Saturday, October 25, 2014

Traveling in Pain // Thank You For Being a Friend

Another day, another set of health challenges. Lately, my right leg (supposed to be my "good" leg) has been the source of severe pain and weakness. I am back to using 2 crutches. Of course, this couldn't come at a better time: we are currently on a 2-week trip to the east coast and midwest. One of our destinations was none other than one of the world's most inaccessible cities (in my opinion), NYC. As always, I was determined not to let the setback ruin my fun, even if it killed me.

I do not take kindly to limits, especially when they are set for me. Limits set off my inner control freak. My family can attest that I push myself to the limit, simply just to spite the situation. However, as I slowly learn to "take the help", I've learned a couple of things about myself and the people I call my friends.

First, I am discovering the lengths my friends will go to in order to both protect me, even when I will not protect myself, and to allow me to participate to the fullest extent. This is something I come to expect and take for granted from family members. (Logic: they have to help me.) When a friend does it for you, it is touching. Being in a less-than-optimal physical situation, one learns quickly that a true friend walks with you and not ahead of you, even when you will not admit your desire to walk beside them. My friend in New Jersey, P, intervened twice on my trip. First, she insisted on getting me a wheelchair at the mall so that we could BOTH enjoy ourselves (and she could benefit from my sage wisdom at Sephora). Second, she pointed out that even she herself does not run to all ends of Manhattan in one day, and that my Manhattan wish list needed to be whittled down not just for the sake of my health, but for the sake of sanity.

Second, I learned just how much I internalize. Today, I went out with my old college friend, D, who noted how much she's been learning about me through my blog and writing. Because D was one of the people I was closest to in college, I was a bit surprised about how much I kept her in the dark about my health...until I really thought about it. As a young adult, I only shared things about my health when it was absolutely necessary. In fact, when at D's house for Thanksgiving during my freshman year of college, I barricaded D from the room when her father (a doctor) was helping me take care of my foot. At that age, I was embarrassed about my health. I was afraid people would perceive me as "lazy" or a "hypochondriac" if I asked for help or discussed my issues. As pride starts to give way to age and experience, I am more open about not just what I'm going through physically, but emotionally as well. I had a good cry on D's shoulder today about my disappointment in how fast my physical state is deteriorating in my 30s and my resentment for the seemingly effortless way my peers are living life and starting their own families. While others sign up for subscriptions to mommy blogs and parenting magazines, I search for assistive walking devices and feel more like a subscriber to AARP.

And because they're my friends, they know to tread lightly when trying to help me. P later asked if her insistence at renting a wheelchair was an insult to me, knowing my fierce independence. D scolded me for my insistence on taking the "shortcut" to the restaurant, which included a near roll down a hill, and made sure I was taking proper breaks while shopping. In actuality, when I let go of my pride, my heart swells with gratitude when my friends will go to such lengths for me, even when my attitude is the biggest obstacle. I should be the one to teach people that shame is not a necessary emotion for my physical situation, but my friends are the ones teaching me this lesson.

I've been holding in a lot of emotion and disappointment this month as I battle with my right leg. Having to limit myself even further as I try to travel and enjoy myself was, if I'm being honest, horribly depressing. Being embraced, physical limits, emotions and all, by true friends lightened my emotional load more than they could possibly know. Many friends have walked beside me over the years, but this week I learned to accept it for the sign of friendship that it is, and not for the "but they have to" lie I told myself over the years. Letting go of the fears I have about how others will percieve me because I have been in the company of genuine and true friends has felt like an exhale of the breath I have been holding unnecessarily for decades. Thank you to these 2 wonderful women that stood at my side this week. 

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