Thursday, January 24, 2013

Interdependence or the art of making things happen

Nothing happens until something moves.
Albert Einstein

As a quadriplegic, I rely on an interdependent lifestyle.  I help others, they help me. What can look from the outside like a one way relationship - often perceived that way due to society's assumptions - is really interdependence.

There's no disputing that physically speaking I rely on other peoples' help much more than they could ever rely on mine.  In order to make things move in my world, at least physically speaking, I need assistance, whether it's from technology or human beings.

It took years of frustration before I would or could admit that to myself or others. I fought off all kinds of assistance, trying to do things the way I "used to", denying the extent of my disability. I  told myself I didn't need this or that. I was dubbed a "para-wannabe" by my paraplegic friends, who would roll up to get me out of jams caused when I tried to do things with my arms or hands and couldn't quite pull it off. They understood, some having gone through a similar process.

It's called acceptance.  Acceptance that nothing was going to happen, nothing was going to move unless I had some physical help was a really tough thing.  I angrily told myself that I knew what the repercussions would be.  To me, the idea of dependence on humans was much harder than on technology. Technology is available 24/7. Human help requires scheduling and compromise and reciprocity.  That was very difficult for me because I prided myself on being independent -- as it turns out, to a fault. This is not uncommon in our society, which often preaches independence to an extent that ignores real human needs.

Actually I didn't understand what interdependence even was or looked like. As I began to meet and get to know more people with disabilities, I learned more about interdependence. Blind friends could tie my shoes. I could read to them. And the list went on and on - all of us have something to give and it doesn't have to be done in a one-up, one-down way or via a 'charity' model.

I  soon realized that interdepency was a better way to live actually, that it could be life enhancing, rather than restrictive.

So here's the thing - when an aide helps me cook and learns how to cook in the process, a skill she/he takes with him/her into life, that's interdependence.  When a friend who always checks on me when it snows suddenly needs something which I can provide - and there are many things I can - and I'm there for her, that's interdependence.

Living interdependently keeps life moving for all of us and is something  I wish I'd learned many years before acquiring my disability. It has enriched my life in ways I never imagined possible.


Amy Kelly said...

This is wonderful! Thank you. So sharing!

Ruth said...

thanks Amy :)