised. When you're as old as I am, you are more at ease with the physical betrayals the seem to mount. Not totally at ease and not totally content, but there has been a little practice and the surprises are not so surprising. With practice, the betrayals are not so riveting and there is more willingness to assess the assumptions that give betrayals their force. I can cuss up a storm with the best of them when it comes to aches and pains, but I can also ask myself, "What made you assume things should be otherwise?"
Yes, with my own achy joints and dwindling strength and shortness of breath, I can be somewhat more sanguine. But yesterday, sitting in the car with my wan and silent son, I didn't feel sanguine at all. Reason and reasoning could stick it where the sun didn't shine! The assumption that I could help in a way that would be conclusive and healing simply had me by the throat.
Well, we'll see what the day brings. I will take my sense of betrayal out for a little zazen. But don't expect me to be reasonable about it or to outgrow my assumptions overnight.