As much as I try not to, I worry about relationships quite a bit. How I define myself no longer fits into the acceptable definition column. I no longer fulfill a laundry list of expectations or a check list of attributes. My life requires a lot of accommodation and sacrifice and I can only imagine how that appears to someone else seeking a partnership. I worry the other person only sees a life of sacrifice. I thought this was confirmed as I wheeled up the hill to meet a few friends at a local wine bar the other night and lady stopped me to tell me she felt sorry for me. I know she has issues of her own. I see her stumble home from the wine bar, late at night, and unable to walk in an upright position. I tried to force her words out of my mind, but they stuck. They stuck because these words, these feelings of pity, are one of my greatest fears. I work every single day to eliminate fear from my mind and replace it with love, but the fear just keeps reappearing. And this encounter didn't help my practice at all. When I venture out, to the grocery, to a baseball game, or to Homegoods, I always worry people feel sorry for me. I don't want to be seen as pathetic or in need of pity. I desire people to look past my injury and see my soul, see my light, but I know that isn't always possible. So I worry. And this worry, especially, comes crashing down when I think about a life partner or significant other. I don't want it to, it just does. I think we label one another far too much. When we bring someone home to meet our parents or our friends, we list all of their highly regarded accomplishments. I used to have these things. I might be introduced as a dancer or a teacher or whatever someone used to describe just how special and significant I was. In these description situations,people tend to think things like, wow she did well for herself, or wow he is batting way above his average. And honestly, I fell for it too. I fell for the check list and the attributes making someone special and worthy. I fell for the attraction to another based on how cute he was or what school he attended. This way of thinking, how we look on paper, works for a while, at least until it doesn't anymore. Eventually, that playwright, or United Nations Ambassador, or opera singer, or president of a company, or professor, or celebrity chef, reveals himself or herself as human. The curtain is pulled back and the wizard is just a tiny man speaking with a large, booming voice and hiding behind the curtain. This might sound devastating or pessimistic, but it isn't. When we pull back the curtain and get to the gut of who we really are, learn to love with out expectation, we are brought to an entirely new and undiscovered territory. A place that does not have definition or definable attributes or accomplishment. A place that is equal and empathetic. A place where we can finally see each other as we truly are, without the make up and the cute clothes. And please don't misunderstand me, I like cute clothes and playwrights, and opera singers, and poets, and actors. But I don't like them because of their titles or descriptions. I usually end up liking them most when I see their human side emerge. I like them most when they fall or they fail and rise to new levels and share their devastation, when they share their human side. The truth and humanness never bother me. A discussion occurs, quite frequently, how, as a culture, we like to raise people up and watch them fall. Some say it is because we are obsessed with the failure; we are obsessed with the mighty falling. But, I disagree. I think this 'fall' is so intriguing because it is human. This 'fall' portrays a great and might fortress, as a crumbling human wall that has now opened itself to sensitivity and realness. For once, we can finally see ourselves in this larger than life person, this enigma. No one is perfect. No one will fulfill all of our needs every single waking moment. And during my late nights of worry as I obsess how I am defined, I realized I will never live up to any definition, walking or not walking. I can only hold fast to my descriptions and accomplishments for so long. Eventually, I will become real, breakable, and beyond definition. Others may feel sorry for me or be in awe of me, but neither of these matter. I may feel like I don't fall into a category of must date this girl or checks on a check off list, but in the end, it doesn't really matter. People will think what they think and I can't stop them. What I can do, what is humanly possible for me to do, is to not give in to the definitions others may align with my condition, with my humanness. Whether or not someone else feels sorry for me, is a moot point. Whether or not someone sees a life with me as a struggle or sacrifice is also moot. The only thing that matters, the only option I have, the only description applicable, is how I see myself. Is how I choose to respond to my condition, my humanness, and my ability. Because the response and attitude I have towards myself is one that I inevitably, without a doubt, is the one I will extend to others. A long time ago, I stopped seeing a stumbling lady as a drunk or helpless victim. Instead, I started seeing her as a wounded warrior. You see, whatever wounds or broken bones or disabilities we carry or learn to live with or learn to live in spite of, are not who we are. They are not what define us. They are what make us into who we are and give a glimpse into where we've been. And as I worried this is how people see me, what this lady said to me might just be true, I had an epiphany. When a person feels sorry for me, or sees my scars and broken bones as a defeat or weakness, or recognizes my wheelchair as a burden, she is only seeing herself in me. And she just might be recognizing herself and her weakness for the first time. She sees that part of her that is broken and scarred and is afraid to live in the light, scars and all. She sees that part of her that is crippled or paralyzed. What she really feels sorry for is her inability to love all of the parts of herself, is her inability to see her own humanness. And in turn, what I really worry about, what I really lose sleep over, is not whether or not someone else with love me, it is whether or not I really love myself unconditionally and without expectation. I will never be checks on a check list. I am neither chart topping accomplishments, nor heartbreaking failures. If judged by my medical records, I am, all at the same time, a supreme mess and an unbelievable miracle. The only thing I will ever be, the only thing I can ever be, is my human, flawed, broken, self. I, too, can learn to love without expectation and without condition. However, I must first extend this very thing to myself. I certainly can't ask another to do it for me. The relationship with myself is the most important, the most crucial. It is what gives me eyes to see and air to breathe and a heart to love.