Monday, June 17, 2013

Forgiving Ignorance?

We are walking back to our dorms together, not quite side-by-side. She takes quick steps, and I am a few paces behind her.

"You don't have to wait for me," I say, slightly breathless from trying to keep up. Maybe it's not quite fair, but when she replies, "Okay, see you later," and leaves me in the dust, there's a part of me that thinks she's not a real friend. You see, my best friends understand the distinction...they don't have to wait for me, but they wait anyway. They wait because they want to.

I stop for a moment, watch as she disappears in the distance, and I know she doesn't understand.

~

Then, about a month later, she breaks her leg. I truly feel bad for her; I do whatever I can to make her life easier, because I know how it feels to deal with a disability. I carry a cooler full of ice to her room for her, deliver heavy packages to her room; I even slow my pace when we head back from class so she won't have to walk alone.

But then, after her cast comes off and her leg heals, I sprain my foot. I limp off to class and slump into a chair.

"How has your day been so far?" she asks.

"Not so great, actually," I say. "I think I sprained my foot because I barely made it here!"

"You don't have a right to complain," she replies. "I broke my leg."

I hold my tongue, but my insides burn with fire. It takes all of my self-restraint to keep from dumping my life story on her. I could tell her about my cerebral palsy, a lifelong condition that can't be cured with a cast and crutches. I could tell her about the surgeries and the hours I spent at PT. I could tell her about the time I broke my leg, about the emergency surgery, about the three months I spent in a wheelchair and the years after that I spent trying to regain my strength. I could tell her that I was warned by doctors and therapists, not once, but twice, that I might never walk independently.

I could, but I don't. Instead, I swallow my words and stare at the wall so intently that I wonder if my eyes will burn a hole into it.

The second time I bring up my sprained foot, she says something similar, and this time, I allude to the difficulties I have endured in the past. She apologizes, sort of, but I see it in her eyes that she still doesn't understand.
~

"You don't know how lucky you are," she says. "It's been a few months since I broke my leg, but I still can only run a mile!"

I'm not sure whether I should laugh or get up and leave the table.
I can't run at all.

~


We're eating lunch together when she says something to the effect of, "If I was so-and-so [another student with CP who is awesome!], I wouldn't get so many rides from campus safety!"

I set down my fork, stare.

Are you for real? I want to say.

Instead, I force a smile -- which is probably more than she deserves --  and say something like, "Some of us don't have the luxury of making that choice. You're only seeing the situation from your perspective." If she could walk to class, don't you think she would?

~

I look down, see that my phone is buzzing. A text. From her. Somehow I can't bring myself to respond to her message, a simple How is your summer?

Because I am tired. I don't want to deal with her anymore. I don't want to try to make her understand anymore. But then there's that little voice in my head that says, "Doesn't she at least deserve a reply?"

So for now, it sits in my inbox. I'm not sure what to do. There's a part of me that wants to forgive her ignorance, because I know she's a good person at heart and maybe she simply doesn't realize that she's being insensitive. And yet, at the same time, I don't really feel like giving her any more chances. There's a part of me that wishes I could leave her in the dust like she left me so many months ago.

8 comments:

  1. From the parent of a child with special needs perspective, I struggle with this too. Do I let someone know that they hurt my feelings or are not considering my perspective. At the end of the day, there are relationships worth fighting for (as in I'm willing to get into a fight with them because I think they deserve to know they hurt me) and there are relationships that aren't worth fighting for. Some people, I've decided aren't worth the stress of a fight. Other's I have. And other days, they aren't worth it, but they hit me on an especially bitchy day ;-)

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  2. Kerry you are a beautiful person and indeed you cannot be friends with everyone. You know you deserve only wonderful people around you and I think it's time to move on and allow yourself friendships that are reciprocal xx

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    1. Agreed. 100%. By the sounds of it you have some other truly wonderful friends.

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  3. DO whatever gives you peace - I suspect you may know the answer already. Your body may be weaker than others' but I daresay your spirit is stronger than that of many.

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  4. You have to do what you feel right with, of course. But me? I think some friendships should be allowed to be left in the dust. This is going to sound preachy, but sometimes you have to leave toxic behind. There are people who add to your life and those who just mess it up. Yes, you can continue to be the bigger person and wait for light to dawn. But I don't think you should do it at your expense. Every time she is insensitive it takes away your peace. I guess you have to ask is it worth it?

    I'm not saying write her off completely. But maybe settle for being acquaintances not friends.

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  5. Aw, Kerry, this is a hard one. Do you try and make her understand? Would she actually understand if you were to write her and tell her that she hurt your feelings? If you don't think that she would, I think you need to think about what she adds (if anything) to your life. College years are hard and - for me anyway - are/were filled with figuring out who you are and who you want to be. If this is somebody who adds value to your life (does she make you laugh? could you call her at 1am for help? could you cry on her shoulder?), then she's probably worth the time it takes to help her understand. If she's not one that adds value, your time is probably better spent with the friends who do. Does that help?
    Hugs. There are no easy answers, I guess.

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  6. I just want to say thank you for all of the wonderful and supportive comments I received! You guys are amazing. xoxo

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  7. Gosh, this was a tough one to read - so I can just imagine how much harder it was to actually deal with in person! On the one hand, she does not know what you're dealing with, but on the other, you would think she would look outside herself at least a little and not make such snap judgments about people... Grrr...

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