About Abandonment

One of my favorite posts from another health advocate comes from Jessica. Although the post deals with illness almost all of it can apply to living with a disability as well, probably because there’s a misconception that disability is similar to being sick.

2016-11-25

Read Jessica’s full post.

I’m participating in WEGO Health’s Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge. If you want to find out more about Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge visit their blog, Facebook, Twitter. You can find more posts by searching #HAWMC.

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Friendship Without Limits

As much as I talk about myself and my life; it gets a little boring, at least for me. As a general rule I prefer to speak for myself, but I’m willing to make exceptions from time to time.

So here’s another exception to the rule.

Rosa and I were in the same kindergarten class and have been best friends since high school, history class to be exact.

Here’s her version of what it’s like to have me as a friend. ____________________________________________________________

I can’t honestly say I remember the first day we met. As with many friendships, over the years the time we spend together starts to blend and blur. What I do know is that it was September, I had just turned 5 years old, was in kindergarten, and surrounded by a bunch of new kids I wasn’t familiar with yet. What I didn’t know, is that one little girl named Sarah would become my best friend and we would have a friendship that would last into adulthood.

From what I was told, I didn’t speak a lot of English when I was 5 years old. My primary language was Spanish but I could understand English fairly well. Even though I didn’t speak much English at the time, one thing was clear, I liked playing and sharing stuff with Sarah and we became friends. We were just little girls in kindergarten doing what we were supposed to, like learning the alphabet, colors, and enjoying each other’s company. Later in elementary school the unthinkable happened…Sarah went to another school. It was sad that I thought I lost my friend forever (at least forever in a child’s mind), but again what I didn’t know was that we would coincidentally attend the same high school and start our reconnection by staring at each other in a one of our classes.

That morning during our first week of classes Freshman year I do remember clearly. I could see Sarah from across the room but I wasn’t 100% certain if that was my childhood friend or not. She was sneaking a peek at me too when she thought I wasn’t looking and we were probably half listening to what was happening in class. I kept asking myself if that was really Sarah or if it was someone who had a striking resemblance to her. When it was time to head to the next class, we awkwardly looked at each other but knew we had to break the silly stares and see if we were both right about our assumptions. When we confirmed who we were, we started talking excitedly with goofy smiles on our faces. We chatted about the years we were apart, what middle school was like, our summers, family, anything we could think of. And for the rest of high school, if we didn’t have a class together, we would meet in the cafe or the library during breaks when we were free, to talk about our teenaged lives.  Sarah also got me interested in Theater, so I joined Drama club so we could talk about the scripts, rehearse our lines, and of course, hang out after school and have even more reason to talk on the phone in the evening (and have a good excuse to give to our parents as to why we were tying up the landline for 2 hours!).

We hoped to go to the same college, but sadly that wasn’t meant to be. But we certainly compared our college experiences at our respective schools our first semester, shared crazy stories, complained about some of our lengthy homework assignments, and of course counted down the semesters end and rejoiced after finals week to talk about what we would do over summer breaks. My friendship with Sarah has never been different or unusual in my eyes. We talk about stuff we’re interested in, like to go to the mall and shop around, and in our adult years discuss where we want to see our future’s head to and dreams of how we’ll get there. It’s nothing out of the ordinary, Sarah has always been Sarah to me.

I think we really started to get into in-depth conversations about disabilities when we were in college. Of course Sarah and I had conversation about issues she had, how hard it was getting around, or surgeries, but I still didn’t look at her differently. I knew that if she wanted to go for something, she would try to do it like everyone else. Remembering our kindergarten years I can’t remember Sarah being that much different. We enjoyed similar things and we liked to play, I really didn’t remember her having an assistant aid her in the classroom in kindergarten until she mentioned it one day. I didn’t view Sarah as that much different from anyone else.

I remember one time when Sarah recalled a story of someone looking at her in her wheelchair and talking to her as if she was 12 years old. Her sneakers happened to be the same color of her wheelchair and the person thought that would be a good conversation starter. She promptly let them know through that discussion that she was in college, and Sarah let me know the expression of the person’s face when she realized Sarah was an intelligent young woman. The story gave me a good laugh, because the person had obviously underestimated Sarah’s wit. But it also brought up the topic of how people with physical disabilities often get misjudged because of their appearance. Of course Sarah has to put more thought in how she goes about things, especially if she needs to travel, but the point is that she will still get it done.

It’s been 20+ years since we first became friends and our friendship has grown considerably since then. One thing that hasn’t changed however, is that I still view Sarah as someone who can do whatever she puts her mind to. In some instances she has accomplished some things that I wished I had done like live in another state, volunteer for a year for an organization away from home, go to college out of state, write more creative short stories and start a blog just to name a few. Sarah has always been like a sister, motivating me or giving me a push when I needed it. Someone I can talk to when I felt frustrated, or want to share great news with. She’s my best friend, and no whatever what people see or assume about her physically, she has probably done more than some people our age have done.

~Rosa

*A similar version of this post was written on March 28, 2013

Friendship, Just A Perfect Blendship

“How do you make friends with someone when you have CP?”

I don’t have a laundry list of friends, and that’s O.K. with me. I’ll take quality over quantity any day, especially in regards to friendships.

There’s no magic formula for making friends when you have CP, at least not that I can tell. I have no idea how to respond to such a question. I guess I don’t take the time to think about it. Even so I thought it was a good topic for this month so I wanted to provide an answer past, “you just do,” but I gave it a little twist.

I asked my friend Taylor for his opinion, as someone who has a friend who has CP (Me). As far as friends go Taylor’s one of the best, one of my best. Our relationship is one of a kind, as you’ll probably see, how many people do you meet that know all the words to Its A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow & will sing it with you?

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I met Sarah within the first days of my freshman year. She sat behind me in one of the many orientation ice-breakers we attended as incoming students. Before it began, we struck up a conversation. Sarah was full of life, always ready with a smile and an understated chuckle. I learned she was a transfer student, and majoring in drama. We connected right from the start.

When the game ended, Sarah stood up and I saw that something seemed to be different about her legs. She seemed a little wobbly, and when I offered my help, she said politely but firmly “No Thank you.” That moment was defining: I was not to be Sarah’s assistant or helper. We were to be friends.

I felt privileged to be let into Sarah’s friendship circle. I was happy to get to know her dry sense of humor and biting sarcasm. When I walked into Campus Ministry, with Sarah, it was like floating on the red carpet with a celebrity: everyone knew her name, asked her about her life and classes, wanted her opinion on this or that, the list goes on and on.

Throughout college, we went on some crazy adventures, like going through some scary dark neighborhoods in DC on a hunt for a blockbuster (we made it…barely). At the beginning, people stared and wondered what was “wrong” with Sarah. She would trip and students would gawk.  Other than that, Sarah was “normal”.

Then again, what is “normal”? Certainly not anyone that majors in Drama or Musical Theatre. We all had a kooky sense of humor, wacko work ethic, and an insane amount of sleep deprivation. Sarah was no different. She quickly adapted to the college lifestyle. Taking on Stage management positions and working in the costume shop, her energy was limitless. No matter how her body was feeling, she always showed up ready to work and learn. Though this was the furthest from her intention, she encouraged everyone around her to “suck it up” and “get over themselves”.  (OK, so maybe she didn’t say those per se, but her attitude certainly did.)

People soon got used to Sarah’s CP and her way of life.

Sarah recently came to see me perform a tour. When she arrived, it was like we never left. We had the same banter back and forth over a couple of hot dogs in a diner. We exchanged travel stories and adventures. That’s the thing about Sarah: she has a social spark within her. She is comfortable talking to a brick wall. So it doesn’t matter how long it has been since we’ve chatted, we can always jump back together.

When asked “How do you make friends with someone who has CP?” the answer is simple: find out what you have in common with them. It’s easy to say “Oh, they’re not like me physically, so I can’t be friends with them.” But if you connect on a personal level, like Sarah and I did at the Drama school, then nothing else matters. After getting over the initial hesitation that first day of ice-breakers, I was comfortable seeing Sarah as friend because we were from the same area of the country, had similar interests, and could converse with ease. I am absolutely clueless when it comes to the physical, day-today struggles someone with CP goes through. I DO have a clue about how to make friends though. When I become friends with someone, it’s because I want to get to know them as a person.  And let me tell you, my time is precious; if I don’t find you worthy, I can’t be bothered. Just kidding…maybe.

Throughout her life, Sarah has fallen and promptly picked herself back up, both literally and figuratively. Whenever I see Sarah, I am reminded that she is simply herself. What you see is what you get. Her self-worth is not valued on what she accomplished at Physical Therapy; she wants more out of life. Her CP does not impair her zest for life; it fuels it even more.

*A similar version of this post was written on March 29, 2012