‘You cannot protect yourself from sadness without protecting yourself from happiness.” —Jonathan Sarfan Foer
I was pleased to find that Vernon had been woken up early this morning for physical therapy. It must have worn him out as he was pretty tired by the time I arrived. And by the time he was transferred to the Dialysis Center, he still seemed to be feeling mellow and secure on his “kidney-lounger.” We bantered for awhile and when I asked if I could leave early, he seemed fine. “Ah, so we are finally hitting our stride,” I thought. “This is a good thing.”
I drove most of the way home, gassed the car, arranged to pick up the kids from their holiday-diversions. Then the phone rang. It was the Dialysis Center, asking if I could come back because Vernon had suddenly become agitated and had nearly escaped his chair. In order to calm him down, they had told him I’d be back. So I turned around. (What I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving? Wonderful, flexible babysitters!)
It was hot, I was annoyed, I’d be hitting traffic on the way home, and we keep smacking into new walls of the grand-maze. I felt I had a few reasons to cry. But things don’t stop after a cry. One just gets to carry on the trail a little bit lighter. What is the weight of emotion anyway? Can it be measured?
At least he was still there by the time I arrived again. (Had he already been transferred, I really would have been annoyed.) But when I am with him, all the annoyance goes away and I can be brought back into his moment. That is truly one beauty of it all. The managing nurse talked to me a bit about getting a relaxant for him that would help with his dialysis transition. The small-framed nurse who had tried to help him back on the chair when he was agitated came over to tell me how frightened she had been in that moment, worried he might strike and hurt her. She did add that he had quickly realized and apologized.
As poor Vernon listened, his face crumbled. He looked at me as if he were about to cry. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “I hate that I am doing things I don’t mean to do. I don’t want to hurt anybody. It doesn’t seem like me. But I think it was me.” He went on like this, trying to explain how he felt. And we cried together.
I reminded him its just a temporary phase connected to his injury. He then went further to express in true sadness that the accident was his fault too. He couldn’t remember it but he was sure that must have been his fault. That it was ALL his fault. That he was so sorry he had caused everything to go so badly. That he had scared the nurse. That he had made things difficult for me. I couldn’t help but cry with him some more.
I recognized that lie…as I’d said a version of it so many times to myself. Whenever anything goes wrong, it immediately can feel like my own fault. Before I even think it out, that is my default. Seems Vernon does this too. We probably all do on some level. Or we DID, before we self-evolved, for lack of a better word. I call it SHAME. Its sadness on a very deep level.
So I told him: “No, the accident was NOT your fault. You did not cause anything bad to happen. And you know what else? What you are feeling is good. It is good to cry when you feel sad. Just like it is good to laugh when you feel happy. This is life. This is emotion. Its good to feel the right feeling for the right situation. Sometimes that all a strong person can do. And you are doing it.”