In previous posts, I've touched upon the subject of my co-workers, the accommodations they have made for me, and the important role their sense of humor has played in my struggle to remain employed.
My best work friend, Kay, is a woman my age with whom I share many common experiences. We look to each other for support and for laughs. Her quick wit and endless stream of jokes about my cane keep the mood light. I welcome the light-hearted humor which helps me through the morning.
Kay recently injured her knee. While awaiting further tests and surgery, her pain worsened and her limp became more noticeable. Getting around the office was increasingly difficult. Her husband finally purchased a cane for her. Reluctant to use it as first, it remained in her car while she hobbled around the office. In time, it became such a problem that she had no choice but to take hold of that cane and forge ahead.
This happened right about the time that I recovered from a prolonged relapse and stopped using my own cane. Naturally, role reversal followed. Now who is going to run circles around who? The rest of the gang followed suit and now everything is turned completely upside down!
Even though I know that her injury will be corrected and she will fully recover, I still worry about kidding her like that. She has a great sense of humor and I think she's okay with it, but I have to wonder if deep down inside she resents it. Is that a light bulb that just went off inside my head?
I flashback to previous conversations in which she touched upon this very subject, wondering if I was at all bothered by her jokes. I responded that if she couldn't joke around with me, if she was afraid to hurt me, if she she felt unable to mention my MS, then I would be hurt. Having my co-workers walk on eggshells, or pity me, would be more than I could bear, and I don't believe I could continue showing up for work every day.
Last weekend, Kay went out shopping for the first time with her new cane. She was surprised by the looks she received. She was shocked by the inconsiderate folks who made it clear that she was moving too slowly, and the people who managed to wedge themselves in between her and her husband. She did not enjoy this experience. “This isn't me... you know how I am... I always move so fast!” Although her situation is temporary, she felt uncomfortable that people were not seeing her for the person she is, for the person she always has been. She didn't know me before MS did that to me. She's never seen the person I consider the 'real me.' I, too, was a very fast-paced woman.
Like a surprised figure in a comic strip, the light bulb went off inside her head! Empathy for my situation had arrived. Not sympathy, mind you. She was clear about that. Empathy. I suppose that's what I was feeling as well.
So, here we are, two women of the same age and similar experiences, one with MS, one without, playing role reversal in a major way, each coming to an understanding of the other's reality. Each learning something along the way.
One month from now, everything will be back the way it was, but it will never be quite the same.
Published On: March 31, 2008