Buckle up! With apologies. This is long and a little meandering.
I began writing this post shortly after Christmas of 2012. There was a lot going on at the time. Grief felt like an unwelcome house-guest who had not had the good sense to move along to her next stay in a timely manner; it was tangible and immovable. I meant to talk about how we take care of one another in life, not just fellow family members, but friends, and even strangers though not as often, going out of our way to lift each other through, around and over life’s frequent hurdles. But the grief thing was large post-Newtown and post-West Webster, and I did not want to be flippant or inadvertently trivialize others’ pain, and so I stopped writing and saved this as a draft to maybe come back to another day.
Another day. Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of my own little hurdle that put a crimp in my holiday style and at least three months of the new year in 2013. I fell out of a house when leaving a party (Remember the avulsion fracture?) and although I know I landed on a sidewalk coated with pitch from nearby pines, I also landed on something else. Something less expected. Which is silly, because really it was there all along.
I did not lie on the sidewalk coated with pitch for long. I was lifted by friends, helped back into the house, counseled through my shock and surprise, properly iced, conveyed to an emergency room, and kept company while I waited for Bruce to arrive. At midnight. And for hours after.
I learned (again!) that I am not comfortable being the center of attention, and that I do not like receiving care so much as giving it. But I learned too that it can be a gift to another to receive that person’s care, and I tried very hard to settle into that. Because I very much needed that person’s care. Of course, I still needed to make the other comfortable — go ahead, ask Amy Jo whether we laughed more than anyone else in the emergency room — but I’m learning.
I am done recovering from that fall. My right foot’s proprioception is back in full and my ankle is almost fully flexible. I have been told that its flexibility will never be 100% and that the damaged tendon will no doubt one day fail me again, but I am doing my best to keep it strong. As for the proprioception — that unconscious, internal thing all the bones and connective tissues do to keep us upright no matter the terrain — it is something we take for granted (duh), so much so that I did not know the word until my right foot had to relearn the skill. Now I do not even think about how to balance on my right foot whilst putting on my left foot’s sock, nor how to navigate an uneven lawn or sidewalk or a beachful of sand. But as recently as late April I was still deliberately mindful when performing the former, and even in early August cautious about the latter when someone’s arm was not nearby or my ankle was not properly laced up in a brace. Until I lost proprioceptors, I did not realize how wonderfully made the foot is.
Here’s the thing. I think there’s such a thing as community proprioception: an unconscious, internal thing that all of the participants in a group or town or society do to keep their collective self healthy, prosperous, and chugging nicely along. And when that breaks down, when there is a tear, a gash in the fabric of humanity, we instinctively reach arms across the divide and carry one another through, back into the house, counseling through the shock and surprise, icing the wounds, conveying wherever necessary, keeping company, standing with, etc. We begin right away relearning, rebuilding our communal proprioception, our trust in each other. Which can take an awful long time for some, and is natural as breathing for others. As I think on the anniversary of my insignificant little personal tragedy, and as we are about to observe the anniversaries of tragedies of inconceivable proportions, I am reminded of two things, one is an article by Nestor Ramos from our local paper from late December of 2012. I hope the link works for you. It’s a beautiful, thoughtful piece about caring for one another in the midst of communal grief and shock.
Nestor Ramos: We need to keep carrying each other.
The other is this poem by John Wain which has been a favorite of mine since I first read it in the late 1970s.
This Above All is Precious and Remarkable
This above all is precious and remarkable.
How we put ourselves in one another’s care,
How in spite of everything we trust each other.
Fishermen at whatever point they are dipping and lifting
On the dark green swell they partly think of as home
Hear the gale warnings that fly to them like gulls.
The scientists study the weather for love of studying it,
And not specially for love of the fishermen,
And the wireless engineers do the transmission for love of wireless,
But how it adds up is that when the terrible white malice
Of the waves high as cliffs is let loose to seek a victim,
The fishermen are somewhere else and so not drowned.
And why should this chain of miracles be easier to believe
Than that my darling should come to me as naturally
As she trusts a restaurant not to poison her?
They are simply examples of well-known types of miracle,
The two of them,
That can happen at any time of the day or night.
Ok. I feel better now. Thank you for your patience. I promise to go back to cookie posts very soon.