When I finally felt well enough to wander downstairs to my sewing
room this week, I discovered that while I was sick my sewing machine had
developed a glitch. After two days of trying to resolve the problem I
gave up and toted the thing to the local sewing machine
The proprietor of the shop is not known for
her people skills. While I explained the problem she stood well inside
my personal space comfort zone, looking straight into my eyes while I
talked. She looked briefly to my machine and when she looked back at me I thought I saw the eyes of my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Humber, who has been the subject
of one or two complete therapy sessions.
'Is your machine threaded now?' she asked, a bit on the shrill
side.Yes, I told her.
'Did you know that the thread isn't in the tension hook?' Still
staring at me, nearly nose to nose.
I told her I knew quite well that the thread was out of the tension hook -- a total lie. But I was channeling my own fourth-grade self and feeling vulnerable.
'Well have you forgotten how to thread your sewing machine?' The question
was so rude and so out of line and her eyes were so unblinking and I
said 'Oh come on' the way people do now.
But I blinked. And she didn't.
In that horrible instant standing there in the gaze of a
woman who owns a small sewing machine dealership in a small town in an
underpopulated state, I was judged and found stupid. We both knew in that instant that maybe, just maybe, I had forgotten how to thread my machine.
I forget a lot of things. It's not the 'now where did I put the keys' sort of thing. My forgetting is a bit more functional. You see, the autoimmune disease that catapulted me into the ranks of the chronic has affected my cognitive abilities. I know this for a fact because in order to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits I had to take a psych test. The man who gave me the test stopped me at one
point when I was desperately trying to remember if the cocker spaniel
dog with the Frisbee in its mouth was sitting with Grandpa earlier or
if it was in the car with Bobby. The doctor patted my hand, handed me
a cup of cold water and suggested I take a break. When I came back
from the break he had put away the testing materials and ushered me to
the door telling me he didn't think I needed to worry, that my
application should go through with no problems.
Now, on one hand, that's what I wanted. On the other hand, I did not
want to be told that I was a card short of a deck. Or maybe two.
Because I have good friends who are chronic, I know that a lot of us face the two-edged sword of being incompetent enough to qualify for disability but being so incompetent that you forget to take your meds. And go to appointments. And to pay bills.
The list goes on, but it becomes more personal and embarrassing.
People who don't know me well enough to know that I have this disease tend to write me off as a bit dotty or maybe even slow. That hurts. If I try to sound intelligent and on top of things, in the same place as everybody else, it just gets worse. I forget words at approximately the same rate as i try to think of them. Pretty disasterous if you're trying for witty repartee.
Learning to live with pain and loss of career and freedom has been hard, but nowhere near as hard as learning to bury my pride and live with the constant little 'slings and arrows' of unspoken insult.
I intend to ask my husband to collect my sewing machine without me. I'm thinking the propriator might be right. Maybe I forgot to push the thread through the tension hook. Or maybe my machine has a real problem. Either way I don't intend to submit myself to the judgmental glare of Mrs. Humber ever again.
And that's one promise to myself I don't think I'll forget.