I have a friend who, like most of us, at times feels anxious, depressed, and crazy. Recently, I received a text, a cry for help, in the wee hours of the morning.
I don’t know anyone who isn’t damaged or broken to some extent.
One natural response when we experience such feelings is to ask, “Why is this happening to me? Why do I feel this way?”
Because we want to FIX it. Diagnose, dissect, determine, and decide what to do.
Even worse, we want to fix others, even when not asked.
I do that sometimes, too. I’m a problem solver in my brain.
I was sharing the situation about the first friend with another friend – not for advice or solutions, but rather to observe and describe.
The second friend found this on Facebook:
Going against the grain of my brain, I am evolving and learning how NOT to problem-solve. I am compassionate and empathetic at HEART, and more and more I am trusting and following my heart.
Now, my heart simply wants to give care and support, without judgment.
Coincidentally, yet a third friend (yeah, huh, I really do have as many as three!) randomly shared a text that said “Aggle flaggle!”
I’m not afraid to admit that my response was something along the lines of “WTF?!”
“Aggle flaggle”, I learned, is an expression used by Trixie, a young girl who is a character in the Knuffle Bunny series of books by Mo Willems, and Knuffle Bunny is her favorite toy companion.
At this point, I must also admit that Knuffle Bunny in and of itself has little to do with this blog post of mine, except that Knuffle Bunny, the stuffed animal, reminded me of my favorite stuffed animals from my very young years.
I truly wish I still had one of them in particular, or at least a picture of it.
I called it “Bambi”. To this day, I’ve never seen another stuffed animal that went for the authentic young DEER look. What I mean is, it wasn’t anthropomorphic (think of Arthur the Aardvark) or overly cutesy like many animal toys (think Ty Beanie Babies, with all due respect, because I love those, too). Bambi was very young – no antlers. He really didn’t look like this (he certainly had no jaunty scarf), but here’s the closest thing I could find on Google Images:
However, Bambi was a hand-me-down, as were many of my clothes and toys growing up. I was the fifth of six children successfully birthed by my mother. We were not poor, but ultimately my dad was on a State salary, and my parents were continually scrimping and saving. New things were luxuries.
I didn’t really mind. Used stuff has never really bothered me.
One of my aunts used to give us used books for birthdays and Christmas. Very cool. She had even less money than my dad. She did what she could, and she gave with love. Still does, bless her heart!
Bambi was not only used; Bambi was damaged and broken. (Warning: graphic description of an injury to a stuffed animal forthcoming in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…) One front leg had a compound fracture. I mean, seriously: Bambi’s innards were reinforced with metal “bones”, and one was partially sticking out of the broken leg. Now now, don’t just say “ewwwww” or “awwwww”… It’s important to see it through the eyes of a child; I’ll get back to this point later…
Not only that, Bambi was missing much of his fur, worn away by years of rough-housing. No spots. If he had had a tail, it was long gone.
Where I grew up, we really played like hell. We threw our stuffed animals around like nobody’s business. Like Youth itself, we were fearless and immortal and expected our toys to be so as well.
I cannot emphasize enough how much I LOVED Bambi. My older sibling(s) (not sure who exactly played with it and wounded him before he fell to my care) may have named him something else, but my first favorite movie was Disney’s Bambi, from which I learned that first hard lesson about Life and Death, and I was moved to rechristen him after the titular badass character.
I retain even now the impression that yes, at first it bothered me that Bambi was broken. I distinctly remember using bits of cloth and string or whatever I could find to splint that broken leg. Like a Wounded Warrior, he was expected to participate as well or better than all the other toys, without complaint.
There was nothing much I could do about the balding. I believe that’s where I must have grown up a bit and learned about acceptance. There was NOTHING I could do about the missing fur. Hair/fur transplants didn’t really exist yet, as far as I know. Even if they did, there was no way my parents were going to spring for that procedure for Bambi. Hell, my dad was balding, and apart from embarrassing, futile attempts at comb-overs, he had to live with his affliction. (As I do now; no comb-overs. But I digress…)
As the years went by, I stopped trying to apply medical care to Bambi’s leg. On the contrary, I was proud of that unabashed, unassuming, flawed deer.
Like our human loved ones, Bambi deserved love.
Acceptance is the first step toward Unconditional Love.
Through the eyes of a child… As adults, we often let ourselves think of damage as traumatic and something to be fixed as quickly as possible. That may be fine, but it may also gloss over the stage of Acceptance.
Only by accepting his deformities, fissures, and wear and tear could I continue to play with Bambi. I am not going out on a limb (pun intended) by saying I believe many other parents and children would have stored him away, at best, or thrown him away, at worst. Such thoughts never entered my mind.
That’s how I learned. That’s why I view people as wonderfully flawed, by default – but without judgment. I strive to see the good in others. We are all damaged or broken in some way. Yet, we remain worthy of Love and Play.
Seeing a disability, scar, or abnormality – physical or emotional – in someone else, if we allow our brain to jump ahead to some sort of fix or solution, we may entirely miss the opportunity to perceive the person in that moment and in their vulnerable yet genuine state. In short, we may fail to impart Love in the form of Acceptance.
That’s not to say medical care and psychological care are to be avoided. But it’s a slippery slope.
Often our loved ones are not asking or wanting us to provide treatment. Professionals are better suited for that.
Most often they need us to LISTEN – again, without judgment.
Let’s endeavor not to react by trying to fix everyone and everything. Let’s be present with others, be still, be with, and accept them.
Let’s not discard our imperfect friends as we might our broken toys. Let’s treasure them.
Because at some point, most assuredly and quite soon, we will need tender loving care and support from those same friends.