A big event is happening for me this month. I’m getting my prosthesis! Readers of this blog might ask, “Weren’t you fitted for a prosthesis months ago? To that, the answer is yes and no. I was fitted for A prosthesis but it wasn’t MY prosthesis. For many months an amputee must use a generic prosthesis because it takes time for the leg to shrink to its final size and shape. The “trainer” device lets a person get around and master the needed skills. But it never quite fits and it isn’t perfectly aligned to the leg which makes it hard to put on some days. All of which means that a patient walks with a limp that varies daily with the fit.
My new prosthesis isn’t like that (I’ve already worn a 3d printed version in training). It’s much smaller and lighter. It really fits (think nylons on leg). It’s curved to align with the shape of my leg which makes putting it on very much like putting on a shoe. Testing the prototype I laughed with delight the whole time. I knew why trainers say that your life with a prosthesis doesn’t begin until you get your one-and-only, just-for-you version.
As I left the clinic that day I had a little thought. How many of us walk through life on a generic prosthesis? Of course, I don’t mean we depend on some device to get around. What I mean is that our life-walk is hobbled because of how and where we walk is directed by influences that aren’t uniquely ours. Like my old prosthesis, the goals we strive for and the values we serve are bestowed on us rather than born in us. The result is that we limp through life happy enough with what we have but its happiness is haunted by a distant feeling that this isn’t the real me and the life I am living isn’t entirely what I want.
I wrote a book about the biblical book of Ecclesiastes. It’s called The Ethics of Chaos: How to Find Happiness in a World Gone Crazy. The author of Ecclesiastes leans hard on the idea that each of us is assigned what he calls “a portion,” meaning our unique life task. The secret to happiness is finding that “portion” and living it. Our portion includes doing work we love, driven by a passion set deep in our heart, all in companionship with people gathered around us by both the dream and the work. Even in chaotic times finding and living that “portion” feels like walking on a prosthesis designed for you and nobody else. Life feels comfortable, secure and above all, it’s fun, no matter what changing circumstances may offer. As I thought about all this I asked myself: Are you trying to limp through life on the equivalent of a generic prosthesis or are the dreams and values that support you uniquely your own? I’d seen the difference in walking between generic and personal in the clinic. Now I wanted to be sure I was bringing that same difference into my daily living.