While A Farewell To Arms, doesn’t exactly leave a person feeling perfectly chirpy, there is treasure within… Which in itself is telling. So you can say about Hemingway whatever you will, but he gave me something I always think of when the weight on my shoulders gets particularly heavy. “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places”.
Disability isn’t exactly a tragedy that discriminates. It can happen to anyone. In the blink of an eye life as you know it could be over and everything you once considered important can seem trivial in the aftermath of whatever it is that ripped your world to shreds. Some might call your tragedy the defining moment and in a way, tragedy always is. There is life before and life after, but I don’t really think it is the cataclysmic event so much as our choices thereafter that should be regarded as the moments that set the course for our lives.
In the last few weeks, I’ve been hearing many disabled people talk about how being disabled requires a lot of practice and skill… To a certain extent, it is the truth. I mean if you aren’t disabled, experimenting with disability is probably not wise. Not because you won’t be able to find the bathroom in the dark, but because you are not considering all the variables and your findings will at best be inaccurate. Seemingly funny stunts aside however, perhaps you are one of the unlucky few who unwillingly joined the disabled community and maybe you too have been reading all about the expertise you will need to navigate your new world and maybe you are wondering where to find the courage to pull yourself out of your misery… Which brings me back to Hemingway.
You can do nothing about your circumstances, but you don’t have to allow it to destroy everything. It’s easier said than done, I know, but you will learn, you will adapt, you will wake up one morning and realize that while your mind was busy conjuring new “what ifs” to torture you with, your heart learnt to accept the cracks and despite your mind, your brain had started to compensate for your new life and your body had been obeying its commands. You have been getting out of bed every morning, you have learnt that bumping your toe against the same chair twice a week is simply part of your routine and the coffee table will have a dent in it before your shins are damaged beyond repair. You can’t remember where you got most of your bruises and you don’t even think twice about sticking your fingers in your plate if you’re not sure what’s on it. In short, you have survived.
You didn’t have to. You could have chosen to curl up and wait for your life to be over. You could have become bitter and resentful… You could have allowed your broken parts to trap you in a world without hope or joy or the knowledge that you can grow and become more… not less. You didn’t though and it made all the difference.
The reality when it comes to disability, is that it won’t ever stop affecting your life. It won’t stop happening to you and neither will other bad things stop happening to you merely because you are disabled. You are possibly wondering where the silver lining is and it is simply this; If you could survive your world being torn apart once and let your broken places become stronger once, what’s to stop you doing it again and again. I’m not trying to tell you that tripping over objects or walking into things will ever be fun, but you will learn when to be more cautious and when to just call a bad day a “bad day” and move on. You will get better at working around your disability and the day will come when you no longer think of it as the enemy.
Disabilities require courage and determination, it is not an easy thing to be. You will have really good days and really bad days. You will get tired of having to prove yourself. You will get frustrated by your own limitations and you will probably need to take a few ice-cream days along the way. You do not need a degree in survival. I’ll let you in on a secret, I’ve been disabled all my life and there are still things I’m not great at doing, I just don’t dwell on it. Disability is not a choice, what you do with it when it happens on the other hand, is entirely up to you.