Tomorrow my wife, Laurel, is having shoulder (rotator cuff) surgery on her right shoulder. She's right handed, so for the six weeks she'll be wearing a sling, I will be her right arm.
Being (1) a woman, (2) a wife, and (3) someone who knows me well after our 24 years of marriage, this is pretty much Laurel's worst nightmare.
Meaning, the surgery to repair a detached tendon is bad enough.
Having to depend on my housekeeping, health care-giving, cooking, dog wiping (it's rainy season; we live in the country; trails are muddy), laundry, and other domestic "talents" for six weeks -- scary! For Laurel is a woman who likes this stuff done in a certain way.
Optimistic me -- hey, I'm not having the surgery -- sees this experience as an opportunity for each of us to grow in different ways. Laurel, perhaps, might learn to relax a bit if (when?) she sees that my way of handling things isn't the same as hers, but works fairly well.
As for me, I'm grandiosely expecting that these six weeks will, if not cement my Buddha-nature into enlightened stone, get me well on the way to perfected realization.
(I understand that grandiosity and fixed views of enlightenment are not exactly part of Buddhist teachings. But since I'm only a pretend Buddhist, only desiring to achieve Buddha-nature because that sounds cool, I don't really worry about the purity of my dharma practice.)
Leaving aside pseudo-spirituality, my fallback position for the next six weeks is to visualize myself as a highly paid personal aide to a movie star. Laurel is damn good looking for her age, or any age, so this isn't all that difficult for me to imagine.
I've started doing this already, since Laurel can't use her right arm for certain tasks and her left arm has been sore from overuse.
It does seem to help me achieve more of a compassionate, caring attitude than my habitual self-centered personality is normally capable of. I just have to keep the uncomfortable fact that I'm not going to be paid lavishly for my six weeks of being a substitute right-arm from rising too far into reality-consciousness.
Along this line, my second fallback position is to keep Laurel so drugged up on her oxycodone prescription and other pain pills that she either won't be able to tell how well I'm taking care of the house, or she won't care.
However, my wife doesn't like to take more pain-killers than is necessary, and tends to get side effects from prescription medication, so this scheme probably is doomed for failure.
Which leaves me with my initial inclination: to be so caring, selfless, and compassionate for the six weeks, whoever or whatever hands out Buddha-nature certificates drops mine in the cosmic mail without question. My new-found humility may not allow me to tell people directly that I've attained enlightenment through Laurel's shoulder surgery, but for sure I'll brag about it on this blog.
I do have this regret, though. My wife and I should have followed up on her periodic observation, after watching episodes of HBO"s "Big Love" (about a modern-day Mormon polygymous family), that having "sister wives" spreads out the household chores quite a bit and gives the women live-in best friends.
This struck me as a fine idea also, especially if we brought into our home, just to offer up one example off the top of my head, a beautiful, young Thai woman skilled in both domestic arts and, um, other skills. If we had done this, Laurel would have had more competent help on hand during her recovery from the shoulder surgery.
Oh, well. She's left with just me now. A soon-to-be Buddha-naturized guy.