You know those memories we have that just stick with us forever? The ones that we will always remember in detail? That shook you to your core in a way that you will never forget? For me, ones of those memories was the first time I was told that I needed to start using a mobility aid.
Before I started dealing with all this, I had never even thought about young people needing this kind of help so it came as a surprise. I knew I was struggling with getting around but, at that point, we barely had any answers and I was still hopeful I would get back to my old life soon. Unfortunately, that first conversation, the one where I was gently told that I should start using a cane, wasn’t the last of this discussion. As years progressed and my mobility became worse, I moved from my cane to a walker until finally needing a wheelchair full time.
From the beginning, I resisted the idea. It felt like I was losing pieces of my life and independence. It was causing me to become more reliant on others help even just to get around and, as an independent person, it was a hard pill to swallow. Accepting the help of a mobility device made things feel more permanent. Eventually, with much convincing, I begrudgingly agreed to go along with it and try the cane. Why not give it a shot?
Though it took time to adjust to those changes, I gradually started accepting them. Instead of loathing them for what they took away from me, I started being thankful for things they gave me. It’s easy to get caught up in that black-and-white way of thinking but, logically, using a cane wasn’t taking away from my world, it was adding to it. With each device I’ve needed over the years, they’ve opened up my world, letting me get around with more ease. Though there are things that I still simply can’t do, there are also things that they have allowed me to do. However, that isn’t the point of telling this story; the point is that, without acceptance, I wouldn’t have found a way around my limitations, I wouldn’t have let these objects do their job and help, and I would still be living with resentment for these aids that actually help.
Despite the fact that many people view acceptance as complacency, as a way of giving up, I see it as the complete opposite. Think of it this way; imagine you’re walking down a road and you meet a brick wall. If you don’t work to accept this road block, you will keep fighting against it but, because the bricks are stronger, you will run into the wall over and over again, getting yourself nowhere. However, if you accept the brick wall that’s in front of you, if you accept that it is there, that there is no getting through it to continue on your path your originally planned, it forces you to think. Once you know and accept that you’re not getting through the wall, than it opens up room for you to figure a way to get around it. Whether you climb the brick wall or you find another path around it, it doesn’t matter how you get around it, you just do.
Acceptance gives you a superpower that resenting your obstacles doesn’t give you, it allows you to heal in order to continue living your life. In my case, once I accepted that a wheelchair was what I needed to get around, once I embraced the positive aspects of life that the wheelchair brought me, my world exploded, becoming bigger than it ever was before. I stopped letting my wheelchair limit what I wanted to do and, instead, I found a way around the obstacles. Sometimes this looks like having a family member give me a push up a ramp that’s just too steep and sometimes that’s letting people lift my chair up a set of stairs so I can go explore. But whatever it is, they’re things that I would’ve fathomed doing years ago. I used to be embarrassed for needing help especially out in public and sometimes I still am. However, for the most part, I accept it because, without the help of my mobility aides or my family and friends, my world would be tiny. Acceptance is like water to a flower, letting life grow bigger and better.
Though it definitely isn’t a process that happens overnight, it’s one that takes time and conscious effort but it’s beyond worth it. Start with simple changes. Change the tone of your inner dialogue to reflect more positivity and gratitude. Even if you don’t believe at first, just taking that step helps retrain your brain to think differently. Reflect on what you’re grateful for. Journal and let your emotions flow. When you’re faced with an obstacle that perhaps makes you angry or frustrated, feel what you need to feel than use your emotions as fuel to help you accept that it’s there and figure out how to overcome it. Reflect on your life and your goals.
It might sound a little unconventional but take those challenges life has given you and pull them in for a big hug. Don’t resent them for changing your life, thank them because, without your challenges, you wouldn’t have become who you are today. When you break life down into its bits and pieces, we see that life is simply a series of challenges where each next step is determined by how we react to the previous one. Sure, life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows but, when you embrace the rain, you’ll always be able to find some light, even on the cloudiest days.