Monday, December 12, 2005

a label i can live with

I don't think I've been posting long enough for anyone to be able to tell that when it comes to being an amputee, I am primarily positive about it. Don't get me wrong, it's no joy ride. I do allow myself to have feelings of sadness or anger or depression (or whatever--and the list can be long) about being an amputee...but I allow all of my feelings to be present because I believe that being immersed in so called "negative feelings" is much healthier than squashing them down. But make no mistake: I don't live in those feelings. I just allow myself to visit them. Honoring them helps me move through them, and besides----they're excellent fodder for creating art, silly.

So anyhow, for the most part, you'll find me to be quite the optimist.
I don't let losing a leg be the End All Be All definition of me.
And my life is great.
So what is there to complain about? Right??

Today I'm going to complain about people labelling me.
Actually, to be more specific, people who insist on labelling my feelings.


Something drove me absolutley insane while I was in the hospital recovering from the car accident. People would visit and tell me what a "strong" person I was, or how "brave" or "courageous" I was, or (gag me, please) what an "inspiration" I was.

I hated it then.
And almost two years later, I still hate it now.

I am not strong. There are still days that I crumble underneath the weight of this experience. Sometimes I wake up and I just don't want to be a gimp anymore. I usually whine quite a bit, and sometimes I cry, and then I pick myself up by the bootstraps anyhow. If I can't pick myself up, I give myself a day or two to feel pitiful. But I personally do not see a connection between choosing to forge ahead and being strong. Often there isn't even a choice but to forge ahead. It's more about knowing that I have responsibilities and I dont have a choice but to take care of things that are dependent upon my effort. Please stop patting me on the head and telling me how strong I am. I'm just getting MyFK ready for school and feeding the dogs.

Also in this category of judgements is when someone tells me that if this happened to them, they'd probably just end it all. Great. Thanks for sharing.

I am not brave or courageous. I don't know why I see it this way, but I believe bravery is also a choice we make. Debate me if you care to, but I believe that we get faced with something and we choose to deal with it bravely. Or we don't. Separate from the issue of being faced with it.

I dont deal with this situation bravely. Not even close. Nor do I take this as a challenge (from you or from myself or from the the Powers Above) that I need to triumph over. I just deal with it. And usually I'm scared.

Many have told me that bravery is when you are scared, but you make the choice to face your fears and move forward anyhow, despite your fears. I'm sorry, but I don't have a choice. I have to do life this way. This is not like the bravery I needed when I quite my high paying job to go to culinary school so that I could start on the bottom rung again and slice tomatoes for a living. THAT was a choice, and I had to be brave to make that choice. Took me five years to get the balls to do it, by the way.

I am defintely not an inspiration. For starters, I dont want the responsibilty of inspiring anyone. I will never be a motivational speaker or be the head of an amputee support group. I might end up being the impetus for you having your own feelings within you that inspire you. Fine line between between being inspirational and being an inspiration, I guess...but let me illustrate:
It's like when you and your fat lazy ass are riding the escalator and you see me hopping up the stairs on one leg and crutches, and you somehow get insipred by that. But I was just getting up the stairs. Because I'm scared of the escalator. And what is inspirational about that. You tell me.


PEOPLE. What I'm doing is the same thing that most people do when facing a major crisis or loss. I'm dealing with it. I'm doing what anyone would do if we were dealing with an illness, a catastophe, or the death of a loved one, for example. There's nothing inspiring about it. It's just another part of being human. There is nothing different between me losing a leg and my girlfriends losing their breasts to cancer. It's just that tragically losing a leg is a bit more visible and shocking to you. But it's the same thing. This is just my version of what life deals all of us. This is the same type of difficult life lesson we all end up getting at some point or another if we live long enough.


Well, Saturday night I was at a party, and headed straight for me was a casual acquaintance from a monthly discussion group (NOT for amputees--ha). I hadn't seen him in awhile. He wanted to tell me that he thought about me often. He'd been reflecting about things that I had said during the group meetings, and he was starting down the road of wanting me to know that I'd made some huge impression on him.

It's usually right about this point in a conversation that I start holding my breath. It makes it so that my ears start ringing once you start in with the litany of crap about who I am and what it is I am feeling.

He said, "(blah blah blah.....and I'd like to say you are so courageous...." My ears weren't ringing enough yet and I just knew I was about to have to stomach being christened as brave again.
But then he said, "....but courageous...that word is such bullshit."

I think I actually exhaled an audible sigh of relief.

"What I think...... is that you are determined."

And so thank you Joshua, whom I barely know, for giving me a wonderful gift.
The next time someone tells me I am so strong or brave, I can tell them that I am not. I am just determined.
Because that is true.
And THAT is a label I can live with.


Claude Richard said...

Thanks for your nice cat !
And merry Christmas !

Keith said...

Great blog. You write candidly and with flair. And you look cute in a kitty hat.