In recent months my physical condition has deteriorated. The tremor in my right side is becoming more pronounced; I have found all kinds of things for which you need fine motor skills, like folding down the collar on your shirt, and bending down to put on your shoes and socks; I occasionally lose my balance; and the tremor is just starting to emerge in my left side.
Yet in the midst of this, I have found my disease has brought unforeseen blessing into my life. It is gradually making me less self-sufficient. A friend suggested to me some time ago that while I had spent my life helping others, he wasn’t so sure I would be open to being helped. Parkinson’s is helping me be more open.
We were at a family function at Buttai barn a couple of weeks back when I went to the bar to buy a few drinks. I got about half the way back to the table and I was struggling. My hand was tremoring, my feet were shuffling, and my weak right arm saw the drinks tray wavering precariously. I was having to use all my powers of concentration to keep myself from spilling the drinks. One of the staff noticed, and without any awkwardness or embarrassment said “let me help you with that”, took the tray and carried it the rest of the way to the table.
This afternoon I was talking with a friend who had experienced some pretty big challenges in the past twelve months, and rather than me simply empathising with him, he was also empathising with me. There was a mutuality and bond between us that simply wouldn’t have been possible in my pre-Parkinson days.
As the disease becomes more noticeable I find these sorts of moments of grace invading my life on regular basis, and this is why, as much as I would prefer not to have the disease, in a strange kind of way I’m thankful that I do. In my head I’ve always maintained that I need others, but in practice, outside of my family, I all too often projected a confident and capable person who didn’t really need too much help. Bit by bit my stubborn pride and fiercely held independence are being broken down. I no longer can enjoy the illusion, and I think it is an illusion, of independence; I can no longer perpetuate my own version of the myth of the self-made man. I need other people in ways I have never needed them before. Yet far from being a dehumanising experience, it is helping me realise in profoundly new ways just how precious it is to belong to humanity.
It seems paradoxical, but at the same time that my body is weakening, I am strengthening, not by becoming more self-sufficient, more competent or more capable, but by becoming more dependent than I’ve ever been.