Exactly one week before Christmas, I slipped off a step inside my house and broke my left hand. Suddenly, I was on a forced winter vacation. I can’t write, can’t knit, can’t quilt, and can’t drive. What I can do is read, watch TV, take long walks, and think about all kinds of stuff.
I’ve already written a memoir about how I came to be the woman I am. Now, my unexpected limits have me contemplating the present. What do I want to do next? Where do I want to go?
Questions like that used to make me sad. Writing my memoir, Off Kilter, taught me that suffering was my way of operating in the world. For a long time, I believed I had to pay my dues for every happy moment with some equal measure of pain. But somewhere along the way, the pain bucket got so heavy I couldn’t carry it anymore. Perhaps it was the day a friend told me I always looked a little sad and I realized I was more comfortable that way. I was always asking myself how I could be “good enough.” There was never a satisfactory answer. Nothing I did was good enough for my internal judge. When would I get to be happy?
Sine then, I’ve come to re-evaluate that question. I’ve decided it’s me who gets to say. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, people are as happy as they make up their minds to be. It wasn’t so easy for him, either; he is said to have been depressed many times in his life.
There are days when it just seems like too much work, with my hand in a cast or brace, to do a simple thing like take a shower. It’s such a big production: even with the help of my husband, even as we giggle at our reflections in the mirror while he blow dries my hair. ,There are days when my back gives out due to stress, or lack of exercise, or lack of the right kind of exercise. You can see where I’m going with this. On those days,the old familiar mantle of suffering beckons. I want to wrap myself in it, but then I remember: it really is a choice. For much of my life, I chose to be sad. Way back when, it seemed like a good idea. Today, not so much.
This morning, sunlight angles into my dining room, touching the soft gold carpet, making shadows of the backs of my chairs, making me remember moments like these : My son brought home a bag of my favorite cookies. My husband stood ready to put my socks on my feet without being asked. My friends brought lunch and stayed for hours. Others took me out for a drive. They told me, without words, that I am valued. It’s time I told myself the same thing.
This sudden, forced vacation will soon be over. Unlike many others, my disability is temporary. My prayer this morning, is that I will remember to take time to enjoy the sunlight and shadows, when I am once again doing all those other things I miss.
Hardships, even little ones, connect us, don’t they? It’s how we learn compassion for ourselves and others. For that knowledge, I am forever grateful.
(Typed using Dragon Naturally Speaking.)