I didn't want to do it. I'd travelled miles by plane and hours by car. In less than twenty minutes I was expected to arrive at the conference site and nod, smile and then begin a lecture I'd given one too many times. Sure it's important. Sure it's an honour to be there. I understand all that. But tell me that you don't get up every now and then and want to say, "To hell with it, I'm knocking off."
I didn't call in sick, of course, I showed up on time like I always do. But I groused about having to go to work and then a voice appeared in my head, "That's the way life goes, hey?"
I smiled but didn't know why.
During the break today a woman came up to me and we were talking. She was telling me about having been in an accident and ended up in a cast that held up her left arm and covered her torso. Her story was funny and I responded by saying, "That's the way life goes, hey?"
I laughed and she looked at me oddly not getting the joke. But honestly, neither did I.
Throughout the day that phrase kept coming back to me. Over and over again like a snatch of a song on the radio runs round and round your head. But each time I thought it, it seemed wiser and wiser.
"That's the way life goes, hey?"
You can use that sentence in almost any circumstance.
I lost a winning lottery ticket. "That's the way life goes, hey?"
My husband ran away with my best friend's boyfriend. "That's the way life goes, hey?"
The pizza arrived cold. "That's the way life goes, hey?"
It's all purpose. And it's true.
Finally I remembered. Jean-Anne used to say that all the time. She was a woman with an intellectual disability who attended a 'pre-vocational' center. No matter what happened she had, "That's the way life goes, hey?" at the ready. When one staff was upset at the break up of a relationship ... when another heard her father had died ... when another didn't get accepted to university ... Jean-Anne was there with her, "That's the way life goes, hey?"
She never offered pity, or comfort or anything but a statement of the obvious. If you are going to live, things are going to happen. Good things, bad things, cause that's the way life goes, hey?
But what made me smile was remembering Jean-Anne one summer day. We would leave the pre-vocational center and walk to a clump of trees at the back of the building. It was cooler there and we could all just relax. (Relaxing being a very important vocational skill.) Jean-Anne was wearing flip flops and was talking with one of the others as we walked through the yard. She stepped in a pie of dog poo and stopped, looked at the mess and let out a scream of disgust.
I got there first with the line, "That's the way life goes, hey?"
Jean-Anne looked up and said, "Yeah, but does it have to?"
Amen, sister, I got that today.