Saturday, January 28, 2017
Quiet in the Corner
When I was seven years old and trying desperately hard to learn to ride a bike, I fell on our sloped gravel driveway and scraped the length of my calf rather badly. My mother was unable to cope with such things, so it fell to my stepfather to deal with the damage. I remember him sitting me down and looking me right in the eye, seriously and determinedly. He said, "This will hurt. You are not allowed to cry. You will not make a single sound." So I sat there silent while he picked the bits of gravel out of the wounds and poured the stinging red medicine liberally all over the scrapes on my leg.
It was an important lesson. Was it harsh? Maybe cruel? Yes. But it gave me something, too: I learned self-possession and self-control. The result has been a bit odd, I suppose. I might whine over a stubbed toe or a broken fingernail but if I am truly hurt, you will hear nothing. Absolutely nothing.
When I was nineteen years old, I was injured in a cooking accident--boiling oil spilled all over my legs and my hand. I don't know if the treatment these days is any less brutal than it was decades ago, but the month that I spent in the hospital was horrifying. You won't want to know this but it consisted of slicing through the layers of escar with a lancet (a thin surgical razor) in a grid pattern at quarter-inch intervals. Twice a day, every day. Afterward, I had to sit in a bath with water jets forced over the burned areas. I could swear they put something like salt in that water. It wasn't pleasant.
There were three patients in the burn unit. The other two were grown men, and I heard them weeping during treatment. I was a teenage girl. And I never cried. Not even once. Not ever. But I could not remain wholly quiet. Instead, I laughed. It was laughter born of pain. The physical therapists were astonished because they had never had such a patient. And my laughter made them happy.
I still laugh when I am in pain. And I still also go quiet.
The past couple of months have been hard in many ways. There have been distressing incidents. There are challenges to face. Not knowing which way to turn, I have only prayer and quiet. It's not a bad thing to learn quiet. But it has also stolen my words, and I want them back. I think I'd rather laugh.
Life is good.
I'm working on it.