I just got a very odd compliment. Well, in fact, it's a tad odd that I get a compliment at all. I had rolled myself around a fair bit over the last few days and I admit to liking the feel of moving quickly and efficiently in my wheelchair. I'm good at quick turns and trick steering. You have to be if you don't want to be constantly bumping into people's legs. No one sees me but I have to see everyone. Occasionally someone will step into my path and I simply can't stop in time and I bump them. I'm driving, I'm automatically at fault and I've been given some stern looks and harsh words ... a weak 'but you stepped right in front of me' doesn't cut it. Don't know why.
Anyways, I was rolling up to my lecture desk and, just for fun, decided that I'd try to take a run at it and then execute a sharp 90 degree turn. This is more difficult than you might imagine. You've got grab your wheel at exactly the right moment, going exactly the right speed. I manage this more often than not but its more difficult on carpet. So I got the speed up and wham, made the turn, and ended parked exactly where I should be, right in front of my notes. I'll admit to a self satisfied grin.
I didn't know that I'd been watched and one of the conference folks said to me, 'You move really gracefully in your chair.' I was taken aback. I don't know that I've often been referred to as graceful. As a large, tall person I had a lumbering walk - which was effective but not pretty. I never ran. Ever. Fat people shouldn't run. Ever.
I thought about other wheelchair users I know and realized that they, too, had grace in movement. That there was a way of being in a wheelchair wherein body, mind and machine become one and movement becomes an expression of all of them. Being a wheelchair user does not mean a loss of grace, it simply means a change in gracefulness.
My internal language, the language I use to describe myself hasn't ever included the idea of graceful movement. I'm going to have to think about that. Perhaps I need to develop new words to describe the me I am now, the me who can turn a large chair in a small elevator, the me who can scoot along briskly, the me who makes long strides with my arms not my legs. Perhaps I need to stale date my self image. It seems I need to update it a little more often than I do.
In fact I checked, my self image was dated as past due 20 years ago.