Friday, October 12, 2012

Shine On Beautiful Flower!

I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do. ~ Helen Keller

This quote from Helen Keller is an absolute true reflection of my attitude about living my life as independently as possible as long as I can do so. Every day I appreciate the fact that I can still care for myself. It wasn’t possible after I first sustained my spinal cord injury, and with lots of therapy I was fortunate enough to regain my independence. In the back of my mind, I know the reality of the very likely fact that as I get older, I will probably need additional help. December 13th will be the 29th anniversary of my injury, and I can already feel the difference within my body as I age.

An important part of my therapy has always been to do as much as possible for myself, even if it takes me a little longer to do something. Initially, this was quite awkward for my loved ones to understand. I remember getting mad at them for trying to help me when I was quite awkwardly relearning how to use my hands. Most people who see me today do not fully comprehend the fact that I had to relearn how to do everything; from scratching my nose, to sitting up, to rolling over, feeding myself, to writing, bathing, toileting to dressing, etc. The only way that I could possibly regain my independence was to learn how to do these things for myself.

If someone today grabs the back of my chair, I may instinctively elbow their hand, or worse. I may actually yell at them if they startle me. As mean as this may sound, to a person with a disability it is as insulting as that infamous, patronizing pat on the head. It is a violation of my being, and for a person living without a disability, it is the equivalent of someone touching them inappropriately. I always insist that young children ask me first before pushing on my chair. I demonstrate why they shouldn’t push on my chair (with permission) by gently pushing on them to demonstrate how intrusive this is, and by talking about how they don’t like being shoved by another person. I explain this to adults by telling them that pushing on my chair unexpectedly could actually be dangerous because of my sitting balance. Pushing on my chair on uneven terrain could cause me to fly out of my chair, literally. My attention and focus are on the terrain.

For most people, it is simply within human nature to want to help. I remember unloading my wheelchair from the backseat of my car one time quite awhile back, and my sister sitting there commenting that people must of thought that she was an awful person for not helping me. The fact is that she knew better and she is a great person. Loading and unloading my wheelchair was something that actually became easier for me to do than to have to explain how to disassemble or assemble it to another person. I eventually learned a little trick when I was by myself not to make eye contact with anyone passing by. If I did, they were more compelled to offer their assistance which inevitably would slow me down. There were always plenty of offers asking me if I needed help, but I would only acknowledge with a simple “no thank you”, and without looking up at them because they would become more insistent on helping if I did.

Generally, I know when I need help and I’m pretty good about asking for it. My advice for anyone not knowing what do, is to sit back a second and see if your help is actually needed. Instead of using “do you need help”, I would suggest saying something like “do you want a hand with that” because it actually depicts less dependency. I open doors for other people all of the time, especially if the door is within the proper code for pull resistance. If I stop and look back at you, chances are that I already know that the door ahead of me is very heavy and I would rather not smash my toes on it. As a female, I’m accustomed to having the door open at times anyway. I’m personally not offended by it, but don’t run me over to do it when you see that I’ve gotten it!

I’ve enjoyed learning to use my camera this summer. I don’t have a lot of flowers, but I have managed to find enough almost daily to photograph. Having fewer flowers allows me to look at each flower with more individual detail. Each flower is slightly different looking than the next one, each looking somewhat unique. I’ve also discovered, after very patiently waiting, that my mystery cosmos are indeed cosmos with several new buds waiting to burst open. There is a weed that looks similar, and I was beginning to think that I was unintentionally, of course, growing giant weeds in front of the house. My patience has paid off, and I will have more flowers to share on my Facebook page, Access to the Garden.

After contacting another editor this week regarding outdated terminology when referring to people with disabilities in what was actually a wonderfully written article on gardening from a wheelchair, I received a thank you from an editor with an amazing attitude.

“Thanks Brenda. I had a twin brother with a disability and he and I have been on the receiving end of language which was hurtful, although not by intention.

We need to learn and evolve in how we communicate. People like you are the leaders in teaching those of us without disabilities. I feel wiser, and more comfortable, in communicating with people who have disabilities thanks to you. I encourage you to continue helping all people in this regard.” ~ editor

Even though occasionally we must deal with the weeds, it’s the beauty of a flower that makes it all worth it! It is always a pleasure to run across a new bloom. For me to revisit those beautiful blooms in photographs in the colder months ahead will be fun while planning what we’ll be planting next year. More cosmos, more sunflowers, more zinnias just to name a few. It will also be a pleasure for me to read more articles written by this editor. As long as I can keep making a difference, I will and as long as I can keep gardening and taking pictures, I will do that too.

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