Kindness Can Be Everything
The other day I went outside and sat in the garden. It was the first time I have been outside in almost three months, except for the occasional trip in an ambulance. I didn’t do anything out there. I just sat in the wheelchair, hearing the birds and the sounds of life going on in the distance. I watched the breeze move through the leaves still on the trees and rustle the ones already fallen. I felt the autumnal sun on my face and just focused on the breath moving in my body and the luxury of being outside.
Those that know me will have already heard how I managed to spectacularly rupture both of my Achilles tendons (the ones that run down the backs of your calves and join your ankle bone and make it possible to walk). I reported to everyone who asked that no it wasn’t painful but it was debilitating and it would be a long process getting up and about again.
I knew it would be something of a journey, and I would learn things about myself and others on the way. I chose to see life that way a long time ago in an effort to make sense of a world where I have never felt entirely at home.
This philosophy has served me well, helping me to cope with a tendency to overthink and to all too easily slide into my own personal deep, dark well of what is all too easily labelled depression, but is so much more nuanced than that.
Many friends have commented how terrible it must be to be in this situation, and I can agree that it could be. I surprisingly began this journey with no pain, and when in the course of the treatment I started to experience quite surprising levels of physical distress, I had times of feeling very sorry for myself indeed. Distraction is not easy to come by when you are confined to chair or bed and completely dependent on other people, but I have done my best to focus on the upside.
The whole world looks increasingly insane just now. Don’t get me wrong, I have already said I have always felt something of an alien on Planet Earth, but recently events have taken a turn into something resembling a dystopian movie that would have given any of us the heeby-jeebies only last year.
I don’t mind a bit of bonkers. I count some of my dearest most interesting friends (you know who you are) among the not so balanced, but there is a huge difference between being crackers and having insight and being crackers and thinking everyone else is the lunatic. The worst trait I can think of is just not having compassion for one’s fellows on this strange journey.
One of the ambulance crew sat with me while I was in some distress at one point and talked about kindness. It was a simple speech from a down-to-earth joker of a man who transformed into a Buddha before my eyes. He reminded me of who we really are under our daily challenges and brought me back to my strength.
The woman who took me into the garden didn’t have to do that. She is a physiotherapist who could have just accompanied me on my slow and painful hobble up the corridor and back to my room, but she took time out of her day to wheel me into a puddle of sunshine for half an hour and let me be.
The people who cleaned my room, who cooked and delivered my food, could be grumpy when I asked for something they needed to collect from the kitchen, or some other corner of the hospital that I could not access, but they were endlessly patient and kind.
The nursing and care staff went out of their way to make certain I was not lonely or afraid or lacking something that could be arranged for me.
I could go on, but I suppose the point of all of this is to say that one of the things I have experienced in spadefuls is real kindness.
I am not easy to look after. I, like so many of us, feel I need to cope with everything by myself and try not to make a fuss. I see it in so many of us, all battling to keep going. Most of us want to be seen to be coping and none of us wants to be a burden.
It’s humbling to be on the other side. To be dependent upon the care of others. I have had no choice at times, but to surrender. I have had moments of shame and helplessness. On my very first day in hospital , when I was feeling somewhat battered from falling over, someone had to wipe my bum – and I cried.
I have felt exposed and vulnerable so many times in the past few months, but I realise now that there is also a strength in that, and while I don’t wish to make a habit of it, (being dependent, I mean) I can be grateful for a little more understanding of who I think I am and how irrelevant that can seem when everything blows up in your world.