I love how we have taken words that are nouns and made them into verbs. The best example I can think of is Google. We now google something to find information. When Google first became a thing, we checked Google, and went to Google, but now we just Google. The same is true with the word “school.” And since I taught for 36 years, I kinda like that “school” has now become a verb. I not only hear people say, “I’ve been schooled….,” but I’ve also said it to others myself, and that’s the story of the first two out of the three words from the title.

GETTING SCHOOLED
(a short, one act play)

ACT I, scene i
CHARACTERS – PATIENT (on a gurney), EMT transporter 1 (speaking role), EMT transporter 2 (non-speaking role)
SCENE – a short, wide hallway with three elevators on each side, with a large picture window at the end. A beautiful skyline can be seen out the window. EMT 2 is pulling gurney from the foot of the gurney. EMT 1 is pushing from the head of the gurney. They bring the patient into the hallway.

EMT 2: PUSHES “ELEVATOR DOWN” BUTTON AND SCANS FOR THE FIRST AVAILABLE ELEVATOR

PATIENT (IN A COMMANDING AND CONDESCENDING VOICE): Take me over to the window!

EMT 1 (TURNS TO PATIENT WITH A RAISED EYEBROW A-LA-SPOCK): Take me over to the window….(HE IS CLEARLY WAITING FOR THE PATIENT TO FINISH THE SENTENCE).

PATIENT (LIGHTBULB MOMENT, SHE SPEAKS SHEEPISHLY): Oh my gosh. I am so sorry. Take me over to the window, please.

EMT 1: (GRINS) I’d be happy to.

(EMT 1 ROLLS GURNEY OVER TO WINDOW).

PATIENT: I am so embarrassed. I had no right to talk to you like that. Lesson learned! Like teachers and nurses, you work long hours for not enough pay. It costs nothing to be kind. Again, I’m so sorry; it will never happen again.

EMT 1: Yes, apology accepted.

PATIENT: Thank you for putting up with my rude behavior.

EMT 1: You’re Welcome!

(DING! ELEVATOR DOOR OPENS, EMT 1 AND EMT 2 WHEEL HER IN, DOORS CLOSE)

THE END

I have never forgotten that exchange. I don’t embarrass easily, but this time, I’m sure my face was beet red. I acted like a rude, entitled …yeah, you can fill in the blank. After the encounter, and after they left my room, tears. How in the world could I treat another person like that? What was wrong with me?

Although I behaved badly, the positive part of this exchange resulted in a huge shift in my behavior. Since that day, I say “please” and “thank you” to whomever helps me. Be it my husband, my daughters, my friends, or a stranger (especially a stranger!). Not only do I use them liberally for any little thing, but I also find that those on the receiving end genuinely enjoy being asked nicely and being acknowledged for their kindness. I am not a heartless person, and I’m not using this as an excuse (well, maybe a little), but when you are a patient who requires round the clock care and can’t do anything for yourself, it is mental weightlifting. Sometimes you drop the dumbbell. I was, thankfully, mentally able to acknowledge my mistake and correct it. EMT 1 had obviously had this kind of encounter before, and I am sincerely grateful for his kindness. I didn’t deserve that “You’re Welcome” from him. “Please” and “thank you” are two out of the three words that are now very important to me, and yes, I got schooled! (And I deserved it!)

The third word……

Taking a completely different tack, the third word is very short – only three letters. If you read carefully, you may have noticed that I required round the clock care for some time. I worked hard for my independence and do whatever I can without assistance. During my rehab, there were so many things I had to learn – some I had to learn over, and some were new skills I would need to navigate to live my new normal.

When I got home, I was still in a wheelchair and was not yet an amputee (leg-lenth AFO with shoe attached). One of the things I wanted to do most was to drive. My husband, a bit of a worry-wart, always came up with reasons why he didn’t think I was ready. In truth, he wasn’t ready. So finally I said, I am not ready….YET. Those three letters are incredibly empowering for me. Every challenge since then has been broken down into small goals, and although I may not be able to tackle the challenge head on, I can tackle it bit by bit. When that YET can be taken out of the task (i.e. accomplished), I set another task that I haven’t done YET, figure out a way to accomplish that, and move the YET to the next task. Before I know it, the challenge has been conquered! My next challenge – get on the back of our motorcycle safely. I can’t do that YET, but I am working towards that by exercising and strengthening the necessary leg and butt muscles. Maybe by this autumn, I’ll be ready. Timelines for me are not important; it doesn’t matter how long it takes. What matters is that you don’t give up your YET.

There are lots of thoughts and philosophies as to how to navigate your new normal. Whatever works for you is the best. I love learning how other people cope with issues that are particular to limb loss/limb difference. I hope these three little words help you as well.

And remember: You don’t know how much strength you have until you are called upon to use it.