Thursday, May 28, 2009

Weirdness in the prayer circle

I was in a prayer circle last week when it happened. The fellow standing next to me referred to my disability as a "weirdness in your arms" and asked whether "we are allowed to touch your arms like everybody else". I told him no, that I prefer he touch my shoulders.

Afterward, a few people told me, in a manner meant to enlighten me I suppose, that there is some resentment because I ask people to touch my shoulders instead of holding my hands, like "everyone else does". I've run into this attitude before.

It was like being back in high school for a moment, in the days where conformity ruled and making an individual decision led to being called on the carpet by a clique. I explained briefly that I ask people to touch my shoulders instead of holding hands to avoid injury due to the paralysis. I do this because of injuries I've received because people don't know how to handle paralyzed limbs. Although inadvertent, if someone lets go of my hand suddenly it can result in injury because my arm drops in a free fall. Nor can I feel when someone is squeezing too hard or pulls my arm in a direction that is causing pain and signaling a possible injury.

After numerous injuries over the years, I've learned that being self protective is necessary in a public setting where people come and go and don't understand what quadriplegia is. After all, people make assumptions and act out of a based "norm" of experiences. Although some seem to resent that I ask they touch my shoulders instead so that I avoid injury, most people can appreciate the fact that when I ask for things to be done differently, there's a reason.

Just as each and every person I encounter all day long has a response to my quadriplegia, they also have a response to the accommodations I need . I suppose it's inevitable that some will resent what they perceive as asking for special treatment and resort to using words like weird, even many years after high school.

I can live with that rather than risking more injuries. Praying for others really does lead to a lessening of resentments toward them, another thing I've learned because, as many of us know, everyone teaches us something if we are open to it.


Greg said...

It seems like a very reasonable request, especially since it's your body after all. I to prefer people to touch my shoulder where I can feel it... I wonder how the same people would feel if the roles were reversed?

Wheelie Catholic said...

Greg- That's a good question. Thanks.

betterolls said...

Just curious if any of the people in the prayer circle would come over if your arms were hurt to help take care of you. The reason I ask is that I once said that when people got mad at me for something like this. It helped them see that I have to protect my body and there are consequences when we get injured.

Sophia said...

This is appalling....Everyone has the right to say how and if others touch their bodies and it verges on spiritual abuse to harass someone about this in a prayer setting.

Wheelie Catholic said...

that's an interesting point too. Getting injured presents a lot of problems that may not be apparent to others.

::: nodding::: thanks.

FridaWrites said...

Okay, that is just strange and rude and controlling for people not to accept your limits, and I'm sorry for the pain that people's ignorance must cause.

There are few people I will shake hands with because the risk of causing me days of pain is great (I actually yelled once and doubled over--my bones are fragile). It almost seems intentional because I will warn people and they'll still squeeze way too hard, I guess not believing me. The people I know who get it, I will let take my hand--although many others might who I've just not allowed from fear.

People will also slam me on the back and shoulders too hard, and when I've yelped, they've said, that couldn't hurt, could it? and do it again to see! Others put a more gentle hand around my shoulders, and that's fine.

Wheelie Catholic said...

You describe really well what I've heard others talk about when you write:

I will warn people and they'll still squeeze way too hard, I guess not believing me. The people I know who get it, I will let take my hand--although many others might who I've just not allowed from fear

I have friends who have taken the time to understand the physical situation and of course they know how to interact in ways that don't cause pain or injury but , like you, I've learned to be selective.

Terri said...

Nice that your prayer group is giving you more and more opportunities to pray for people... ugh!

It is your body first of all, secondly, they are assigning too much meaning to 'hands.' Hand-holding is just a (physical) metaphor for spiritual unity--it IS not spiritual unity itself.

They need to get a grip--on your shoulders!!!

Wheelie Catholic said...


that last sentence made me LOL! I do think too much meaning gets assigned to doing things the "normal" way. It's so much more fun to be resourceful anyway. It could be humorous even at times. At least, it is to me :)