I occasionally work with an amazingly charming client. He’s young and outgoing with a great sense of humor and today referred to me as, “my sweet little papaya.” He asks questions constantly, often the same questions, about the world, science, mortality and religion. I love the challenge of trying to answer those questions in a way that’s honest, appropriate, and that he can understand. It’s always equally fun and exhausting working with this person. It’s also frequently heart-breaking.
More than once, he has expressed purely and furiously that he can not understand why he has a disability (coupled with mental illness). He fucking hates it, he says, because it’s not “fair” that he should have these challenges if he is a good person. He asks why and I can’t tell him why. He expresses frustration that everyone tells him that he needs to accept his circumstance because it seems, due largely in part to the disabilities he hates, that he is incapable of accepting it. Everybody has something to deal with, whether they appear to be average or not, I tell him, everybody has pain. And he asks, why? Why should we all have to deal with these things? I say that’s what they call the human condition. I say that I wish I had an answer. And I do.
His struggle is accepting all kinds of limits – he tells us he wants to be able to fly and run at sonic speeds – and, with time, he might become better at that. Everything is filtered through the lens of his condition(s). Still, today he said with total sincerity, “I’m always angry in my heart and I have a darkness inside of me because I want to be normal and I can’t be like everybody else.”
How can you not feel for that?
I haven’t been able to articulate to him that experiencing dark and horrible shit in life can make us better, stronger and more beautiful people. I don’t think he would believe it. I don’t want to invalidate his experience. I love the way you are, I said, and your disability is part of you.
I have never been a person to have regrets, which is easy to do because I like myself. In the past few months, so much in my life has changed, to the point where it often feels I’ve been living with my roommate and a little girl and just one cat in this apartment for forever, though it’s only been three months. My life just is this now, and I like a lot about it. It’s comfortable. It’s strange to think of where I was just a year ago. Anyway, my point is that for the first time, I question whether or not something has made me a better or stronger person.
I don’t ache like I did three, four, or five months ago. I don’t feel heartbroken. I don’t miss him, specifically. Instead, I wonder how I’m going to manage the future disappoints and rejections and longing that I’m in for, and how I’m ever going to love somebody the way that I did. I wish I could be different, though I don’t think it would really be the right thing, I wish I could be less sensitive, less damaged, less fearful, less proud, less open, just…less. Sometimes I hate the human condition just as much as my charming, vibrant friend.
None of the answers I give make him feel any better, of course. Do you ever feel that way, he asked today. Yes, everybody feels that way sometimes, I said. An answer that didn’t make me feel any better either.