We made it to Part Four…the final questions. I will expand on many of these thoughts in future posts.
What do you wish someone knew automatically when meeting you for the first time?
1. I am an adult. I’m not a kid, though my body is small and my face looks young. People who don’t know me at all tend to think I’m much younger. In the past year, I have joked about needing a t-shirt that says, “I’m 30 and I can speak for myself.” This leads me to the second point.
2. My brain is not affected. Too many people out in public look to my parents or my PCA to answer their questions or respond to their comments. A wheelchair doesn’t automatically mean a person’s mental abilities are different. That assumption needs to be erased until you learn more about the person or get to know them yourself.
3. I’m willing to talk about anything. Don’t be afraid to ask me a question. Because I never mind sharing more, if you are interested. Soon enough you’ll see I don’t dwell on the physical challenges. My focus is on living life and doing what I can. And yes, we can be friends!
4. I’m not in pain and by helping me you will not hurt me. I know I look fragile, but I won’t break. I will gladly explain every step when I need something. I promise it is easy to help me.
5. Can I add a random one just for fun? I don’t like meatloaf and I can’t be convinced to like it. I’ll take a hamburger or a steak. And I’ll taste anything else at least once. Deal?
What makes you feel unvalidated/validated as a person, especially in regards to having to be dependent on others?
The main thing is seeing me as normal. Thankfully I have the gift of family and friends who “get” me. They don’t pay attention to my leg braces and sometimes squeaky tennis shoes. They don’t see my wheelchair. They see me as a whole person.
It can be tricky when I need the extra help. I’m okay with asking if you’re okay with helping. I may hesitate if someone makes a big deal about not knowing how. It really is OK.
I don’t expect everyone I meet to instantly know what I need and when. Or to know to hold my left arm as we walk because my right foot is turned more to the side and I have a fear of tripping both of us. Much can be learned over time. And I give good directions. Just ask my parents.
Another thing comes to mind…Hugs. A pat on the arm/shoulder. This is such a simple gesture, but it means a lot. The hard part is I can’t open my arms wide to greet anyone, but that doesn’t mean I’m not wishing I could. I’d love to be able to extend a hug first to erase any hesitation. I realize it may seem awkward if I’m sitting in my wheelchair, but it can be more awkward for me to see others exchanging hugs. In my mind, I am giving you a hug as I receive yours.
Do you think there’s a specific reason that you don’t question God why, and is there a way you would encourage others not to do so, or would you encourage the opposite?
To me, I don’t see the need to ask why. I was born with this condition. It is all I’ve ever known. I may have told you something different when I was younger, but I don’t remember asking why questions specifically in relation to the disability. I don’t want to feed any discontentment or dwell on what I can’t do. I want to find all the possibilities I can within my (un)limited life. Because it’s only limited if that is my focus.
There are plenty of other questions I ask of God. They can revolve around my purpose and understanding my place in this world. (Don’t we all struggle with this?) With the abilities God has given me, what can I do? Where do I fit? How can I find a way around my limitations to give to those around me? I will have to unpack these another time.
The bigger question my heart has always struggled with is the future. Whatever chapter I’m in, I start to ask God, “What’s my future look like? How do I keep trusting when there is more unknown than known?” I did this after high school. I did this after college. It happened again when I lost what felt like my first real job in the real world. And I can still do this today.
The unknown is scary, especially for anyone fully dependent on others to get up every day and go to bed every night.
I remind myself how faithful God has been over the years. He has shown up in so many ways and He will keep showing up. I can have an idea for the next step, but I have to hold it lightly. Because my plans may change, if God has something else in mind.
I would encourage others to ask questions. It is better to wrestle through the hard stuff, to wonder your way to an answer, even if the answer is hold onto Jesus for another day. We have to be open and real. Sometimes questions lead us to deeper understandings and a stronger sense of trust in the God who already knows our hearts.
Thanks again for being a part of this Q&A series! You can find the beginning here or Parts One, Two, and Three. I already know there is more to say — another blog post coming to you another week. Soon, friends.