Thursday, April 21, 2011

Giving Back

It's nice to be needed.  Having been the recipient of the largesse of my neighbors and friends for the last 3 months, I've been starting to feel as if I've overstayed my welcome.  Guests, like fish, begin to smell after 3 days. What odor do you suppose I, who have been needy for 300times that long, am emitting?

Were I to ask my food providers or drivers or other SuziSitters I am certain that they would say something like "Chanel No.5" or "gardenias" because "it was our pleasure" and "we loved doing it."  I heard those sentiments every afternoon all through the winter and into the spring.  I never quite got comfortable with it, though.  I always felt vaguely guilty about interrupting someone's day to ask them to meet my own personal needs. 

One of our chefs is disabled herself and she and her husband and TBG and I had a conversation which helped me turn the corner on this issue.  I watched from the window over my desk as she limped up to our front door.  Every step was an event.  Opening the courtyard gate was an experience.  I walker-hopped out to get the door and spare them having to juggle bags while ringing the bell.

We four stood in the foyer, us thanking and they smiling.  After depositing dinner in the kitchen and distributing "thank you t-shirts" to the cooks there wasn't usually much to say that hadn't been said before.  This afternoon was different.  In a tip of the hat to the Passover season, one might ask "Why was this afternoon different from all others?" The answer is in the quality of the conversation.  We were bound together by the tricks our bodies had played upon us. 

My usual thank you's included a reference to the difficulty I had in being on the other side of the providing equation.  My normal role would be that of the helper; I was ill-equipped to be the recipient.
When I got to that part as we were saying farewell, she met my eyes squarely and, with a huge smile, agreed that "Yes, it does take a certain amount of grace, doesn't it?"

Grace.  It's a word that I can't really define.  Grace Kelly had grace, as did Jackie O and Brooke Astor.  Colonel Pickering (My Fair Lady) had grace.  Perhaps it has something to do with treating everyone like royalty, oneself included.  Henry Higgins did not have grace.

But there's more to it in this instance, I think.  It's being willing to be humble.  It's acknowledging that I can't do everything for myself.  It is not whining or begging.  It is realistic.  Appreciation from a true perspective: I need this and you know it and our actions suit us both.

Because it is better to give than to receive.  It certainly feels better to be on the giving side, though getting all the goodies has its own special wonderfulness as every single birthday kid knows so well.  It is easier to be gracious when you are not feeling vulnerable; it's called beneficence.  But my limping chef and I were talking about something more profound.  We were bonding over the reciprocity inherent in the transaction.

Sharing the love helps others to heal.  This happened to all of Tucson, not just me and my family.  Everyone feels awful and if hugging me helps you then bring it on.  My arms are open wide.  Strangers approach me with bear hugs and I acquiesce.  This is not who I was before January 8th.  I kept myself more private and protected my personal space with fervor.  Since then, I've welcomed the opportunity to join with the world in a giant embrace. 

I can truly feel the love.

That's why, when Fast Eddie wanted to play golf I jumped at the chance to chemo-sit with JannyLou today.  As she pushed TBG and me to accept the loving ministrations of the food providers they organized for us, so was I able to give Fast Eddie the space to take care of himself.  We hugged, we ate Reggie's chicken soup, she tried to send me home and I stood my ground.  Grace takes some practice, I guess.  I know it did for me.


  1. HI AB, am on vacation, but am popping-in to read before we get down on the beach.

    Sending hugs.

    Megan xxx

  2. I so enjoy reading the accounts of your daily life and struggle to get back to "normal". I have no doubt all those who have been there to assist you were amply rewarded by knowing that they were able to be there. We humans are so vulnerable. Heal well girl all of our thoughts are with you.

  3. What goes around comes around--you are just being paid back for all the help you have given out in the past. xoxox

  4. "I've welcomed the opportunity to join with the world in a giant embrace."

    We should all do that!! How wonderful. And I think Laura must be right.

  5. Grace, and gratitude. Sometimes it's hard to accept the help, but people like to provide. I'm so happy you're better.

  6. I like this very much. It takes the whole giver/receiver conversation up a notch to talk about the dynamics of the halt helping the lame and vice versa. Philosophies can't afford to be simple, because life never is.

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