84: Two Strong Feet

84: Two Strong Feet

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Positive

Two Strong Feet

I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders.

~Jewish Proverb

No one can have it this hard, I thought, as I dropped my tired body onto the living room sofa. I checked the clock that ticked relentlessly above the television — almost midnight and still I could find no peace. I tried to quiet my mind, but thoughts of all the responsibilities that tugged at me daily as a caregiver, wife, and employee whirled around my head. And to make matters worse, chasing close behind, loomed a nagging case of self-pity.

I had been caring for my ailing mother for several years. Her condition had worsened steadily until she was wheelchair bound and now only able to leave the hospital-style bed I rented for her to go to the doctor, which happened up to four times a week. Lifting, positioning, cleaning up after her — she depended on me for all her personal needs. But my caregiving duties did not end there. There was my dad with his own host of health concerns to consider, and a disabled adult brother who also lived in the family home.

Through the kindness of a very understanding supervisor, I was able to cut back my work schedule a few hours a week so that I could get a head start attending to my family’s needs on some afternoons. It helped, but not much. Even with those extra hours, I still could not shove everything I had to do into a day and make it back to my own home before 11:00 p.m. Upon my return home many nights, I would find my husband sitting quiet, alone. Even more nights, I would find him already sound asleep. I was neglecting my personal life in order to scrape together time to do all that was required of me. Yet, there was no other solution. There was nobody else available to help out. Surely, no one could have a life this hard, I thought again.

I flicked on the television, searching the channels for nothing in particular. Commercials, canned laugh tracks, music videos. I clicked around the circle of channels again. Then I stopped. There, I watched the screen as a young woman scooted around on a skateboard while she explained her duties as caregiver, wife, and employee. Her mother had a chronic illness and was nearing death. Her father had been diagnosed with dementia. Her adult brother was developmentally disabled. Her story was so close to mine, it was chilling. Yet there was one very important difference between us: she had no legs and I did.

This young woman went on to explain that a birth defect had left her without lower limbs. Finding a wheelchair too cumbersome to maneuver around tight spaces in her and her parents’ houses, she quickly discovered that using her hands to propel herself on a skateboard was much more convenient in those places. I listened intently as she ran down her daily schedule: cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, office deadlines, doctor and therapy appointments, all culminating in a late night arrival at her own home. It could have been me speaking, I thought. Though I wouldn’t have sounded the same as this young woman. Because where I described myself as a victim of my circumstances, she spoke as a victor over hers. She counted her blessings and expressed gratitude for so many things that I had taken for granted: a good job, a kind husband, a roof over her head, a sharp mind, two strong arms. Finally, she gave thanks to whatever powers provided her with the strength to keep her family as comfortable and well as possible.

I watched until the final credits rolled. I couldn’t help but recall the familiar saying: I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet. And finally, I understood. I wasn’t alone. Everyone is struck with hard blows in this life. In fact, some people were hit even harder than me. But I could only be weighed down by these circumstances if I allowed myself to be. I took a quick inventory of myself. Just like that young woman, the Good Lord had given me everything I needed to make it this far and to go farther still. I decided I would drop the heavy burden of self-pity. Tomorrow, surely, I would emerge into the day lighter, get on my two strong feet, and hit the ground running.

~Monica A. Andermann

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