I love HGTV. Don’t judge. I don’t know if there is one show that I do not enjoy. I could easily be an addict to that channel…but I’m not…yet. One thing that gets me is when they show these houses that are like a million dollars. I am already drooling over the house, and the could-be-buyer is picking the place apart! They don’t like the color of the granite, or the shade of the wood floor and on and on. I sit there screaming at the TV (well, I use my inside voice) about how crazy they are and how they should love the house! Then…I look at the pictures from my husband and daughter’s mission trip to Honduras and realize that to them, my house looks like a million dollar home. It’s all about our perception. We always look at something else from our own starting point of reference.
I am keenly aware of how others perceive me. I know in a very short time if you feel sorry for me, if I am in your way, if you are kissing up to me, if you love soap operas and want in on mine (I don’t want to be misunderstood here. I don’t mind people asking me what happened to me. i just don’t want my story to become their drama and that is all they want to talk about when they are with me), or if you are genuine and care for me and my life story and want to be a friend…with no regard to my disability.
I have found on this journey, that able bodied people can be quite rude and thoughtless to those of us with disabilities. I have also discovered that those of us with disabilities can be quite rude and thoughtless to able bodied people. And I have discovered that we can be rude and thoughtless to our own kind…you know, others with disabilities. This last one, is what I want to talk about.
Early in my paralysis journey I saw this quote:
Every quadriplegic wants to be a paraplegic. Every paraplegic wants to be able bodied, and ever able bodied person would like to be richer or thinner.
Perception, right? You see, we always want the next best step above us. When I feel that you have it better than me, I have to decide if I am going to scream at you or not (using my inside voice, of course). We get the green eyed monster of envy getting to us and we have a hard time not feeling like we got the worse end of the deal.
As a disabled person, I can feel this way towards those who do not have a disability.
I can feel that they do not get my world, and they do not have to struggle through life like I do. I can feel that it isn’t fair. I can resent the things that they are able to do. When I can do something with them, I am glad they want me with them. What if it is something I can’t do? Will I still be happy for them to go and I will take a pass on this one?
As a disabled person, I can feel this way towards those who do have a disability.
I have watched others who were paralyzed like me, get back a lot of function and there is this little pain inside me that asks why not me? I have also watched myself get more function back then someone else and I don’t have that same pain. Actually, I want them to be happy for me! So, can I be happy for them?
There is also a snob factor among our ranks that says, “Unless you are as limited as I am, you are not as welcome in our group.” This has been a problem in some disability support groups. Those words aren’t necessarily spoken, but the attitude is screaming. The quads don’t think the paras should fit in with them. The paras don’t think that those who are able to walk some should fit in with them. The walkers (who still use some sort of walking aid to get around) feel weird around the wheelchair users. By the way, those who are caretakers to us can feel this way also in their caretaker groups. The attitude is “I have to help my mate more than you do”. What happened to the concept of support group?
How do we resolve this perception issue where we are comparing ourselves one to another and grading who is worse off? How do we get to a place where we can love and support each other…no matter where we are on a physical scale? We want the able bodied world to perceive us in a certain way, but do we discourage each other in our own ranks?
Maybe we can remember these few simple things:
1. We are all disabled. There is something that has set us apart from the general population. My disability may look different than yours, but we are both disabled. That unites us.
2. We should rejoice in each others victories. If you get back more function than me, then good for you! I am genuinely happy for you and will share in your excitement!
3. We should have compassion in our struggles. There are so many challenges that the disability itself faces us with, lets back off of adding more burden to each other. An arm around a shoulder is so much better than a knife in the heart.
4. We are stronger together. We understand society, and we are all trying to work together to make it a better world for the disabled. We must stick together for the greater cause.
5. We need each other. It can be lonely out there (as I already wrote about in this post) in this disabled world and we need each other. Let’s make sure that we are in the concept of multiplying ourselves together…not dividing.
I not only want others to perceive me in fairness, I want to perceive others that way as well. My desire is to be an encourager to those of us with disabilities and to help us in our journey. Will you join me where you are at to perceive others as you would want them to perceive you. Wow, that sounds a lot like the Golden Rule doesn’t it?