I have an elephant in the room. Well I have a couple actually, and I don’t usually disclose either at work, because they don’t affect my work usually. But it’s been difference and diversity discussion time both on the course I teach and the course I’m taking.
This is a story about a cow. It could be an elephant just as well – but this time it’s a cow. It was shared by a friend of mine in a teaching session about chronic illness, and it is just so apt I want to share it here too. It’s part of a story I haven’t read but I’ve put the reference at the end.
“Having a chronic illness, Molly thought, was like being invaded. Her grandmother back in Michigan used to tell about the day one of their cows got loose and wandered into the parlor, and the awful time they had getting her out. That was exactly what Molly’s arthritis was like: as if some big old cow had got into her house and wouldn’t go away. It just sat there, taking up space in her life and making everything more difficult, mooing loudly from time to time and making cow pies, and all she could do really was edge around it and put up with it.When other people first became aware of the cow, they expressed concern and anxiety. They suggested strategies for getting the animal out of Molly’s parlor: remedies and doctors and procedures, some mainstream and some New Age. They related anecdotes of friends who had removed their own cows in one way or another. But after a while they had exhausted their suggestions. Then they usually began to pretend that the cow wasn’t there, and they preferred for Molly to go along with the pretense.”
Alison Lurie – ‘The Last Resort’.
It’s the last line especially that always gets me – they pretend the cow (or the elephant!) isn’t there and they prefer it if we go along with the pretence. I wonder how many of us that applies to?! It’s easier on everyone to ignore the elephant, even to push past it, than to acknowledge it and accept it – and especially to have to feel it is imposed on someone else.