A Different Thanksgiving
I am one of those cheesy people that reflects on Thanksgiving. It is an old habit, but ever since I was an ill child with rheumatoid arthritis, I found it helpful to reflect on the good things in my life and to share my thanks for those people and experiences that have helped me through the year.
Recently I was reflecting on how even “bad” experiences have helped me. Or how one person’s terrible thing (such as having to use a wheelchair) is a wonderful thing for another person (for example, I love my wheelchair because it helps me get around, saves energy, and prevents great physical pain).
So this year I am having a different sort of Thanksgiving. I am writing about how perceived negatives have actually been positives in my life. For each of these negatives, I have gained much more than what people may expect. From turning negatives into positives I have gained strength, perspective, and so much more.
- Wheelchairs and other tools.
So many people look at wheelchair users or others who use mobility devices and other tools with pity in their eyes. Not me and no thanks! I absolutely love my wheelchair. It helps me to get around and there is nothing more satisfying than zooming down the sidewalk with the wind in my hair. Adaptive devices are not to be pitied, but are instead to be appreciated.
- Chronic pain.
Yes, I hate living with chronic pain. But I am also thankful for it. Chronic pain has made me a stronger person. I live a busy, fulfilled life, but do it while also managing chronic pain. It’s like that story about how Ginger Rogers did all the dance moves Fred Astaire did, but while moving backwards in high heels. I am not defeated by my chronic pain, but instead gain strength from enduring it. By taking strength from a powerful negative, I know there is little in life that I cannot overcome.
- Inability to blend in.
It’s a combination of my RA joint damage and deformity, plus the fact that I use a bright red motorized wheelchair. I just do not blend in and can’t remember the last time I had a low profile (likely when I was still a small child). Sure, this means I am noticed in ways I do not intend or prefer. It also means that nobody forgets me. I may stick out, but I also stand out proud! Instead of being afraid of my natural presence, I embrace it and want to use it to exemplify that my difference is not something shameful.
- Limited expectations.
The great thing about judgmental fools is that they take one look at my RA-infused body and wheelchair to determine that they can expect very little from me. And boy how they are mistaken! I am an opinionated fire cracker! I have thoughts and ideas and work very hard to get many things done. But due to their low expectations it is easy to blow them out of the water with all that I can accomplish. Their low bar has become an easy obstacle for me to jump over.
- Plentiful jerks.
Alas the world is full of jerks. People who run to crowd the elevator and not let me on. People who lean on my wheelchair like I am furniture. People who negate me because I have RA and live with disabilities, like that means I matter less. But all of this bad behavior has taught me that I matter even more. People living with chronic illness and disabilities are vital for bringing creative perspectives and different ideas to the world. I am needed to pave an easier road for others and to teach these lessons.
Do you have any perceived negatives that can be turned into positives? Please feel free to share.
Check-in: As we start a new year, how are you feeling?