Monday, January 28, 2008

Beating Me

I didn't realize what it would look like.

I didn't think about what it would mean.

This is going to be a difficult post for me to write, in truth I almost decided against it. But, I do want to document truthfully what it means to be me, here, now, in a wheelchair. I shiver at telling some truths though, and sometimes I fall short of the goal. Three months ago, I wrote a blog that exposed a part of me that I'm not so sure of, not so proud of. I finished writing it at about 4 in the morning, hit the 'publish post' button. Doubled checked that it was there on the blog and then went back to bed to read for a bit. My head hadn't hit the pillow before I was up again and erasing the post from the blog and writing something new. I checked sitemeter and saw that my blog had only been visited by one person during the hour the post was up - but I had no way of telling if that person had been on while my soul was exposed. It's weird, truth.

I am quite disability postive, I think. I'm OK with my disability, I thought. There are frustrations, of course, but those rest mostly with the attitudes of others and the structure of buildings. I like it when the villian of the piece is someone at the other end of my pointed finger. Odd to discover that the primary attitude to beat is still my own. I found this all out at the Vita staff retreat on Friday. We held it at a venue that was half restaurant, half video arcade. There were two team building times when everyone was out in the arcade - for the first I stayed back because I was giving a short lecture and wanted to prepare. Besides, the stage was ramped and I wanted to be up and on the stage before everyone got back, at my weight it's a bit of a struggle to get up a long ramp like that. Dignity, it's about dignity. For the second break I was out with everyone else.

A woman from the office stopped and chatted with me briefly. She said she was surprised to see me out with everyone, and followed by saying that she saw me as very unsocial and very 'unfriendly' because I came in, went into my office, and didn't come out again until I left. I never chatted with others, never laughed with people in the hall, I just burrowed into my office. Maybe I was just 'focussed' she said, kindly.

All this is true, except for the unfriendly part and maybe the focussed part, I do burrow into my office. You see, I don't use my wheelchair at work. It was a source of some pride to me that there was a part of my life where I was 'independant' ... where I used my legs rather than my wheels. Of course this meant that I didn't walk down to the lunch room, because I can't stand for the time it takes to cook a meal. I don't chat with people because I can't stand long enough to have the conversation. So I just go into my office. And stay there. Walk to the bathroom and back and congratulate myself on my 'independance'.

And appear aloof and unfriendly and uncaring.

I thought people would get that my disability didn't allow me the kind of freedom of movement that regular social activity requires in an office. But why should they get what I wouldn't admit? Why is that their responsibility? Mindreading is still not listed as a job requirement.

So.

To hell with that silly stupid bit of vanity.

My wheelchair is coming to work.

I'm coming out of the office. I want to join in the ebb and flow of the office social scene. I want people to know that if I feel free to drop into their office, they should feel free to drop in mine. Work is supposed to be a pleasure too.

I'm guessing that my wheelchair is going to give back what I've allowed my disability to take.

Me.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

It never occured me that someone would see it that way, maybe because I knew about the sstruggle to go more than a few feet. Good for her to tell you that, and good for you to let go. Though I can easily go to the lunchroom, I rarely do, eating at my desk finishing up something that I think is important. Wonder what they think of me. Maybe its time I change too. We all have things that hold us back, some are just more obvious than others!

Joyful Fox said...

Dave,

Your courage, honesty, and value of people is honourable. It inspires others to shine in spite of their disabilities (and we all have them - some, like yours are just more obvious).

Dave, you realized that your fierce desire for independence at your work was no longer healthy. Although leaving your wheelchair home, allowed you dignity in a physical way, it robbed you of the dignity of your inner being - the desire to be known and to know -the desire to bless and glean from and just "be" part of humanity...one of our basic human needs...to love and be loved.

Your insight shines in the darkness of so many peoples lives. It touches, comforts, and challenges. Your writer's voice has blessed me at so many different times and I know countless others' lives as well.

As your writer's voice blesses and invokes thought, dialogue, and communion with others...even more might your presence in the office.

However our presence with one another also introduces another element. Our vulnerabilities, ragged edges, sometimes ugliness is more present too!

I find with myself, I am more honest when I write, censored in some ways because I put more thought into my words and yet more dishonest in other ways. You can't see initial reaction in my expression or nuances of expression ,split-second judgments,that I hide, even from myself...oh I don't want to own that part of me, the part that found your initial words offensive, hurtful, humorous, audacious...

Dave, I don't know...maybe it's just me because there is a kind of anonymity in writing...so you don't like the style of my top...the expression of weariness in my dirty jeans or the fact that I'm dressed in black and am done up like Hollywood so no one can get close or just "stressed" which is visible in every line in my face, the tone of my voice or in the words that I'm too tired to be wise and prudent with...or that I might be too punk, too conservative, too modern, too vogue, too casual...blah, blah, blah...you get the picture.

...know you're safe...I am not in your office...you may not like me if I was...and maybe you don't like me on the computer either...but I don't know that and you just put up with me...and I don't know that either...and maybe you're not as judgmental as I...and others I know
...and maybe you do...or you're apathetic...

Anyways...you get my point, writing is safer in some ways, just like not having your wheelchair at work.

Thus...I admire your courage and trust in who you are and what you're doing today.

I will pray that your new decision blesses your socks off...and that it is a great experience even in the light of challenges.

Susan said...

You go, Dave! And if you're coming out of your office, maybe today I'll work at coming out of mine - in a different sort of a way. Thank you for this.

FridaWrites said...

I came out at work last week, too, though since my workplace is big, it's the first place I did so; I, too, avoided a lot of places and conversations with people. Today, I'm not using the scooter, because I won't be there long. That feels awkward, too, since to a lot of people it's an either/or.

Best of luck today and this week. Sometimes what's most difficult to write is what most needs to be said.

Anonymous said...

I was very happy to see that someone was secure enough in themselves to open up and tell you the truth and not try to "shelter" you due to your disability. It was a very important thing for you to admit that, especially in such a public forum. I would like to congratulate you and let you know that this, to me, is a perfect example of a very important quote I wrote down from a seminar of yours only a couple of weeks ago. "Success is not in spite of the disability but because of it!" I loved that quote and it has stuck with me since I heard it, but what I love more is that you are living the quote and not just giving it.
I tip my hat to you sir.

Kei said...

Aw, Dave, you totally rock.... and roll. ;-)

Enjoy the socializing.

Lisa b said...

Wow Dave.
This was amazing to read. Thank you for sharing this revelation.

Lianna said...

Wow! When you write so openly, and with such clarity and honesty, about your own awakenings, I always feel that connection with my own vulnerabilities. I've been putting off writing in my blog these past two days because I can't articulate what I learned about my self over the weekend. But I visit your writing, and I am inspired. Thank you.

BTW, taking your wheels to work is a wise idea. And building that comraderie during the weekday, is such a great idea. I imagine that you're going to be a busy guy!

ms bond said...

Thank you Dave! I read your post yesterday after my usual weekend off and thought to myself "wow...such a big step. Will I ever be able to do that?" Today, after doing a gorgeous dice into my bedroom wall I am discovering that I can indeed do that. All that limping around the office was really getting to me. Both physically and emotionally. And when my coworker offered to get my chair out of the trunk of my car I balked. Why would I want to use that at work? But then I said to myself "Dave did it- so can I." I feel great now. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Admiration -
for your ability to turn that finger around and point it in your own face on occassion

those folks at your office are aware of what they have been missing!