“Honesty rarely strengthens friendship,” is this true?
If the angry reaction of my friend whenever I tell her that her sickness is just a “pretense,” or an acting, then I would have to say that this is true.
You see, my friend/colleague, is a 63-year old lady who has suffered a stroke three years ago. And since that first attack, it became recurring but most of the time, the attack would come in a form of arterial hypertension or high blood. She has been walking with difficulty ever since. But through personal therapy and exercise, her health condition would tremendously improve. But after a day or so, she would go back to her miserable state. As a result, she would take days off from work or take an undertime. Since I’ve known her (which is about a year already), she has gone to the hospital thrice already. People who know her longer than I am told me she has gone to the hospital more than ten times.
As her friend, I believe that she is quite well, healthy, although not as healthy as before. But I believe she is fine. Because many times have I observed her eating with a big appetite, eating even those food that are prohibited like lumpia since it is oily, and drinking Coke, and not feeling anything. When I’m not looking and doing something else like texting, for example, I noticed from my peripheral vision an image of a person walking briskly to his/her desk. When I looked up, it was her. And this happened so many times. However, there were also times, especially when she’s with me, or when people is watching, when she walks like a really old, frail lady. And I don’t get that. Because the times when she seemed capable and okay are many than the times she seemed weak.
Before, to not offend her, I would joke that she’s just pretending to walk slowly or with difficulty. And I have basis for bringing this up to her. I observed that there are more days that I could see her walking normally and could even hop with ease from one stepping stone to another while we were walking this pathway to the canteen. Despite her stroke years ago, she still has that capacity to walk in kilometers under the heat of the sun without any companion, and could climb up and down the high footbridge. Take note, alone. When she is selling her peanut butter, she could even climb the stairs leading to the third floor without the help of an elevator.
I would ask her about her condition. She would say that that’s just the way she is, because she has had a stroke. Sometimes her knees would hurt. And she would insist that she is not pretending.
As her friend, I am seeing something else. She is actually okay if she wants to. I believe she is strong. The problem is, she doesn’t want to let go of her “sickness” for some reason that only her truly knows. Although I have my own theories.
The other day, she didn’t report for work. She informed a fellow senior colleague that she was held up, that a bad guy hurt her and stole her money. She was wounded and again in the hospital. My initial reaction wasn’t compassion but anger. Until now. That’s why I’m writing this. To get this out of my system.
My friendship with this old lady doesn’t just remain within the four walls of our office. We would sometimes have a dinner in our favorite restaurant or eating place. Being senior, she would also give me advice about matters of the heart. She would tell me things that she doesn’t like about me or like about me (although I believe that’s only selective), and I would tell her things that I don’t like about her or like about her (also selective, so as not to hurt her so much because I think she’s not comfortable hearing criticisms, especially from someone younger than her, although at times I would share my feelings with her in reckless abandon). During those times that we would leave a mall or a restaurant and await for a jeep or a bus to bring us home (she takes the bus, I take the jeep), I would offer to accompany her while she’s waiting for her bus. So as not to be a burden, she would refuse my offer quite sternly and that would force me to leave her. I would always be the first to grab a ride going home.
I don’t understand her condition. My father is way older than her, he is 72 years old and has never suffered a stroke or hypertension despite his five children with different personalities and hangups. I have another colleague, a 58-year old lady who survived breast cancer seven years ago. She never had a disease after that, except from fatigue due to overwork, or stress. A former colleague who is my age became paralyzed from waist down but that didn’t stop him from overcoming his personal odds. Because right now, he is the vice president of a banking institution. So I really do not understand her sickness, the high blood, the recurring trips to the hospital. I know people have different coping mechanisms or speed in recovering but what I don’t understand is that she is that “Praise the Lord!” type of person, a born-again Christian, so prayerful, a religious one.
I remember this chapter I read in this book by M. Scott Peck entitled “People of the Lie.” The chapter is about possession and exorcism. It says, “Human free will is basic. It takes precedence over healing. Even God cannot heal a person who does not want to be healed. At the moment of expulsion both these patients voluntarily took the crucifix, held it in their chests and prayed for deliverance. Both chose that moment to cast their lots with God. Ultimately it is the patient herself or himself who is the exorcist.”
I believe she is the only person who can heal herself, not the doctor, not the medicine, but herself.
So when I learned that she was held up and now in the hospital, I wasn’t surprised. We weren’t surprised. But I was heartless. I was angry. I hated her for not being careful. I would tell my colleagues that maybe she was again doing that pitiful gestures of an old, sick lady when I believe she is not! Up to now, I didn’t have the heart to text her to show my concern. I just take comfort with the fact that she is alive and could still inform the office about what happened to her.