“There are two kinds of “disabled” persons: Those who dwell on what they have lost and those who concentrate on what they have left” – Thomas S. Szasz
I have been pondering a thought, after a conversation I had with a friend the other day. To be honest with you, I found it a little weird, in fact, it bordered on the macabre! And to be honest, it has disturbed me somewhat since, so, I have decided to share it with you..
Now, as most of you probably know, I lost my legs in a horrific train accident (through no one’s fault at the end of the day) and up until that day, life for this 21-year-old was pretty good. Fit, healthy and full of vim. One could even say 10 foot tall and bullet proof. Well, we all were at that age really? I adjusted pretty quickly to my new surroundings without legs. Just got on with it! As you know, I like to think that I have a pretty positive attitude. Over the years, I have seen many disabled people having to prove some point or other, not only to those around them, but more-so to themselves. We have all seen the incredible feats that these people have gone to, challenging their physical and mental fitness: climbing a mountain or bumming their way up the Kokoda Track, trekking in the Himalayas, jumping out of an aeroplane or wheeling from one side of the globe to the other. Then they write the book and get on to the speaking circuit. Not all, but a fair number. Good on them I say! They are inspirations and if it helps them to cope in some way with their disability…go for it! Unfortunately, in my opinion, they are still coming to terms with their own demons and have not worked through the grief. They still have to come to a point of acceptance. Yes, sure, each of us is different and what worked for me, may not work for others. I have said many times, I’m a “glass half full” kind of guy – always have been and always will be. That’s me!
Here’s the thing: I have always considered myself ‘normal’. My colleagues have always seen and considered me as ‘normal’. I recall an incident that I still joke about with my best mate. Working at a particular radio station, the “On-Air” team decided to challenge a rival station to a night of ten pin bowling. This was a great fun event and the competition was fierce. My mate, who happened to be the Station Manager, organised the bowling shoes. I’m waiting with the rest of the crew, when he turns around and straight as a die says, “Porty, what size shoe do you take?”
As quick as lightening I replied “10 and a half”. The person behind the counter just stared at him with disbelief. Just normal as – we still laugh about that to this day.
My boys saw me as no different to any other dad. Oh, they quickly worked out that they could test me to the limit and knew just how far to push the boundary. My work colleagues didn’t take too much notice of the fact that I was legless and in a wheelchair. After all I was another voice on the radio. Who needed legs to talk on air? So on it went. I guess all things considered, I did OK. Had a pretty good career and loving family. Don’t get me wrong – I had my share of ups and downs like anyone else. My own demons to deal with. I did that in my own way coming to a place of peace within myself.
Then, the other day, my world turned upside down! I had a conversation with a disabled person who by choice had a leg surgically removed because they did not like the way they looked and from what I gather didn’t like the way other people looked at them. I reacted more than quite surprised… even angry when I heard this.
Should I have reacted the way I did?
I questioned the ethic of this. Yes, it is your body and I guess you have the right to decide. Then I read about an art exhibition called “SPARE PARTS”. This was a collection of prosthetics, all painted in a variety of colour and design. Innovative, I thought, until I did some further research. What I discovered is that these people nurture and caress these limbs in a way I personally find a little intriguing.
Is this normal, I asked myself?
Thomas S. Szasz sums it up rather well “There are two kinds of “disabled” persons: Those who dwell on what they have lost and those who concentrate on what they have left”
Personally I prefer the latter!