Expectedly Hard Days in Unexpectedly Hard Ways

Concerned Strangers

“I would like to explain the meaning of compassion, which is often misunderstood.  Genuine compassion is based not on our own projections and expectations, but rather on the rights of the other:  irrespective of whether another person is a close friend.”
– Dalai Lama

We went to a wedding yesterday for a dear friend of my husband.  I knew it would be physically taxing, but I never predicted the emotional toll it would take on me.  The day was beautiful, but we knew it would be long.  On our way to the campus church we had to turn around not once but twice to pick up items we had forgotten – and we still left the camera behind.  Like all events, the wedding was packed with hurdles, but it ended with one of the most memorable ceremonies I have witnessed.

My beautiful cane

My husband was a member of the wedding party so pictures followed the ceremony.  I sat in the very back, where I could prop my foot up after standing for the ceremony.  I concentrated on the children running around.  Concentration helps me temporarily forget the pain.  An older woman came to sit near me – she chose the row right in front of me so as to not disturb my propped foot.  At first she inquired about my cane, a sparkling feminine beauty.  She then asked about my injury.  Somehow I managed to maintain a smile throughout the conversation, even as hers turned to concern.  I get a lot of that these days.  Sometimes I make a game of it and give an adventurous answer to hep maintain composure (my most popular explanations include a rattlesnake bite and a skydiving accident), but most of the time I’m pretty honest.

As the indoor pictures wrapped up, my husband came to check on me and asked how I was doing.  This is the point where I nearly break down – it always is.  It’s hard not to let my guard down around him, even in public.  I’ve learned to simply shake my head to (1) respond that I am not okay and (2) I cannot talk about it without  tears streaming down my face.  I took a deep breath, touched my eyes to catch the tears before they could fall, and smiled.  I found myself a nice bench in the church that I could sprawl my leg across in solitude to wait for the wedding party to return from pictures under the Century Tree.  Just as I nestled into my new resting spot, the groom asked if I would be accompanying them because they would like to get a couple’s picture, and of course I would never turn him down.

A Traditional Walk

A photoshoot of our family under the Century Tree, taken by Rosalee Dickens.

It was a walk I’ve made numerous times (or at least a similar one – after all, we took pictures just a few years ago under the same tree).  While my foot was already in pain, it seemed possible.  With my trusty crutch, I trudged on concentrating on each step.  I had just completed a much more rigorous physical therapy session than ever before just a day earlier so my foot was already agitated.  And although the pain was incredible by the time I arrived to the location, it had yet to reach unbearable.  Unfortunately, I had forgotten there was not another place to sit, other than the bench where pictures were being taken.

My ability to cope with my illness is very similar to riding a constant a changing roller coaster.  I cannot always predict its twists and turns, but having something to concentrate on nearly always helps.  In fact, when I lose that capacity is when I fight with myself.  It started as everyone complained about the heat.  I actually didn’t mind it, especially after last year’s brutal summer, but it did start a chain of reactions that set off my mental fight for the day.  I’ve learned a lot since all of this occurred but most importantly is to be wise in my choice of complaints, both content and company.  I began to think of how I wished I was groaning about the heat; instead, I breathed steadily as I fought back the tears from the pain.  The hardest part occurred on the walk back.  My husband carried me part of the way until he was simply too hot (remember he’s still wearing a tuxedo) to continue.  I searched for more to concentrate on with each step until one of the small children emphatically told his mother repeatedly that that walk was “too long – it was TOO LOOOOONG”.  I’ve become stronger since December – so much – but not enough to keep a few rogue tears from falling from my eyes.

Remember Who You Are and/or Were

Sometimes I yearn for the life I had before; I wish I could turn back the clock and not choose surgery.  Then I remember who I have become.  Not only am I stronger, but I tend to be happier – even in the face of great despair.  I still breakdown, many times, but I pull myself out of that dark place quicker.  I still ask myself why this had to happen to me, and I am deeply concerned that my foot pain will be my new normal.  Some days I even refuse to get out of bed.  But those days are fewer and farther between; I cry less and when I do the episodes are shorter.

I’ve learned a lot.  I am not fond of the endless pain, but I’m different.  And different isn’t always so bad.

“Whatever you hold in your mind will tend to occur in your life.  If you continue to believe as you always believed, you will continue to act as you have always acted.  If you continue to act as you have always acted, you will continue to get what you have always gotten.  If you want different results in your life or your work, all you have to do is change your mind.”
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About Journey to Optimism

I have a perfect dental record and a heart of gold. I volunteer my free time at every opportunity because I believe we can all make a small difference, and through the accumulation of numerous small differences, together, we can make a large difference in this world. I enjoy politics and public policy but not divisiveness, and I absolutely love writing.
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