Last Saturday I was privileged to attend a performance of “Who Has Eyes to See” at Uprising Theater. The play, written by Shannon T. L. Kearns, allows us to witness a family dealing with a teenager’s unexpected pregnancy and the return of a transsexual brother, estranged from the others for 10 years. The mother, Catherine, who is a conservative Christian, keeps referring to her children as “my girls,” even though one of them is now a man. She’s having trouble coming to terms what she imagines is the “sinful” behavior of her children.
The play is intense and funny and real and was powerfully acted. It dealt with religion and family, communication and identity – all dangerous, dramatic subjects – tenderly and honestly. I cared about each character and wanted the best for all of them. That’s masterful writing.
This month, I am practicing the promise “I will be tender with weaknesses.” After attending Who Has Eyes to See, I’m going to shift it to “I will appreciate differences.”
Living with a progressive illness means living with frustration. I can’t do today what I could do three months ago. That has been true for the last 20 years. This year, the challenge is eating. I can no longer reliably bring a forkful of food to my mouth. My arm is too weak to make the trip. (I’ll point out that this is my left arm. It’s been five years since I could eat using my dominant, right arm.) My first response is to get angry. I struggle on for a few minutes and then ask for help. I don’t like having people feed me. The size of the bites, their timing, what’s included… Able-bodied people get to decide all that subconsciously. I have to decide whether to put up with what I get or ask for changes and be considered a prima donna. It stinks.
When I ask myself to “be tender with weaknesses,” I am trying to move toward self-compassion instead of judgment. But, I realize now, I am still being condescending. Strong is better than weak. People who can feed themselves are better than people who must be fed. The giver is better than the recipient.
As I watched Catherine try to make her children conform to her view of what is right and good, I wondered about how much I ask people to be different than they are. How much do I send messages that say “different is lesser?” Even “being tender” may have some condescension built into it. So…
I will appreciate differences.
Can I appreciate people who are different than I am instead of imagining that, since they made different choices, their choices are the wrong ones? Can I appreciate who I am instead of mourning who I’m not? Can I meet each person with open curiosity, eager to learn about who they are and how they see the world? I want to grow into a compassion that is free of judgment.
It sounds like a recipe for a great month.