The other day I found myself staring at the toilet seat in my bathroom and realizing it is a lot like my soul.
Weird, right? But hang in there with me for a moment while I explain.
So I’m staring at the worn spot on the right side of the toilet seat before I sit to do my business. As with most—but not all—changes, this one has appeared gradually.
Several years ago, Glenn and I bought a house that is—by California standards—quite old; it was built in 1930. Among the old-fashioned elements is the toilet in the black and white, art deco, master bathroom. It has a heavy seat that is definitely not plastic. It is, or rather was, white.
I generally don’t pay a lot of attention to toilet seats, but awhile back, I noticed that the white toilet seat had a brown discoloration in one spot. Given the association between that particular color and the purpose of toilets, I grabbed a sponge and a spray bottle of cleaner and endeavored to scrub the seat clean, but without success.
Over time the discolored area grew and darkened, and I finally realized that the hard, epoxy-coated socket of my prosthetic leg hits the seat in that same spot every time I use the toilet. My cyborg body is slowly wearing the smooth white finish off that area to reveal the underlying material, which is brown.
I searched the Internet to find out what toilet seats are made of—ostensibly because I am an insatiably curious researcher but really because I wanted to avoid some work—and have deduced that this one is likely made of “medium density fiberboard,” which is a molded mixture of resin and recycled wood and is the heaviest type of toilet seat.
I see this worn spot on my toilet seat as I begin and end each day, and often several additional times in between, if I happen to be home all day. My initial response was to dislike this worn spot as yet another annoying sign of my embodied difference.
But I have gradually come to view that worn spot on my toilet seat as a scar, a testament to the notion that I keep going even as some parts of me show significant wear and tear. Their surfaces don’t look tidy, but both the battered seat and my scarred soul still perform their essential functions quite well.
I’ve had this metaphor swirling around in my head for days now, alternately depressing me with its message of slow, relentless disintegration and energizing me with its perseverance. In my soul—the deepest part of myself—I know that the wear and tear of living with late effects, especially chronic pain, will not defeat me. My gratitude for being alive does not make these problems go away, but gratitude buoys me as I cope with them well enough.
I cannot help but notice the “both/and” quality of the toilet seat—it is both scarred and remarkably resilient, worn and stubborn, imperfect and effective. Kinda like me. And everyone I care about. And most other people as well.
Here’s a crazy thought: this probably even applies to the people at the other end of the political and ideological spectrum who drive me crazy with their Facebook posts and memes and Fox News segments. Presumably they all cope with deaths and divorces and sick kids and bad days at work and money problems and chronic illnesses, just like the people of whose voting records and advocacy I approve. And maybe they end up both slightly dented and strong, too, just like me.
Of course, I could replace the toilet seat with a new one that would hide the evidence of the daily friction between my prosthesis and the seat and between my soul and suffering. But it would be, at most, a temporary fix.
Soon enough, the new seat would start to wear and gradually lose its smooth finish. For now, I think I’ll leave the imperfect seat where it is and embrace the metaphorical moment when I sit and embrace my resilient, stubborn, cyborg self.