Someone close to me called me daft and a cripple, all the space of one day. The accusation of being daft was grossly unfair and not the slightest bit true. And I reacted with hurt and tears…my usual defense. Yet when the second name was bestowed upon me, I chose to embrace it and accept it instead of launching a defensive tirade about it. Yes, deep inside of my body, I am crippled. It is not visible like most other kinds of disability. But bits of pipe and tubing coming from my heart are twisted and pointed in the wrong direction and it doesn’t work as it should. As doctors have said it is like a ticking time bomb inside my body; any sudden movement could cause an aneurysm or a stroke and that would be it.
The reason for calling me a cripple was because I had been complaining of being unwell the last 5 days or so with a sore back, headaches and pain my my stomach from eating gluten after a long period of being gluten free. I had been to see a friend a couple of weeks ago and stopped at the Sri Lankan shop for some “Chinese Rolls”, a deep fried breaded savoury filled pancake as a special treat for her. The remembered taste of these delicacies were too strong to stop myself having a couple. The following week, I had some again and then last week I had some cake batter and one single cup cake when I was baking for Jacob’s birthday party. It was my fault and I have no hesitation accepting the blame. According to this person, I complain too much about everything including my health and it was like being with a cripple.
It was a horrible unkind thing to say. But when I chose to agree instead of breaking down in tears, I noticed something amazing happening. The situation diffused. The other person was left with nothing more to add to the original statement than to say I should stand up strong and walk through the pain. That’s when I responded….Despite feeling unwell, I had got up every morning for the last 5 days and done what I needed to get Jacob to school and back, looked after the house, spent time with friends and family and not asked anyone to attend to something that was mine to do. And cripple or not, I was damned proud of the fact.
Then, surprise, surprise, the other person started to list out all the good things they liked about me…my independence, my spirit, my strength…..and said if only I was to watch a horror movie I had refused to watch with them for the last couple of months, then they would actually be proud of me. It was obvious they realised they had been unkind and were now trying to salvage the situation with a bit of lightheartedness.
Now, horror movies and I don’t go well together. Until I was in my early twenties, I would not even walk into a dark bedroom by myself. Then I went to work in Hinnapita, the little village near Rikillagaskada in Sri Lanka. A village with no electricity or indoor plumbing. After dark, I needed someone with a torch to go with me to the toilet situated halfway up the hill behind the house. When it was their turn to use the toilet, I remember standing there in the dark, terrified of what might be out there. But during my year and a bit there, I worked through my fear of the dark and of being alone. In my rented accommodation when I worked for Fonterra Sri Lanka, the toilets were again outside and I had slowly become accustomed to going out by myself in the dark. When we lived in Wellington, I had to put 5 separate lights on to light my way to the bathroom at night, so the fear was still present. I remember being scared on the nights when Jacob first started going to his dad’s house after the separation because I knew I was the only person in the house.
In this present house, I remember waking up terrified one night soon after I moved in. But since then, I had always felt safe and have had no problems going out in the dark if and when the need arose. I knew however, watching a real spooky movie like “the woman in black” there was a chance I would become scared of darkness and being alone in the house again…..and I had made a choice not to watch it. I had put a lot of effort to work through my fears, however irrational they may seem to someone else and I valued my independence. There was no way I was going to watch a movie I didn’t want to simply to please another person. And it mattered not to me whether they were proud of me of me or not. What mattered was that I was proud of myself of having got to this point. I no longer had anything to prove….And that realisation was liberating….I may be a cripple in their eyes…but does not a rose by another name smell just as sweet?