You Look Good

Nice words to hear but just what, pray tell, do they really mean?

Without fail, the friends who have not seen Joe since his stroke utter these words the moment they set eyes on him: “You look good!” To which Joe turns to me with a look of utter confusion. His eyes are asking me just what it is that these folks mean.

He hasn’t a clue that as compared to the man they had seen several months ago; the man in the wheelchair who graduated to a walker, then cane, and now propels himself with no assistive devices at all. Joe does not understand that while he was progressing in his motor skills, he was also gaining in cognitive ability, overall endurance, and that all shows up in the face of this man who has recovered from great medical hurdles.

“You look good” means that he looks healthy, can once again make eye contact and showers us with his glowing smile – which is punctuated by (forgive me here, Joe) his absolutely adorable dimples. “You look good, ”meant that he looks a heck of a lot better than expected. Considering the fact that so many of my Joe Update emails spoke of great medical concern, I would certainly not fault our friends for being pleasantly surprised to see Joe now in such good health and spirits.

It is necessary to put a positive spin on my response when he questions that oft-heard greeting.

There is a bit of Yin/Yang in my answer for, while this Taoist symbol signifies the seemingly opposites of life, the truth is that the ups and downs we experience are complimentary. One does not understand health until she experiences sickness.

I look at Joe and explain that at one point his illness showed in his pale and tired face. He did not “look good.” But now he looks healthy and alert. Joe once again looks like Joe. He “looks good.”

This, however, begs the question, “so why do they also say that to me? CJ? The caregiver who has remained healthy throughout this past year?”

We recently attended a wedding where I was constantly being told how good I look. Well, sure, I had on a nice going-to-a-wedding outfit, did a pretty good job on my makeup, wore my most snazzy jewelry, and was coiffed perfectly (thanks to my hair stylist). I was supposed to look good that evening.

Hearing it made me feel super. I worked hard to do the best with what I have and then feel comfortable in my skin at that wedding.

Told that I look good when in the local supermarket as I stretch upward for a can of soup that happens to be mounted on the uppermost shelf in the aisle, becomes a total mystery.


Well, sure. I’d been through a rough year also. Just as Joe has no frame of reference for his now-healthy appearance, I am not entirely capable of recognizing that – try as I might – there was a time when I most certainly did not look good.

I looked harried, worried, exhausted, slightly crazed (well, some times “completely crazed” would be more accurate), no matter how much I tried to smile when standing at Joe’s bedside.

Therefore, “you look good” means to me that I have weathered the storm, am more relaxed and eager to enjoy life again.

And, Joe, when you are blessed to hear that phrase, appreciate that it means you are you again and that is a very good thing.



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