One word, just one word, give me one word, the word you would scribble on the sign you are holding up to encapsulate who you are. Not who you want to be, not who you think others think you are, but give me one word that says, this is who I am.
I watched a video link from face book…..yes I do face book all the time, I like the pictures of grandchildren. This link had nothing to do with grandchildren; in fact it was completely different. It was a video of several women dancing to a remarkable version of “Down to the River to Pray.” They were all sizes, ages, shapes…..they were pole dancing. All of their lady parts were appropriately covered but you might not want to watch it at your place of work.
One of the things that caught my eye, beyond the obvious, is these women of all races, shapes and sizes held up a single sign, a sign with one word, teacher, sister, woman, writer, dancer, or Amazon, a single word they felt described them.
It got me to thinking, what one word would you use, what one word would I use? Is that the word that best describes who you are or what you do or what you want others to think of you or even what you might think others think you are? What’s your one word? Take your time.
Marty and I sometimes have our best conversations in the car so I waited to ask her my question, “what one word would you put on the sign”. While I drove I asked Marty, she paused, and I asked again and she gave me the finger, the index finger signifying she was thinking. I clarified, “What would you have said before the strokes?” She thought again and then said, “Smart.”
Absolutely, that is what she would have written on her sign; it was her defining trait, to her. Others might have said other words, mother, wife, musician, problem-solver, funny, crazy. It would have depended on how you knew her. For Marty there was no question, the single best descriptor was “Smart.”
As we drove we listened to a little sports talk out of Dallas and a little political talk on satellite. I would intermittently turn down the radio, engage Marty as she sipped her Diet Coke and ask her what her word would be after her strokes. She really thought about it, she kept saying I’m thinking. I was careful not to make suggestions because that really prejudices her somewhat broken thought process. I continued to ask as we made our way to Richland Chambers.
Finally as we drove down one more farm to market road I asked again and she started to smile and giggle just a little bit, I asked for her word and she laughed and said, “Duh.” She cracked herself up. She had gone from “smart” to the dullard response of “duh.” It was her commentary on her broken brain and what she sees as the defining part of her post stroke life.
She still feels smart; she just can’t think smart or communicate smartly. She said she still thinks she is smart, I think she used the “duh” because it describes the limits cause by her brain injury. Marty is acutely aware of her cognitive limitations. When “smart” defines you the loss of any of the “smart” is particularly painful.
Marty’s inability to walk, to care for herself in almost every way, the loss of independence, the loss of general control over her life are all hard for Marty to accept. Her perceived loss of “smart”, that’s the killer for her, that’s why she is reticent to engage more, that’s why she is self-conscious, that’s what makes her the saddest.
I get it. Those things that used to define me have changed; they have been changed but are not lost. Marty has lost part of the thing that she used to define herself, note that I said part, not all. To me, Marty still has “smart”, I still learn from her. It’s just wrapped up differently.
My word by the way is “steady.”