My father lost his leg at the age of eighteen. He spent the rest of his life proving that he could do anything, even with one leg. I didn’t realize that this was the point of his activities. I thought my dad was special. He road motorcycles, jumped out of airplanes, snow and water-skied. The only thing he couldn’t do that he tried was to sail. The joke was he could never get his “sea-leg”.
We were taught by watching that you just pull yourself up by your boot (singular) strap and we were not allowed to bitch (my father’s word). I learned well. I am strong, independent, powerful. I jumped out of airplanes, skied, was a racquet ball star. I could lift as much weight as a man ten years younger than I. I didn’t need anybody. Or so I thought.
This belief was challenged significantly when I was told I would have to have my toe fused. No weight bearing at all for three months. I was completely dependent over-night. The pain of the surgery was nothing compared to the emotional pain of having to relax into being taken care of by someone else. I was given a crash course and it was one of the best lessons I have ever learned.
I see now that while I was taught well how to function physically and mentally, I was never taught to grow emotionally. I had never learned how to be vulnerable, compassionate or caring. I had never seen anyone let their guard down and ask for help. I thought people who needed other people were weak and lazy. I was taught that anyone who couldn’t figure out how to do something for themselves was just stupid. I raged when things didn’t go my way, scared people away who had the audacity to think I needed them. If a man opened a door for me I would ask him, and this is no lie, “Do I look like I have broken arms?” I was a hard-ass.
The thing I was never taught that I could do was to allow others to contribute to me. I had to learn to ask for help; to put myself in the care of another. I learned the hard way that I could count on other people most of the time. I had to learn to risk the possibility of someone not getting it right for me, which was emotionally terrifying.
Today, I am still working every day on my emotional growth. It is a challenge to allow whatever emotions are there to just be there, without having to fix them or, worse, blame the fact that I am momentarily unhappy on someone else. I have a long way to go in this course. I set my intention every single day to allow myself to feel what I feel without judgment or blame. Emotions are hard things. I am learning I can do hard things.