Monthly Archives: November 2016

Perception

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I recently asked a new acquaintance a rather telling question. We had never met before. We only had a few minutes to form any kind opinion about each other. He was well spoken, appeared to be quite smart and I posed a question. I asked him to respond honestly, brutally if necessary. The question was this: What was your opinion of me when you first saw me? His answer was pretty much what I expected:   “I saw a disabled woman”. I next asked him what that meant to him. His response? “You are someone who needs help in your life because you’re unable to do anything”. His Smart Factor dropped a few notches.

Unfortunately this response is pretty typical. People see the chair not the person. Once people get to know me they realize that I’m not the chair and I am not the disease. Yes, I am a woman. Yes, I have a disability. No, I am not a disabled woman. Cars are disabled, toasters are disabled. I have a disability. I also have red hair and an attitude to match. You see it all comes down to perception.

Almost instantly I had judged that man to be educated because he spoke well. Actually he is educated and attractive and I’ll say nothing more. People who live with the accoutrements of a disease run into this daily. Yes I may need help getting something off-the-shelf but don’t assume I’m infirm because I just asked you for help. This is why I have become a talker. The more I speak, the more people come to understand that I’m a woman first.

Is there an answer to this conundrum? Yes. Time. Attitudes will change but it takes time. It will also take people willing to support those changes. You cannot legislate behaviour but you can put the focus on the issue. I’m in a wheelchair, that’s really hard to miss, but I still function quite well in society. I don’t want the authorities to force people to do what is right, I want them to do it of their own accord and that takes time. It also takes people like me helping others to see, not beating them into submission. That is rather frowned upon.

 

I am a Nester

 

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What you ask, is a Nester? Well, in the parlance of a baby boomer, I like to stay put. In my 20s and 30s I enjoyed travel. I’ve been whale watching off the east coast of Canada and I took a cruise to Alaska from the western coast of my country. I have flown overseas to England and Northern Ireland. I’ve been south of the Canadian border into the United States. I loved every minute of it. Or at least I have fond memories of it all.

I have lived at my present address for more than 20 years. I intend to live here for another 20, give or take. I’m now in my 50s and the thought of getting on a plane leaves me cold. I used to love the preparations for a trip. When I went on a weeklong canoe trip into the wilds of the Canadian North I knew I had to carry all my gear so I packed accordingly. I never for a moment skimped on my comfort but I was judicial with my choices. It was the same when I flew overseas. Hours on a plane do not have to be horrid even in coach! Of course my flying was all done pre-9/11. I’m pretty sure the spritz bottle of water I used to hydrate on a long flight is no longer allowed. Too bad, it was really refreshing.

I still fantasize about a trip to New Zealand or some unexplored island in the middle of the ocean. But the reality is that I would rather do it vicariously. I like my home. I like staying put. I am lazy. Yes I’m putting that in print, I am lazy and I like my creature comforts. I like my tea. I like my pillow. I like my bathroom.

I love travel shows on TV. I love reading about other people’s experiences. I once went to New Zealand via the Internet. I planned it right down to the correct flight numbers and hotel rooms. I even got pictures through Google Earth of the different activities I “experienced”. I checked with the weather network in New Zealand. I wrote it as a diary in real-time. It was a blast. An armchair vacation.

Actual traveling now would require a whole new set of variables. There is the wheelchair, an attendant and lots of other non-comfortable items that go with my disease. Yech! But in my mind I am able-bodied and eager for an adventure. Now that is the way to travel! I really should be planning my next armchair vacation . . . the Azores perhaps?