A Confused Kind of Gratitude

bio_dave_hingsburgerToday is Thanksgiving Monday, a day off, and I’m here in the United States where it’s Columbus day, a day off. I’ve been sitting here thinking about what to write today as I’ve been thinking about Thanksgiving and living a life of more intentional gratitude. But then, I keep getting struck about how hard this is for me, not because of something inherent in my personality, but because of my life with a disability. I’m often in situations where I am really confused about how to feel. And, more, when, through that confusion I feel something, I’m conflicted about whether or not what I’m feeling is the right feeling.

Let me give you an example. We drove a massive long 11 hour drive yesterday. This included two stops. Both were precipitated by having to pee and both were used as an opportunity to move around a bit. In both cases we stopped a grocery stores because we wanted to pick up some stuff because we are staying in a hotel with a small kitchen.

On our second stop, we came out of the store, which was surrounded by trees bursting into colour, and as it was raining, I waited underneath the awning for Joe to get to the car and get the door open for me. I watched him as he walked across the lot which was slick with rain and over which a number of leaves, bright yellow, had fallen. The lot looked lit from below with lights the colour of fall. I was enjoying just sitting there, quiet, watching everything. I amused myself by noting that I must be feeling sentimental or romantic or something because I was waxing poetic over a parking lot.

Into this lovely reverie came a voice. “You want me to push you to your car?” I look up into the face of a woman, smiling. “No, thanks, I’m good, I’m just waiting.?” She asked me if I was sure, she told me she was strong, which is code for ‘I know you are fat,’ and I told her that it was fine, I was waiting and when I needed to I could get to the car myself. I thanked her for her offer and watched her walk away.

The moment was gone.

All I wanted, I realized, was to simply enjoy those few moments alone without my disability being perceived as permission to interrupt my reverie. I just want to be able to sit and wait in places without being pulled into other people’s need to help people like me. Somehow I feel that I should be grateful, or thankful, that there are people who would help. And I am. I just want people how would be willing to help if help was indicated or asked for. I don’t need help when sitting quietly on my own. Other’s might I realize, but I don’t.

See. It’s confusing. It’s good that there are helpful people. It’s not good to be perceived as always needing help even in moments when you clearly don’t. I wasn’t the only one waiting in the rain but I was the only one who was asked if help was necessary. There was a man, struggling with too many bags who could have used a hand. No one approached him, so it’s not the state of needing help that causes people to rush in, it’s the state of having a disability that defines one as a being that needs help.

So. I was polite but I felt angry. Angry that the few moments I had of watching Joe get the car ready for me to get in, while looking at the beauty of my favourite season, and the warmth I felt at just being there, being alive and being together.

I pushed off and headed down to the car, easily gliding to a stop to where the door had been opened. I got up and hopped into the car. I took a breath, reminded myself it was Thanksgiving, and took a breath of fall air and once again felt grateful.

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