Swimming lessons were great for Audrey this summer. After the first day, the instructor said she was "born to be a swimmer" and praised her good swimming lines and very potential and Audrey stood tall with those long lean legs and kicked strong with those long lean legs and her water confidence grew. It meant so much to her to be seen.
I tried to give Marian space on the first day of swimming lessons, to stay far enough away and show enough superficial disinterest that she wouldn't over dramatize and fear the experience. No big deal to either of us, right? But the weather was cloudy and the water was cold and a little too deep and, in the end, the instructor recommended "next year." When I consulted with Marian, though, she didn't list those as her primary reasons for wanting to towel off and stay out. "Oh, Mom," she whispered, shivering, wiping wet tears off a wet freckled cheek with wet fingers, "they don't know about my troubles!" My heart broke a little (again) for her, my resilient spirit who defines herself not only as a girl who loves sky blue and wants a pony and likes to dress fancy and has clever crafty hands, but by her "troubles": her familiarity with the hospital cafeteria's sweet and sour sauce and its nurses and its needles and a clear cognizance of the miracle of her survival and the work and the money and the so many different strategies and the final difficult transplant decision that saved (save) her precious life.
I've always thought of myself as a bit of a hider. I like my space and embrace the odd cat identity I often feel. I like the medical anonymity of staying at the Ronald McDonald House or walking through a children's hospital, where tubes and dressings and IV poles and medical drama are accepted without explanation. But I also find myself panicked, sometimes, on days like today at the hospital, that "they don't know about my troubles!" I find myself squeezing the story of my two tough kids into the most minor interactions, mastering the conversational art of finding every possible segue into who we are and why we're there and how I'm already an expert at navigating the series of waiting rooms and questionnaires and lists of medications and the weird waiting while my carefully comatose baby is prodded and imaged and sliced. I'm embarrassed, knowing I'm talking too much and too fast, but I cannot seem to stop it. Something in me wants to be known.*
And I think, writing this in the forced cheer of my little glassed-off cubbie in the MRI wing, waiting for my fierce little man to "imaged" (and now typing it in another, waiting for him to sleep off the Versed and phenobarbital and...), that you feel the same way, that wanting to be known is probably universal. The kindest card I've ever received had this simple message: "I see you." I want to let those stories spill out around me, to better extend the courtesy of seeing in my out-of-hospital interactions. When I know their troubles (or at least remember they must be there), the obtuse may be understandable, the annoyance explainable.
Troubles! Make yourself known!
Human understandings! Knit!
It's the craft of human kindness.
*and then there's the most obvious sign of this, the narcissistic act of blogging the fact.