Saturday, December 09, 2017


I was working out using one of the cable machines, it was set at a fairly significant weight, and my eyes were closed as I was exercising. All I was doing was counting the repetitions and, for me, that's easier to do with my eyes closed. I was at the number 28 when I heard a voice commenting about weight. I opened my eyes to see an elderly man, with a kind face, in workout kit.

Now I'm so used to people making comments about my weight, total strangers, that I put him in that category, what else could he have said. As the words started out of my mouth, my brain computed what he had said and it was 'You are lifting a lot of weight there." He was complimenting me on what I was doing and how hard I was working. But the 'retort' was on it's way out. I managed to stop what I was going to say but I was not able to turn the words into a statement that held any meaning. He looked confused, not about my words, which would have been understandable but by my tone, which I hadn't been able to switch, and it had been hostile.

So, I just behaved like a jerk whose words make no sense at all.

I continued on working out and waiting for an opportunity to say something to him, anything, to prove that I'm less of a jerk than he might think and that I can string a sentence together. None came.

This is no excuse but no one had ever spoken the word 'weight' to me in a complimentary manner. I had to realize that I was working with weights that are set at levels much higher than they were when I started and heavier that I though was possible for me. I was going to have to be careful.

Finally I saw the old guy using the machine I use every time I go, the arm ergometer, when he finished and headed back my way I said "That's a great machine, isn't it, great upper body workout."

"Yes, yes, it is," he said and smiled.

Nice old guy. Great that he's there. He's got the gift of encouragement.

I'm working to have better control over my verbal reflexes and to be more willing and more ready to think better of others as a starting point. 


ABEhrhardt said...

I think you might be justified in saying, "Sorry, but you are the first person to say something complimentary about me and weight in a very long time - much appreciated."

That you classified him automatically with the other ten thousand is hardly surprising. It's called a stereotype.

Lovely save, BTW.

I don't know why you expect perfection from yourself. It would be nice, but it's way too high a standard. My guess is this nice gentleman is perfectly aware how horrible the world can be. But he did speak to a stranger with closed eyes.

clairesmum said...

Glad you found a chance for a pleasant interaction with your new gym buddy!

Rachel said...

I can imagine the mental distance between the word "weight" and the words he after said after a moment but - wow. I can imagine somebody saying something about my height which goes over my head in the same way until - wait! That wasn't an insult at all! Damn straight I pull off this everyday life thing as well as most people.

I would love to see if there were any studies or anything like that involving people who were disabled from the start vs people who became disabled later in life , and the experiences those folks experience. Something tells me that there's a level of bullshit (depending on one's culture) that us lifelong people end up dealing with as long as well as others who become disabled and suddenly have ALL THE BULLSHIT that in an ideal world bring new perspectives - including such perspectives from people (kinda) like me. Unfortunarily, I'm not in a position to carry out such a thing.

If there are such things I'm not aware of please tell me where go to - I am no great scholar but have enough undergrad psychology to know that there's a hell of a lot out there that I don't.

Rachel said...

I wanted to add that I overindulged a bit yesterday (oops) and what I think I was trying to get at, in a more coherent way, is that it must be very different, psychologically, dealing with the bullshit (I had that right at least!) all of a sudden when somebody becomes disabled than if one has always been. There's so much people don't and won't know about actual disability because they already have their minds made up. It's not any easier to deal with, but it must be really hard to have it thrown in your face out of nowhere. I have been all too familiar with it forever.

Shannon said...

It's easy to be on the defense when you hear a negative comment most of the time. Glad it worked out nicely. I'm sure there are some psychological differences people have between acquired and lifelong disabilities. I wonder if people who have always been disabled are less likely to wish there were a cure for their disability - or not. Some people see disability as just part of who they are and would not change it. I know there are some people with acquired disabilities who would not change what happened to them even if they could. I'm not one of them. It's not even so much walking as the other things that go along with spinal injuries, like terrible nerve pain, and bowel and bladder dysfunction. If that even those could be fixed, rather than just managed, I'd take it in a minute.