Am I on vacation? Indeed I am sitting with feet up in a lounge chair, sometimes even reading novels. This is not, however, how I planned to mark my summer respite. You see, my legs are elevated because I broke one last week. A time of enforced lying down because Iím laid up. I had a similar fall many years ago in which I broke the other legís fibula (thin leg bone). However then I was much younger and didnít have to have surgery to set the bone with a plate. That time I set off with my crutches in hand almost literally with little gap to my stride. Not so now. I am finding my older body is not so adaptable or capable of handling the situation. I am finding myself quite immobilized.
Having many more weeks before I am able to put weight on my right leg, I ponder what am I learning from this experience? What is positive about it? My gratefulness for family, friends, and caring people is at the top of my list.
I am grateful that we human beings do have a sense of empathy that guides us to help each other when in need. It canít be for the pay that EMTís and nursing assistants are drawn to their work.
I do appreciate the caregivers I encountered in the ER, the X-ray, the OR, the post-surgical floor. But I am also grateful for the connection and care of friends and family and all the caring people that I know.
Friends have arrived with meals to share; cards and flower came. Someone even immediately lent me a special chaise lounge to ease an aching back. So what is my point about all this focus on myself?
The point is that we humans are interdependent. We really do need each other. We also, when we are in a position of vulnerability and dependence, especially need to know that we are loved and cared for and have social connections. It all harkens back to infancy where the infant (and later child) needs to feel wanted and seen and loved. After this early attachment gets thwarted (and even when we have been fortunate enough to have a secure loving attachment to our caregivers as infants), when we are vulnerable (sick or injured for example), we especially look for some recapitulation of loving connection. This is truly the ground of our being as humans. We seek loving connection with othersówith family, with friends.
Loving connection with family and friends actually has been found to support not only our mental health but also our physical health.
A corollary to this is that research is also finding that we as humans feel more happiness when we give than when we get. When we open our hearts and give to others, we are actually promoting our own well being.
Now perhaps what we need to learn is that our giving may not always take the form that is most direct. There may be an immediate sense of accomplishment when we send a card or make a dinner, perhaps that gratification is less apparent when it comes to supporting the common good in ways that are far less immediate and visible or maybe for people weíre not so crazy about. For example, supporting funding for health insurance for children (whose families canít afford it otherwise) or supporting mental health needs of prisoners.
I have the optimism to believe that the essence of being human is to be kind and giving and that being greedy and violent and lusting for power actually goes against the grain of our true nature.
We are all connected to one another and somewhere deep inside we know that empathy and compassion is our truth.