Monday, October 10, 2016

A Confused Kind of Gratitude

Today is Thanksgiving Monday, a day off, and I'm here in the United States where it's Columbus day, a day off. I've been sitting here thinking about what to write today as I've been thinking about Thanksgiving and living a life of more intentional gratitude. But then, I keep getting struck about how hard this is for me, not because of something inherent in my personality, but because of my life with a disability. I'm often in situations where I am really confused about how to feel. And, more, when, through that confusion I feel something, I'm conflicted about whether or not what I'm feeling is the right feeling.

Let me give you an example. We drove a massive long 11 hour drive yesterday. This included two stops. Both were precipitated by having to pee and both were used as an opportunity to move around a bit. In both cases we stopped a grocery stores because we wanted to pick up some stuff because we are staying in a hotel with a small kitchen.

On our second stop, we came out of the store, which was surrounded by trees bursting into colour, and as it was raining, I waited underneath the awning for Joe to get to the car and get the door open for me. I watched him as he walked across the lot which was slick with rain and over which a number of leaves, bright yellow, had fallen. The lot looked lit from below with lights the colour of fall. I was enjoying just sitting there, quiet, watching everything. I amused myself by noting that I must be feeling sentimental or romantic or something because I was waxing poetic over a parking lot.

Into this lovely reverie came a voice. "You want me to push you to your car?" I look up into the face of a woman, smiling. "No, thanks, I'm good, I'm just waiting.?" She asked me if I was sure, she told me she was strong, which is code for 'I know you are fat,' and I told her that it was fine, I was waiting and when I needed to I could get to the car myself. I thanked her for her offer and watched her walk away.

The moment was gone.

All I wanted, I realized, was to simply enjoy those few moments alone without my disability being perceived as permission to interrupt my reverie. I just want to be able to sit and wait in places without being pulled into other people's need to help people like me. Somehow I feel that I should be grateful, or thankful, that there are people who would help. And I am. I just want people how would be willing to help if help was indicated or asked for. I don't need help when sitting quietly on my own. Other's might I realize, but I don't.

See. It's confusing. It's good that there are helpful people. It's not good to be perceived as always needing help even in moments when you clearly don't. I wasn't the only one waiting in the rain but I was the only one who was asked if help was necessary. There was a man, struggling with too many bags who could have used a hand. No one approached him, so it's not the state of needing help that causes people to rush in, it's the state of having a disability that defines one as a being that needs help.

So. I was polite but I felt angry. Angry that the few moments I had of watching Joe get the car ready for me to get in, while looking at the beauty of my favourite season, and the warmth I felt at just being there, being alive and being together.

I pushed off and headed down to the car, easily gliding to a stop to where the door had been opened. I got up and hopped into the car. I took a breath, reminded myself it was Thanksgiving, and took a breath of fall air and once again felt grateful.


Ranvaig said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you and Joe.

Ron Arnold said...

"I'm conflicted about whether or not what I'm feeling is the right feeling."

In the professional work I do, and reading I've done - I've come across this thought more than once. (It's a thought that's occurred to me too.) I'm now of the opinion there is no "right" feeling. I mean - our emotions are designed to communicate and in large part protect, especially if a person has had difficult circumstances in their past. So - whatever we're feeling is right for us given our overall context. The issues arise when the current context is not congruent with past context but the emotional response remains "in the past."

Sucks. Happens to me more often than I care to have it happen, but way less often than it used to. And that takes regular work on my part. Physical work to burn out some energy (Your morning routine does good stuff for you mentally too - eh?), and mindful work to bring my reason and my emotions into agreement. I'm grateful for that daily work and its results.