In a world where negativity too often rules, I decided to try and find some positive things about being disabled. You know, ‘look for the silver lining’ and all that.
Of course, I have to make clear that I am relating everything in this post to my own personal level of disability. There are a huge number of disabilities, both physical and mental and emotional. Some are visible and some are invisible. This is not a competition. Every disability is important to the person in it directly affects, and to those around them.
I can’t use my legs or my left hand. Yes, it really sucks, but that’s for another post, another day. This one is for finding some good things to say about my disability.
1. No shoveling snow.
I live on Long Island, in New York, where snowfall is an expected part of the winter season every year. If you want to see just how much we typically get, check out this chart:
So, the snow has to get shoveled. One would assume that with three kids it would not be a problem to find willing hands to shovel. If you have teenagers though, you probably know that required activities are rarely met with exuberant cooperation. And rousing them early enough to have time to shovel then warm up in the shower and get ready to catch a 7 AM bus to school is about as much fun as knocking over a hornets’ nest. But they cannot argue with the fact that I cannot do it myself. When the kids don’t shovel, I have to pay somebody to do it.
2. No taking out the trash (And its companion benefit, no putting the garbage pails away).
I read an article recently about a couple on Long Island who take out the garbage three times a year. Three. Times. A. Year. According to the article I read, the couple has aimed for a “zero waste” lifestyle. They avoid throwing anything into local landfills by reusing and repurposing items, and by buying products made of all-natural materials which are therefore biodegradable.
At my house we put out garbage three times a week. 3 times a week times 52 weeks a year equals 156 times, minus about 4 for holidays that fall on garbage pickup days and that equals 152 opportunities to be grateful that I do not have to put out the garbage pails myself. My disability spars me an equal number of times from dragging the gross garbage pails back to the side of the house. Before anybody tells me that garbage pails don’t have to be gross, I must point out that they inevitably get that way. I have our pails replaced just about every year, they are occasionally rinsed clean, and we always use trash bags, so trash doesn’t directly go into the pails. But they still get gross. Wherever you are, sanitation workers are woefully under appreciated.
If you’d like to read about empowering environmentalist couple I make reference to, you can check their story out here: https://www.newsday.com/long-island/zero-waste-lifestyle-1.19860468.
3. No cleaning your house or apartment.
This is a big one. In a house with three kids and three dogs (plus the Guinea pig and the fish of course), there is always a mess of some sort. Always. If I could possibly clean up after them, I would undoubtedly exhaust myself doing it. But since being disabled makes it impossible for me to physically handle that, instead I have to resort to getting other people to handle it. MS has made my muscle misbehave, but simultaneously it has really strengthened my ‘nagging’ muscles.
4. No doing dishes.
This would seem to fall under the benefit in number 3, but it is really its own special category. I have three kids and none of them want to do the dishes any more than they want to clean the house. So, we use a lot of paper goods even though I hate it. I had two different sets of regular dishes. I still have Christmas china and regular china for special occasions. Yet we mostly use paper plates because at least that results in there being fewer dishes to argue about.
I should mention that we have the luxury of a dishwasher. Unfortunately, it often gets loaded incorrectly so that things fill with water instead of rinsing clean. And then even if it’s done correctly nobody wants to be the one who has to unload it and put the dishes away.
5. No running around on endless errands.
It’s very common to hear people complain about having to go to the supermarket, the drug store, the dry cleaner, and myriad other errand destinations. Parents often gripe about having to be at the soccer field at daybreak, pick up from sports practices after school, drop teenagers at the mall, coordinate get together at friends’ houses … you get the picture. Being unable to drive eliminates all of that very effectively.
6. Mandatory attendance at (anything … just fill in the blank) is not required
No obligatory attendance at social events or other things I don’t want to go to. (Obviously this one is a double-edged sword because I also can’t attend social events or things that I do want to go to). But for the purpose of this particular post I’m going to look at it as a plus.
7. You know who your real friends are
Being the friend of a person with a disability can require some extra effort. I can’t meet at a restaurant for dinner, go to somebody’s house, grab a coffee at Dunkin’ for Starbucks. It isn’t easy for people to take time out of their day to visit me at my place. I totally get that. It leads to rather quick ejection from social circles because I can’t join the group wherever they’re going to get together.
When you have a disability, it can quickly become apparent who one’s truest friends really are, and sometimes it can be surprising who is really willing to make the time and who is not. It’s perfectly OK to have friends on all different levels of the friendship scale, but it’s a good thing to know who is there no matter what.
8. Being disabled shows you depths of your character that you otherwise probably never would have known you have.
Humility. Patience. Resourcefulness. Fortitude. Resilience. Increased empathy. Deeper Introspection. Greater focus on priorities. Philosophical thoughts.
All our lives are very busy. They are also filled with a lot of modern chaos and noise of all types, auditory noise that we hear and mental noise that can clutter our thoughts. A disability can filter that noise in different ways and shine clarity on unexpected parts of ourselves.
9. The best part about being disabled is that I have found that through it all, I am still Me.
Regardless of external abilities and appearances, I am still myself underneath it all and beyond it all. I still enjoy my roses and I can still enjoy my life. It’s not the same as it was, but it still matters.