It’s Just a Leg
When I lost part of my leg I was on crutches for 7 months. People would stare, and friends I hadn’t seen in a long time would nearly pass out. A friend I hadn’t seen in years (a guy) burst into tears in a restaurant in the 12th south neighborhood in Nashville not too far from where I used to live. I just kind of stood there saying “it’s ok…really…i’m ok…”
When you only half one and a half legs, you get a lot of attention. Not only do you get attention, but you also hear a lot of hard stories. It’s only natural to want to try and relate to someone in what they are going through, and so that’s exactly what people would do to me. Try and relate.
For seven months I heard more hard stories than I had heard in the 29 years before. Tragic deaths in the family, others who had lost limbs, people that lived with chronic illnesses their entire life, and on and on. People just wanted to talk about it.
To be totally honest it was kind of overwhelming. I wasn’t sure if I liked it at first. It seemed like I had to carry the weight of my own situation plus theirs, and I would leave feeling pretty drained.
Sometime, a few months after that started I began to see those conversations in a different light. Those that wanted to share their story seemed to really release something when they told me about whatever it was they had gone through. It was like we both got stronger in that very moment. Them having told me something that I would have never known just looking at them, and me having received it.
After that I started to like when people told me hard stuff about their life. I would listen and nod as if to say “I get it. and I know what its like to go through something hard.” My hardship was so visible, but no one wears a t-shirt that says I lost my brother, or I’m Divorced.
It’s a funny thing to say, but I started to realize that those moments were more for the person telling the story than it was for me. They really gained something. Sometimes, all I had at the end of 15 minutes was more evidence that life can be hard. But what I began to realize was that the strength that they seemed to receive to relate to me in my pain, made them strong. And that strength seemed to rub off on me and make me strong.
Some friends of mine talked me into going to a bar about 2 months before I got my prosthetic leg. I got the usual looks, but I was used to it at that point. I caught the eye of a pretty famous musician in Nashville that I had met several years back. I wouldn’t consider us friends, but we knew each other. He approached me and said “Man, I heard about your accident and just wanted to come see how you were doing.”
I was a little bit taken a back. One, because he’s kind of famous, and two because he seemed pretty focused. We talked a little bit about what had happened with me and then the conversation shifted to his life. He began talking about his divorce and about how they had separated. He hadn’t seen his kids in several months. That is one of the emptiest faces I have ever looked into. He was a shell.
I didn’t know what to say at first, but then I started thinking about all of those other people that had told me hard stories, and I thought about the strength they gave me. I had lost part of myself, but this guy had lost half of himself – his family – and he was willing to tell me about it. All of a sudden I felt more privileged than awkward.
“That seems really hard,” I said…and we kind of changed the subject not too long after that.
I don’t keep up with that guy, and I don’t know what is going on in his life, but I do know that that one moment really sunk something deep into me.
I walked out of that bar that night with one single thought, and that thought has not left me since.
It’s just a leg. It’s just a leg.