(The physical condition described for me in the first paragraph changed/improved over time since this was written in October 2011. This “replay post” is about the larger point about how one’s circumstances and life experiences create our sense of values, ethics, and compassion.)
Someone has to cut my food now and often button my shirt. My cane is no longer substantial enough for getting around outside of the house. Dressing myself is a labor. But there is something so positive about being handicapped. It cultivates being. (I was diagnosed with MS in November 2000)
Maybe I can say that because my spiritual life is pretty well established. Meditation, contemplation, as well as a metaphysical understanding and world view certainly do keep things in a particular framework. It is one where challenges are opportunities and the wisdom of the soul gives us just what we can handle. The framework holds me in goodness, in being able to see what has been adjusted within me as a result of no options. That tells me how silly I was in not changing certain factors about myself in an easier way, but c’est la vie!
Being handicapped means that one experiences many things alternatively from people without these issues. Like being pregnant, you start to see others who share in disability. I notice how many people are tired and would be so grateful for a chair or bench at the service counter of a store, or at the long line of the post office, or along the endless expanse of floor to be crossed at the cinema. I notice how many people have canes, walkers, wheelchairs, limps, prostheses, or whose speech has been changed due to stroke, MS, or various other reasons. I watch how those in a rush, stressed out and self-consumed, don’t hold doors for those less strong, or almost knock someone over who literally can’t get out of their way quickly, and that the rushing person doesn’t realize how dangerous that interaction just was. These kinds of experiences don’t increase anger in me. Instead they increase compassion. How did we get like this? Why is it rarer to help than to have a negative comment?
Likewise, so often I see patience in the eyes of the disabled. And I see how as a group we try to pass this onto others. Life doesn’t have to be so fast. We don’t have to feed the monster of stress and anxiety. We can all ‘slow down just a little.’ Humor also is often on the face of a handicapped or disabled person. Just as often there is pain, frustration, and futility. Some things are simply ridiculous in my country! One needs to be Hercules to open a can of cat food or rip open a protein bar. Packaging within packaging, and tamper-proof everything makes almost anything un-openable, unless it is an egg. I love it when my husband struggles with the jelly jar because then it’s not me! Handicap aside, our generation is getting older and our parents are … already old. Does everything have to wrapped up like Fort Knox? That’s a joke since money isn’t even kept there anymore!
Back to being. This journey has also illumined all the ways that each one of us might be handicapped; not physically but by our habits, tendencies, beliefs, recurring thoughts, and such. What is being for each person? I know what it has developed into for me, but how about for you? Being handicapped has showed me evermore how unique and divinely special each person is; and that through various adversities, people by nature survive, grow, and the majority emerge from it smiling. Greater understanding and well-being are now part of their presence. Life is a great mystery. Being and doing are inextricably linked. Less able to do, or needing to be creative or dismissive in that regard, for me, being was given room to increase. Patience, humor, letting go, trusting others and more have come with this journey. How is your journey going?