I sat reading my novel in the NeuroRehab waiting room while Elizabeth spent a session with the physiotherapist who was crunching her bones and massaging her tired and fatigued body due to her ongoing MS problems. All was quiet except for the secretary patiently listening to an inquiry on the phone regarding an appointment.
There is always an awkward, impatient feeling in all waiting rooms I experience that causes me to sit uncomfortably or tap my feet hoping that the clock on the wall will always tick faster.
So here I sat on this Wednesday morning when the automatic door opened and a middle-aged man hobbled in, one leg dramatically shorter than the other. He took out his mobile phone and placed it on the QR code then briefly sat down and was soon welcomed and invited by an Allied Health nurse to begin his ongoing treatment. His hobble was quite pronounced and no doubt he had carried his disability all his life.
Once again the automatic door opened as a Muslim woman on two handed crutches entered and took a seat next to me. She smiled at me and then began to patiently wait, unlike myself still agitated with this waiting process. It seemed to me that she had mastered this waiting room game.
As the door swung open again a man pushing what looked to be his wife, guided her wheelchair in and sat opposite me. The woman sat lop sided and her ability to communicate was minimal. They both joined in the waiting as I noticed her eyes were her only form of communication to connect with her partner.
A tall young woman carrying a young girl on her hip entered next and took up the empty chair next to me. The child was twisting and turning her head but not connecting to her mother’s calming voice, her focus was scattered all over the room, unable to focus her attention.
My mind tried to return to the novel I was reading as my eyes kept glancing around the room. The disability of each patient was clearly visible and I found myself asking “How do people come to terms and accept their disability or is it a lifelong process”? I also wondered about the fact that the majority of the population clearly show no visible signs of disability, yet I knew even within myself that we all hide some form of disability: fear, self-esteem, trauma, grief, severed family relationships, anxiety….. The list goes on! Yet for so many of us we hide our inner disabilities fearful that people might see us for who we really are. Yet we all yearn for that acceptance that allows us simply to be who we are rather than continue to hide and fear our darker side.
As I continued to sit in the waiting room I realized how those with outward disabilities offer the challenge to the rest of society a way into accepting their own humanity. No person makes it through life without having to experience some type of inner disability which they may accept or hide it from the light of day.
When you often ask people how they are going the response is not always what is going on inside them. I don’t mean people should unload their struggles onto another, it’s more that we let those closest to us see who we really are; that disability is what binds us together. This openness and way of living is where compassion enters into our lives and that the idea of perfectionism or having our life together slowly ebbs away. It seems that being fully human is growing in acceptance of ourselves and others who are in many ways all wounded in some shape or form.
I left the waiting room with a deeper awareness and willingness to share my shadow side, my disability with my loved ones. Those with their disability in the waiting room were the encouragement for me to work towards acceptance.