Regarding the pain of self

May 19, 2024

Regarding the pain of self

Life does not stop teaching you lessons. In unexpected, sometimes unwanted, ways. That’s when the adage starts looking less clichéd.

For me, it started with a little accident, a fall, leading to a twisted ankle that was unusually painful. The X-rays were done and God was thanked for there was no bone fracture. A few days passed, the pain refused to subside, and it was impossible to put the injured foot on the ground. An appointment with a specialist was sought who immediately decided to put the foot in a cast and ordered that no weight must be put on the ankle for three weeks.

My first thought: how will I resist the urge to scratch my foot? Life could not get crueller than it already was.

Here I am, a week into my plastered foot. What the doctor says amounts to compulsory bed rest; in my case, it means being sofa-bound, one leg raised, the cell phone and laptop close by to do my work from home.

Home is where I will be for the next three weeks (sounds like a vacation I’d been seeking for years, except that it isn’t). Minus the ability to move and walk, the experience is proving to be not just novel but epiphanic. Like in a flash, it strikes how I took for granted the simple act of getting up and pouring myself a glass of water or making a cup of tea or taking a shower. To say that it is depressing would be an understatement. It has made me do many things: cry; grudge my immediate family’s mobility; cringe at their arrogance to strut about when I feel so helpless; feel outraged why I haven’t earned their sympathy; and finally wallow in self-pity.

It hasn’t helped much to see myself stoop to a level where I can’t recognise this negative old-cribbing-woman.

Choosing between a walker and a wheelchair (I haven’t tried crutches but if you have one leg to rely on, walkers are a complete disaster and wheelchair works best), there have been some reflective moments too. I now know that I am stuck to one place and position. In our normal, mobile lives, we constantly aspire to be someplace else but it is quite liberating and simple to stay where you are. The trappings of a fast-paced life cut to a bare minimum.

Slowing down is not so bad after all. The day seems longer as I would have liked. Seldom has it happened before that I’m done with everything and there’s still some part of the day left. I can sleep more hours.

So what was the anxiety all about? The house still functions when I thought I was the one carrying the weight of it on my shoulders. In a way, it works smoother. From the vantage point of my couch, it seems amazing how personal pain can make things appear so good.

Friends make it better by making time for me. The family, siblings, keep asking after me. They have all cooked me special meals and made sure I don’t feel lonely or alone. I’ve even warmed up to the immediate family who have stepped up — to fulfill my never-ending demands. Their job is the hardest, I admit.

One habit that I hope to get back to in the remaining two weeks is that of reading paper books that I have in hoards; friends are lending me more. One habit that I want to get rid of is the reckless use of a cellphone during day hours, including watching meaningless reels. Both habits being mutually exclusive, of course.

I hope this brush with disability will be over soon, but it has taught me how vulnerable we are. For so many people, this is a permanent state. As long as we live, life will teach us lessons that may look like punishment or reward, depending on how we look at them.

And, lastly, whoever invented the wheelchair, thank you.

The writer is a former editor of TNS. She is currently the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan director

Regarding the pain of self