I wish I could take credit for the concept, but I can’t. A few weeks ago I was reading a blog post that had gone viral, and the sentiment settled close to my heart.
In January of 2016, Corinne Rogero wrote a post on her blog, Duly Noted, called “I Should Be Engaged.” As many people do, she was looking for a word to be her theme for the year, and nothing she came up with felt right. And then, she says she heard a whisper in her ear. “Engaged,” she thought. “I should be engaged.” You can read the original post here.
She went on to explain that she was perfectly happy being “as single as a slice of American cheese.” She didn’t mean she was looking for a fiancé. Instead, she thought she should be engaged in other ways.
I know exactly what she means. I want to be engaged as well.
At the risk of sounding a tad pitiful, disability can be intensely lonely at times. At least for me. I don’t drive. That means I don’t usually get out much. Even though I am capable of transferring in and out of almost any vehicle, and my wheelchair folds up to get put in the back, my caregivers usually can get more of my errands done if they go by themselves. Since the number of caregiver hours I am allotted each week are limited, most of the time that is what I have them do. For the sake of efficiency.
But what I am talking about is more than that. I don’t mean that I simply want to get out of my house. I have said for a long time that I believe it is one of my purposes in life to break down barriers between people with disabilities and those without disabilities. I want people to be comfortable, to focus on who I am as a woman before they focus on my wheelchair. I don’t want anyone to avoid interacting with me because they are afraid of saying or doing the wrong thing. I want to be part of conversations and be a part of activities going on around me. And I want that for other people with disabilities as well. Although society is not where I wish it was in terms of acceptance and inclusion, I see attitudes evolving in the right direction all the time.
But things could be better.
What is frustrating for me is that this aspect of my life won’t get any better unless I have access to more people in my life. But how do I go about meeting people when it is difficult for me to get out? I have spent a long time pondering the answer to that question.
One of the ways that can happen is for the city commissioners to approve moving to phase two of the East Ninth Project, and they can also allocate funding to finish the Lawrence Loop. If those two things happened, it is my understanding that I could have an accessible route all the way from my house into downtown, and I could get there using my power chair. I would be able to go to community events on my own. And that would be amazing.
It would solve part of the problem…
Do you want to know some of the things I wish for?
- A huge group of friends who would think nothing of calling me when they are out and about to see if they could come visit for ten or fifteen minutes.
- Several of those friends who would be willing to Skype with me on a regular basis. Phone calls would be great too. They don’t have to be long.
- Once a month or so commitments with people who would be willing to make cookies with me or teach me to make homemade sauerkraut. (I am starting a vegan diet soon, and I hear fermented foods can be extremely beneficial.) Grin!
- Consistent email or Facebook messenger communication with people I hold dear who happen to live out of town.
In all of those scenarios, I promise to be truly present once we make the connection. My cell phone will be silenced; my computer will be turned off; my thoughts will be completely on what is right in front of me. And I will listen with my heart as well as my head. No judgements or expectations. Given my circumstances in life, I spend a whole lot of time focusing on me. It is necessary. But I am ready to do something different.
Do I want a significant other? Sure, that would be nice.
Right now I am at a place in my life where I want to be engaged.
Whether I remain single for the rest of my life or not.