Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Love The One You're With

 Remember how the song goes?

If you can't be 
with the one you love, honey,
love the one you're with. 

I remember hearing this song on the car radio one lonely New Year's Day as I was driving around aimlessly with a teen-aged broken heart because the "one I loved" wasn't with me any longer.  I would have been glad to "love the one I was with" but at that place and time there was no one waiting in the wings.  The true "one I'm with" came along a couple years later and I've loved him for over 40 years now, having forgotten long ago about the one who didn't love me.

Eight years ago I had three back surgeries within six weeks.  As a result, I was left with permanent nerve damage in my right leg and foot.  This left my foot with foot-drop, some of my toes kind of "droopy", leg and foot pain and a weak leg that required me to use a cane for mobility.  I was embarrassed about this and referred to that leg as my "naughty leg" or "bad leg".  I used my cane only when absolutely necessary because I felt very elderly when I used it. 

Fast forward to 2011 and my infamous Humptey Dumptey act off of our roof.  The fall and subsequent surgeries left me with two scars on my left leg and six scars on my right leg--the naughty leg had just become a felon with its third strike.  I often wanted to just lock up the leg and forget about it.  It gave me nothing but pain and embarrassment.  Because of it I had to use a walker and a wheelchair. I hate being handicapped.  I know now the way "different" people feel--disabled people stand out of a crowd and sometimes they would rather just blend in and not be noticed at all.  Sometimes, as my family was pushing my wheelchair through a crowd I would close my eyes so I wouldn't have to see the people look at me with either scorn or pity.  Because of that leg I am losing months out of my life while recovering from the various injuries.  I long for the days when I can clean my house without dragging some kind of mobility aid around with me.  I curse the leg as it spasms once again as I'm trying to sleep.  When someone asks me what they can do for me I often reply, "Get me a new leg."  Everyone laughs but I quietly fantasize about how amazing that would be.

These thoughts came to me because of a conversation I had during a healing prayer session at my church.  One of the pray-ers told a personal story about her experience with an extremity wasn't working due to nerve damage.  She, too resented that arm that was practically useless to her.  The healing period would be long with no guarantees of full recovery and the pain was almost unbearable. In spite of that, she decided to intentionally love that arm and begin to think of it as a wonderful part of her body.  She got through that time and, miraculously her arm was completely healed, but deciding to love her arm just the way it was most likely contributed to the early recovery.  It was a mental exercise and a time of faith in God that whatever happened she would accept the results.  

I listened and immediately dismissed it as a silly idea, but as she continued to talk, it started to relate to my situation.  I began to feel remorse for all the bad feelings I had about my own leg!  How nuts it is to hate a part of one's own body!  I believe in holistic medicine and stress the importance of considering all areas of the body when treating for a disease or illness.  The body is a unit, like a family, that has separate parts that all work together to create the whole person.  Hey!  It's even biblical--it teaches us about how we are all part of the church and each have equal contributions that make things work properly.

So, how in the world does one practice loving a body part that isn't cooperating?  I started by acknowledging that my poor legs are suffering through no fault of their own,  I guess the body part most to blame would be my brain that wasn't firing on all pistons that day--there I go again!  Now I have to work on loving my brain--that may be harder than loving my leg.  My husband has often offered to massage my leg when I'm hurting and he's helped me treat my scars with lotion.  So now he's kicking off our new love campaign by telling my leg that he loves it.  This sounds corny, but today as he was getting ready to leave for work he kissed my longest scar and whispered, "I love you" to it.  As he did that I felt a little embarrassed but then felt very blessed to have him in my life.  If he can accept my deformities and disabilities then I certainly can!

So, going back to the beginning where I made reference to the song,  Love the One You're With, I can apply that concept to my leg.  I can't have a perfectly un-deformed leg again.  The scars and deformities will always be with me.  I can't completely replace the leg with an identical one (at least not now in 2012--maybe one day...)  I don't want an artificial leg because that would come with its own set of problems.  So I'm left with loving the leg I'm with, or rather the leg that's with me.  It's been a part of me for over 58 years.  It's the one that was formed within my momma and it carries my DNA that make me, me!  My perfect little leg that I was born with now holds part of my history and it's a part of me just like my arms with their old age spots or my head that doesn't always work right or my poor aching back.  I love them all!