The F-word

When I was nine, my younger sister asked my mother, “What does f*** mean?” Mother asked me to leave the room while she explained its meaning, but I listened. (Inquiring minds need to know.) That was the first time I had heard the word.

I have since read various postulations of its origin: An acronym for the King of England’s consent for a married couple to procreate, an acronym labeling a prosecuted prostitute, or an acronym for an unlawful, sexual attack. Most probably, it arrived in the 15th Century from the Dutch or Low German language, fully formed, and not from the swearing Irish.

Less sensational than this four-letter word’s questionable etymology, but equally misunderstood, is the F-word I’m talking about: Flexibility. It isn’t a vulgarity, although many consider it a dirty word.

Before my disability, I did things when I wanted, where I wanted, how I wanted, with whom I wanted, and because I wanted to. If I wanted to explore, I searched country roads to discover their secret destinations or strolled through secluded graveyards imagining the mysterious deaths. When I wanted to socialize, I gathered with friends, went shopping, danced and listened to music, or participated in sports. All of these are spontaneous freedoms. Once confined to a wheelchair, I had to learn to be flexible.

In living with a disability, I consider flexibility to be my lifeline.

Merriam-Webster defines lifeline as 1:“a line…used for saving or preserving life…to keep contact with a person…in a dangerous or potentially dangerous situation” and 2: “something regarded as indispensable for the maintaining…of life.” The way I see it, hired caregivers or family, friend, and neighbor volunteers are our lifelines assisting us in maintaining our health and preserving our quality of life.

I live independently, but I happily anticipate the weekly and bi-monthly help from my girl Friday and housekeeper. (Learn about the village that keeps me independent in the “It’s a beautiful day in my neighborhood” chapter of my upcoming book Views From My Chariot: A Wheelchair Oddity.)

My “village” helps me with miscellaneous errands, grocery shopping, pet trips to the veterinarian, keeping a clean house, etc.; they sacrificially work me into their schedules. And yes, there are times that their availability interrupts my schedule. Beggars can’t be choosers. What is a little inconvenience when it is my needs (or wants) being met? For that matter, being flexible is a consideration of someone else.

Knowing that I am clay in His hands keeps me malleable. I can’t be broken if I am adaptable and pliable; and gratitude insures my flexibility.

Have you been rigid and staid in your time table? What are your thoughts on the F-word? (the one with eleven letters)

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