Thursday, March 17, 2016

This club

So you know that thing (well maybe you know, maybe you don't), anyways, that thing where once you have a baby you get it? Like, you get why it was crazy when back in your twenties when you and your friends were all shiny happy newly married you said things like, we won't let having kids get in the way of socializing. The kids will come and they can all just watch movies and hang out and fall asleep and we will carry them out and take them home and place them gently in their beds and we will sleep soundly and life will be grand. And then we had the babies and were plunged immediately and deeply into a land of unrelenting need for sleep and nursing and bottles and endless diapers and laundry and just a half minute to myself. And we would explain, when there was time to explain, usually without being asked, how no one ever told us and we wouldn't have believed it if they had and how now we understood. It was a like an unasked for apology, the kind where someone apologizes for something and you never even knew they had done something wrong? It's like that, because it's like new parents are apologizing for all the closet judgement they heaped on those who had children before.

It's kind of similar, that aha moment, that getting it, that I'm talking about today but it was less of an aha than a slow burn of understanding. A gradual and unwanted initiation. A club that, unlike having kids, I wouldn't want new members in and I hope most people don't ever join.

I know the members of this club because as I moved, slowly and painfully and tentatively, through the world over the last months, the members would be the ones who would look and see me. It's weird, I suppose I've done this either out of a desire to not stare or an awkwardness in the face of someone else's pain or maybe even the callousness of just plain old not seeing, but I think for my whole entire life up until this point I kind of blanked on injuries. I'm not a mean person, I cry for people I know and I don't know all the time but I think the things that made me cry were emotional injuries to people; those I could get, I could understand the pain of a broken heart of the sadness of losing a friend or whatever - I have a highly active imagination and ability to sink deep into the idea of someone's sadness. What I didn't have, and now I know and can never not know, is that physical pain and injury is just as awful.

And what takes my breath away sometimes, what brings me back to earth and drops me, rock solid and heavy, is that my pain, my suffering, my injury, wasn't even that bad. In the grand scheme of things pain that wakes you up every night, for hours at a time, burning and stabbing and just plain being mean, but goes away after twelve or sixteen weeks or whatever it's been, that isn't much. Comparatively, I mean. The people who experience horrific injuries - the car accidents and the horrific wounds and the painful diseases that strip away their sense of self, that wasn't me. At all. But still the impact was substantial and lasting and has forever turned me into another version of before and after. Same as I think of myself before and after kids, I am now before and after accident.

There were the people who slowed down, waited, opened a door and patiently stood while I limped my way through, staying even as I tried to shoo them away and then they would tell me no, they had a surgery and it was awful and they understood. The flight attendant from WestJet who told me in detail about his experience with pain. The man in the gym parking lot who lectured me on not being a hero because I left my crutch in my van, and then made me give him my keys once he'd got me safely over the ice and into the gym, and went and got my crutch out of the van so I would have it later. He hadn't been the one to experience the pain, he said, but his wife had and so he had that understanding. Quite often it was the family member of a person who would offer aassistance, explaining that their husband/wife/daughter/mother had gone through this last year/six months ago/sometime and they understood because they had lived it alongside. They had seen the rough moments, the sadness, the struggle.

So while I wouldn't sign up for this club, if the choice came today in the mail, with a little box to tick here for yes, here for no, I have to admit I wouldn't sign up. I would tick NONONO and pop it immediately back in the mail. While pain may have taught me things, I wouldn't choose it. But I guess in a nutshell, that's life, right? We don't get to choose, most of it, anyways. The rock bottom/top of mountain moments often have a heck of a lot more to do with chance than choice. But here I am, so I surrender with gratitude and I guess I can find the jewel in even this.

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