Yesterday, I spent a joyful hour making a list of the many ways people have been there for me during this challenging time: phone calls, flowers, books, poems, letters, food and visits. In an act of utter masochism, one of my friends even insisted on sorting through piles of daunting insurance claim forms for me. I feel enormous gratitude for a community that has circled around and cared for me for the last month and a half.
Somehow in our society, especially at the “professional” level, we have learned that it is not OK to be sick or weak or vulnerable. We are taught that we must be a perfect, invulnerable physical specimen with nary a chink in the armor. Supremely productive. And to prove that, we convince ourselves we must endure difficult times alone, afraid we will burden people with our troubles.
How did it come to this: that asking for help or allowing people to support us has become an enormous act of courage? Last week, my doctor told me a story about one of her patients who, while undergoing chemotherapy, would drive herself to every appointment, worried that she would be inconveniencing people and convinced they would do it only out of feeling of obligation or pity. I could feel her isolation vividly.
The last few months have taught me that by accepting our vulnerability and letting others share this with us, we can become more than we ever dreamed possible.
It isn’t our perfection that connects us to each other but our realization that we are all in this together … nicks, dents, scratches and all.