I see the struggle everywhere.
Bodies aged and bent, crippled over cane
shuffled steps, shrinking shoulders.
Getting out of cars, an effort in itself. Crossing the street at painful pace.
When a metre is a mile
Understanding is a smile
The rhythm of life around them quietly mocking…
Years of life dragging down weary faces
A lifetime of frowns forged in wrinkled skin
A lifetime of working worn onto hands of grey
When the memory of youth is nothing more than that
When life has been struggle
But life is no more…
And only struggle remains
The elderly wear their age so obviously, that it is hard not to feel compassion. Show tolerance.
But the weariness carried by some is often invisible.
The struggle of many, more often than not, goes unseen.
I want to tell you a story…
It’s something which happened to me recently that changed my perspective forever.
I’m in sales. I sell women’s fashion at wholesale and my customers are made up of roughly 70 independent fashion boutiques owned, mostly, by women.
One of my customers is a strange woman. I shouldn’t call her strange. That’s not kind.
The thing is though, there is an aloofness and sense of disorientation that I just can’t quite explain.
She forgets things, needs explanations and reminders of simple things.
It is unnerving at best and downright inconvenient at worst.
She rarely smiles, yet doesn’t seem sad, or angry.
She often comes across as cold and, although I’ve never felt that she doesn’t like me or that’s it’s personal in anyway, I can’t help but feel frustrated by this slow pace, lack of mental clarity and absent….oh, I don’t know. Soul?
I’m sorry to even say that, but as I take great pride in my relationships and consider myself the consummate clichéd “people person”, I have to admit I’ve been questioning to no end just HOW, after two whole years of attempting to build a relationship, this could be all I can get!
I have asked myself, “what am I doing wrong??”
I’ve also questioned, on many occasions, “what on earth is wrong with this lady??”
(Judgement is such a natural state…isn’t it?)
Then one day recently a colleague told me something, the most horrendous of things, and it quite literally stopped me in my tracks.
A beautiful son the same age as mine.
A simple life on the farm.
A school break a few years ago…
A cord hanging loose from a jumper.
An unimaginable chain of events.
An outcome too awful
In that moment I was unexpectedly, emotionally and abruptly forced to think differently about this woman who in that very moment became anything but a difficult customer.
She simply became a mother who’d lost a child…
I almost cried, imagining her on that day. Picturing her face, feeling her heart stop beating.
In an instant I saw it all…her tears, her fear, her panic, her desperate cries…her slip from reality
I felt her disbelief and anger, felt her life and soul fall away and become separate from her very existence.
I heard her sobbing, her screams, her wails of agony, heard her pleading, her begging, her prayers, her denial, her acceptance and then…….finally……….her numb.
How could I ever go back to my first impressions of her?
Two minutes of knowing her story, changed two whole years of thinking (ridiculously perhaps) that I could even begin to know the inside, simply because I thought I knew the outside.
….feeling her pain, knowing her truth and finally seeing her in a way I had NEVER done before
I now see this amazing woman exactly as she is.
I see her struggle.
Not the struggle she’s already been through, or the struggle she’s overcome.
But the struggle she’s become…..
And now I understand