How are you?

Yesterday was five months since I had the operation. I have found this week quite tough emotionally, and on occasions been a bit tearful. Part of this is because there have been changes at work, and colleagues that I have worked with for 20 years have left the company, but mostly it is because five months on I still have pain every day, I still wake most nights with discomfort and I am constantly aware of what I cannot do.

If you were to see me you probably wouldn’t realise the challenges I have, I can walk, talk, write, drive, work, do the washing, cook – I can even chop up an onion now. What you wouldn’t see is the things that I struggle with, taking my jacket off, shopping in supermarkets – unable to hold the basket in my right hand but can’t reach the top shelves with that hand either – so I have to put the basket on the floor to shop. You wouldn’t see me pushing my elbow to get my hand close enough to my eye to put mascara on. When I go the boot of the car, I have to always close it with my left hand – my right won’t reach. Taking a tray through the canteen at work I have to walk through the narrow door sideways as I have to hold the tray at an angle. Emptying the dishwasher – still a one handed job as I can’t reach up to the glasses with my right arm. You wouldn’t see how tired I get as physically things are harder than they should be, nor would you notice that when I eat or drink it is mostly with my left hand. I am pretty certain that you wouldn’t see me at 6am, up and down the swimming pool in the hope that it is making my arm stronger. You might notice when I get animated that my right arm is stiffer than my left, you might notice my scar, but on the whole you would have no idea how much I have to adapt how I do things. Why would you?

This got me to thinking – if you wouldn’t notice these things about me – what do I miss in others? I am probably surrounded by people who are also having to change the way the approach life for one reason or another – maybe they too have an injury, perhaps they have fallen on hard times or they are broken hearted, grieving for a lost love or a bereavement. I expect many of us carry with us something that we cope with every day and that we keep this close to our hearts, not sharing with others what pain, emotional or physical we are in.

Of course, no one wants to dwell on these things so we stick on our best smile and go about our business with a sunny disposition, packing our troubles in our old kit bags, and making sure we smile, smile, smile. We pass the day with platitudes ” Are you OK”, ” Yes, you?” But maybe, just maybe, once in a while we should ask our neighbour ‘ How are you?’ and when they say ‘ Fine – you?’ instead of ‘ fine’ we should try replying;

“No, how are you, really?”

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