I took some friends out to lunch yesterday. I was running about 15 minutes late because I had a back spasm in the shower and could not straighten up.

Normally, I do my stretches in bed late at night, during the night when pain wakes me, and before I get up to start my day. I often spend an hour or two hunched over every morning, trying to bring ease of movement back to my stiff body. I’ve had right side pain for a couple of years, dating back to my onset of liver disease. I also have arthritis in my spine, dating back to when I was thrown from a horse in 1980.

Anyway, I tell you all that to tell you this: pain frustrates and enrages me. Neither emotion is healthy or productive as a type of problem solving response, but anger with my body’s failings has been my go to emotion for 60 years, so I presume I’m as good as I’m going to get in terms of anger management.

(Kind of what my shower gyrations looked like to unkink my back)

Being frantic in the shower, trying not to fall while doing stretches to unkink my back, and racing the clock, wondering if I’m going to have to give in and call 9-1-1 if I can’t gain control of my back and legs long enough to lift my leg enough to get out of the shower and actually move, I work to turn my body like a pretzel, trying to unlock my lower back. Needless to say, my stretches solve the problem enough to allow me to move, but now I’m really racing the clock to get out of the shower, dressed, and into the front seat of my car. Testing my oxygen saturation levels before driving to my appointment, I’m safe to be on the road but am again angered at being left to my own devices in dealing with competing quality of life issues as I struggle to hide in plain sight and pass for normal.

So, we’re finally at lunch and we’re talking finances and pain and quality of life. We’re talking about how to afford to keep living while my breathing gets worse and we talk about affordability and my choice to live near public transportation, as moving to the boonies like Gustine or Sacramento would only solve my financial problems short term, and that I’d be screwed – royally – if I lived in the boonies without the ability to drive anymore.

From there, the conversation turns to euthanasia and my engaging an end-of-life doula to help figure out how to comply with the regulations to limit my suffering.

THEN the conversations take a really weird turn.

If I tell you I don’t know what comes next, and I don’t believe in an afterlife guarantee, why in the world would you start lecturing me about my choices having afterlife repercussions because I didn’t see in any redeeming value in needless suffering?!?!

So, my male friend and I are discussing Mah Jongg and when we can get together to play / for me to teach him the basics (there’s LOTS to memorize, before one even starts to understand the game and develop their own strategies), and his roommate is telling me what comfort her faith brings her as she is busy proselytizing.

I was raised in a Catholic household.

My family includes Protestants, Methodists, Jews and Buddhists. So, if I tell you I haven’t found any value in the various religious teachings, and that I’m an agnostic – please believe me !

I realize that this friend is very convinced that she has all the answers. More power to her. I, on the other hand, don’t mind if you believe and have faith – just don’t demand that I comply with your version of right and wrong when it is only my well-being involved.

The part that was the most maddening? Her dismissal of my very real suffering in championing her belief that I “might” not make the cut into her guaranteed afterlife because I choose to jump the line vs. waiting my turn.


I tell you I am agnostic, that I don’t believe anyone has the certain knowledge of what happens next. I tell you that I am not depressed, but I am in real pain which is impacting my quality of life. I tell you that I don’t believe in an all knowing parent-like figure who only wants the best for me…

…and yet you want me to check my brain at the door, suffer for however many more years (I had my first surgery at 6 months, so it’s been 60 years of pain and struggle at this point), and trust your judgement over my own…

Frankly, I’d worry more about my own mental health if I trusted another’s opinion over my own. I have the experience of living trapped in this body. I have years and years of experience in trying to overcome my own frustration, anger and suffering. But, you want me to dismiss my own reality and pin my hopes on some sky daddy coming to relieve my suffering, when he’s ready, because only he knows when I have suffered. Enough. 🙄

I wish I could have had the eloquence to highlight her insulting persistence yesterday that she knew best to get her to stop. But, the brown cardboard scapular around her neck kept distracting me from the true point of the conversation – the faithful vs. the agnostic who has no preconceived notions of entitledness or guarantees about their place in some unknown afterlife.

So, we let the conversation die with frustration on both sides.

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