Sometimes it is a challenge making a whole blog post out of a tiny moment, but sometimes it's tiny moments that have gigantic personal meaning. Here goes.
Last Sunday, Joe and I went out for lunch with neighbour lady across the hall. Tessa is a scooter user and the three of us make quite the sight making our way down Yonge Street, me in my chair, she in her scooter and Joe limply slowly making his way behind. We chat on the way down, trying to always be aware that we need to leave space for other pedestrians (a courtesy that isn't always returned). We were headed to a food court in a nearby mall because we knew they had hot and sour soup which sounded good on a cold day.
When we arrived and took of first one, then another and finally the last layer of covering, we were ready to get our victuals. When we got to the counter we noticed that they had a tofu and rice dish on the menu for that day, Joe and I switched to the tofu dish and Tessa, wisely, stayed with the hot and sour soup. When the food arrived and we were all tucked into our table the soup smelled wonderfully of flavours and the tofu dish was bland to the point of being aversive.
After one bite I looked up at Joe and said, 'It really needs some soy sauce, would you mind getting some?' There was a pause and then Joe said, 'No, you go get some.' In a second I realized several things, first I was sitting closer to the food counter, second I was in my power wheelchair and third I was getting so used to dependency that my first thought was to ask for help.
I laughed and said, 'Of course, I'm in my power chair, I don't even know why I asked you.' I went over and easily, more easily than if Joe had to do it, got the soy sauce. We went on with lunch but I knew I'd be thinking about that moment for a while. And indeed I have.
There is a really addictive nature to dependency and receiving help. At least there is for me. I can forget to do it for myself when there is someone around who can do it for me. Oh, not in the big things, I can think for myself, I can speak for myself, but in the little things. And I've seen it in other disabled people too. There is a woman who is often on the same route as I am in the mornings on the bus. She is also in a manual wheelchair. She, like me, can stand and can walk a bit. Now when I get on the bus I always get up and walk up the ramp. I'm very heavy and I don't ever want someone injuring themselves pushing me up a ramp that I'm capable of getting up myself.
However, I sit and watch this woman being assisted off the bus, often with some difficulty as the driver maneuvers her chair around others on the bus. She is also very big and the drivers have a difficult time. I've never seen her stand, which she can, so the driver can easily move the chair. Instead I see her ENJOYING her dependency. She annoys the hell out of me.
And then, at lunch, I reflexively ask Joe to do something I very much can do on my own. Arg and Arg again.
Thankfully Joe had the moxie to simply say 'no'. I hope that other disabled folks reading this also have people in their lives who say 'no, do it yourself' when it's appropriate. I hope that others who love disabled people have the courage to deny help when it's not needed. Every now and then we need to be reminded to use the competencies we have and to think constantly of what we need and what we don't.