I sometimes get emails after I write a post about my life prior to acquiring quadriplegia asking what it's doing on my blog. "It's got nothing to do with disability," the person says. "Not sure why you put it up there."
Asking me to deny the years of my life prior to acquiring my disability, however, seems to me to be just as silly as those who expect me never to refer to living with a disability in conversations. Those who do this really don't understand that my life is woven with experiences from all the years I've lived. It's not an either or to me.
I write about my experience of living with quadriplegia, how it's taught me perseverance and resourcefulness, about my strengths and weaknesses, about forgiveness, trust and gratitude, how it's made me laugh and cry and deepened my faith in myself, others and God.
But the experiences from my life prior to acquiring my disability are just as rich and varied and full of spiritual meaning in the context of my whole life. It would be ridiculous to deny those experiences.
Whenever I hear the phrase "an acquired disability", I think of "an acquired taste"- and I wonder if some of this is a language issue. Having an acquired disability is not the same as learning to like a type of cheese or even a state of being. People would laugh if you made that analogy to a nondisabled life. Living with a disability isn't a static state either. The rest of my life happens amidst all the "quad" jokes, cleaning cat hairs out of my wheelchair casters, learning to trust new aides, and figuring out a schedule that is both efficient and leaves me as much independence as possible. There is no doubt that in one sense, the "acquired taste" of living with quadriplegia becomes easier with time. There is a familiarity now to things that were at first novel and sometimes frightening. I no longer deal with the shock of realizing that some places are still not accessible and how that dynamic plays out in the rest of the world. But it isn't the same as learning to like a certain type of cheese and once and for all I am a lover of brie!
To my reader I say "It all has to do with living and doing that with a sense of humor and faith when humanly possible," whether I walk or roll. I may never acquire certain things, but I hope I never lose the perspective that we are all in this world together. I had friends with disabilities before I acquired mine and have friends without disabilities now. No matter how much I advocate for those in the disability community, I pray I never forget that many whom I count as my dearest friends are allies.
Pass the brie.