An email exchange with a friend recovering from an injury reminded me of my own -- not the silly one with the cat that I recount below, but a more serious one over twenty years ago. And look at this photo of some wounded veterans of our recent conflicts -- no sign of weakness there. All I see is strength and courage.
STRENGTH THAT LOOKS LIKE WEAKNESS
December 3, 2004
What happen here? the manicurist will ask me today, I know -- I have a deep puncture in the cuticle of my right thumb. I know less Korean than she does English, so it will be challenging to explain that I picked up a 22-lb cat with one hand securely under her chest and a full cup of tea in the other hand and that the cat didn't like it and twisted out of my grasp and because I didn't have a convenient spot on which to set down my tea, the cat ended up suspended by one claw from the cuticle of my right thumb. She didn't like that, either -- let out a yell you don't often hear from a cat. I don't know which of us found the experience more painful. I hope it was the cat. Serves her right if it was.
What happened? And how quickly did it happen? And how dumb was it -- accidents are always a split second of being in the wrong position at the wrong time. Just an inch in the other direction, just a second earlier, and you wouldn't be in this fix. If only I'd taken the other route home, stopped to get the mail first, checked the position of the knob on the stove.
But what's done is done. An accident plunges you into a new reality, sometimes with a new and permanent set of parameters within which you must attempt to do whatever it is that you wanted to do. Sometimes it robs you of the possibility of doing it at all, and you have to do something else instead. The flexible courage and strength of people who have had to make this adjustment in life are breathtaking. We look at them in their wheelchairs, at their crutches, their white canes, their asymmetrical gaits, and we think we are seeing weakness.
No. That's not weakness. Not at all. What we are seeing is strength, beyond what most of us can even imagine.