It’s not infrequent for me to meet someone and months later, they realize I have a prosthetic leg. Maybe it’s winter, or they never see me in a skirt, and I certainly don’t start my elevator speech with “Hi, I’m Lisa and I have a prosthetic leg.” In fact, it’s something I rarely mention, so often goes unnoticed. Until it is.
And when it is, the uncomfortable conversation ensues. They ask, I have my synopsis, birth defect, amputation, and without fail, I end that explanation by saying, “it’s not a big deal.” Partially, I say it so that if the conversation started awkwardly, I let them off the hook. But I also say it to minimize it and move on.
But it is a big deal.
It’s a big deal that I overcame. With help, but I overcame it. When I was a little girl, it was amputated and I spent a few months in the hospital normalizing it, i.e. playing, swimming, learning to walk with a prosthetic, getting me back up to four year old speed so I could launch back into the world. My parents were fantastic and treated me as though nothing was different, my friends honestly never knew me without my prosthetic, and life continued.
But it is a big deal.
I find it fascinating to watch people who’ve experienced a hardship in their life. Perhaps medical, maybe relational, financial, job loss. You can see the discomfort they feel when someone comes alongside them. To sit with them in the middle of the “stuff.” You’ll hear that familiar phrase, “it’s no big deal.” The brush off. Nothing here to see.
We minimize and, in that moment, lose an opportunity to connect on a deeper level. To allow ourselves to be close up in life with another person, to allow them to share our story. We want to be soldiers, like the one I was as a little girl. Or like a stubborn child who says “I can do it myself.” People, we’re not wired like that. We try, I try, oh do I try. But we’re not fundamentally wired that way. Others want to come alongside us not out of pity, but because they care about us.
It’s a big deal. What’s a big deal is that some of us do it in hard times, AND we do it when we’re rockin’ it. When we have crushed our goals, or a project, or an accomplishment. We say it’s not a big deal, we deflect, we play small. Why do we do that? Honestly, I know you’re out there, person like me who falls into this camp. Why?
What would it look like to stop deflecting? To stop making light or small of our life? What if I could say, “My foot was amputated when I was four due to a birth defect,” and stop right there? What if when congratulated for an accomplishment, we said thank you, and stopped right there? If I’m telling the truth, I feel a bit squirmy thinking about it. But the opposite of making ourselves smaller isn’t boasting, or being grandiose, it’s simply being. Acknowledging. Accepting. Being grateful for our journey.
Standing in our own space, it’s a big deal. It feels bold. It’s who we’re called to be. Thanks for being on the journey with me.