Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I Am What I Am

I know that I have written a great deal about the changes my life has taken since becoming disabled, but I still pause before typing the D word, and think - really? Me?

Yes, me. After reading about and interacting with other disabled people, I am slowly understanding that while my experience with disability unfolds itself in new and different ways each day for me, countless others have and are going through the same process. I am not unique. I am not special. My disability is not rare or exceptional. It just is what it is - a change in my abilities.

Like most people, I tend to compare myself to others as I move through various stages in my life. As a teenager, it was clothes and hair and boyfriends and....well, everyone knows what that stage is like. As a young mom, I gauged my success by comparing my parenting skills to other young families and the escapades of their kids vs my hooligans. Which is another very long discussion. In my professional life, even though my goals as a nurse centered on giving good care, I still wanted to know that I could be the go-to person with a valuable skill set, be it documentation or education or technical skills.

I didn't consider this need to compare as competitive, but rather just a way to measure my worth and value in my place of employment, in my home as a mother, and in my marriage as a wife.

Along comes a disability. After dealing with the physical and emotional changes and life settles into some kind of routine, I find myself yet again looking for that measuring tape. How do I compare to others with a disability? Am I doing this better, the same, or worse than others?

After six years, I have come to the understanding that I am a slow learner, but what I have finally realized is this:

There isn't a play group where you can watch other disabled people's social and developmental abilities. There isn't a spot in the mall where the disabled hang out and eat junk food and compare notes and crack jokes. There is no standardized test to evaluate your disability skills. You can't earn a certificate or degree in this.

You can't be the best at being disabled. You can't be the worst, either.

You just have to ............. be.

1 comment:

Jody said...

Oh Julia...here, here!...and so well shared and expressed, dear friend.