Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Raising Cane

I am not a very gracious disabled person.

Lately people have been opening doors for me, trying to pick things up for me when I drop them (especially the cane, which falls over all the time in meetings), and moving out of my way as if I’m ten feet wide and may topple over at any minute.

I keep saying thank you for these niceties but in reality I am not expecting people to do things for me and so it’s currently more annoying than helpful. I sound so ungrateful, but give me a break; I’m new at being disabled. And I don’t really feel very disabled most of the time. Yesterday I bent down to pick up the dropped cane and almost bumped heads with the stranger who rushed to get it for me.

I don’t think of letting people help me; it doesn’t cross my mind. In order to not be perceived as a total bitch (Watch out! Bitch With A Cane coming through!) I have to stand there with a smile on my face while people fumble to hold the door for me, even though they are carrying packages and coffee and I could have done it faster and more easily myself and held it for them as well. But why fight with them about it?

This morning at the coffee shop a rather large gentleman ahead of me held the door for me as I tried to enter. In doing this, he blocked the entry (he was very very large). So I couldn’t get by at all … so I said “excuse me” instead of the “thank you” he was obviously expecting. He turned red with what looked like anger and said “I am trying to be polite.” I said “yes, but you are standing in my way! I can get the door myself and it’s easier for me to maneuver if you move.” He walked away, mumbling to himself; clearly he thought I was BWAC.

So it seems to me, when you are perceived as disabled, even if you are independent, and in particular when you are very busy and impatient and always in a hurry as I am, you have to suffer the indignity of people helping you, which actually slows you down more often than not. I suppose the good spin on it would be “it forces me to slow down and enjoy life” or “it makes other people feel good to help me.” But hey, it wastes my time, and if that comment doesn’t sound ungrateful I don’t know what does. BWAC.

Speaking of the cane … let’s dish on that for a bit, shall we?

I have found that even if I am dressed in a business suit, if I carry a cane the homeless people on the street don’t panhandle me as often. The guy across from my building who used to be relentless in asking for my spare change now just says “good morning” as I walk by. Perhaps he figures I have it worse than he does. Of course I don’t, but for some reason he thinks so.

Some people give me strange looks, or even looks of disgust. This is usually on weekends when I am dressed in jeans or sweats running errands. If I look a bit disheveled and walk with a cane, I wonder if people think I’m homeless myself, or a drug abuser? Could that really be possible?

People at work are either full of questions or totally silent, trying to look at the cane without letting me know. Sometimes they avoid eye contact altogether. People I know sometimes appear not to recognize me. Do I really look so different now that I have a walking aid?

Where do I put the cane during meetings? It falls over all the time and of course I’m trying to put it somewhere that nobody will trip on it. I haven’t found a good solution to this. Plus, how can I reconcile the fact that I’m using a cane and wearing (small) heels? I have to dress up for work; am I really going to wear sensible shoes just because I need a cane? Eventually maybe, but right now I can and will wear shoes that I like.

Using a cane is harder work than I thought. I actually feel like I’m getting a bit of a workout sometimes, and I arrive at meetings flushed if I have to walk far to get there. Yes, and I’m late more often than not – I can no longer make it from one building to the other and up the stairs in 3 minutes flat. I’ll need to start adding more realistic travel time into my daily schedule.

While right now I am very focused on my hips, I hope to get all my research done, second opinions done and surgery finalized, so that I can focus on living my life as more than a pair of joints. This blog makes it seem like all I do is focus on me and my singular problem. Right now that is the case, since I’m in “fix the problem” mode. I haven’t blogged, for example, about the historic presidential election, although I have lots to say on the subject. It’s not that I’m shallow (although my acetabula are, LOL, that’s some really dumb hip humor), it’s just that I can only focus on one major project at a time, and this is it right now. I truly hope to resume the rest of my life very soon.

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