I have to admit it, writing this is going to be fun. I love Castle. I know, the last season was weak because of the contrived conflict to keep the show going after Castle got the girl. I love it anyway. Castle makes me laugh out loud often, and not many shows do that. Lucy the smart-house speaker was my favorite character in Season 8. My apologies if you haven’t seen the show—stick with me because the point is universal to this audience or I wouldn’t be writing this Castle-fan Easter basket.
Something that happened on the show really made me think, and it turned into a post. Beckett left Castle to pursue the dangerous drug lord “LokSat,” thinking she could protect Castle by pretending their marriage was over, thereby removing the target on his back. When she admitted all this to him, Castle was furious and said she acts one-sidedly “because you like being broken and you need this obsession.” I think “like” is the wrong word, and maybe that’s why what he said touched off a thinking Storm. (See what I did there?)
Beckett doesn’t like being broken. Broken is Beckett’s comfort zone. She knows how to do broken. That’s not the same as liking it.
Living in the community of people with chronic illness and invisible disability, I’ve found we all have stories of people saying similar things to us—people who take their health for granted and have no conception of what life is like with persistent pain, weakness, or limitations. They think we can just positive-think our way out of it; that we are somehow choosing infirmity.
Once or twice a year, I attempt a supervised, scheduled job. It always ends badly, requiring weeks of recovery. Here’s why I do it—I’ve created such a brilliant comfort zone for myself that I forget I can’t just walk outside it and be fine. I’m fine within the comfort zone; surely that means I could handle more challenge. In my comfort zone, I have access to what I call “neutral furniture.” That’s furniture that doesn’t stress any body part unduly. I have an Aeron office chair that’s fully adjustable, a recliner for reading that doesn’t have a handle I’d have to pull to extend it, and a bed with a mattress designed by a doctor for people who have had spinal fractures. My laptop computer has an outboard dished keyboard that’s comfortable for me to type on. I’m free to move between my neutral pieces as I see fit; to get up and move when I need to and sit or lie down (or even nap) when I need to. When I leave the house, I’m at the mercy of other furniture. Too-deep chairs and couches, too-high chair seats that don’t allow my feet to rest flat on the floor, office chairs that don’t fit my body and work surfaces that don’t adjust in height. Even if they provide adapted equipment, it’s not always enough.
I used to volunteer at a fundraiser thrift store that had two backless stools behind the counter for us to sit on when we needed to take a load off. When someone donated a high swiveling chair with a back, I bought it with my own money and replaced one of the stools with it. It wasn’t great, but it was better than the stool. I used to take two extra pain pills to make it through my 4-hour shift, and my friend Sylvia who lived nearby used to come boot me out after 3 hours and close for me. As I ramped down my pain meds, it got harder and harder to do my weekly shift, and I finally gave myself permission to quit. The store was an important part of my social life and it was hard to give it up.
As I pulled my boundaries in tighter and eliminated the worst stressors, life got easier and more fun. I still take the occasional challenge, because without it I’d stagnate. I exercise vigorously to keep my body in its best condition, and that allows me to maintain my boundaries a bit farther out. I know when it’s a good week to go to a concert or trivia tournament and when it’s not. That can change in an hour, leading to many exasperating last-minute bailouts. If I didn’t try, and put those things on my schedule, I wouldn’t get to go at all.
I’ve been called a hypochondriac, I’ve been accused of “recycling excuses,” and I’ve heard much worse stories from my friends. I think what makes people accuse us of liking being broken is when we continue to be happy people. It’s like if we mention our pain, we’re obligated to look miserable all the time. If people catch us having fun, some of them try to make us feel like kids caught climbing out the window while we’re staying home from school.
I do not like being broken, I do not need the struggle—in fact, I often resent the energy it takes away from other pursuits. I’m allowed to love my life in spite of that. It doesn’t mean I want the extra struggle. And if I’m really good at living within my new normal, I get to take satisfaction in that. That does not make me dysfunctional.
Now, in the case of Castle and Beckett’s argument, he was spot on, but for the poor choice of the word “like.” Beckett was stuck in a life script that no longer served her, and we would all do well to check ourselves for that from time to time.
Funny how a line in a TV show can get under your skin.
(Castle and Beckett’s voices in unison) “I know who the killer is!”
(whistled theme song)