"Sometimes I wonder if I'm a member of an endangered species - one of the remaining members of the happy, well-adjusted, "just glad to be alive person with a severe disability" tribe. Now I'm not Marry Poppins, and I don't go around singing show tunes all day, but I'm definitely genuiunely loving my life these days - even though I've been a wheelchair-using quadriplegic for the past twelve years."
Barry Lindemann - 'The Happy Quad' (Spinal Columns Magazine 2007 Summer Issues Page 34)
This past weekend I was flipping through the most recent release from Spinal Columns and I came across an article by my fellow quad and friend Barry Lindemann. I have known him ever since we were floormates in the same wing of the old General Hospital shortly after we were both injured in 1994. Actually, he might not know this but I once took his electric wheelchair for a joy ride when he went home one weekend to visit his family. Man, I think I set some speed records!!!
Anyways, his article was a personal reflection to what it meant for him to be a quad and face life with a positive and Happy outlook. Beautiful to listen too and Barry, if you get to read this I hope you take heart in knowing that you are not alone in being a "happy, well adjusted, 'just glad to be alive person with a severe [physical challenge]'". Reading Barry's thoughts, emotions, and insights really led me to reflect on my own resons as to why we can all be "Happy Quads"; which I hope to perhaps convey and express here.
Live life to the holistic utmost of all of your abilities. I think to often we tend to submit to this unwritten prejudice that if "part" of are body doesn't work we will neglect and suspend any physical activity at all. We tend to ask others to do for us rather then doing things ourselves not so much because we can't do it but because it is easier to and/or quicker to have someone else do it instead.
It might sound radical but, why not try and make the the bed yourself, or cook rather then ordering in, or push up that impossible hill no matter how long it takes. When we are willing to embrace the challenge with a positive solution, regardless of new technique or time frame, that is when miracles happen and we end up blowing our own minds away at the possibilities and abilities to which we have!
Serve to bring a positive transformational presence to your community, city, and the people around you. I have a close friend who several years ago commited to going to Poland with a group of students and serving with a team that would teach English as a second language to a group of school kids. Thing was, he was born with Cerebral Palsy and would be spending the majority of the traveling time negotiating wheelchair access and/or the lack there of. Despite these challenges, he made an impact that will forever change and inspire the lives of the kids he taught not to mention the other students that traveled with him throughout the country side.
We can make a difference whereever we are. It might be standing up for the care and treatment of those in group homes and institutions, by writting and speaking to our representitives in the government. Maybe, we can join community or social programs dedicated to saving and taking better guardianship of our natural resources and the environment. It can even be as simple as saying you will go down once a month and serve at the Mustard Seed.
By being willing to serve others outside of our own needs we can find strength and encouragement while dealing with our own sufferings and life obstacals. Francis of Assi once said, "Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." We can no longer afford to wait in our living rooms, watching TV and dreaming about what we could and should do. Intead we can go out into our communities and city, serve to make a positive transformational presence, and witness the joy and happiness it brings to our own hearts and minds.
Pursue and Embrace the passions, visions, and dreams that are deep down within your heart. I honestly believe that each one of us has at least one dream or passion that is sometimes buried deep within us and is despritley trying to be expressed through our pursuites and goals. Sometimes though, I think we suppress these hopes thinking we can never accomplish them because of our own physical challenges. It is true, we may face larger, more complicated issues then others who do not have these challenges but even if we pursue those dreams in different ways then the accepted "normal" way, we can find that the pursuite itself brings us even greater joy and excitment.
In the summer of 2004, Vancouver’s own Brad Zdanivsky embraced and tackled his dream to be able to go Mountain climbing inspite of being a quadriplegic. Growing up he had always enthusiastically been envolved with rock climbing. He had even been spending years before the summer of 2004 preparing and developing the equipment and proper techniques that he would need in order to scale a Mountain side. Finally, it had all paid off and Brad's dream became a reality when he and a group of friends together climbed Mount Squamish Chief. His impossibilities became his exemplified abilities; and his dreams became his reality!
David the Psalmist had a dream, Ghandi had a dream, Mother Theresa had a dream, Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, Brad Zdanivsky has a dream, I have a dream, and yes you too have a dream! Together we can pursue each others dreams; encouraging, developing, equiping, and experienceing all the joy and happiness that comes out of them.
"All the way to heaven is heaven."
Cathrine of Siena (1347-1381)
Seek out the real truth in all things beyond the expectations and false realities that this world and society profess to you. Over two thousand years ago there was a wise man named Paul who writting to a young follower of his gave the advice to "Fight the good fight of faith." (1 Timothy 6:12) It was a deep belief in following truth and not what this society or world enforced or dictated as a false reality.
Yes, I know, if you have looked around at the other articles that I have published on this site it is true that I myself am a Christian and follow a belief in Jesus as the embodyment of absolute Truth and as such we can then all be in relationship with him in a subjective and contextualized understanding. However, when I say seek out the real truth in all things I am not saying that you must conform to the concepts which express my faith. No, I am encouraging and attempting to persuade you to continually ask yourself the deeper questions which shape and lead to your own beliefs and faith.
I suppose my resoning for saying this is because after years of being in a wheelchair myself, I have seen so many people who have faced physical challenges, for whatever reason, and simply assumed the conclusion that life is over and they are unable to take part in any envolvement with the people around them as a result of believing in a world view that excludes people who face such physical issues (few, that was a mouth full).
It is true, we live in a society that dictates that people with physical challenges are some how less capable then the rest of the average population. Their are people who will descriminate and be less accepting of us (people with physical challenges) and most likely persecute us because of it. There is a corporate "spirit" if you will, that can and sometimes will exploite the lifestyles created by our new physical needs (those of you on AISH or apart of any government or political subsidy or have delt with any Home Care Product Need know exactley what I am saying I'm sure!)
These are all false social expectations and realities! They may be practiced and repeatedley thrust into our face but, they are wrong and untruthful. We as people, as human beings have an even greater power then to accept these falsehoods that most people go through life without being aware of. We have the power to choose!!! To ask the real questions like "Why can't I do this?" - "How can I do this?" - "Who am I really?" - and "What purpose can I fulfill as a created being?"
Several years ago I can remember watching a really popular show called 'The X-Files' and every time they show the beginning credits they would include this quote; "The Truth is Out There". The Truth really is out there but if we really want to find it, we have to get out there too! We have to be willing to ask the really tough questions and accept the fact that even if people do not accept the realities of our truthfulness we are still in a relationship with them and over time and hard effort we can bring about positive transformation resulting in existential joy.
I suppose that is enough to say for now when I think of what brings me happiness. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Barry Lindemann my quad brother and friend for making me ask that deeper tougher question myself. This list is also far from complete and perhaps, you are now asking yourself the question; "What makes you HAPPY?"