Frailty Quotient

“LOWE INSTALLATION”, 2007, 56″ x 72″, earth, ceramic

I have been thinking about the word: FRAILTY recently.

We tend to use it for the elderly and infirm.

It’s use marks a serious decline.

The ‘backstory’ of using the word

Carries visceral sensations of curling inward

Out of fear and desire not to hang with the concept too long.

We think it might be catching

And so we give it lip service

And move on to a heated tennis match or a rugged workout at the gym

To assuage the possibility

It could be us someday.

If you did not know me

The label: ‘FRAIL’ might be your first choice.

My physical balance is very compromised.

I walk with a walker and hold onto walls when navigating without it.

Long distances require the support of a wheelchair.

And there are too many pills on my countertop.

If you ask me to describe myself

FRAILTY would never be a part of our conversation.

I would say that my physicality is extremely compromised, yes.

But that admission covers only one part of me.

Am I spiritually frail? No.

Am I mentally frail?. No.

Emotionally frail? I’d have to say I am one of the most emotionally healthy people I know.

Yesterday, I went to a wedding.

I knew there would be too much ground to cover for me just using my walker.

If I wanted to go, I’d have to use my wheelchair

But I had never been out in a very public place with it where I’d have to negotiate a crowd.

I’m not really that great at driving the thing

As it is so acutely sensitive to any tiny move of the joystick.

I went to the gorgeous wedding.

I went solo.

I did what it took to make the evening work

Which meant arriving into the assembled crowd as a single woman in a wheelchair decorated with one rose

And having people adjust themselves to the height difference by stooping.

There were curbs to negotiate

And I asked strong men to help me.

And they did.

I found a place to sit for the reception

But how would I manage the buffet?

I asked for help, again.

All this I did and kept my center close to me and alive enough

To participate authentically in the evening.

When push comes to shove

And we are asked to enter unfamiliar waters,

These times are a good litmus test for


Can I do it?

Can I do it without losing mySelf?

I see that I am so very able.

And when that is the case..

Everyone wins.


3 Responses to “Frailty Quotient”

  1. Elisa on September 4th, 2011

    so well said ….so real……so you!

  2. webster on September 4th, 2011

    Congratulations! Well said and well done. Sometimes knowing that you will have to ask for help is harder than actually asking for help. I’m glad you decided to go solo and didn’t instead stay at home and miss it.

  3. Peggy Nelson,MS,OT on September 5th, 2011

    I know that place…. Thanks, once again, for sharing your gift of words and expressing that which is often difficult to express.

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