I finally stepped (or rather rolled) out of my comfort zone on Sunday. When I was at the the prosthetist's office last week one of my prosthetist, Eric, gave me a flyer about a picnic type of event at the lakefront hosted by an organizaton called, "Adaptive Adventures."
The flyer talked about having free food, drinks, music, and for me, more importantly, kayaking and riding a hand controlled bicycle. After my usual vacilating, should I or shouldn't I go, I decided to give it a try.
OMG I had a great time. I met several people, traded email addresses, and got some interesting viewpoints about life as an amputee. I am so happy I went.
First of all, the kayaking was a blast. I was in a two person kayak, I was seated in the front and an experienced kayaker was in the back. We were out on the water of Lake Michigan about 45 minutes, it was great. It was a wonderful experience, something I definitely want to do again.
After the kayaking I wanted to grab something to eat....too late ALL of the food was gone except for a small amount of pasta salad and some questionable chicken. Live and learn. I guess you have to get to the food part as soon as it is presented or you are out of luck. These people did not have disabled appetites.
One of the men I met at this event was named Jorge. He was well known to most of the people in attendence and is apparently an intregal part of promoting amputee and disabled persons participation in sporting events like softball and basketball. Jorge is very funny and very easy to talk to.
I expressed to Jorge I had misgivings about surrounding myself or immersing myself in the amputee and disabled person's culture. I said it may sound like I am a jerk or that I feel "above" other disabled persons but I didn't want to be defined by my limb loss.
Jorge explained to me that my feelings were not unusual, many people feel the same way. As he continued, he explained that not everyone wants to be surrounded by fellow amputees or disabled persons.
It sometimes comes down to whether you want to embrace your new lifestyle as an amputee/disabled person and really take advantage of all of the life experiences you can realize when you participate in the amputee/disabled person community. Some people are content with life as it is and others seek to broaden their experiences and not allow their disability to hender them from living life fully.
A lot of concerned people ( both able bodied and disabled) have worked very hard at establishing laws to protect and enhance the life of persons facing disability. Not so long ago there were many inaccessible places ( some still exist), including sidewalks and parking lots that were not designed for wheelchair users. It is funny before I became disabled myself really didn't give it much thought, as most people don't, now I am of course very aware as are those who's lives I have touched.
One of the realizations that was made manifest to me on Sunday was that I have faced my disability head on and most people have told me admirably and what I am attempting to do now is to embrace my disability. Part of that embrace is to get out more into the community, be seen, and participate in the special programs specifically geared toward persons like myself who have special needs.
Like everything in life, it is a matter of evolving into the best person you can possibly be, given your circumstances. I feel I have made as healthy an adjustment to my life as a bilateral above knee amputee, with respect to my mental and emotional outlook as possible and now it is time to address other issues.
Those issues include going out into the community more, taking advantage of the special programs instituted specifically for disabled persons and trying to be more confident about where life has placed me. I realize this is no small order, but at least I believe I am at the point where I am willing to give it more of a try than I have in the past.
It should go without saying that endeavoring to do more means learning easier and more efficient ways to get into and out of my car and letting go of making excuses as to why I can't do things.
This Adaptive Adventure's barbecue taught me that there are a lot of people like me who refuse to let their disability stand in the way of their living their lives to the fullest, regardless of how difficult getting to their desired destination might be.
It is a natural transformation that occurs, first you become disabled, then you face the disability, and if you choose, you can embrace your disability, and by doing so, help to create a more fulfilling and happier life.
I will keep you posted on upcoming events and I will do my best not to lose the momentum I have acquired in part, because of attending the Adaptive Adventure's lakefront event.