Under normal conditions, I would shy away from writing an end-of-year reflective piece, but my condition is not normal. That’s to say, it isn’t the condition I had become used to, although I may have to accept it as my new ‘normal’.
Many things have changed during 2018. I began the year believing that I had – at some point in 2017 – suffered a stroke which was causing the problems I was experiencing with the sight in my left eye. I was wrong about that, just as I’d been wrong to ignore my developing battery of symptoms for so long. I’d been scared of what I might discover about my health if I investigated matters. I’d been a fool.
In 2018 I learned – and I’m still learning – how to go about accepting what is. That, I think, has been one of the major lessons of the journey that my family and I have been on. Things – regardless of how I might feel – have changed, and there is little that I can do about many of the changes that have arrived to test my endurance or patience. I must instead accept them.
For much of my life I have lived within a dichotomy; a shy, oversized man employed in roles which required me to behave forcefully and confidently. A large and (yes, I must accept this) strong man capable of being proficient in various sports, and of using my physical power to be useful in a wide variety of situations which might cause difficulties to anyone smaller or less strong than I. These things have changed. I must accept a physically reduced version of who I once was. I must accept those things of which I am no longer capable. I must accept the word ‘disability’ as it now pertains to me.
I’ve learned this year how much my physical stature and strength was part of what helped me survive emotionally. As that physical strength has been stripped away, my emotions have been laid bare, my vulnerability visible (it has seemed) for all to see. My lack of emotional strength has been painfully apparent as, at various times of the year, I’ve leaned so heavily upon my wife’s remarkable depth of love for me. I’ve become aware of it, and accepted the truth of it. It has always been who I really am.
2019 sees a different person looking out at the world from this familiar-looking face. The face in the mirror looks much the same (a little more grey, a little fatter, a little more tired) but I’m not the same; I couldn’t be.
Counter-intuitively perhaps, the easiest response would be to fight against the difference; to try to regain what I once had and to try to be who I once believed I was. The harder course is the one that I am choosing, because I believe that wisdom lies along the way. I choose to embrace the difference and to rebuild my small world in acceptance of who I am now. I’m assisted by the fact that my new community has never known the previous version of me, and so there is little or no pressure to revert from the people who have met only this version of me.
My partner in life, and my children know, of course. What, I wonder, is this like for them? What is it like to see a person they love changed in this kind of way?
What is it like, and how, now, can I – with all the love I hold for them - help them?