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 my life.
I've already written a memoir about how I came to be the woman I am. This time of unexpected limits has me contemplating the present. What do I want to do next? Where do I want to go?
For a while, questions like that made 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 paint 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. I realized I was always asking myself what I could to to 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?
In the past few weeks, I've come to re-evaluate that question., and I've decided it's me who gets to say. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, everyone is as happy as he or she decides to be.
There are days when it seems like too much work to take a shower: even with the help of my husband, even as we giggle at our reflections in the mirror while he blow dries my hair. On those days,the familiar mantle of suffering beckons. I want to wrap myself in it, but then I remember this: it really is a choice. For most of my life, I have chosen to be sad. Way back when, it seemed like a good idea. Today, not so much.
It really is a beautiful thing to see the sunlight angle into my dining room, touching the soft gold carpet, making shadows of the backs of my chairs. My son buying my favorite cookies for me made me feel loved. My husband putting my socks on my feet makes me feel cared for. My friends who brought lunch and the ones who took me out for a drive told me, without words, 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 watch 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 the definition of compassion for ourselves and others. For that knowledge, I am forever grateful.
Causes Linda Wisniewski Supports
Women for Women International, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, Story Circle Network, International Women's Writing Guild