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Learning helplessness

I met an accident earlier this month. I slipped on some dish towels that I myself had put on the stairs, for future washing, and cascaded three or four times down the steps. I hit my tailbone hard, such that I was not able to stand up for the next two days without another person propping me up and without popping some pain reliever into my mouth. I also learned how to sleep facedown the whole night.

The X-rays said it was nothing serious, but the doctor said the coccyx did take a lot of time to heal. Serious, for me, was the pain and how debilitating it was. I was stuck in the house for a full week, only doing my job online.

The episode sobered me up. I think the Universe taught me a few lessons. Here are some of them.

We can’t do it all.

On the day I fell, it was a Saturday. It was officially my day off but I was still expected to send two articles for this paper before the afternoon deadline. Before that, I needed to bring my son to his music class in Makati, treat the kids to a nice lunch and perhaps catch Heneral Luna that was just on its first week at that time. That day, we also needed to do our laundry at the laundromat and go to the supermarket.

All the planning amounted to nothing. I was practically immobile the whole day. 

Kids get by when they have to.

Because of that, my 13-year-old son had no choice but to go to Makati from Quezon City on his own. Thank God for the hefty discounts at GrabCar. I just needed to arrange for the pickups and dropoffs and get details of the driver. The boy’s older sister was out of town for work, his brother had a class, and I needed his younger sister to stay with me because I could not move.

The younger girl was sent to the drugstore, eventually, for more pain relievers and some fastfood lunch. The following day, they washed their clothes and did the groceries and the younger boy brought himself again to CCP to catch his bus for boarding school.

The older boy took care of Sunday lunch.

We have to ask others’ help at some point.

My kids are not used to seeing me weak and helpless. This was why they were rattled when I confessed I could not stand and was crying in pain. They were solicitous and assisted me every time I stood up. They took my arm when I walked and did everything I asked them to do. I was apologetic about having to ask them to do things I often did with one hand, but they were just too eager to help. And they did.

You gain empathy.

When you’re lying in the dark and even the slightest movement caused you pain, you tend to get out of your own situation by thinking how difficult it must be for others to simply exist and be dependent on others for the simplest of functions. You end up being thankful, knowing your state is temporary, and wishing there would be less who would experience this quiet desperation. 

People care.

Online, offline, through any other means, people let you know they are concerned. These people range from the people you’ve known since elementary school to those you’ve just met this year. It’s not asking for attention or seeking sympathy. It’s just so nice to hear that people wish you well.

We take for granted more things than we care to admit.

My home has a lot of windows. One particularly wide window gives a view of the west side of the metro. At sunset, the sky takes on a yellow-orange glow. A few minutes after, the sky grows dark and the city lights up, one by one. You gape at the view and ask yourself: How can there not be a Supreme Being that engineered all this beauty? Because of my office hours at the paper, I am not able to catch the sunset six times a week. When I was stuck at home, I beheld it every day.

Even if it hurts, you have to try.

Eventually though you get frustrated at not being able to do much, so you push yourself a bit harder each day for a milestone. I was not cooped up at home all week. Later on, I went to the bank, bought my medicine and finally caught Heneral Luna (the cozy theater chairs were punishing, though. I fought the urge to watch the rest of the movie standing up). This is not to say I was not slow. And then I got less slow. And less.

Trust that it will all seem like a bad dream one day.

It seems that way now, because I have resumed my routine and am trying to do everything again. I do so with a constant thought, though. Learn to pace. Learn to breathe. Revel in doing nothing, and thinking of nothing, even if it is only for specific times.

I’ve never been happier, and wiser, being up and about.

 

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