Monday, May 19, 2014

Just Doing It

Joe and I arrived a bit early at our hotel so our room wasn't quite ready. We were asked to either wait in the lobby for 20 minutes or, if we wanted, tour around for a bit then come back. We decided to tour around. As we did we began to notice places where we'd been before, on our last trip to Eureka. We pointed out various sites, found the place where I did consultations last time, all the while chatting about our memories of being here before.

I was in my wheelchair last time we were here.

It struck me that I'm not 'newly disabled' any more.

It struck me that, for 8 years, I've been a wheelchair user.

Now when we look back at the past, we have to go a fair way back to 'Dave walking' since 'Dave rolling' is taking up a fair bit of space. In fact, I don't 'remember' walking very well. I know I did. I know Joe and I used to go for walks. I know that there was a time when I didn't look for curb cuts or worry about bathrooms and accessible spaces. There was a time when I was privileged to simply go where I wanted to go.

I reflected, though, that I still feel like I'm new to the life as a disabled person.

Not, it came as a bit of a surprise, because of the wheelchair. Adapting to getting around differently came within the first few months of transitioning. Those were hard months, for both Joe and I, really hard months. Figuring out the logistics of getting around in a wheelchair, me working on just the getting about in it, Joe working out getting about with it. Cars and trunks and planes and trains all had to be tried and figured. That took it's time, a lot of it was frustrating, but once done, it was done.

What still makes it feel like I'm new to the life as a disabled person is that I still haven't got a full handle on the social aspects of disability. How to deal with, figure and understand, have responses for the daily oddities of social interactions. I'm not here talking about the rude or mean or, even, cruel things that happen. I'm talking about the regular ordinary weirdness that happens when someone in a wheelchair enters a space. Like, yesterday; we were coming back to the hotel and a fellow walking on a wide, really wide, sidewalk, stepped back off the sidewalk, into gravel, to let us pass. We weren't even close to him, but he made this huge space. Like how I'm everybody's 'buddy'. Like how I must appear like a little boy because I'm spoken to like I'm six. Those things, and a thousand more, I'm still not used to. 8 years in and I'm still waiting to be an old hand at this kind of stuff.

But, even with all that, it was nice to drive around and remember being here before, being here in a wheelchair, knowing that I once worried, as we struggled to get used to the chair, that years on, the chair would just be part of the memories. That my life would flow as my life would flow. We got back to the hotel, checked into our room and set about doing all the stuff we learned to do 8 years ago to set up the room. It's just what we do.

Disability is just something you do.


CapriUni said...

I was born with my disability. I've been living with the side effect of people's weirdness ever since.

...I'm still not used to it.

That may be a good thing.

Anonymous said...

When your level of disability changes - sometimes I use the walker, sometimes I can get along with out it for a bit - then people treat you as if you were newly disabled frequently.

I almost don't use the walker when I really need it because of the weirdness of other people.

I have an invisible disability (CFS/ME) which takes most of my energy away as well as the mobility disability, so answering extra questions is sometimes as daunting as needing help getting around.

Most of the time it's easier to stay home - but we can't have that, can we?


emma vanderklift said...

Love this post. It's been 10 years for Norm - one day he could walk and the next day he couldn't - and what an odyssey! He's faced (and we have as a couple) everything you chronicle here, and although lots of it is eye-rollingly infuriating, the upside is pretty cool. When he first started using the wheelchair, people (even people we knew well) were always coming up to him with those furrowed concerned brow expressions... "what happened?" "are you OK" etc. But what they didn't know was that when Norm was walking it was always a bit scary and incredibly fatiguing - there were falls and back injuries and just general body torque. Nowadays we fly through airports(before we get on the plane - lol)with me pushing, and back injuries are for the most part a thing of the past. Always wonder - what's the big deal with walking in this society, anyway?? Like Norm says, most things that give us the most pleasure are done either sitting down or lying down...who cares how you get there!

B. said...

Yup, it sure can be weird. It helps to have close, loved-ones who are totally accepting. Thanks, Dave. And enjoyed the comments. Your comment, Emma, '... what's the big deal with walking ...' is thought provoking.

Jo Kelly said...

I agree - what IS the big deal with walking? Is a wheelchair anymore strange than a bike? Or a skateboard? They're all the same essentially - replacing walking with something on wheels - which to me, proves the point that it's not the w/c it's society's perception that needs fixing.

Dave I'm about to turn 50 and I too have been doing this all my life - to me it doesn't get any easier or less weird. I just get better and better at my smart ass retorts! LOL

Glee said...

Everyone might enjoy this written by Mike Oliver a British crip activist - "What's so wonderful about walking?"

I love it and especially the bit about Flying cos it's spot on :)

And Dave, you never get used to it.'s+so+wonderful+about+walking&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&gfe_rd=cr&ei=HXt8U7mdJ6ig8wfDroHQCQ

Anonymous said...

20 years since the spider. Why won't it heal? So things can be like they used to be. Wheelchair to walker to canes, but no further. And mostly kind people. Accepting the kind when I can't do is turning out to be very hard. I used to like splitting firewood, stacking it just so, mowing the lawn, walking the dog. I even liked shoveling the drive way; it felt so good when it was done; never mind that the neighbor on the farm can do in a minute and a half what would take me an hour and a half. Enough tears. I'll go home and play some sad songs on the guitar tonight. That helps.