Rule #382: The Sisyphus Rule
Life is hard.
Life is unfair.
Life is wonderful.
When Zeus enchanted the rock that King Sisyphus was pushing he knew that the King would be doomed to an eternity of frustration. He set an eternal existence which would leave the King in deep despair.
I think about Sisyphus a lot as I have gotten older. Much of what life is amounts to little more than boulder pushing – work, chores, eat, sleep …repeat. So much of what we deal with everyday becomes a process of existence and and not achievement. It is the mundane that fills most of our lives.
I see that boulder pushing become more obvious when our lives take us to be caregivers of love ones with diseases/ conditions that are in themselves constantly deteriorating and ultimately fatal. Life has set the unreasonable expectation of the caregiver to get to that to rock pushing everyday. Visits without improvement, slow roll backs every day. The hope of reaching the top of that hill every night being crushed as that stone rolls over it into the pit of despair. It can be a soul crushing Sisyphean existence.
I think about that King and having an eternity to think about what hes was doing.
And I think he was Happy.
Albert Camus thought about him too in the “Myth of Sisyphus”. He saw him as a happy man.
I think in dealing with a hopeless situation when all your actions by definition of a progress disease will end in failure it is possible to be a “Happy Sisphus”.
Insane you say? Maybe, but maybe there is more going on here than rock pushing.
Camus compared the situation to the famous lover Don Juan. He said “There is no noble love but that which recognizes itself to be both short-lived and exceptional.”
I love that quote and remember it now even 40 years after I first read it. To truly love someone requires an effort to be “exceptional”, which by the nature of it being exceptional is short lived. As I watch my wife and sister-in-law struggle with their mother’s Lewy Bodies, I see that type of noble love with each daily fight with that rock. Its about achieving in one’s existence through exceptional love. Oh, its hard. Its fucking hard. But the love that it demonstrates is exceptional. I saw it with my sister Donna in how she cared for my parents in their last struggles and the love that she developed and showed in the process defined her. It is something that in my opinion defines the best of what we are as human beings, loving beings.
I think the process is more about how it changes us than how it helps the impaired love one. It makes us better.
King Sisyphus was a SOB fighter. The Gods punished him with the rock pushing because he tried to stop death by putting death in chains. This pissed off both death and the Gods.
In a lot of ways I see caregivers as the SOBs ( certainly Sandy, Bobbi and Donna) trying to cheat death like our friend Sisyphus- they know that death will eventually escape ( it sort of has to, to make life work) but they are SOBs and going to chain up death for as long as they can.
That fight. That ” Rocky Balboa” fighter that fights knowing that he will eventually lose to Apollo is inspiring to the human spirit. I’m from Philly so I watched the movie 8,000 time, yet each time I watch is I’m emotionally cheering Rocky hoping that he will someone how win. He doesn’t. Yet I am not sad for Rocky. I think he was happy.
Like Rocky Sandy and Bobbi are fighting unwinnable fights against a damn big rock. They will lose, but in it they will win.
Their fights are against fear and things that take their mother’s dignity way. There fights are hopeless, yet noble and define the human spirit.
I write this blog as a map for my children to follow at times when they are lost. And I know with certainty that they will find themselves as caregivers against one of these rocks, hopefully it will not be me. But its critical to their emotional survival that they understand like Sisyphus that although it might not seem it on the darkest days there is nobility and honor in the process. And there is true love.
I love you both and am proud of you.