Break an arm. It’s the simplest injury to deal with so, if you have a choice, aim for that one. People get it. They ask you how you did it and you can probably tell them. If you are lucky, you may even have an amusing anecdote up your sleeve (sorry, terrible pun!). Then people will help you cut your food, open doors etc. We trust, for the most part, in the healing and the world keeps on spinning.
Break a leg and, already, those who have never experienced limited mobility become of limited use and compassion. We can all imagine the potential frustration but we forget about the knock-ons of calloused hands and the ache of a body carrying around an appendage. We can’t accurately calculate how long you can walk, whether you want to walk or even how you will stand. So the fluttering starts, you know, that peripheral fussing flutter thing that everyone does sometimes, despite best intentions. But you can legitimately brush it off and prove independence through action, and the fluttering slowly subsides. We trust in the healing and we just look to make the process a little easier.
I recently read and watched The Last Lecture by father and professor Randy Pausch and this incident struck a chord:
I talked my way out of a speeding ticket last week, that was really cool. It’s like the closest I’ve [sic] ever going to be to attractive and blonde. I told the guy why we had just moved and so on and so forth, and he looked at me and said: “Well, for a guy who’s only got a couple of months to live, you sure look good!” I just pulled up my shirt to show the scar and I said, “Yeah, I look good on the outside but the tumors are on the inside.” He just ran back to his cruiser and… ! So that’s one positive law enforcement experience for me.
It made me realise how fixated our logic has become. We are largely act-ors and we compute on three terribly logical levels: how did it get there, what does it look like and what do we do with it? So when the dis-ease is hidden? People can forget entirely that you are carrying pain and what that means. Whilst you may be mobile, you may be stuck on how to progress and that peripheral fluttering can soon threaten to send you into a spin. If someone looks healthy, it is hard for us to think of them as otherwise. And whilst there is a strength in that, there is also a disservice. It takes scars for some people to understand what someone may be dealing with; before then, it’s all filed as something a little ephemeral. It takes tears for some people to register the strength that people have held themselves up with. I believe we have become so distracted by grandiose shots of world pain dramatised by the media that we have been rendered largely incapable of dealing with the suffering of those close to hand in a way that helps us or them.
For most scars inside, there isn’t an easy story or a straightforward explanation as to how they got there. Don’t try to write someone’s narrative and don’t try to seed a plot because it’s no-one else’s story to write. A story helps people understand ‘what it looks like’ but it’s okay to not have that vision, we’ve become too single-track-minded on how we process things. These are things that can’t be filmed or caught on Vine for everyone to understand. Sometimes we have to learn how to listen.
And because we are dealing with the internal, as bones heal differently for people, so too do organs and spirits. But someone can’t flash their spirit around to show people ‘what it looks like’ or prove progress. So we have to use words, and words mean dialogue – and oh, our culture is good at that. We like to ‘do’ and dialogue means we haves a chance to offer change, so we issue forth advice and perspective, solutions and motivations. But words are also what the patient is using to process and heal. So now the pouring forth of what you think is pragmatic advice simply muddies the waters within. So maybe the more invisible the condition dives, the more it can only be assuaged by the visible: less of the words and more of those little actions that show support; a little more silence and little more company with an ear to lend.
If we, as supporters, have faith that a bone will heal and that the most beautiful thing we can do is make life easier by listening to what that person wants to do alone and what they need help with, why is it different for any other situation? I finish this post on what some will find a weird note, but with what sparked this in the first place:
Nightcrawler: You know, outside the circus, most people were afraid of me. But I didn’t hate them. I pitied them. Do you know why? Because most people will never know anything beyond what they see with their own two eyes.
Storm: Well, I gave up on pity a long time ago.
Nightcrawler: Someone so beautiful should not be so angry.
Storm: Sometimes anger can help you survive.
Nightcrawler: So can faith.
– X2 (2003)