I had only been paralyzed a few months and was so bogged down in how unbelievably different my life was. Not only in how things were done, but I felt different. Like I was in some sort of identity crisis and did not know who I was or what role I played in life.
I asked Jimmy, “If I would have been in a wheelchair when you met me, would you have asked me out on a date?” He looked at me as if weighing out the decision to tell me the truth or what I wanted to hear. He said, “No. I wouldn’t have.”
I was crushed. Absolutely crushed. I knew he would tell me the truth and that is why I asked him. I wanted to hear that this wheelchair made absolutely no difference in our lives. I needed it all to be invisible to him…or at least I thought I did.
Jimmy continued talking. He said, “I wouldn’t have asked you out because I had a wrong view of people with disabilities. I did not understand what they have faced, what they deal with on a daily basis, and how they continue to choose to enjoy their lives. I did not know then what I know now. You are the same person but this disability does add a new layer that would not exist if you were not paralyzed. I would not have had enough understanding to have looked farther than the wheelchair.”
I learned through the next couple years what “trying to understand” looked like in our marriage. It was tough. There were days I would cry my heart out in frustration that even the one I loved the most in this world didn’t get it. There were also days when he cried with frustration that I didn’t get it and what he had to face being my spouse and helper. At times, we would talk….or argue….for hours as we both had broken hearts and were grieving for the simpler life. Those words “simpler life” never came up. It was just what seemed missing now in our lives.
What Jimmy and I both craved from each other was understanding. We found that when we took our eyes off of our own needs and really looked for the heart of the other, that harmony was found. The root problem was not whatever our “issue” was. We just needed to know that the other understood. I needed to know that he was trying to understand….and he needed to know the same thing.
Those conversations put a fire in my heart that understanding is so important in everyone’s life. Don’t we just love it when people understand us? No one knows the road you travel unless you have also traveled it. If I haven’t traveled your road, at least I can try to encourage you in your journey instead of analyzing and criticizing you in telling you how to do it better. A passion was born to help others understand not only our life….but many lives like ours.
Jimmy tells me today that he would date me in a second now that he understands. He says that because he gets it, it makes him admire and love me more. He would date me for the woman I am because of the wheelchair…not in spite of it.
We don’t need our wheelchairs to be invisible. They need to be seen because they are a part of us. However, they are not the definition of us. There is much to be understood about us, but I think we are worth it! 🙂
Life is full of trials and we all face them in different forms. My prayer is that the scales of prejudice and superiority will fall off of our eyes as we try to reach out with understanding to encourage others in this journey called life.