I let my heart off the leash recently. It came back scuffed. That's not much of a story, it happens to people all the time. If you want all the gory details, they're on my personal blog
. I'll skip right to the punch line; my paralysis freaked him out and ended my first relationship in these 8 years before it even started.
I get it; I'm a difficult woman to love. I have a polarizing personality and a very public opinion on a number of issues.
There are about a billion reasons I can think of that make me a challenge; my overuse of hyperbole, my scatterbrained inability to be organized except in those parts of my life where I'm OCD, my intensity and inability to ever shut down on the issues that are important to me. Surely, somewhere in there someone can find one or maybe two of my foibles endearing.
In my mind, my aloneness was a matter of the still-palpable grief from the night my former fiancé and I were shattered by random gun fire. Until very recently, there was no room in my heart for another man after such a huge chunk had been ripped out. But hearts do, given time, mend.
I've always expected that one day, some man inside my circle would “click.” I've always thought that my spinal cord injury would mean that we would “go slow” with a new relationship. Someone uninitiated in the life of SCI would have a learning curve. If we started as friends first, as he learned his way into the foreignness that I now take for granted, we could get there. I've always considered my paralysis A
factor but I've always considered my general crankiness a far bigger obstacle.
But, the reactions of some in my circle have been a Rorschach test on attitudes toward PWD, especially when we're bold enough to be outwardly sexual. I've had friends ask “can you be… romantic
?” “Aren't you past those thoughts?” and my favorite “what can you give a man?” as though somehow my paralyzed legs are the end all and be all of my feminine charm.
Angela* came by to commiserate and drink my wine. “Hmmm, who do I know in a wheelchair? I know! You should meet Mike* he's in a wheelchair too!” Not “he's a big dog lover” or “he's a rabid hockey fan” or “he loves craft beer.” Just that he's a wheeler.
Mike and I, it turns out, have absolutely nothing in common. Not. One. Thing. He's a Tea Party guy who hates sports; he's allergic to pets and plans to move back east. But still, my friend insists, I should meet him and see how it goes. We have so much in common. Wheelchairs.
I have a friend who knew me before my injury. I taught Tom* how to plumb a toilet and install his dishwasher. He's a longtime friend and the guy I sometimes watch hockey and drink beer with. Right in the middle of the game he starts with “wouldn't you be better off with a wheeler dude?” “Dude, the Yotes are down. Now you want to start a “relationship discussion' with me?” It was our first and only such discussion. It also may have been our last game together.
To Tom's pointed question, “would I date a guy in a chair?” Absofrigginglutely. As long as he's a dog loving, beer drinking hockey fan who can put up a good political argument. But I don't know that guy.
When did this chair define me? It is now as much a part of me as my gender, or my handedness. But is it my definition?
“This is Jen, the wheelchair chick.” What does that tell you about me other than I prefer not
to have to use the stairs? Knowing that I adore big dogs, that I love the sea or the particular bend of my political leanings; that TELLS you something about me; not my chair.
I've been left to wonder, is it me or is it my chair? Am I destined to always be the wingman, the sister/friend, the mascot, the confidant and advisor? Maybe some part of me has always known that I'm no longer a suitable mate so I've embraced this role? Has my unrealized fear of rejection caused me to deflect interest to avoid the potential of failure?
I was cautious before this event; I'm even more so now. One day, if… no, when… no, if he shows up, I'll miss his signals if he's subtle. Because I've learned that much of who I now am must be overcome by a brave and generous saint. He'll have to overlook my paralysis; love me in spite of it. I don't know that I can ever accept that.
I've learned that more than my legs are paralyzed. I think maybe my heart is too.
*Real peeps, fake names.
© 2013 Jennifer Longdon |
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