Friday, May 10, 2013


I wonder how many choices we (I) make because of fear. Not fear of "something bad happening," but as Seth Godin puts it, trying to stay away from fear.

Some cautions are sensible. Can I get into Place X if I'm trying to do with a wheelchair? Does Event X assume that I'll be sitting unmoving in (some kind of) a chair for X amount of time, and does that X time-value exceed what my bladder can withstand, will I be able to bail out of the confines of said place in enough time to get to the bathroom before we're in the "puddle" stage? And oh yeah, does said place X have bathrooms accessible to me, especially me not only me-in-a-wheelchair, but in a hurry?

Friends don't help with "helpful" suggestions. "Oh, it'll be fine," they always say.

My immediate reaction is "You don't know that." My calmer push-back-at-my-friend reaction is "You don't know that it'll be no problem. I don't know that it'll be an insurmountable problem. We don't know. We have no way of knowing."

Even if I use the calm "push back" commentary, I usually get "But with a place like such-and-such, they've got to have those problems solved." And this is where things start to get ugly, because inevitably I want to, or actually go through with, saying this: "You haven't tried to deal with things that were labelled as 'handicap accessible' like I have. What they say is accessible and what is accessible are different. And they don't have to really 'handicap' it unless they cross some state-drawn line with remodeling or repairs, and if they haven't crossed that line... they haven't really 'handicapped' it. I've seen it done poorly too many times, too many ways, in too many places."

But at the end of the exchange, it ends the way it started. They say "It's going to be fine." I say, "It's going to be bad."

And the only way to be sure is to try it.

And that's where the fear comes in. Or, as Seth puts it, the fear of fear. My friends don't want me to miss out on something cool. I don't want to be stuck in a chair with a bladder that's about to cut loose and, as it were, nowhere to go. Besides the floor, courtesy of running down my leg. And my choice always seems to be, "Give up before we even try."

So, then... what am I to do? Well, it depends on mood, I guess... I went to a show in a Hollywood theater that was, like so much that's "old" in Hollywood, about as handicap-unfriendly as it gets, but I knew before I went that there was a bathroom that I could get to with my wheelchair, and within the theater I took a seat that I could get out of if I needed to make a break for the bathroom, and the folks who worked the theater knew that I very well might be in distress at some point and we had agreed upon what I'd do in case of (that kind of) emergency. There was no fear, no place for fear, because everybody had agreed upon (and most importantly, I had agreed upon) something that I knew would work.

As it turned out, nothing bad happened. And that was definitely good.

But when are concerns prudent, and when are they fearful? What enables me to say "F**k it, I'll deal with it" rather than "F**k it, I'm not going even to try to deal with it"? And when are my "concerns" in truth "fears,"  are they fear of disaster—exactly what disaster? What will be bad enough to be a "disaster" rather than just something stupid? Or as Godin says, is it fear of being afraid?

I don't know. Yet.


Muffie said...

Oh, do I know what you're saying! I'm at that stage right now. I wrote about it earlier this week. Tomorrow, I really SHOULD attend a memorial service. I don't know the layout, how accessible the restrooms are, and how disabled-friendly the outdoor park is. Oh yeah, it's supposed to rain all day. Fear? You betcha!!

Robert Parker said...

Muffie: The "tragicomic" thing is, some of the most accessible restrooms I've encountered have been in public parks. They're not always maintained as well as they could be, but they are accessible.

Now, the "charming" grass/trails/etc. are completely another matter, my wheelchair is many things but among them is not "off-road ready," but a strong person pushing will get you where you need to go. If you're "accessorized" like I am, that is. If you're still walking but need a little assistance, the right kind of cane will do you fine.