Wheelchair Delights

Until you read my book, Views From My Chariot: A Wheelchair Oddity, let me add a little more personal information, aside from the tidbits included in all my articles about my living with a disability.

I’ve been riding in my chariot, i.e., wheelchair for thirty-five+ years now, at break-neck speed—probably not funny because that’s what I did (broke my neck), but it made me giggle as I typed it.

In fact, I was making a phone call a while back checking on something, maybe accessibility, I can’t recall. My sister was at home with me. Midway through my conversation with whomever I was speaking, Candace reminded me—like a backseat driver—to offer that I was handicapped.

As I began to explain that I was disabled, my sister and I broke into hysterical laughter. The harder we tried to regain appropriate solemnity, the more boisterous we became. Finally, I just hung up. Neither of us could compose ourselves enough to explain. I’m sure they thought it was some sick prank—totally disrespectful of the disabled plight. What can I say? That’s how I roll.

Besides my sister, here are some of my favorite things: Nature’s cooperative communication—like a school of fish changing direction in a split-second (I used to scuba dive.), and a flight of birds swooping in a 180° turn in unison; expressive music (Carmen’s “Champion” is my favorite Easter song; for Christmas, Michael English’s “Mary, did you know?” and in general, the Chordettes’ “Mr. Sandman”—a VERY old oldie.); cashmere sweaters, scarves, and barefoot sandals; breakfast, spicy Indian food, and mahimahi;  beets, turnips (boiled, roasted, and sautéed),and roasted garlic; the aroma of freshly baked bread, rosemary, and lemon verbena; the scents of gardenia, honeysuckle, and vanilla; azure skies, full moons, and shooting stars; the exuberance of orange, and the peacefulness of white; late winter daffodils, bright Gerber daisies, and red poppies;  ancient Asian peonies, graceful crepe myrtles, and their leaping lizards (which will make sense when you read my book); a tugboat’s baritone horn in the night, a train’s distant whistle, soothing wind chimes, and a child’s voice; movies, movies, and more movies; cats, cats, and cats (I have three, and I’ll be posting some of their antics.); a good book, and time to read it; oxymorons (Are you thinking I’m clearly confused?); a smart joke, a fun game with friends, and laughter; champagne, dry red wine, Maker’s Mark Whisky, Glenlivet Scotch, Jose Cuervo Gold Tequila (I’m fasting liquor. Can you tell?); coffee (coffee candy, coffee yogurt, Tiramisu, anything coffee), and espresso.

I have been tediously repetitious with things that I love, but I DO LOVE LIFE! If you think about it, all of the above are simple sensory delights available to the able and the disabled alike.

And now, like any of you, after my coffee’s adrenalin surge, I am exceedingly alert with dilated arteries and accelerated blood flow. I think I’ll go run it off.

Uh-oh, I can’t run.

Views From My Chariot: A Wheelchair Oddity IS HERE!

Annually, around 11,000 SCIs occur in the United States. Fifty years ago, the life expectancy for people living with a SCI was only a couple of years. Now, it is next to anyone else’s with the same number one cause of death: heart attack.

Celebrities, like Christopher Reeve, have helped raise awareness of living with SCI, as well as money for research. But, there are the rest of us, with limited funds, who continue to beat the odds by living healthy, happy, productive lives. I am one of those among you living triumphantly from a wheelchair. Let me tell you how I’ve done it.

That’s me!

My book, Views From My Chariot: A Wheelchair Oddity, recounts snippets of who I was before my car wreck—living an adventurous, enviable life among movie stars and musicians—and snippets during my adjustment on my chariot ride that changed me into the whole person I have become. It is a two-part book.

The first part is a fun, humorous, yet pithy vignette Memoir. When my flight of fancy was interrupted by disability, a journey of self-discovery ensued, revealing a secret, even I was incognizant of: I was a fearful, detached person. This revelation allowed me to break through the crippling chrysalis that had bound and paralyzed me before my wreck, into an emotional freedom and physical independence I had never known when walking.

The second part, Appendix: Let’s talk, is a self-help/reference guide for gaining this emotional freedom and physical independence. It is chock-full of humorous, personal anecdotes in dealing with and alleviating daily vexations (mischievous pets included), as well as descriptions, prices, and sources for purchasing helpful assistive aides, products, and equipment I have found to be essential, or just because I like them. They range from pain patches and health care, home renovation and decoration, kitchen gizmos with recipes included, to exercise equipment, and much more. All these are referenced in the Notes at the end of my book—a wealth of information for anyone adjusting to an interruption of disability, disease, or illness; also, a must for family, friends, caretakers, and professionals on the journey with us.

If you are accomplished at reading-between-the-lines, you will glean extra credit on your life journey toward peace and productivity.

TODAY, I AM ANNOUCING: Views From My Chariot: A Wheelchair Oddity IS NOW AVAILABE! Click http://booklocker.com/books/6235.html  to get on its page, and you’ll be on your way to have it conveniently delivered to you. I’ve offered a FREE excerpt for your preview.

Living With A Disability

How do you, live with a disability? I think we live as any regular person lives, though a little differently.

I advanced my education after my car wreck. Instead of walking, I rolled to my classes. Later, I was hired as a speech and language pathologist in a school for special children. Due to the diversity of speech and language disorders, I scheduled much of my caseload in individual sessions, or as one-on-ones.

On a particular day, this seven year old, who didn’t want to be in school, decided his session was over. I saw it coming; he had previously used me as target practice with a metal toy truck (one of several vehicles) I was using to teach vocabulary for modes of transportation.

Seated across the table in front of me, he rose from his chair—wearing the face I knew so well—and backed across the room until he reached the wall, never once breaking eye contact with me or even acknowledging my request to return to his seat. Challenging me, he stood firm.

I backed from under the table and wheeled left toward its end. Before I could round the table to guide him back to his seat, he ran to the table’s right end. I backed up and headed toward the right end. He scurried back to the left, never taking his eyes off me.

I knew I could not win this stand-off. I rolled over to the intercom, buzzed the principal’s office, and requested his audience, by name. Instantaneously, David had a change of heart, breaking the sound barrier to get into his chair. After that incident, I was assigned an aide for a couple of my unruly students.

With this one exception, children have always shown a compassionate understanding of my disability. I never had children, but I sat for everyone else’s.

When I requested that they not go upstairs, outside, or anywhere that I couldn’t be with them, they complied. Since I couldn’t pick them up, I taught them the two-step-climb up into my lap. This was a multi-purpose skill, not only for reading stories, or to love on them, but also to assist them onto my dining room table to change a dirty diaper. Yes, it’s a little unorthodox (I always sterilized the table surface afterward.), but the joy was the same, and the job was accomplished.

With children, here are two perks of having a parent, sibling, or friend, living with a disability. The first is: They can develop early language skills because we talk them through most developmental tasks, i.e., learning to dress, and give directions for performance abilities (keeping their rooms straight and floors clear of toys; if not, we can’t step over things to put them to bed.).

The second is: Their confidence and independence—doing things for themselves, and us—set them up for success, as well as nourishing a sensitivity and consideration for all others.

I think we do rather well living with a disability, thank you very much.

Remember, R.S.V.P.

Wheelchair Exercise in Optimism

In a recent article “Disability’s Truth,” my intent was to defuse the seeming tension and uncertainty for the able-bodied person in being around a disabled individual; then I wondered, “Are we, the disabled, fostering the discomfort?”

It sounds trite to say that we are more alike than we are different, but it’s true. We are all living life with the cards we have been dealt, often shuffling and reshuffling—seeking better.

My introduction to the world of disability was my own rehabilitation. I was always optimistic, but in rehab I met some really negative, sour sojourners. Their negative energy was too heavy for me. After awhile, I began avoiding their space. They were still angry and blaming the world for their situation, expecting others to do everything for them. (I lingered a little long in the denial stage myself. Catch the five stages of grief in my “Wheelchair Derailment” article.) They completely missed the point of rehab; we were learning a new way of life in order to become as independent as possible.

Yes, it was hard. After struggling an-hour-and-a-half to dress each morning, I wanted to rest, but I was too hungry to miss breakfast. Creeping down the hall to the cafeteria took me another fifteen minutes. After breakfast, our OT and PT classes began. I took full advantage of our rest period after lunch; I took a recuperative nap! I am so thankful that I learned how to wheel a wheelchair (without ever breaking a toe from running into walls, furniture, and other people), dress and feed myself, and put on my own make-up. I wouldn’t be living independently and triumphantly now if I hadn’t.

So today, I am speaking to us: the disabled. Do we greet the world (and our loved ones) with a frown, assuming that “they” should make things easier for us, or with an optimistic smile believing that we can improve our lives? These facial muscles determine how we are perceived?”

Think about it: Our body also responds to our frame of mind. No one is responsible for our well-being but oneself. Making excuses for our bad health and habits, low energy level, being disliked and avoided by family and estranged friends, or for a poor prognosis from our doctors, is not an option. Only we can change the stigma of “poor, pitiful, paralytic.” We must let go of the illusion of normalcy. (There is no such thing anyway; and forget convention.)

I understand pain and discomfort, and the precariousness of each outing. But, I don’t expect my friends, family, and community to change just because I experienced change. I bought a portable, extendable ramp for inaccessible terrain, call ahead to verify accessibility, plan outings and appointments around the weather, humbly request help prior to doctor and dentist appointments, wear earrings and dress stylishly when I go out, and greet others with a smile.

If I feel down, I call someone that might need encouragement or may just need to hear a friendly voice; BUT NOT TO COMPLAIN. That doesn’t mean that I don’t experience occasional insecurity; I just nip the doubt into do!

Let’s go for it—our potential, our purpose, our passion. We’re worth it! Optimism is contagious.

Wheelchair Derailment

As with any permanent disability (even a temporary impairment, illness, or disease), the path we were traveling diverges into an unfamiliar one. We don’t plan on, nor are prepared for, these life interruptions. So, what to do?

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler’s book, The Five Stages of Grief is a recommended read for understanding the emotional processes we journey through in order to reach the stage of acceptance. Whether it is death, disease, disability, illness, or a disaster, these stages are for anyone going through a significant loss.

Not everyone dealing with a life-altering or life-threatening issue will experience all five stages, and the stages may not occur in this particular order. As a “one-up” for anyone confronted with a traumatic event, I will vastly condense these five stages until you can read it for yourself.

1.Denial                                                                                                                                   “I’ll be fine.” “There’s been a mistake.” Something overwhelming has happened and a state of shock ensues. We’re uncertain if we can cope with this new reality, if we want to, or even why we should. Denial helps us pace our grief. As we ask, “Why?” and “Why me?” we begin the healing process.

2.Anger                                                                                                                                    Pain is disguised behind anger. Because we feel separated from normalcy by our predicament, anger connects us to something or someone—no matter how misguided. Some direct the anger at themselves; others may verbally abuse loved ones, even lash out physically. If you are family or a friend, wear an emotional bullet-proof vest or helmet for the duration. It isn’t personal.

3.Bargaining                                                                                                                               “If only” and “What if” lock us into the past where we were once safe; this allows us to time travel, back and forth, in our hurt. Bargaining is not sustainable.

4.Depression                                                                                                                               Sadness is a natural response to a loss, and the emotional detachment from life is evidence that we are looking reality in the face; but, this is not the time to try to cheer us up. However, with prolonged hopelessness, irrational or unrealistic thoughts, loss of appetite, and excessive sleep, professional intervention may be needed.

5.Acceptance                                                                                                                               Accepting a temporary or permanent condition does not mean that we believe it is an okay reality. It just means that we realize we must readjust, reorganize, and relearn to live life in a different way.

Once we’ve made it to acceptance, there will be occasional sadness and frustration. That’s being real. Then, it’s time to think about the future. Can you do something now to get back on the track you were traveling before? If so, go for it!

I went back into speech and language pathology, with a twist. I worked with the regular population before my disability; afterward, I worked in special education. An added benefit during my adjustment was that the workplace was accessible.

If that part of your life is over, try new things. In our PC world, there is a multitude of home-based opportunities. Just don’t allow a rut to form—physically or mentally.

After ten years, I began counseling and writing. After that, I used my interior design to start a business and kept writing.  Early this summer, my first book is coming out! My life is still under construction, and my ideas continue paving new roads to travel.

Pay attention to the pop-ups on your mental screen. Is it something you regret passing up, or something you sacrificed? Is it on your bucket list, or is it a pie in the sky idea you dismissed and never reached for? They could be trying to tell you something.

“Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams.” (Proverb)

It’s never too late to get back on a dream’s track.