Winter, once again, reigns triumphant. I sit here with a notebook and computer full of half written, incomplete posts that seem like drivel. None of which feel worthy enough for my finger to inch up and select and then finally hit the publish button. Forced lock down equals brain block. More than ever, I realize the importance of my river ritual. Outside, fresh air, and exercise feed my brain, but more importantly feed my soul. One day soon, I hope to piece together these fragments of my thoughts, but for now a bit of a reflection, a bit of a hey, I never thought about it that way moment to share. I hope this post finds you all well. And here’s hoping spring forward defines more than a time change.
A few short nights ago, I shared a photograph with a friend. Without a thought, almost as a reflex, I flippantly said, “Obviously, my sister is the one standing.”
I frequently joke about my condition. I would get that for you, but I can’t walk or I would take out that trash, but I can’t walk, are common phrases that fly out of my mouth. I use humor quite a bit; not to nurture the seeds of malice or discomfort, but to grow shrubs over a bit of shame I carry. I struggle to find ease with my limitations. Still, after all of the years, I sometimes feel like a burden or the girl who just sits and doesn’t help because she can’t. I know how foolish this is, believe me, I know. But, then are times, more than I like to admit, when I feel less than, when I devalue who I am. Whether this coping mechanism comes in the form of humor or tears, deprecation robs me of what I achieve, despite my limitations, and only points out what I can not do.
Until this conversation, with this friend, I thought I was just laughing instead of crying. I assumed I chose light and funny over dark and twisty. I also did not realize how automatic this humor reflex is for me. When I want to say, look I really don’t want to show you this picture because I am sitting in my wheelchair and I hate it. Instead, knee-jerk humor reaction kicks in and takes over. The humor fixes very little. I may change the conversation, but my feelings still penetrate my heart, my mind, and my body. The cover-up is inconsequential. The shame is still alive.
Years may go by, but the strength it takes to point out that I am, in fact, someone else other than the one in the wheelchair, well it’s simply too hard to muster sometimes. I know I can say the girl in the scarf or with the blonde hair, but the chair, it’s what sticks out to me, it’s what beams like a spotlight. The choice of a different description seems futile because, in my mind, all anyone sees is my wheelchair.
I thought my shame cover continued on quite well, until this particular exchange. As soon as I uttered the comment, my friend shot back, “Hey, no self-deprecating humor.”
My friend’s response hit me in a place I haven’t been hit before. My humor is a safeguard. Humor explains why I can’t do something or why my life gets just too unbearable sometimes. It covers up insecurity, it guards a soft heart, and it protects against attack.
While humor is a quick remedy for vulnerability, it is also a thief of confidence. Sure, it’s good medicine when the tears flow so rapidly nothing can stop them. But, self-deprecating humor can also be a dangerous drug. It is a drug I run to often and I am an addict.
I hope to remedy this addiction. I hope to stop seeing the girl in the wheelchair in photographs and start seeing the girl who cooks and cleans and walks her dog and does yoga and runs errands and meditates and holds doors for others. I vow to see the girl who overcomes and achieves and takes out trash and fixes people drinks. She exists. She exists every, single day.
So, thank you, friend. Thank you for opening this door. I shouldn’t devalue my efforts or my strengths. It takes quite a bit to show up and pose for a simple picture with friends. It takes courage to allow my true self to transcend my physical self. And for that, I shouldn’t be ashamed. I shouldn’t devalue my efforts. I try, I show up, and I keep on keeping on and there isn’t any shame in that.
|This is the picture. I am the girl in between her sister and two loving friends.|