I had a not-so-shocking revelation recently. I informed myself that sometimes — not all the time — my life would be easier if I had arms.
I had stopped by Starbucks on the way back from lunch and picked up a pumpkin spice latte to get me through the cool, drizzly and blustery afternoon. I was so much craving the comfort of a warm drink that I didn’t calculate the effort of carrying said drink back to my office, some five to six blocks away.
Tasks like these aren’t abnormal for me on a daily basis and this one wasn’t too different. Except for the fact that, even with a sleeve around it, the cup began burning the side of my face where I grasped it. Halfway back I realized I was spilling coffee on my shoulder and jacket. And, nearly every person I passed seemed to glance at me strangely as I carried a cup of coffee on my shoulder. So, I simply announced to myself, as I walked up the hill, that having arms would be nice at times.
Exceptionally obvious to any outsider, it caught me a bit off guard. What struck me most:
1. It’s amazing that we, as human beings who can adapt so well, can get accustomed to a norm that’s not so normal. For me, after 35 years of living without arms, tasks like carrying a coffee on my shoulder have become fairly routine. Why all the weird looks from folks as they passed by? Because I was carrying a latte on my shoulder! Worth a second glance? Likely. So, telling myself that arms would be helpful in this endeavor — not to mention making me a bit more inconspicuous — wasn’t exactly a brilliant discovery. But, it caught me off guard and it felt a bit like I was complaining. Which leads me to my next point.
2. Stating a fact is not complaining. When your cheek is burning, you’ve soiled your jacket with milk and everyone seems to stare at you as you pass, sometimes you’ve just got to acknowledge the obvious — that this challenge, and life in general, would be a bit easier with the assistance of arms. There’s no pride lost in that. A fact is a fact. If you think I’m a whiner for it, then why don’t you follow me around for a day and I can show you what life is like without the benefit of arms? Most of us want folks like me to say everything is just dandy and that life is grand. We all know life isn’t grand at certain times and we’ve got to learn to be honest with ourselves and one another in those moments.
3. Finally, I think we all need to find moments of respite and rest. We, especially as Americans, excel at running at a rapid pace and ignoring the felt needs of our bodies and our minds. That’s what caught me most off guard: that my body and soul recognized the struggle and discomfort I was feeling and decided it was worth pausing to recognize. Now, I didn’t stop right there on the sidewalk, drop my coffee and enjoy a nice stroll back to the office. (I did say I was craving this coffee!) But, in being kind enough to myself to acknowledge the facts, I recognized that some daily tasks like transporting a coffee are more difficult for me than for others. Hopefully that translates into accepting help from others in the future or giving myself a break when I feel lazy for not wanting to deal with something around my disability. Our bodies and minds cry out every once in a while and we’d be wise to hear them when they plead with us.