Saturday, December 22, 2007

To give or to receive?

I won the family's 1st ever Sympathy Award on Christmas Eve. This award was given to the person who deserved the most sympathy. It was a year filled with operations and broken bones, so it was a way for us to laugh together about the various ailments. Laughter is good medicine.

Interestingly, my two aunts told me they voted for me because I was taking care of my husband with his broken ankle, not because of my broken elbow and surgery this summer. "Taking care of a man! Oh, do you ever have my sympathy!"

Actually, giving extra care to John has not been nearly as painful as being taken care of this summer. I was a disgruntled patient: Impatient with myself and the entire ordeal, rather demanding when I wanted to do something. Why didn't I like all the kindness and pampering? What was so hard about reading in bed and sleeping?

I think it had to do with the losses I felt. Physically, I had lost the use of my arm. I truly experienced pain in the neck after surgery. But I also lost the ability to work at the rooftop garden, to be the kind of mom I love to be, to be able to do all the things that make me feel like me. Somehow having others care for me meant I couldn't be me. For those of you who helped me this summer, you know how hard I tried at being better at getting better. Thank you, again, for your books and kind words and good meals ... and for being patient with me.

Six months later, I think I did get better in many ways. I'm pretty much physically healed. I had the chance to re-evaluate much of what I had been doing in the months prior to the surgical summer. Was it all so important to being me? It was freeing at some point to have everything taken off the to-do list. I tried this fall to add things back with some scrutiny and care. Being a thoughtful, hands-on mom and partner are still at the top. I felt recommitted to my job at a youth center. Not just the gardening part but to reaching youth through gardening. I have tried to be a better listener and to really hear what others are saying. To affirm their experience and try to put myself in their position. I don't think I'm as quick to try to fix things for myself and people in my life. An injury slows you down. While I wouldn't recommend it as the best way to achieve that state, slowing down can be a very good thing.

Getting sympathy for taking care of John seems misplaced. Giving care is exactly what I like to do. John's broken ankle is certainly slowing him down. He has been home a lot, which has provided opportunities to read to Max, to watch DVDs with Zack. We all check in on John, offering something to him ... humor, love, a glass of water, a fluffier pillow, a chance to hang out. I do not underestimate what John is dealing with. He has a long road ahead before he can fulfill the many roles of his life. I hope we can give him the gift of receiving care from all of us.

My uncle, who underwent foot surgery and was a difficult patient for my aunt, said I wasn't the winner of the award but the best whiner for the award. And then I thought, well, anything to get a little sympathy!

1 comment:

Jenny said...


I love this post. I've learned so much from you, especially from the way you live into your experiences and learn from them.

Thanks for starting this blog, too. It is strange how I've come to feel about the blog posts my dear friends leave.

It's almost as good as receiving a letter, because it is a live medium--you're writing about present experiences, as you experience them, giving me a chance to step out of my own for a few moments and into yours.

What a gift!