For the past twelve-and-a-bit years I have been fighting to prove my worth to humanity. Sheesh! It’s been a long time!
I’ve been sitting for a long, long time. Your legs are tired of walking? Hey, my butt is tired of sitting. Wanna swap?
Since my accident, I have worked hard to restore my self-confidence and regain my sense of self-worth. I have learned to respect my body, trust my instincts, love myself and accept me for who I am. I have my own opinions, a sense of humour and know how to take care of myself. I think I can safely say that I have successfully managed to rebuild a new meaningful life in a different body. Surely all of this is sufficient to make me a woman of worth? Surely I am enough?
I have recently returned from visiting my Comrades legs. Mmm… I can now definitely confirm that he has the sexiest legs on the planet.
My heart is still running free. I know you want me to divulge all the luscious niceties. Soon. Promise.
All the flights were fine – with the usual challenges that go hand-in-hand with walking differently and needing assistance. I will share the brutal truths with you in another post. If you like?
On one particular flight, a soft-spoken flight attendant was staring standing-by as I was being made comfortable on the plane. As the other passengers began boarding, he leaned over, smiling sweetly, and told me to call him, by pushing the flight-attendant-come-quickly-button above my head, should I need anything. He corrected himself swiftly, and smoothly, as he realised that there was no-way-in-hell I was going to be able to do that. I have no doubt that he didn’t want me yelling for him down the aisle so he suggested, smartly, that I ask her – pointing at my care assistant.
I smiled back, keeping silent. Thanks. Now go away. How nice! But, dear Sir didn’t your mother teach you that it’s rude to point?
He clasped his hands together and looked me directly in the eye.
He: Just so you know, in case of an emergency or if something goes wrong on the flight, we are going to help the other passengers <long pause> first.
My jaw dropped.
He: Maybe you can ask her to help you – pointing (again) at my care assistant who was already scared shitless as this was her first time on a plane.
I clenched my jaw and bit my tongue. I faked a smile. Dear Sir, didn’t your employer teach you that it’s rude to refer to someone as her in their presence?
The other passengers, struggling to board, forced him to retreat. He gave me one last pitiful smile as he turned and disappeared up the narrow aisle. Thank God.
I immediately tried to reassure my care assistant that all would be well. Oh my God, I hope so.
As the plane started taxiing down the runway, I was overwhelmed by emotion. My dignity felt like it had been assaulted and stripped, once again. My wounded pride was struggling to process and make sense of what he just said to me. His words stung, sore. Ouch!
I wanted to laugh at his arrogance and total disregard for the essence of human life. I wanted to cry for my undeniably pathetic reality. I wanted to scream with frustration, anger and fear. Instead, I sat staring out of the tiny window, biting the inside of my lip, until it bled.
If there was ever a time in my life when I felt most like an oxygen thief, it was at that moment.
The usual announcements were barely audible above the noise of the engines. No. I’m not Deaf.
I winced. In case of an emergency, the oxygen masks from above your head will drop down in front of you. Please put on your own mask FIRST before attempting to help other passengers.
Yes. That makes sense. I get it!
I guess I will never have the privilege of helping somebody else – not in a physical way – and never in case of an emergency on a plane.
That is – and will remain – the story of my life. Every moment of every single day is spent waiting for somebody to help me – waiting for somebody to do even the most basic things that most humans take for granted like brushing teeth or hair, washing, dressing, feeding myself or scratching an itch. And yes, an oxygen mask too.
Suddenly I felt so aware – self-conscious, awkward, insecure – humiliated by my disability, again – ashamed of ME.
I wanted to hide. I wanted to get up, sprint out of that plane and go far, far away. Dear God, please don’t let anybody notice me.
I’ve been plagued by negative thoughts ever since – a daily struggle to stay positive and motivated.
I’ve been consumed by guilt. You’re supposed to be an Inspirational Speaker, Tracy. You are meant to inspire and encourage others, not wallow in your own misery.
I have been awake deep into the night – sometimes crying, but mostly questioning – trying to understand my purpose and most importantly, my worth.
Isn’t it amazing how a few simple words can have such a powerful, destructive energy? Yes. I know. I allowed it to break me down. Again.—
I have had to cope with a lot of negative, soul-destroying comments, ignorant judgments, prejudiced criticisms and discriminatory actions by many (so-called) able-bodied human beings in the past.
Fortunately, I have the maturity (and experience) to understand that it’s not really intentional – most people don’t go out of their way to purposefully hurt my feelings. Oh God, I hope not!
But, due to ignorance, lack of experience or awareness and (for a select few) plain stupidity, hurtful things are often said and done, which I am still learning to deal with so that I may (hopefully) preserve my own sanity.
I’m not sure why the flight attendant felt the need to tell me that I would be left for last if there was an emergency. Perhaps, it is his personal fear of imperfection or disability? Perhaps, he considered it to be his duty? Whatever his reason, it doesn’t matter.
I have learned a most valuable lesson. A person’s worth should have nothing to do with their physical state but rather have everything to do with their character. Surely we are all born worthy irrespective of our physical ability? A person’s worth is in being, not in having or doing.
Worthy is the ability to know that what I contribute to the world matters. If YOU are reading this blog post right now, then I am making a small, hopefully positive, contribution to this world in my own unique way. Therefore I matter!
Besides, if you are sitting next to me on the same plane and that plane is going down, we are both going down Baby! Believe me, you too, will be paralysed – with fear! And guess which one of us will be shitting in our pants? *Wink*
How do you measure your self-worth?