I have recently finished reading Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorious. (Martin developed an undiagnosed neurological condition as a child and now uses a wheelchair and communicates with a device.) It was a phenomenal read that I can sense is going to stay with me for a while. It was this article written by his wife, Joanna, about falling in love with Martin that got me thinking about the caveats we put on our lives.
Throughout Martin’s book you get a sense of his warmth and resilience, why wouldn’t someone fall in love with him? It was this passage in Joanna’s article that hooked on to my heart: “Our relationship didn’t make sense at all. We’d fallen in love over the Internet and had never actually met in person. But surprisingly, that didn’t worry the people closest to us. In fact, all they talked about was that Martin was in a wheelchair. They insisted I’d end up being his caretaker, and believed Martin would wind up getting hurt.”
Of course it’s natural to want to protect the people you love, and perhaps I’m being a tad idealistic here, but wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t put caveats on our lives or the lives of others. I have no doubt that her friends and family were filled with the best intentions, but should being in a wheelchair or having the ability to talk with your voice be a caveat to finding love?
I can love you*
*as long as you move using your feet to walk on
I can love you*
*as long as you can say those words back to me using the voice that comes out of your mouth
What is the subtle subtext here?
We can understand your love, as long as it fits into our carefully constructed idea of ‘normal’.
We can have all the caveats we want in place but the reality is that the force of life doesn’t care what our caveats are. No matter how devoted we may be to the belief that we create our own destiny, every day we are part of events that we simply have no control over.
A while ago I watched a very interesting TEDx talk by Karni Lidell, a paralympian swimmer and motivational speaker, (you can watch it here or read about it here) where she shared her thoughts on a widely used caveat in the lead up to giving birth… “as long as it’s healthy”.
I don’t mind how I give birth*
*as long as it’s healthy
I don’t care if we have a boy or a girl*
*as long as it’s healthy
It just falls from our lips and almost certainly without much thought into what the actual words we are saying really mean. I am certain I said both of the above and more many times while I was pregnant with Harry. And I got my wish when my bursting-at-the-seams-healthy boy was born into the world at a robust 9.5 pounds. But my previous perception of the *as long as it’s healthy* caveat lasted a meagre 11 months until an event completely out of my control changed the course of all of our lives and that caveat was swiftly tossed aside. (There is no doubt an entire debate on what the term “healthy” actually even means, but that’s a discussion for another time)
These caveats, that we verbally and silently apply to our lives, I wonder what their affect is on anyone who lives outside of them? Even Karni Ridell who describes herself as having “a healthy dose of self-worth” felt affected enough by the prolific use of the caveat *as long as it’s healthy* to dedicate an entire TEDx talk to it’s use and to advocate for replacing ‘healthy’ with ‘happy’.
Most of us apply various seemingly innocuous caveats to our lives…
I will be happy*
*when I lose some weight
I will know I’m a really good mum*
*when the house is tidy / the freezer is filled with home made meals / I’ve modelled on his talker for x hours etc etc
I like you*
*as long as you are like me
But with these caveats we create an invisible roadblock to allowing ourselves to feel happy, fulfilled and loved in the here and now. How exhilarating would it be to delete all of those caveats from our lives?
And when it comes to accepting the love we have, the love we want and the love we hope for with our friends and family, let’s embrace the words of Mark Darcy in the philosophical masterpiece Bridget Jones’s Diary…
“I like you very much*
*just as you are”