An attitude of platitude…

gremlinThe muscle spasms in my legs have been more vicious as of late. The minor “twitching and jumping” of before has recently evolved. This once mild-mannered gremlin that started as a monster from a kid’s movie is all grown up. It has developed into a powerful beast that puts the villain of horror movies to shame. While I have been in the pool, these paroxysms have nearly taken me under water several times.

I have now changed my way of thinking in the water and I am more aware of my surroundings. It is imperative that I know where the pool walls are so that I can grab them in that moment of desperation. For that matter, the necessity is there to learn where everything is for that needed instant of self-rescue. The idea of self-reliance is still an essential desire of my goals. This story shows the way that my swim classmates handle my challenging situation. Even when they do not know what to do staying alert and ready with a helping hand upon my request is the way to go.

leg movementI got into the pool a few weeks ago at ten minutes before nine, and things felt ordinary. Little did I know, havoc and chaos would soon show their ugly heads while I was not looking. I began exercising my legs keeping them moving for about an hour. I was shifting them up, down, back, and forth as continual movement is the key. At nine-fifty I decided to swim to the lap lanes to complete a forty-minute session of laps. While I swam my laps, I felt several times my leg muscles stiffen as I towed my lower limbs behind me through the water.

I was swimming my laps while periodically I could feel my leg muscles clench and hold. As I dragged my lower half through the water, I felt them shake like a choking motorboat. Thankfully when the muscle relaxers that I take are fresh in my body, the spasms are less significant though these meds only last for two or three hours.

At ten-thirty I realized that it was time to end my lap swim and I went back to sitting on the bench in the shallow area. The community center has jets built into the pool walls that allow you to massage your sore muscles. These massage ports can help your lower or upper back depending on the one that you use. I sometimes try to use them on my shoulders, but it requires significant manipulation of my body. This complicated contortion is not impossible, but it is also not done with ease.

At a few minutes before eleven, my fellow students and I headed to class. That is when havoc and chaos my twin turbulent troubles blew in to liven up the party. I tend to move in the water backward because in that direction I am strongest. As I glided through the water, my legs emphatically and abruptly locked up forcefully floating them upward. This spasm thrust me onto my back and nearly pushed my head below water. At this point, I had no control as I tried to upright myself. A technique of sweeping my hands upward in the water forcing my head and chest out of the water was taught by my instructor one day. However, my legs were so stiff that even though I tried this skill several times, there was no success. Eventually, I was able to grab the wall and twist around and get myself in a vertical position.

This spasm was a mild case that did not occur during class. Thankfully my fellow students know how to deal with my obtrusive outbursts. Everyone seems to accept my problematic positioning in their way. Honestly, I could not tell you how everyone acted as I was focusing on not panicking and trying to keep my head above water literally. Several times the instructor has helped me get near the wall and upright when I have been in the middle of class. After a few minutes, my legs seemed to calm down allowing me to join the class once again.

eye rollOn the other hand: while I am in public some people get an annoyed look on their faces like my slowness disturbs them. Occasionally, they reluctantly hold doors open for me showing visual “tells” that they do not want to be there. Microexpressions and body language both let me know their true feelings. Some people are easier to read than The Cat in the Hat book.

slowSome people cannot be bothered to take those few extra seconds to be helpful. These individuals feel that if they show kindness just one time, they will be significantly inconvenienced. I continue to be flabbergasted by the inpatients of others. They do not realize that everyone is a mouse hair away from their personal life-altering situation.

Be kind to everyone because it could be you who is in a bad situation someday.

Load your quiver…

quiverA friend told me one time that life is war. It is a battle between good and evil a fight between right and wrong. If that is the case, then multiple sclerosis is a beefed-up war on Solu-Medrol AKA steroids. This situation means that you should not go into battle with just anyone by your side.

laughingYou should load your ranks with individuals who will help with no hesitation or haste. You want positive and understanding people to back you. You need cohorts who are unquestioningly positive and can turn a bad situation into a funny story. Your quiver should be laden with supporters who in the depths of sorrow can make you cry out loud from laughter.

friendsIf negative human impacts are money, multiple sclerosis is a very rich adversary. I know that this is a pessimistic way to look at life. Some might say that it is even an extremely cynical outlook on life. No matter if you agree with the theory that life is war or you think that it is “kittens and rainbows” one part is correct. You need good friends to help with the defective times and share in the excellent times.

In life you should not try to make it on your own as good friends make everything better.

A slow death…

aaaback in my dayWhen I was younger, I made fun of any of the elders in my life that would make statements of how life used to be. They might say something to the effect of “back in my day” or “when I was a kid.” However, now that I am more mature I tend to make those same comments frequently. So if you are an old person, you can laugh at this blog post, and if you are a young individual, you can roll your eyes as I did “back in my day.”

I was taught as a young boy the importance and value of a good handshake. “A man’s handshake is his word,” they said. I was taught to have a firm but not crushing grip while making direct eye contact. They told me “when shaking hands smile appropriately” reminding me that a pleasant expression comes across and means so much. The unwritten consensus seems to show that a proper handshake is at least one up and down movement of the clasped hands. Sadly, a person’s handshake does not have the same meaning of trust and honesty that it once had.

fistSince I have been in this wheelchair, I have seen the handshakes significance slip. I am sadly aware that its importance has been lost and the meaning has been debased and devalued. It has been reduced to only a fundamental greeting and in most cases dropped to a basic fist bump if not just a head nod. SIDE NOTE: I understand the necessity of the fist bump during cold and flu season I am not a monster.

fingertipWhen I meet someone for the first time, I reach out with an outstretched hand to signify this proper etiquette of a bygone era. Individuals who do not know me many times have given me the “fingertip” handshake. This practice annoyed me a little in the beginning because of my feelings towards “proper protocol procedures.” I soon realized that people who do not know me fear the unknown. These individuals do not know what it is that they do not know and in many cases, they fear a handshake with me and my wheeled brethren.

A friend recently introduced me to someone. I felt that it did not go as well as a first handshake does typically. She took my outstretched hand and rapidly did a half shake in the downward movement then let go. It felt as if it quickly turned into a cross between a half handshake and a “let go, man, I do not want to catch your cooties!” Did she honestly feel like that? I seriously doubt it, and that is why I said it felt that way.

handshake“Your word is your bond, and the handshake seals the deal,” they told me. Now it seems that your word and handshake no longer has trust, honesty, and faith to stand behind them. The phrase “my word is my bond” is now a punchline in a joke that brings comedy not conviction. I do not feel that this is limited to wheelchair users as this etiquette of yesteryear dies a slow death.

The only constant in life is change.

Visibly invisible…

I find it annoying when other people are with me in public. Let me explain so that you can see things from my point of view. It is not because I do not want to spend time with people because I absolutely do. My perfectly perplexing problem is that I quickly become invisible with others around. I have found that if I do not speak first, I get ignored like last year’s Christmas toys. Here are a few examples of stories so that you can understand my daunting dilemma. aaa invisable

My dad happened to be with me at the bank as I was trying to authenticate and then close a loan account. Right away it started with the banker ignoring me and talking directly to my dad. This attitude was after he explained that this was my account and he was merely transportation. I wanted to nip this in the bud before we got too far into the conversation. I quickly spoke up and said “why don’t you talk directly to ME about MY account? I live alone and handle my bills on my own like a big boy.” I tried to stay polite, but I had a slightly sardonic sound. I got a glance of surprise as well as a cross between a smile and a look of sympathy. However, I think that she finally got it.

aaa houseAt the inception of the house building process for my new home both my parents at different times drove me to the builder’s offices. I still had not said yes, and there were unanswered and unasked questions. Somehow the saleswoman had gotten my mom’s phone number and left a message with her voicemail. The sales rep was calling with some issues that were mine to answer. My mom did not return the call and simply made me aware of this perplexing problem.

I called the saleswoman back and recommended that she look at the application. I politely encouraged her to notice that neither of my parents had their names on the form. I made her aware that it was only my name on the paperwork stating that all questions should go to me. I explained that I would be living alone repeating that neither parent will be living with me. Then as respectfully as I could, I said: “again from now on please direct all queries to me.” I tried to hold it back, but sadly I had a slightly snide sound.

My dad had driven me around all morning, so I offered him lunch. We pulled into the Chipotle parking lot, and we went in and got in line. They were not extremely busy, so we did not have to wait long. I was buying so I went first. As I got to the cashier, she kept looking at my dad. I said that ours were together and handed her my debit card. She rang everything up and then started to give my debit card to my dad. I said loud enough that she was sure to hear “that is MY card that I just handed to you. You can hand it back to ME since I gave it to you.” My annoyance and frustration came out in an extremely embitter chipotle

I could stand on my soapbox and tell hundreds of stories like these, but I would start to sound like I was whining. The truth is that when in public the guy or gal in the wheelchair typically gets ignored. If I do not speak first, I tend to get talked “about” but not spoken “to.” Society is getting a little better at accepting the disabled in everyday life. Sadly, we still have a long way to go as individually people have a plethora of unnecessary soapbax

Treat everyone including the disabled with the same respect as the CEO.