I love my wheelchair.
It goes so fast.
This doesn’t mean I wouldn’t trade it in for great legs!
But it comes close to helping me feel like I do.
I buffer the tendency to become myopic with winter’s descent
By keeping some attention on the big picture.
It helps me immensely.
Each of these photos carries the essence of the place.
Even if I have not been there in person
I can feel some of it.
I have been training myself to live in what I call ‘the in-between.’
As physical faculties diminish and cherished identities fade
My attention goes just to the side of what I used to focus on..
It is happening naturally and without effort
As what was interesting no longer holds a sheen.
The tone of your voice or exactly when someone’s eyes glaze over
Are my lighthouses now.
Why have the birds stilled just now?
Who is the ‘I’ when I moan: “I can’t stand myself today”?
We see only what we choose to see, are familiar with or that which is most obvious often because we haven’t had the inclination, need or time to go further.
Now I do and I am.
I found these photographs of snowflakes that help me know I am on the right track.
I want to say something
About not getting
What you want
Because if all those prayers
Had been answered
I’d surely not be me
And that would be a shame.
The warm press
Of my dog on my thigh
Might have slipped
As I went surfing the net;
Mindlessly window shopping
For fur hats.
I might have missed
The precious and strong
Grip of my left hand
If my right one
Weren’t so weakened
By the take-away
What if I actually had
All the independence
I have prayed for
And altogether missed
My heart stretching
With love for all those
Who let me know
I matter to them?
If I had all I wanted
I’d never know
How not having
Helps me know
The very important gift
Exactly what I have.
-Cathy Aten 2013
I have been to my initial Mayor’s Council on Disability meeting.
As the newest member I came with the nervousness of any newcomer to anything;
Will I have anything to say? If I say something will I look stupid? Will I be able to find a valuable place here?
I loved the meeting as these are folks giving of their time and expertise to effect change.
There was a LOT of experience in the room.
I was surprised how often I opened my mouth and was not the least self-conscious about what was going to come out.
I found my presence to be of value just because of who I am and not what I know about ADA laws, guidelines etc.
I offered up my own personal awarenesses of disability and possibilities for implementing change.
I left feeling visible and valued as a new voice.
I felt hope in the community of others; the power of two or more.
Disability is isolating but no more than life in general when we keep ourselves cloaked in imagined fear or reticence or doubt.
The unknown is only the precursor to the known
But immediately after the known we move into the UN-part of the equation.
Makes me fall deeply in love with grey… the space between.
I am a watcher.
I stay quiet most times and look.
I look at women a lot because I know them best as I am one.
There is a particular transparency that I notice in women/people who have done what it takes to look inside and do a bit of housecleaning.
The dust bunnies of sorrow, regret, desire, pain and disappointment have been seen and tended to;
Not to say they are swept away and forgotten..
I mean tended to. Seen.
Really seen there in their respective shadowy corners.
When this happens there seems to arise a lovely gravitas mixed with leprechaun-lit creases,
Each of which have voices
We all want to hear!
Oh- the singing… (click on link)
Click this link to see a simple miracle.
Stairs by architect Arthur Erickson.
Putting myself together in the morning is a meditation; wake, breathe, re-enter, wrangle out of bed.
Let dog out, feed dog, make tea (for me..)
And on it goes.
When my caregiver arrives I am looking pretty good.
She has not seen the grimace in frustration as I prompt a leaden and stiff leg into a huge plastic brace.
Only Livvy (dog) has heard the frayed nerves in the human bark escaping my throat.
Her confused and darkened little face silences me.
The vice-like pull inward of my brow makes no sound at all.
Urine leakage on the bed and too-long-ignored dry and flaky skin on my limbs are fallout from the confrontation
Of my daily will-induced presentation
Veiling the underbelly of faulty physicality.
I rarely let anyone see all this as I live alone and can hide what seems like the roughness of my existence.
I can’t imagine what might have the opportunity to arrive if I lived with a partner or was in the place of having no choice as to being ‘seen’ in the hidden obstacles I face.
I imagine there might be great unknown or unimagined gifts of intimacy there.
Likely shame as well.
The prized value of our culture is competency.
Independence. Stalwart soldiering our way through life.
Would you think less of me if you witnessed me cry from the fatigue of cooking?
Likely, your heart might open a bit wider to see the well put together girl seeming like she can do everything and realizing that she cannot.
You’d maybe offer to take up the stirring of the meal and send me over to sit and direct you.
You might even feel relieved at the opportunity to be of service in just this little way as there seem so few hands-on ways to help our fellow humans.
And I might very well feel my heart widen…even crack open in the opportunity for communion.
Part of practicing compassion for myself includes the transparency I offer you here; vulnerability instead of donning my moth-ridden soldier suit.
I have no interest in the medals I’ve won
But it takes courage to let them go.
A friend asked me today to write what I am grateful for as she is doing her annual Thanksgiving project (I will link you to this later in the month).
This is what I wrote:
“I am thankful for:
The courage and impetus to keep moving toward loving myself wholly even in the midst of disappointing myself and others.
My beloved dog teaches me how to forgive everybody and every thing.
I bow to the whole darn gorgeous mess.”
Sometimes, the privilege of our shared humanity pushes a deep and low sob from the bottom of my belly.
What is hope exactly?
There really isn’t anything exact about the thing.
Hope and desire reside in the same country but speak very different dialects.
Hope makes you vulnerable.
Desire means there’s something empty that needs to be filled (in your estimation).
Hope is: ‘I HAVE MADE ROOM FOR THIS (healing, forgiveness, appearance, disappearance..)
And I can not do this thing by myself and need Your help.
Hope is a conversation which includes desire.
Desire is the powerful magnetic of ‘one.’
Me, me and more me.
I want, I need….
As opposed to: “This seems like it would be good. How does that sit with You?”
The capitalized ‘Y’ holding the place for whatever you sense is larger than you; God, All-That-Is, Nature…
I WANT, I NEED has dryness to it.
I HOPE feels fertile and contains mystery and possibility.
I HOPE is looking up.
I WANT is looking straight forward.
I WANT, I NEED supposes we know best for ourselves (as in that yellow! cowboy hat I bought eons ago).
I HOPE reckons that is not always the case.