I have seen an influx to my Facebook feed lately of various folks sporting their new mechanical arms/hands. Technology is truly amazing, and it is exciting to see what is available today for the everyday person that was but a concept 30 years ago. The functionality these devices provide for those with limb differences is nothing short of marvelous.
Yet, with every new article and picture posted I am reminded that these innovations alone won’t “solve the problem,” because the problem isn’t primarily physical.
15 years or so ago while riding next to my father in his car, probably driving to another soccer practice, he made one of the very few attempts that I can recall to talk about my hand. How we got into this conversation, I do not remember. What I do remember quite vividly is both anger and embarrassment I felt in that moment.
What do you want then? Do you want a hand transplant? Would that fix things for you? — was the general gist of his comments.
And with that simple comment, made in the most caring tone, cemented the reality that he really had no idea.
No idea what it was like.
No idea how I felt.
No idea the struggles I faced daily — only some of which were physical challenges.
It reminded me that I am truly alone in this because even the people who should know me best are completely clueless.
Sure, having two “good hands” would indeed make things easier for me, externally. I’d be able to open doors with either hand. I wouldn’t sweat over the thought of meeting new people with the expected handshake. Serving food to my family would not look like a balancing act as I try to hold a heavy pot with one hand and scoop out food with the other, knowing that one of those tasks is going to be extremely difficult.
Externally, two identical hands would indeed solve some problems. But it wouldn’t solve the main problem; the root problem.
And getting to that root problem is the key.
If the root problem can be dealt with and healed, then the external issues become significantly less important.
So what is this root problem?
It lies in my thinking. If my thinking is off, then circumstances do not matter at all. Any and every circumstance will seem less than ideal because even the best of circumstances are perceived through faulty glasses.
Yes, my hand is different. And yes, it creates a variety of practical challenges for me. But the main fix needs to come by losing my fear of people and finding a contentment with who I am and how I’ve been made.
My fear of people causes me to fret over the standard handshake greeting.
My fear of people creates nervousness when it is clear someone has caught sign of my hand, as I fear what they are thinking.
My lack of contentment shows itself as I throw my own personal pity party when the potato falls for the 5th time while I am trying to peel it.
And both aspects are encapsulated as I wonder if folks will ever accept me for ME, regardless of my physical differences and I fear the answer is no.
My dad didn’t know how to address the root problem. I don’t think he knew there was a root problem. He sought to fix the external, thinking it would fix everything, and yet by that very comment he was reinforcing the fear that I am not good enough as I am. Clearly I am defective, if ever my father thinks I need an external fix.
So moms and dads, address the root struggle your PS child is going to have. Make sure s/he is content with who s/he is…as their body is simply a shell for who they are – their character and their integrity. Moms and dads, work on growing and developing those inward qualities in your children, and help them to see that whatever practical struggles they have due to PS, those are merely challenges for them to overcome. Everyone has certain challenges, PS can just make those challenges more visible.
To the person with PS who can relate to my words above, start changing your thinking, day by day. Your value is NOT in your physical. I know that is hard to comprehend in our culture where super model skinny and bikini-babe seems to be the standard. Yes, you will always have those physical differences. And yes, you will forever have to deal with people’s responses to your hand. And yes, it is exhausting and at times outright annoying…but their response to you is a commentary on their character, not yours.