My plate is quite full these days, and with some of the bigger things in life. In the world of what really matters, most of us agree that we can do without nearly anything except basic food on the table, safe drinking water, shelter, and loved ones. Next comes health, and that’s where my family has been having some challenges lately. In moments it seems like those challenges will never end…
Thankfully my husband is recovering well from the stroke; you’d be hard pressed to notice any remaining impact. But we still don’t know what caused it. He will spend the next few weeks on heart monitor and we are awaiting the okay for him to get his next test (a transesophageal echocardiogram or TEE Test). He managed to get a cold in the midst of everything and it’s not a procedure to have when you’re sick. Besides that, he’s now feeling the pain in his right arm from where he fell. The orthopedist was shocked nothing was broken, but confirmed the stroke just based on the fact that it took him nearly three weeks to realize that IT HURT!
I’ve always been an adherent to the adage, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” But, bartender, its time to make mine a Lemon Drop Martini!
So I believe we will all come through this with our heads and hearts in tact, stronger for the experience perhaps but I’d rather think we were pretty damn strong already. The “everything happens for a reason” and “God only gives you what you can handle” and “you’re being tested” falls flat. Very flat. When confronted with it, it not only offends me in a well-don’t-I-wish-I-were-weak sorta way, but it smacks of complete insensitivity.
When I am feeling more generous, though, I see it for what it is: someone who doesn’t know what we are going through from the insdie and is desperate to be helpful in some measure.
And THAT realization got me to thinking about the souls among us. To meet me in a grocery store aisle or at the lake for a walk, the stroke and my metastatic breast cancer would not be know-able. Save those with whom we are most intimate – and even then – we don’t ever truly know what baggage others care, how troubling or disabling it is, how recent or ancient, and how they carry their load. I don’t think we all suffer, mind you, but lately I do sometimes feel I’m carrying more than others.
I am not.
We all live in a world where there is pain, hurt, loss, fear. And we all carry some measure of that with us. In Jewish tradition, when a close relative dies we rend our clothing (often symbolically by wearing a torn black ribbon). It offers awareness to those around us that we are in mourning, that we require the support and comfort of the community. It allows us, without a word, to share our fragility, and it allows other to approach us from a more sensitive place in themselves. Sadly, with pain short of the death of a loved one, there is no such vehicle letting those around us know when we are vulnerable.
However, just as the world is filled with pain, it is also filled with joy, beauty and love. If we walk through our lives seeing our own challenges. But that the person demanding to cut us off on the freeway or the one who insists she see the doctor we’ve been waiting for, what if we assumed they were struggling more than we were? Could we treat each with the kindness and respect we would a mourner, acknowledge the tenderness that comes from knowing we are each broken or scarred in some way? If we could, each of us and the world would be richer for it.
The souls that ride the bus with us, who work in our offices, who tend to our homes and our lawns, who live across the street, who teach our children – they all have their own world of challenges and difficulties. Whether Judaism’s reading that we are each (equally) created in God’s image, or the Golden Rule of Christianity that we treat others as we wish to be treated, or the Taoist or Wiccan or Islamic version of the same – or perhaps just because it is a way to be in the world – we get to the same place.
Ultimately how we treat others is a reflection on how we see ourselves. I want to walk kindly through this life, not for what it may mean after I’m dead, but because I reap the benefits now. So I’m going to try really hard to be patient with those ahead of me in line, to lend my ear when clearly someone needs to talk, to not yell at the next person who cuts me off. And if all else fails, I’ll order that martini.
I can’t remember whether it was Bill or Ted who said it first, but
Be excellent to each other!