Complaint-free living begins at home. I told myself this as I struggled to overcome a physical obstacle this morning. No, I won’t describe it, because if I do, half of my friends will panic because they’ll fear that I am going to die out in the wilds of NORCAL alone. The other half will ascribe superior endurance to this old Missouri gal, and tell me that they’ve never suffered as much as they think I do. Both thoughts derail this blog into some arena of personal accolade which I kindly reject.
So, this morning:
As I pushed myself to overcome the immediate challenge, I gave audible voice to my anger. I’m not sure to whom I spoke. I addressed my comments to a divine deity, protesting the burden. I do not deserve this, I cried. Then I found myself blaspheming, though exactly whom or what force I cannot (or will not) acknowledge. Finally, I powered through the moment. I did not seek out the small bathroom mirror but if I had, I feel certain that my eyes would have held a victorious glint.
Years ago, I participated in a “Walk for Development”, a walk hosted by Young World Development, a youth affiliate of the American Freedom From Hunger Foundation. At fifteen, I had spent my entire young life squirming to cram my square peg essence into a round peg world. That morning, I stood amidst the hundreds of walkers, wearing my Walk t-shirt under my brother’s army jacket. I saw a St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter raise a camera, and pulled my jacket open so that the YWD emblem would show. Sure enough, he snapped the shot and I appeared, unnamed, as part of the composite story. I did not want to be identified. I just wanted to be one of the nameless participants in the effort to raise money for struggling people in the Missouri Bootheel and overseas, in developing nations devastated by famine, war, and disease. I got my wish. In that photo, I looked exactly like all of the other participants.
I’ve been trying all my life to fit into this world. I just want to blend into the fabric of humanity. My disability, my nature, my values, my convictions — these often stand between me and the rest of society. This morning, as I gave voice to my frustration, as I complained about how difficult physical effort always has been and always will be, I remembered how eagerly I set out in life so many years ago. I vividly recalled my fifteen-year-old self. I could not participate as a Walker that day, but I staffed the check-in table; handed out water, maps, and bandages; and otherwise assisted in the mechanics of the effort. I belonged there. I found acceptance. That’s all I have ever wanted.
My disability often prevents meaningful participation in valuable projects. It also creates a barrier between myself and others, people who look sideways at me, wondering if I’m “normal”. That is one area of complaint I have not been able to abandon. I keep trying. I really do. I march forward. I don’t ask anyone to walk with me. This journey might be for my steps alone.
It’s the fifteenth day of the forty-ninth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.