I had a friend, an old woman who lived nearby, who was born injured. Her hip was paralyzed. My friend was very small and when I hugged her I folded myself far, far down. She liked wearing leopard slacks around me because she knew I admired her leopard slacks.
She lived her whole life injured.
“She’s crippled,” I said in surprise when I saw her, facing someone else who had known her many, many years.
“No, no, no,” came a scoffing reply.
Scoffing-reply-person was wrong and she was also un-wrong. You’d never know my elderly friend was crippled. She danced, she walked, she worked all her life, she barely spoke of her injury. She never slowed down.
I’m seeing her in my mind now, alongside people like her, and animals like her.
A wee golden house near me holds a woman, a man, and a small feline companion missing one leg.
“Look! She’s missing a leg,” said my young companions when we saw her.
Small feline dashes from house, yard, alley, hopping gracefully, landing as if on springs. Does she ever slow down? No.
I know people who are in pain, people who are suffering, people who hide sorrow, hold sorrow inside, wrap arms around hidden pain so our world sees only a smile, a bend of head, eyes masking anguish and always, somehow, kind and loving.
I admire such people. Much of our human world is alike in such ways, I figure. Many of us –all of us?– camouflage pain, hide our inadequacies, walk and hop and dash along missing a leg, or dancing gracefully, masking a paralyzed hip. We choose courage, a good face, over despair, and we choose courage again and again and again. Choose courage enough and courage becomes one of our senses, always here, rarely acknowledged.
Much we lack, maybe all, can be made up for. Can be camouflaged. I wish so much I’d had a “t” available, for example, as I worked here in dawn silence, hunched over my keyboard. I never made myself go t-less before.
Hard, you know? Very, very challenging.