How courage and confidence have become my priority for putting myself first.
The university I attended had a lot of inaccessibility. So much so that there was a group that started just to address it, I’m talking about basic ADA compliance. There’s a bathroom with only a single stall that when I go in, the wheelchair doesn’t even get all the way in and so the stall door won’t shut.
Once I had to go to the bathroom (a different one than mentioned above), and the larger stall was occupied. As an aside, I try not to get upset at people who use these stalls and don’t need to, because honestly, who would want to do business in the small tight stalls? Anyway, I really had to pee and ended up peeing my pants because of the stall being occupied. I even took the elevator to another floor and found the larger stall in use there as well. I took the next week to do my schooling from home to avoid this happening again.
When I came back to the university campus, my friend introduced me to a new way of thinking. It’s called “dude, who cares, do what you need to do.” In action, this translates to: when I have to pee, as long as I’m in the bathroom, I’m going to pee. I don’t need to go into a stall, I can just go next to a urinal, and if not that, then just face a wall or a corner. If I need to poop, I don’t need a big stall, I just need to get close enough to a toilet so I can transfer onto it.
Here’s the story, and not the only instance of this. I was at whole foods eating some food and waiting for a tow truck to pick up my brother’s car and we got hungry. As a human wont, I had to pee. On my way to the bathroom, the very kind security guard came running down the hall after me to give me a lot of help (more than I need, but I truly love people of this kind heart). He held open the door and was seemingly ready to do anything. He actually waited for me to finish so he could open the door for me on my way out and asked many times if I needed help with anything.
Here’s the thing, there were two stalls, one larger and one smaller, both occupied. Without hesitation, I go to the urinals to pee, wash my hands, and go back to finish eating. As soon as I get back to the table, I realize I need to poop. I usually can tell just like anyone else, but it’s hard to predict when I’ll have waited too long, and then I’ve reached the point of no return. This was a moment of no return, I had waited too long. I bolt back to the bathroom, hoping to avoid the security guard’s notice, and knowing that at this point, the best I can do is minimize the trouser attrition.
Naturally, the larger stall is taken, but I entirely do not care. I go into the smaller stall, the door doesn’t shut but I can get in. Facing the toilet, I 180 transferred while taking off my pants and released the Kraken. All the ruckus doubtless grabs the attention of the guy in the larger stall, who certainly feels poorly about himself (and I’m not without a shit tonne of resentment). I’m still on the toilet, (with my pants up at this point) when the guy gets out to wash his hands and I stare deep into his soul when he catches my glance in the mirror.
I finished up, washed my hands, went back to our table, finished my food, the tow truck came, we left to go to the broken down car, and I went home to shower.
The point is, I’m absolutely done letting anything get in my way when I need to do something, especially when the implications are trouser attrition. This requires a lot of confidence and courage, it’s harder to do at work where I’ll see these people day in and day out, but they won’t want to admit it happened any more than I’ll want it to happen. Ultimately, it’s a mindset and value change, it’s not easy to do, but necessary if you respect yourself.
I just finished reading Barack Obama’s new book, A Promised Land, which came out on the 17th of this month.
In this book, audiobook, I started to tear up when he talked about his grandmother passing away. (3/4 through Chapter 9).
Not a great thing while in the gym, but then he said something that stopped me.
He (his grandmother) put an innate understanding that I’ve had into words. One of those rare moments when a string of words becomes much more than that.
While at his grandmothers’ side during her last hours, he thought back to something she once told him, (and I’m paraphrasing) the thing about getting old is that you’re trapped in this contraption that falls apart – but it’s still you.
You’re stuck in this contraption that’s falling apart, but it’s still you – it always has been and will be.
My understanding of this came mostly from the likes of psycho-cybernetics and books similar. The understanding that who we are can be independent of who we look like we are, and both are a result of the conscious and unconscious decisions we make.
The insight here is that similar to getting old, having a physical disability is just you stuck inside this contraption that broke or doesn’t properly work – but it’s still you.
This could be true for any disability and not exclusive of only physical. I don’t have experience with much else, and so, I reserve myself.
When I tell people I’ve never been depressed from my injury, or when they see how much I did within just a year after my injury, I often get asked how I was able to do it. I’m not sure I can decode it entirely, but I do recognize that a majority of people don’t dust themselves off as quickly as I had. Having this type of wisdom – in words or feelings – the understanding that you haven’t changed can help a lot.
Immediate actionable items: Think about this. If you journal (I highly recommend you do), it’s a good practice to just open the flood gates and write out your thoughts. Write out your understanding of this and “think on paper” as I call it.
Summary: The insight gained from a recent read, that who you are can be independent of your body. Getting old or acquiring a physical disability, your body may be breaking, but you’re still you.
Overdeliver: A quote from Hunter S. Thompson “Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow, what a ride!’ ”
And right away, that makes sense even though that may not have been your first thought when reading the title.
Buttons to open doors are nice, ramps are helpful, technology that allow people like Stephen Hawking to change the world is really great.
But it all comes from people who care. Of course, there are people who don’t care, and why should they? There just isn’t a reason for everyone to care, but those that do care have a good reason. A good reason enough to dedicate their lives to making the world accessible to everyone for disabilities of the physical and mental kind.
This is something I hadn’t truly realized until lately. I was thinking about how it doesn’t matter where I go, as long as there are good people around or coming with me, then accessibility is the help I can get.
While applying for internships, places such as Microsoft come to mind and they’re phenomenal with accessibility, which is really nice. But I also think sometimes that, at least for me, it doesn’t matter as much as the culture and the people. If it’s an accessible culture, then they’ll carry me up the stairs, or as an engineering company, they would maybe create some jetpack thing.
When I go out on trails with my friend, I don’t feel like a burden (ever), but it’s impossible to feel a bit bad that it’s all about me. And not that I’m uncomfortable with having the spotlight, but I’m a host and when I go out to do something with my friends, I want to make sure we’re all having a memorable, danger zone experience. It’s hard to do that when everyone has to focus on me and helping my get around and then we all end up missing that serene feeling that comes with a slow walk through a beautiful trail.
For most people with disabilities (not me, so I could be wrong because I don’t have direct experience), there could be a feeling of not-belonging. An inferiority complex could arise, especially if the person is disabled throughout their developing years. That is why a community of accessible culture is more important than anything, with technology as a very close second.
There are doubtless some disabilities where a culture won’t completely suffice, such as ones that truly need help from technology and can’t be replaced by a human, but even then, it takes a team of dedicated engineers and wicked smart people who care to help create that technology.
It’s all about the people, it always has been.
Immediate actionable items: Are you a member of the accessible community? Someone who has a bias for action to help others? Probably.
Summary: the most accessible thing in the world is a caring community.
Overdeliver: Something I’ve decided to try and do instead of going somewhere and buying a memento is to go and create a moment. At a store, or traveling, or anywhere possible – try to create a memorable time and leave a (good) mark on every part of the world you go to. But don’t try too hard, it’s unbecoming.
This is something on my mind and one of those rare occurrences where I will indict myself and say, “do as I say, not as I do.”
At the time of my writing this, there is a global pandemic. But I write for the future as well as the present, so viruses aside, here’s what I have to say this week.
Unconditionally, going outside – preferably in nature or with people around – is beneficial for your mental health.
Go outside. Go for a walk. Go downtown unless it’s closed for the virus.
Too often people aren’t going outside and unless they have a really good reason to do something, people will migrate towards the most convenient thing. It could be laying down, watch TV, social media, eat, or doing something not necessary or the best use of time.
Especially for those that are in a wheelchair or have a seeming obstacle to going outside, this is why you must do it.
When I was getting my car, I sent a message out to a group and asked for car advice. Someone in a wheelchair sent me a long message raving and praising minivans and telling me that I absolutely need to get one.
I am adamantly against minivans on the grounds that I don’t like them. I can’t be persuaded otherwise, however, the argument I was told by that person along with many others who don’t share my taste in vehicles was that it would be easy to get in and out, which does matter.
It wasn’t the minivan that people loved, but the value it can give to those in wheelchairs – reducing effort to go out.
It’s true – getting in and out of a van or some maddingly modified vehicle is about as easy as opening the front door and walking in.
If it’s such an endeavor to get in and out of your car, the likelihood of not going anywhere will increase. It’s how everyone is. Ask someone if they want to go somewhere but then tell them they need to do 50 pushups first and watch as they reason how staying home is better because they have dishes to wash anyway.
I’m giving you an order, even in the thickest snow, hardest rain, and repelling heat, go outside and remind yourself that you’re in the world.
Don’t be a hermit that stays inside all the time, too many people have told me stories of people in wheelchairs who become secluded and never leave.
Of course, there are some exceptions, such as myself with college where I do find myself inside much of the time studying, however, I’m not afraid to get out and have an adventure or fall over a few times. Even so, I should be going out for a walk by the water at least once every few days, and I’ll start doing so.
Immediate actionable items: Mark times to go outside on your calendar. The first thing in the morning is best because as the day progresses, more will come up and you’ll find an excuse to not go outside. Write down, “I will do ____ every X days.” as a contract to your mental and physical health.
Summary: If you’re in a wheelchair or have any obstacle of any type, that is no excuse to not go outside at least once a day and go for a walk, see some people, see some trees. It’s easy to stay inside, which is why going outside is so necessary.
Overdeliver: Marking things on your calendar make you more likely to commit to doing them. Have a friend go with you to make it more enjoyable or go alone and take time to think and be present in the world.
Having someone else makes both of you accountable for the other and it’ll become something you look forward to.
I don’t have this problem, but I’ve seen it. Here’s something I read everyday, followed by my logic for how I don’t have this issue.
If you live your life worrying what other people think about you, you’re as good as dead. I do whatever I want, whenever I want, within the confines of my own morals and goals. Some people really care what others think, that can sometimes be important, but not in this case.
You may or may not know, but I’m in college. I go out on campus and out to parties and do anything you’d expect from an average bloke. When I was at a party, people were telling me how cool it is for me to be there – I considered it no big deal. Most people in wheelchairs may shy away from a party for being in a wheelchair. I’ll be trying to ski this winter as well.
Some people in wheelchairs are so self-absorbed that they avoid doing things for the sake of people looking at them and having some thought about it. That’s no way to live.
Consider your last conversation, how did it go? How did you feel? Do you know how the other person felt? or do you remember more of what you said and what you were thinking during the conversation?
People, myself included, will listen for a little bit and then get distracted on what they think and are going to respond with.
It takes a considerable amount of time to gain meditative qualities of being present in the moment and being able to listen. So, if you said something silly, remember that you’re probably the only one who remembers – other people are too busy remembering the silly thing that they said!
The only perspective you truly experience is your own, for your entire life. So, without constant work, you’ll think about yourself a lot. It’s why being an good listener is hard, because people always focus on themselves rather than what that person is saying, or it’s their interpretation of what the person is saying and then thinking of a response.
If you’re in a wheelchair and do even a trivial amount day-to-day, people will think you’re awesome for it. I get praise for things wildly underrated as well as things that I would actually expect it for. But people always think it’s badass.
The truth is, there are many people in wheelchairs who have just given up on life. Although I accept my situation, I don’t actually accept it long term and I don’t accept the negatives. I’m using it as a launch pad into the next successful platform of my life. There are countless opportunities, especially today with skiing as an availability.
You wont ever know what people think, and you’re likely to be wrong if you guessed. Don’t guess and don’t care. Do what you want, and if you look a bit silly when you transfer into a kayak or need help getting into a helicopter, just own it – I did.
Throughout my life, I’ve seen many people trip right in front of me. Publicly losing balance is one of the most embarrassing lay events to happen, and I don’t even really remember witnessing the events, I remember my perspective and feeling bad both for the person and for internally laughing, but I don’t actually remember the person. I wouldn’t recognize them if they kissed me (got up close).
Overall, most people will admire you. Even if they don’t, it doesn’t hurt to imagine they do.
And one more time for the cheap seats,
Immediate actionable items: Stop caring what others think of you while doing things. Take a look at the “over deliver” section for my personal brainstorm of things to do TODAY.
Summary: people are thinking of themselves just as much as you are, and if you give it some conscious observation, you think about yourself a lot. Do whatever you want and holding back for the consideration of your ego is a waste of an amazing life.
Overdeliver: Practice doing silly things and not caring what others think or do daring things. Go ski, bike, do a weird transfer, have a friend carry you along the beach, have a grandparent push you around town. Whatever you do, just don’t mind other’s opinions.
If you’re in rehab, or out, or a living person, you have thoughts.
Focusing on people in rehab recovering from a spinal cord injury, this is the story of how I never had a bad day in rehab and how I never got depressed. Every day in rehab, I was happy, I had fun and I grew as a person and in my abilities.
There are a lot of things you can do to make sure you’re successful in rehab, we’ll eventually talk about all of them, but today, we’ll be covering some ways of thinking that can help us not only succeed but prosper.
When it comes to mentalities, sometimes it can help to have some guidance on how to think. You feel alone, I did at least. You don’t know what to think and you can only hope that you’re right, but what models do you have? In the business world, we can always use Richard Branson as a model but there isn’t any amazing mythical man to look to, not for stuff like this. This is personal and it’s different for everyone.
That being said, I’ll talk about 3 mentalities that I found to help me and others when going through rehab or a tough time.
You can take the bits that resonate and forget the rest. Because I always say that I’m honest, here’s a little personal story. When I watched the notebook for the first time, I cried. I also cried the second time I watched it. I also cry when I see an act of valor, I cry at almost every superhero movie. I cry when I read books, I mostly read biographies and most of them are about people in the past. I’m a cryer, but I never cried over my injury. Not once. Regardless of that, I’m usually quick to tears. I typically own up to any of my traits – the good and bad – but when it comes to crying, I always tried to hide it or suppress it. This was because I had no model. When it comes to human psychology, we always need some form of validation for our actions. Meaning that sometimes all it takes is to see that someone else is going through something similar and then we’ll feel good about following the path paved by our hearts. The crying validation came when I was reading the biography of Winston Churchill, he was notorious for crying, and now I don’t feel so repressive about crying.
I hope that these 3 mentalities will give you some guidance for overcoming any obstacle that comes your way.
1. The Push-Door Mentality
It begins with what I call the “push-door mentality”. It’s about acceptance. Subconsciously, I immediately accepted what happened when I got injured and moved past it, that’s how I was able to do everything I did. Some people don’t accept their injury for years, and those years get drowned in self-pity. I don’t know about you, but I never had time to feel sorry for myself, I only had time to achieve. I do actually feel sorry for myself sometimes, but not for more than 5 minutes before I catch myself.
You may think “why did this happen to me?!” I don’t have an answer, you might be religious, but whatever your beliefs are, there is a reason. It may not be the one that you’re looking for, but there is a definitive reason. You had your injury due to something happening (that’s how things happen). Nothing is completely predictable, but if your hindsight is decent, then you’ll be able to analyze the situation objectively.
For me, I know exactly why this happened, I was a risk-taker, I loved adrenaline and I wanted to always try something slightly or extremely dangerous. Usually, I take calculated risks, this one wasn’t as calculated. When I was skiing, I jumped off a ramp, going very fast, and lost control. Then, as I hit the ground, a few things happened to my vertebrae that shouldn’t, they hit my spinal cord and it got bruised. We could even go as far as talking about the physics of the force impacting my body and get really detailed about why it happened.
Whether or not a strictly analytical approach helps, what I’m saying is that unless you’re a historian, you don’t need to waste any of your precious time pondering in despair about why this happened to you. Trust that it’ll all work out, and it will.
I’ve always imagined it like this: you want to go through a door, this door is the entrance to heaven, to Atlantis, or anything majestic enough to give you a rush of endorphins. The door had a handle on it because it’s a door and that’s how most of them are. Nothing else is on the door, however. You pull on the door as hard as you can. You’re very strong and yet, the door is not giving way. You pull some more, you think about why you can’t open this door. You rationalize like anybody else that maybe it just isn’t for you, maybe the door is locked, you’re sure that the door should pull open. No doubt that the door is a pull. You curse every deity and then pout in frustration. The PULL door is not pulling open. Well, it’s actually a push door. Until you accept that the door is a push door, you won’t be able to get through. All you have to do is accept the fact that the door is a push. Once you get in, who cares about how the door opened?
That’s the best Cosmo fable I have about acceptance (for now). The point is that there is a life full of opportunity, happiness, success and love waiting for you.
You’ll be blind to this potential life if all you think about is the past and never accept what happened. Because all humans have to rationalize everything, you can tell yourself whatever you please, you can say that it had to be you. In the movie of our lives, we’re the main character and this might be poetic justice or just something to make the story interesting, but the last thing that makes a life interesting is not accepting and subsequently doing nothing and living in despair.
This is something that happened, that reality can’t be refuted, you can always think about what you wish you did different, but regret doesn’t mend a broken jar. You have control over how you react. Every hero has obstacles, in the first Iron Man, Tony Stark didn’t just accept that he was captured in a cave. He did accept that he has a cool energy circle in his chest and he used that injury to his advantage to become Iron Man. This is your life, you can sulk about what happened and question it, or you can accept it, and once you do, you become bigger than it and you can move on to greater things.
A quote by Churchill that I live by is “A man is about as big as the things that make him angry”
If you let little things bother you, you shrink down to that size. Sometimes I let little things bother me, but then I see this quote and remember that I’m only worthy of big problems. Once you accept your injury, you become bigger than it and once you do that, you can focus on your motion picture life, make it a story about success and overcoming obstacles, win a Grammy.
2. The Generous-Luck Mentality
Following the push-door mentality, we get to the greedy-guilt dilemma. Has anyone ever told you that you’re lucky it wasn’t worse? And they kind of make you feel bad for thinking you’d be lucky if it were just a little bit better. Do you want more and feel bad about it because some people are worse and wish they were like you? or that you should be happy with what you have and it’s bad to want more?
All this is utter bullshit. Sorry, that’s actually unfair to bull’s shit. Just writing that upset me. Never think like that.
People who tell you that you’re lucky to not be worse, and we’ve all been that person in some way, don’t know what else to say. They’re just trying to be helpful, but don’t believe it. No shit, it totally could’ve been worse, but if we’re playing the “you’re lucky, it could’ve been worse” game, then we may as well talk about how much luckier we could’ve been and look to people who ended up better than us. Comparison is the thief of joy. Don’t ever feel bad for wanting more. If no one ever wanted more, we’d all be satisfied with fire being the newest invention and stop there, long before the wheel and the written word. You need to want more. And don’t feel bad about it. Tell the world, run it up the flagpole and see who salutes. The only problem with wanting more is that you can get lost in those thoughts. Thinking too much about the “more” that you want, and don’t have, can put you in a slump.
Here’s the story. When I was in rehab I was always doing something crazy. One day, they brought in a mountain bike for me to try out and see if it peaked my interest. Naturally, I took it up some stairs. It is a mountain bike after all. There was a guy in rehab, really cool guy, he was also quadriplegic. While I was going up the stairs and had pretty much everyone stopping to watch, I was the first one to do this and my therapist was probably having heart palpitations, possibly because my hair looked great. My friend wasn’t able to turn around to watch me, but he really wanted to. We talked for a little bit on my last day as I was saying goodbye to everyone and he was telling me how much I inspired him to push harder each day and that he would never give up. I was happy to hear that, he also told me that he really can’t wait to gain more control so that he can be more independent. Of course, I encourage this, I want to inspire people so that they are motivated to strive for more, however, I wanted to make sure that while he was going down the road to recovery, he stopped for gas and took the time to observe the beautiful scenery called life. I told him that even if he doesn’t get much control back, he could still go into politics, all they do is talk, really.
The point being that although we do need to focus on the future and always strive for more, if you only plan for what your life will be like in 10 years, you’ll miss each day. That man had control over his most important asset, his mind. He could still hear, see, talk and think (and smell). He could become a writer, or even a programmer with today’s technology. Don’t overlook today’s possibilities in lieu of the future.
It is okay to want more, but don’t become so focused on it that you forget about today and never feel bad for wanting more. Always want more and never feel bad about it, but you won’t get anywhere unless you work with today, master the day and then let it build the foundations for the future you want. It’s becoming trite at this point, but I want to emphasize that you should NOT feel guilty for wanting more. You don’t have to believe you were lucky it wasn’t worse, because it also could’ve been better. Be greedy with your ambitions, just don’t get so caught up in them that you miss the moment
3. The Steamroller Mentality
Once you accept and stop feeling bad about wanting more, there is another mentality that we can address. It’s called the “steamroller mentality” it’s about accepting a challenge and taking the next step or sometimes skipping steps.
When you’re in rehab, every day is a chance to improve and get closer to independence. The mentality I had was to make extreme progress like never before. In the rehab world, I was told about a term that I would have my sights locked in on for the next 4 weeks. Mod-i. Modified independence, which is fancy talk for being able to live on your own. On my second day in rehab, I had my first physical therapy session. One of the first things I said was that I was going to reach mod-i in three days. “I’m a steamroller baby” – Elvis.
I was absolutely determined, I knew what I was after and I didn’t waste any time. I requested for more hours of therapy each day and I woke up ready to have a great day. Not only was I getting stronger, I was gaining my independence, overcoming new challenges and I was surrounded by amazing people who all supported me and helped me achieve more. I would banter with everyone, post about my day on instagram and get even more support from there. Also, everyone was attractive and who doesn’t enjoy being around beautiful minds and faces all day?
I digress, sometimes often, back to the story. When I had my first therapy session, the first thing that I had to learn was transferring. The therapist had this really long cutting board, which they call a transfer board but I’m not convinced, this cutting board was supposed to be used as a little mediary for getting me from the bed to my chair. I asked “what would come after this?” “is this the end of the line or is there something else that I would do after I get good at using this cutting board?” The answer was that I would eventually move to transferring without a cutting board. I told the therapist that I didn’t want to use the cutting board. And that was the last time I saw it.
Here’s the logic (or whatever you deem it): I don’t want to waste time getting good at something redundant. I’d rather spend that time learning the crescendo, the advanced material.
This logic doesn’t apply to everything, but for everything I did, I questioned it, not in a condescending manner, but because I wanted to understand if it laid a necessary foundation for something else or if I could skip it. Even if I couldn’t skip it, I wanted to know what was next. I would always ask something like “assuming I master this today, what would we do tomorrow?”
This is one of those mentalities that keeps you from just taking things as they come. Taking control over what you’re doing, learning what it leads to and challenging yourself. There were times that I asked to try the coda, tried, failed, and had to revert to a lesser practice, but at least I tried and knew that I needed to build up to it. I’d rather be sure that I can’t do something the hard way.
And that’s it. Those three mentalities. The push-door, the greedy-guilt, and the steamroller mentality. They’ve helped me and they pave the road for an even more fortitudinous mind.
Here’s a cool picture:
Immediate action items: Write down how you could implement these mentalities into your life and begin to act with these mentalities as soon as you identified where they fit into your beautiful life.
Summary: The three mentalities that helped me overcome and prosper: acceptance, not feeling guilty for wanting more and always asking for more challenges.
Overdeliver: Another thing that helped me a lot was support from friends and family. My mom was with me the whole time and I had a visitor (friend/family) every weekend. I also listened to music all the time. If you find that you have too much time to think and you begin to get existential, try listening to podcasts, calling friends or taking up some art (poetry, drawing, painting, writing, reading).
The featured image: It was raining hard after the gym, my friend went and pulled up my car for me and once I got in it, without me asking, he grabbed my chair and took it apart for me, getting soaked in the process.
The short answer is yesno. There is an argument for asking and not asking.
There is a viable reason you shouldn’t ask for help and there are a few fallacies for not asking. There is also a very good reason you should be asking for help.
Real quick, we’ll cover the reasons that are untrue so we can forget about those and make room for the rest.
The myths about not asking for help
If you’re worried about interrupting, so you don’t ask for help, then you’re being silly. I was having tea with a friend of mine at a cafe, we were just having a good talk about our lives and work when a loud tapping noise came from the glass door. I finally knew what it was like for animals when a little kid, ignoring the rules, taps on the glass.
This interruption wasn’t from a little kid though, and I wasn’t annoyed, though our conversation was interrupted. There was an elderly woman at the door and she had to use a walker (to walk), so, she wasn’t able to pull the door open. So, my friend got up, she went to the door, opened it and had a little small talk with the woman and then we resumed.
If that elderly woman cared about interrupting, she wouldn’t be able to enjoy her medium roast, let alone anything beyond a door that doesn’t slide open automatically.
For the most part, we wrongly assume the reactions of our actions. I did NOT think, “that woman is rude and interrupted my awesome conversation, she shouldn’t have done that.” What I did think was, “that right there is a strong woman and I’m happy that she is able to set aside her worries about what others think so that she can get the help she needs.” The only other option would be for the woman to wait at the door until someone snapped out of their caffeine daze and asked her if she needs help getting in. Don’t wait for others to offer help, they’re always willing to help, and you’re more than a good enough reason to interrupt. Remember that.
Invalid reason two: worried about being a burden. There comes a point in every paraplegics life, hell, this applies to everyone, we go through the “nuisance barnacle” phase. A term that I just came up with while writing this. This is where we feel like our relationships are more parasitic than mutually symbiotic. We feel like a burden. We feel that we ask too much of people and are no more than a barnacle. A nuisance to be dealt with.
It’s a good thing babies aren’t philosophical because they’d be all over this one. But no one hates babies, they’re cute, even when they throw up on you.
There are times that we need a lot of help. We feel as though we could never repay that favor someone just did, or we just feel like we require too much help. It weighs on our conscious and we feel as though we’ve lost our last shred of independence. There are times that people will get annoyed with you. That, more likely than not, is a sign that they are perceiving you as needing too much and not trying.
Everyone is familiar with a variation of the quote that says people will help you if you help yourself. We’ll definitely be talking about that a lot.
If someone is getting annoyed with all the help you need, there are three main reasons for this. The first two, you have some control over and I give you the possible solutions for all three.
From their view, you seem to be asking and not trying yourself. I like to try to get up a set of stairs on my own before I ask for help. That way the person can see that I’m trying and putting in the effort instead of making them my beast of burden. If I fail, I will need help, though.
This could also happen if the help is controversial. Maybe they think that you’re more than capable of doing what you’re asking. Don’t be lazy. Don’t get used to having too much help, otherwise, you’ll start asking for help with things you don’t need help with and that will make you weaker. Think of what happens if you wear a neck brace longer than you need to. You take it off and have a floppy neck. Don’t have a floppy neck.
They might not have signed up for this. Maybe they just didn’t know how much the word “help” indicated when you asked if they could help you or when they asked if you needed help. The way I solve this is by letting them know what help entails when I ask. I’ll say what type of help I need and then ask if they mind doing it. If it’s small, like grabbing something off a shelf, then it’ll typically be catered to. If you ask a random person on the street to help you and they blindly follow you to 20 stairs, they probably didn’t expect such a strenuous task, on top of that, they might not be confident in their ability to help.
The one that’s out of your control is their attitude. If someone just got into a fight with their significant other, or maybe their baby threw-up on them for the fifth time that day, then you’re out of luck. It is possible that asking them for help will help them feel better because helping heals the soul. It is equally possible that some people are rude, maybe not on purpose and sometimes entirely on purpose. Maybe someone in a wheelchair had wronged them and now their perception of the entire community is corrupt.
This is all to say: there are good reasons to not ask for help. The two reasons I explained above, being a burden and interrupting, are not good reasons to avoid asking for help.
What is the reason you should not ask for help?
The only good reason you should not ask for help is something I hinted at above. The floppy neck.
You will get used to asking for help, I sure have, but luckily I catch myself or I’m in good company and they know to say no.
Again, this is where the MVP tough love comes in and makes the winning shot. If you surround yourself with people who really love you and want to see you grow, people who know what you can and can’t do (and want to see you increase your “can do” list), then you’ll be on your way to Mach 1.
As I said, you will probably get to a point where you ask for help too much.
There is something I still do, which isn’t totally bad. Whenever I’m in a store and I don’t know where the item is that I need, I’ll ask someone where it is without even looking and it’ll often be within sight. I could claim that I’m not wearing my glasses, but that’s a cheap excuse. Personally, I would rather ask right away and get the answer than waste time looking.
The problem here is that you don’t learn much when the answer is handed to you. You learn much more when you discover something yourself. How will you find out how you can best go up a set of stairs if you’ve never really tried on your own? You need to avoid asking for help when it comes to certain things, what those things are is up to you and your good judgment, which I trust you have since you’re here.
Of course, there is a threshold for what I’m saying, there is a point where you can be stiff-necked. The polar opposite of floppy neck.
With floppy neck, you lose your strength. With stiff neck, you lose your flexibility, that is to say, being stubborn is only good to a certain point.
People around you WILL get annoyed if you insist on doing something independently for too long. In the same way that I reached floppy neck, I’ve also been stiff-necked, so I know what it looks like – ugly.
The point for not asking is so that you learn how you can do more and get the experience needed for more independence. I don’t ask for help before I try something myself. Even in a store, I’ll sometimes grab a box of pasta to help me reach something on the top shelf before I ask for help.
I’ve always been one to try before asking for help, that way, I’m knowledgeable about what can be done, I can tell the person what I did and maybe they can suggest a different way, or at the least avoid repeating what I did. Especially for being in a wheelchair, if you don’t try something yourself, you won’t be able to tell the helper which ways work best. Meaning, you won’t know what you need help with and where you struggle.
If you’re going up a set of stairs for the very first time and you ask for help right away, you’re assuming that the helper knows how to help someone in a wheelchair get up stairs (and that the person they helped before was very similar to your abilities). This is a terrible situation to put the helper in, you just made them responsible for your inevitable failure to ascend stairs (if you’re in rehab, it’s a bit different). You need to try it yourself, then, you’ll know what parts you start to really struggle at and where the helper can best apply themselves. The goal over time is to need less and less help. If the helper is someone you’re familiar with, you can experiment with them and ask them to help a little (or a lot) less each time and if you still fail, they can adjust accordingly and go back to the full heap of help.
What is the reason you should ask for help?
We covered it a little bit, but now I’m going to expand on it. If you’ve watched TV at any point in your life (I haven’t watched TV in years, but I still know this), you’ll be familiar with a scene that unfolds like this:
Dude A is trying to do a comical task that is way above his skill level, Dude B can definitely do it and insists on helping because he recognizes that Dude A will fail.
Dude A has too much confidence and wants to do it himself, Dude B relents.
Dude A tries and fails. Dude B tries to come back in before the situation gets worse.
Dude A still wants to do it himself and pushes Dude B away.
Dude A continues, and in the final act, he ends up hurting himself and those around him. FIN
Dude, that’s not cool.
Dude A gives it a shot, he really tries to do it himself and wants to accomplish this task all on his own. I can respect that, but once Dude A fails, he needs to recognize that he is going to hurt himself, hurt those around him, or at the very least, annoy and inconvenience everyone (beyond the acceptable limits).
Remember how we mentioned the phrase, people help those who help themselves. I did NOT say, people try to help those who help themselves but their help is denied because the person helping them-self is focused on them-self and not getting the job done. Big difference dude.
I avoid saying that I have regrets. But before we’re done, I have a story about a regrettable time, but I don’t actually regret it because it taught me a valuable lesson about being too stubborn and not asking for help.
On Easter day, about 3 months after I left rehab, I had just gotten back from church and we were going in for a lovely Easter brunch. I was a lot different even a year ago, I was a lot more stubborn. I really wanted to master stairs, I had already gotten good with stairs in rehab and I continued to work on them thereafter, but I wasn’t able to do all stairs.
The house didn’t have a ground entrance, it had a wooden porch with steps that led up to it. I really wanted to get up there on my own. I wanted to be able to say, “Head inside and I’ll be there in a minute.” Just as casually as someone who might split off from a group to make a phone call to their family but catches up in a few minutes, I wanted everyone to head inside and not even think twice about my ability to “catch up” in a few minutes.
I tried doggedly because after all, tenacity runs in the MTU blood. My efforts were to no avail and I couldn’t even get past the second step. Everyone just wanted to go inside and eat and spend time together. I tried, I failed, I was nearly in tears. There is a time and place for not giving up, but this was not that. On my own time, sure, I can go back and try until my arms fall off. But when people are waiting on me to just let them help me, AFTER I already gave it my Easter best, that’s when it’s time to hang up the boots and just get my ass inside and enjoy the company.
This whole post is an important one for people in wheelchairs to have in their mindset toolbox, it also applies to anyone who tries anything. If you ever see someone who is a victim of the fallacies we covered, asking too much or not asking enough, kindly share this with them and make the world a little bit better.
Immediately actionable items: Do some introspection and see where some of this applies to your life. Then, take the next opportunity you have to try something new, make sure its something that you’re sure to fail at and then ask for help after you’ve tried.
Summary: Talking about when you should and shouldn’t ask for help. There are some misconceptions about why you shouldn’t ask, but there is also a feasible reason to not ask for help. There is also a very good reason you need to ask for help.
Overdeliver: Another reason that it’s good to ask for help is that people like to help. Think back on a time that you helped someone. You felt really good about it. When someone asks to help you, unless you really want to do it yourself, take them up on it and it’ll make your life a little easier and it’ll make them feel good. Don’t deny someone the feeling of goodness if you can give it to them.
Let’s make this quick. I should be studying right now but I became so enticed with the idea of sharing this that I couldn’t resist. I also used a very grainy picture and I’m not ashamed.
The list is simple. You have 2 sections. One for what you will do in a wheelchair and one for what you will do when you are out of a wheelchair.
PS, if you’re not in a wheelchair, this applies to any dichotomy in your life. Maybe you have a broke leg or something that has a before (right now) and after (in the future). It can also apply to being in quarantine.
Why do you need to make this list?
There are many psychological reasons to do this type of thinking. We’ll talk about the benefits of this list along with some explanation of what this list really is.
This list is ever-growing. I call it the Dual Dreams. But don’t let the word “dream” confuse you, these are actual goals that we will actually achieve. Convince yourself of that right now. Before you even know what this list really is, it’s important that you let the benefits of psychology take over and truly believe that this list is not some cozening list full of pretentious, drivel hopes that we retreat to in tough times so that we can take our minds to a mythy world. This is about real life, not mystical fiction.
You can also call it the “twain aims” list if you’re feeling fancy and the rhythm is within you.
Here are the two main benefits that I get from having this list, and there are probably a lot more.
I would even recommend printing this list and posting it up on your wall next to your bed or somewhere in sight.
The first benefit is that it will give you hope. When things seem down, maybe you’ll never walk again, take a good look at this list, visualize yourself doing these things and remind yourself that it is your goal and your mission to walk once more. Don’t allow this list to dispirit you, instead, have it imbue you with excitement for the future and remind you that you CAN and WILL do these things. Even if everyone is against you, you will prove them wrong!
The second benefit is that it makes you seriously consider and challenge what you can do NOW. Never get caught up in the pernicious feeling that life is over and you can’t do anything anymore. Maybe you won’t be able to achieve the “Things I’ll Do When I Walk” list right away, but that’s why we have the other section. You are forcing yourself to challenge what you can do while in a wheelchair.
This list excites me beyond exposition. It reminds us that we can still achieve a lot while we’re in a wheelchair and that life is pliable, we shape it with our actions and mind. If you perceive your life as over, everything will soon reflect your philosophy.
How do you actually construct this list? What does it look like?
I recommend making the list of things you’ll do when you walk, or gain some degree of ideal mobility back, first. Make this list ample. Be creative and think big. What else will you do? Think small?
After you make this list reflecting your wildest dreams, explicate and challenge each item, give serious thought to whether or not this is something that can only be done after you’ve recovered.
Sometimes, I’ll think of something new that I really want to do and write it down in the “recovered” section but then realize that I can totally do it this week if there weren’t issues with money or some learning curve. So, I take the ambition and move it to the other side.
[Aside] This list actually started off as just a list for what I’ll do after I walk until I realized how powerful it will be if I add the “while injured” section.
This is a real list, some of the things on this list will be humdrum, but they are nonetheless important to us. You may not think that playing volleyball is all that grandiose, but for me, it’s something I really enjoy. I’ve never shared or told anyone about this list and now I’m going to reveal it to the world. Remember that this is MY list, based on what I like and how I want to live my life, we will have big and small things, so long as they are important to us, and we intend to complete them as if it’s life’s dictum.
Here’s what MY list looks like. There are some things that we could belabor on whether or not they should be on the “Walk” side of the list, but we won’t.
Remember that the things on the list are for you! (I’m saying it a lot because it’s important)
For me, I know I could ski while still in a wheelchair, and I might. But when I say ski, I envision the type that isn’t in a wheelchair/adaptive skis, and that’s the type of skiing that I want to do. I also want to live in an RV and drive around. That one was in the “recover” section until I realized that what I envisioned could easily be done in a wheelchair and it wouldn’t impact the reason I’m doing it (explore, travel, learn and have fun). I could technically travel to Greece in a wheelchair, but I wouldn’t be able to do the things I want to do (lots of stairs in Greece). I think you get the point.
By the way, this list is in an iPhone-only app called “Bear”
Immediate action item: Make this list right now!
Summary: Create a list with two sections: Recovered and Injured, then write what you’ll do for each part of your life. This is a must have list for anyone in a wheelchair. If you’re not, then I still recommend making the list based on whatever dichotomy is present in your life. It’s helped me a lot!
Overdeliver: Even though I’ve kept this list private, until now, I have gotten involved in the communities for most of these topics and then I inform people of my ambitions (naturally, in conversation) and they are always wanting to help. Take flying for example. I went to EAA Oshkosh and now I know many pilots or retired pilots who want to help me and see me succeed. I’m very grateful for all of them and the only thing really holding me back is the money and the ability to prioritize the apposite time commitment to flying. Remember that everything you’re doing and not doing (within your physical limitations, but even that’s debatable) is a representation of how you prioritize.
PS: PS can be Post-Scriptum or Pre-Scriptum, language is malleable
This is my first “blog.” I wanted to at least have one or two for you when you got here.
I’m hoping to have at least one blog post per week. They may be short, like a little paragraph weekly challenge or long enough to split into two separate posts. I’m focusing on two things, equally ranked: give value, have fun. I enjoy giving value, so, having fun while doing it should be easy 😉
I’m extremely excited! Not only am I able to reach and help more people, but I’ll improve my writing skills, and I really enjoy writing.
Even though I don’t have much in terms of blog posts, all the pages on this site have a lot of new info on them, stuff I haven’t talked about on Instagram or YouTube. I think the Cosmo page has the most on it. I had fun writing that one.
As I’m writing this, I just finished recording about 20 minutes of video content for Instagram.
I’m in Australia and I did a campus tour & talk. All about my time hear up to this point. More or less rambled about my time here, and ranted and raved about the nature on the the campus. It’s probably a little cringey but I was just free flowing, having fun recording some videos.
I’m also putting this blog in every category that I’ve made so you ‘ll have an idea of what kind of topics we’ll cover together. More will be added over time.
For now, check out my Instagram and YouTube after you’ve gone through all the pages on this amazing website!
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