I’ve been plowing through books this summer. I’m calling it my Summer of Reading. Most of them I’ve gotten out of the library and the one I had been on the waiting list for and was most excited about getting came in last week: The Book of Joy. It talks all about the idea of happiness and joy with the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Christian minister and very important figure in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Two men from very different places with seemingly very different religious beliefs who are actually best friends and preach the most compelling message of love and acceptance I’ve ever read.
But this isn’t a book review as much as I’m loving this book. I just started the chapter on Perspective and it got me thinking about my own life. I was in another car accident over the weekend. My 3rd one and another one that was not my fault. It wasn’t like the one in 2014 where I ended up in the hospital thankfully but it was/still is very distressing. I’ve gotten more resilient over the years but I still have trouble when things like this happen. I feel like the world is punishing me. That I did something wrong to deserve having 2 totaled cars and one damaged one as a result of other’s careless driving. Cause what a ridiculous amount of accidents that is to happen to one person by my age! I drive very little too.
As I read about perspective in the book, I tried to think about the positive things I gained from the bad things that have happened to me, including the accidents. My 1st totaled car led me to buying my used, 2nd car. The car that ended up keeping me pretty safe when it was totaled in the 2nd accident. Because of the way it was built, the front took a lot of the impact instead of me. That accident made me an even more cautious driver too. I’m very alert and can almost predict what people are going to do, especially when it comes to them making careless moves. This 3rd one hasn’t been resolved yet so I’m apprehensive to analyze the potential positive implications in case it ends up being a 6-8 month battle with insurance like the last accident was. But I will say I’m likely getting a whole new bumper out of the deal! I’ve tried to have more compassion with this one. The lady who hit me made a dumb mistake. I’m no stranger to making dumb mistakes as a driver. We all get distracted or forget to look for that split second. We were both fortunate it wasn’t more serious. I am really freaked out about driving still. The compilation of all 3 accidents has started to weigh on me but I know that’ll pass.
This whole idea of perspective can very well be applied to my having a disability too. In fact, I think the whole way I’ve framed my perspective of my disability is why I struggle so much when challenges arise. I view my disability as a negative thing. Oftentimes, I view it as a lifelong punishment I’ve been made to endure. Of course I absolutely know this isn’t a productive or helpful way to feel about myself or my circumstances and it certainly doesn’t send a positive message to other people with disabilities. I know logically it isn’t true. Yes my disability creates more issues and difficulties in my life than if I didn’t have one, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s negative. And how could it be a punishment when I was born with it? I hadn’t even had the chance to do anything bad yet to merit being punished 🙂
To take it one step further, my perspective on life is informed by my perspective on my disability. I look at life as hard (which let’s be honest, it is…for everyone) because my disability can be hard. I look at life itself as a punishment sometimes because of my MD. The reality is, everything links back to my MD in some way. These 3 car accidents are no different. I’ve looked at them as the icing on the shit cake I was given from birth. One more bad thing to add to the mental tally of crap I’ve had to deal with. So I really think if I can reframe my perspective of my disability, I can reframe my perspective of a lot of aspects of my life. Maybe I won’t keep looking as every bad event as some kind of punishment or an addition to the already “bad” life circumstances I was given.
I’m not sure I’m ever going to be one of those people who say “I’m glad I was born with a disability” or “I wouldn’t change being disabled”. Maybe I should be as I’m sure that’s a much more productive way to think. It’s not always realistic though. What I will say is I know without my disability I would likely be a very different person. I wouldn’t be as empathetic. I don’t know if I would feel as compelled to stand up for other people, not just people with disabilities. I don’t think I would cherish every ounce of independence I have as much. I don’t know that I would be feminist. I’m not sure I would enjoy working as much as I do. Maybe I wouldn’t have bounced back from being unemployed twice like I did. Perhaps I wouldn’t be as sensitive (and yes, I consider my sensitivity to be a positive thing. Screw you gender norms and stereotypes).
It’s always easier to reflect back on the bad stuff and find the positive. When you’re still in it and dealing with the emotions from it, it’s a little harder. I know changing my perspective on my disability and what it means for my life isn’t going to be an overnight shift. In fact, it may take the rest of my life to little-by-little start chipping away at the way I’ve felt about it. But sometimes I think knowing that is half the battle.