Things change, especially the things I take as rock-solid certainties. When I wrote my blog profile, I referred to my power chair as both central and peripheral to my existence—and thought I’d summed the matter up succinctly. But no. Behind a simple statement about my means of conveyance lies the whole issue of my disability, something that gets more complex as I get older and as I get more able to be with the nuances of my own experience.
When I was a little girl, we didn’t talk about “it” because there was nothing that talking could change. Somehow I got the idea I wasn’t supposed to have feelings about living in a body that would sometimes fracture of its own volition, about looking different, about being unable to do so many things that other children did. It wasn’t supposed to bother me that some people on the street would stare and some people would avert their eyes and refuse to look at me. I had good manners and made good grades and my parents gave me nice presents, so there was nothing to say.
As a young adult I concentrated on Good Grooming, perfect makeup, never a hair out of place, had long red fingernails, and bristled if people mentioned my being disabled. After all, I could do almost everything but walk so why did they need to say anything? I lived alone, I drove across country, I had a full-time job, I even moved the furniture in my studio apartment (the hardwood floor meant I could slide things). I could get out of the chair, scoot up a flight of stairs on my bottom bringing the chair with me, and get back in it at the top.
Then in my thirties, after a bad accident, I couldn’t go from the chair to the ground any more, was limited to horizontal transfers. Fast forward to the present: more accidents, weight gain, a brace to prevent a vulnerable lower leg from fracturing, an arm that doesn’t rotate properly, and I have become what I thought I would never be: a Disabled Person, someone for whom being disabled affects most activities of daily life.
I don’t drive any more. I use a bedside commode instead of a toilet because the transfer is safer (and it’s still difficult). I use a slide board to get in and out of bed. I can’t turn on my side in bed without deliberate and difficult maneuvering. I have a harder time than I used to reaching things in the kitchen. I, who used to be pain-free, know about frequent aches. I, who used to go longer and harder than just about anyone else, generally lie down in the afternoon. Along with the changed visage of middle age, I have a new body, one that I don’t yet identify with, one that is not yet entirely my friend. And still, with all of this, the I who investigates, who takes these pictures, whose eye and heart still finds newness and beauty along the sidewalks I travel, is both able and grateful.
This photograph "Change of Focus" appears in my photostream at Flickr.com.