(This photo shows Maria Callas playing the part of Medea.)
Some days I don't want to take Just 10 for myself or any one else. It can get in the way of my denial. The veil of optimism that I force myself to wear slipped this morning. Depending on others for shelter is not an easy thing to do especially with two children and a husband who are also suffering the pangs of loss. We spent the weekend at moms. She was an excellent and gracious host. Unfortunately, we got a small taste of what looms in our future. My mantra became: “Just shoot me now.”
To accept dependence with grace and dignity is a very tall order. I am humbled before the task. Life is not for the faint of heart. The life I have is not the life I wanted or thought I wanted. This is not a chapter I would have written for myself. If I wrote it for another I would make sure it had a happy ending. From where I stand now happy endings would seem to require an act of God.
For some reason, as I write these words I remember the ancient Greek Play, Medea by Euripides. It tells the tale of a woman scorned. Married to Jason, Medea reacts violently to the news of his betrayal. She kills her two sons. At the end of the play, she prevents Jason from holding the bodies of his sons by suddenly appearing in a flying chariot (deus ex machina) that whisks them away and out of his grasp. In the end of Medea, the chorus says,
"Manifold are thy shapings, Providence!
Many a hopeless matter gods arrange.
What we expected never came to pass,
What we did not expect the gods brought to bear;
So have things gone, this whole experience through!"
When I re-read these lines, I could see why the current situation echoes Medea somewhere deep and dark in my psyche. When I first read Medea, I was introduced to the “deus ex machina.” This is a literary term that refers to the sudden appearance of an unlikely thing, person or event that solves a problem that looked impossible to solve.
Wikipedia (It not as cheesy a reference as you might think) defines it as:
[from the] Latin: "god out of the machine"; plural: dei ex machina) is a plot device whereby a seemingly inextricable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object.
If it worked for Medea, might it work for me? I seriously doubt it. God doesn’t seem to really work that way. Years later a dude named Samuel Coleridge developed a term, “the suspension of disbelief” that readers or audiences need to utilize in order to lose themselves within literary works that display plots or plot devices that have little basis in reality. Bet you didn’t know you were going to get an English lesson today.
“The temporary acceptance as believable of events or characters that would ordinarily be seen as incredible. This is usually to allow an audience to appreciate works of literature or drama that are exploring unusual ideas.” (Thanks to this web site for this succinct definition.http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/suspension-of-disbelief.html
Both devices fail me now. I am left alone with the stark unpleasantness of our current situation. I cower before it. Hope does not spring eternal. I struggle to resurrect it. May be another day or another time. No deus ex machina here.
I am not Medea. I can not sacrifice my children for revenge. It would be a waste of time to nurse feelings of betrayal. And yet, there is a part of me that feels betrayed. My life isn’t supposed to play out like this. This is worse than I expected. No chariot appears to whisk me away. My disbelief defies suspension.
In the background, one of the Star Trek movies plays on TV. Star Trek story lines are wonderful examples of the suspension of disbelief and of the deus ex machina. I still find most of the stories delightfully compelling. It’s always been a way to avoid reality. When I was thirteen, there was a moment when I was sure that when I grew up I could get a job as a communications officer on the starship Enterprise. Reality has a sharp and cruel bite.
In the world of Star Trek, characters display an exotic mixture of weakness and strengths. They demonstrate what it means to be human and humane. They pose the possibility of a brighter future. They show an earth and many planets combined in a federation of unity. Still, they are not free from hardship, battles or enemies. The fate of the universe sometimes hangs in the balance. They muddle through the timeless battle of good against evil, of man against himself, of man against nature. They deal with fantastical powers and situations. They expose characters who are totally involved in life.
I envy these characters their fiction. I look at my life and shudder as I try not to escape it. My soul wants a holiday. I don’t want to feel this sadness. Concern for my children results in my having less patience with them. The irony is not lost on me. I want to dull my senses to the pain they feel.
At first, I try and use these words to escape. They aren’t having any of it. Instead they make the problems clearer. “What would a hero do?” I argue with this idea. I don’t want to be a hero. I want someone in fiction to do it for me.
“Beam me up, Scotty! This planet is hostile.”