Having not been particularly blessed with a deep sense of compassion, I have come to appreciate the occasional opportunities to walk in someone else’s shoes. To experience various struggles first-hand is to understand the frustration, limitations and emotional havoc others face on a regular basis.
This week? I limped along in my own stupid shoes.
It started Sunday afternoon as I carried the trash to the alley. With a light layer of snow covering the earth, I did not notice the solid ice patch at the bottom of our back staircase. It was at that moment I performed the most impressive impersonation of Tonya Harding failing to land a triple axle the world has ever known. My feet flew into the air, and in an effort to regain my balance, I completely screwed up my knee.
I sat on the ground for a moment debating whether I wanted to laugh or cry.
Now had I been watching myself from afar? I would have snorkel-laughed before asking myself if I was okay. Human nature is still human nature.
With my husband, Joe, at the firehouse, I wobbled inside, popped a couple of Advils, and went back to putting away laundry and yelling at the kids. I blocked out visions of MRIs and physical therapy in hopes that denial would serve as my Lourdes.
By morning, the knee was worse. Thankfully, Joe arrived home in time to shovel the driveway, scrape the minivan and take the kids to school.
That was when the first epiphany came: it is really nice to have a partner in parenting. Sure, I could have sent my 10-year-old out to shovel and scrape, but we would have been late. Maybe I would have kept everyone home from school, but after last week’s closings, the children’s lives would have been in grave peril.
By Tuesday, I took hobbling to a new art form. Accustomed to doing things at a lightening pace, I tried desperately to maintain the status quo – stiff knee or not. In and out of the minivan all day for assorted kid activities, my gimpy leg slowed things to the point where turtles and Nanas were passing me.
My body had never been this uncooperative before. That was when the second epiphany came. There are parents I know right now who face, and will continue to face, serious restrictions on their health and mobility. I flashed back to my son Daniel’s concerned look as he peered out the back door after I fell. He was half-convinced his mother was already broken in two.
How many parents have to sooth those worried faces daily? How many have to pretend it does not hurt or that it is not so very hard to do what most take for granted?
I have always believed that the world tries its best to teach critical lessons throughout every life. Sometimes, the message will come in a whisper. Sometimes, it will come in a shout.
And when all else fails?
Maybe the world will just push your klutzy ass off that last stair.
No, I am not normally an empathetic person.
But tomorrow, I choose not be aggravated by the slow-poke at the grocery store. Tomorrow, I will not judge why that single mom is always late for pick-ups.
Tomorrow is my chance to be better. And this time, I choose to take it.