Without Skill

I was walking on Bloor Street in Toronto yesterday. My ankle was sore and I was going slow. Just ahead was a woman in a flaming yellow dress, carrying a parasol on this most humid day. Beside her was a boy of 10 or so, on his bike. The sidewalk was heading up for an extended climb and it looked like the boy was matching his mom’s pace. She was taking her time.

The distance between us never narrowed or expanded. There they were, always thirty yards ahead of me. And I wondered: “How is this possible?” How is that young man staying upright? What an immense gift of balance.

Finally they crested the hill and turned down a side street. Gone from my eyes … not from my heart. I felt a sweep of marvel and a generous helping of “less than”. I thought of the unbalanced state on my bicycle ta-pocketa in downtown Vancouver, and the sadness came.

“Bruce, you’re so unskilled, so awkward, so obvious to others.” Then, magically, the arrows withdrew and the response was sure: “Yes, you’re right, and it’s all okay.”

Almost immediately, I was reminiscing about tendon transfer surgery in 2003 and my many weeks on crutches. Stairs were impossible, fatigue was constant, and self-esteem hung by a thread. Again and again … “I can’t do this.”

Another time, I was so weak after some physical debacle that on my return to the gym, when I went to wash my hands, I didn’t have the strength to push the lever on the soap dispenser. (Sigh)

Then there was the meeting at school about a certain visually impaired student. The topic was his computer hardware. As the discussion revved up, I realized I had no idea what my fellow staff members were talking about. Despair descended.

***

Not being able to do something
Feeling the pain of the deficiency
And yet …
Glimpsing the beauty of being undefended
Naked
Cracks opening to receive the light

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