Friday, February 22, 2013

Changing Signs

Having a disability, in the minds of many, is like having a collection of minuses. To many, who become disabled later in life, when first experiencing disability, that seems true. Things are harder, things take more planning, things require help, minus, minus, minus. For me, one of the things that became almost immediately more difficult was dressing. I went into the hospital, catastrophic illness and all, being able to dress completely independently. I came out, two surgeries and a recovery later, needing help with getting dressed. At first I thought it was a temporary thing, that I was still dealing with the after effects of the surgery. It gradually dawned on me that I would never be able to get through a day again, without assistance.

Some things shifted columns from "needs assistance" to "done independently but very slowly." One of those things is putting my pants on. (I can't believe I'm telling you this, it's wildly private, but there's something I want to say and this is the only way to say it!) I sit on the side of the bed and process pretty much every move I have to make, setting up, targeting, attempting. For the first few weeks as I was determined to do it myself I struggled with frustration, with maintaining determination, with tears. How could something so basic now be so incredibly hard? Training my eyes to do what my skin used to do took time. A lot of time.

Then, one day, a change happened. Similar to the change that happened when you were a kid, the one where yesterday you needed help tying your shoe and today you know you will never need it again - or so you think. I now have every confidence, when I sit down to get dressed, that I will rise, pants on. I don't let Joe stay in the bedroom while I'm doing this. My solution to the problem of pants is very personal, it's mine alone.

I realized yesterday that the slow deliberate way that I go from naked to dressed has become quite a calm and peaceful ritual. Where once I had to pause and really focus on what I was doing, I find I'm still pausing. There is no longer any need for that pause, I know what to do and how to do it. But that pause was there for so long as I developed this skill again, it was part of how I did it, it's now in the routine. And I love it.

Sitting on the bed, early in the morning, readying myself for work or for the weekend, I pause, pants hanging expectantly in my hands, I think and I pray. I have created the calm, the I in the storm of the coming day. Ideas flit by my mind, visiting me in this rare moment of quiet. Realizations have time to form gathered together from one part dream and two parts reflection. It's allowed me to grow more contemplative. I enter the world, now, much differently than I did before. I no longer rush crashing into the day. I no longer allow busyness to take me by the nose and rush me from pillar to post. I start with a kind of peace.

I put my pants on myself. And by dressing disabled, I stuff my pockets with all the tools I will need for the day.



Jayne Wales said...

Gosh Dave that is so very personal. As a young child I had a year when I was in hospital and then recovering at home. It was an acute form of arthritis and I suddenly could not to anything with my legs at all.The physio and getting things to work again was painful. I can remember so well one day being a fit 9 year old and the next day in agony. As a child you just push to survive and get over things, it's an amazing strength. You summoned up that child in you, that strength to get over things and survive. Like you I don't really talk about that year because iI moved on as a kid but I remember it and when I see people struggle even more. I dread it coming back too! i was on a ward where kids were so sick. They became family to me and i still remember the ones who fought hard but did not make it who did not make it.
I love the thought of not rushing into the day and using time wisely to contemplate and pray in the morning. Just a few minutes as you say. Thanks for, it brought a lot back but it was good to think before I charged out on to the day. Today I just thought of Melvin and Dianne all those years ago and cried.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dave,

I always see you as a very competend person. One who can do a lot of work in a kind and wise way. It almost made me forget, that you are disabled too and sometimes have to stop and struggle doing things.

Having to pause before concientiously doing something that the average person does without thinking is a plus. But I never saw it that way for me. Maybe I have to be kinder with myself....

For me it is the handle of a coffee or teacup or the handle of a drawer. My fingers sometimes just dont seem to find in the handle and it hurts becuase my fingertips a very sensible. It is dumb to be in a conference setting and having to worry if I can get the teacup down after I got my fonger through the handle. Made an awful situation sometimes...


Mike said...

Those little pauses are so important. I think of someone like Thoreau here and his emphasis on living deliberately. He once said that if we sit down for five minutes someone will be sure to come along and ask us if we have a headache! The moment to pause, take stock, and reflect is the gratification of needs that have little to do with what normally passes for important in our day-to-day lives. This is the moment of consciousness, the moment when we have the chance to recognize something deep and valuable about an aspect of our lives. I think that when we fail to deliberate and pause, when we rush into a situation which already seems crystal-clear to us, that's all the opportunity violence needs.

Glee said...

Yes. We are human beings, not human doings :)

Tamara said...

That is certainly a plus. There's a meme going around facebook about meditation. It says something like we should all meditate for 30 minutes each day, and if you are too busy to do that, you should meditate for an hour ... :-)

Mike Soucie said...

Well Dave with age some peoples minds go and they forget to wear there pants while leaving the house.

Mike s