Saturday, August 05, 2006

Disability: "we Need Volunteers, But We Didn't Mean You."

Hello impotency, despondency and tears which never seem to end. Here's the deal as I've lived it. The unsaid rule is something like this: "We know you can't really be useful, so, we'll give you money. Now, please, just go away." You show me a major disability and I will show you a person who has trouble believing they are really worth anything. Why? Because in big and small ways, they constantly, receive the above message. There is a chronic isolation that drives the disabled to befriend each other, as sometimes, trying to befriend the able bodied just gets too hard. Eventually we get smart and a) quit trying, b) quit hoping and c) accept the realities of a) and b).

This is one of the few times I long to get really drunk. A swamp of pain is floating around with no satisfactory solution. We had a church breakfast today. It was a major event. Big wigs from the district were there and I had stated my intention to stay behind and help clean up. The last time we had a meal I had to exit before clean-up due to other commitments. Up until today I was under the illusion that my participation in physical labor was useful and wanted. I made the mistake of trying once again and believing, that, "this time, this group of people, would be different". Since I haven't been able to ditch blindness or the newest addition to my gig, walking issues, how can things be different?

Everyone was rushing around while I cleared a few plastic dishes and threw them away. I stubbed my toe on a chair, but for me, that is no big deal. I was asked by person A, to bring her dishes from the kitchen area, to be washed. Upon arriving in the kitchen person B, was just a little too polite and solicitous when she brought me back to reality:

"We're moving pretty fast back here. I don't want you to get hurt." Translation. Please go away, we work faster and safer without you.

I saw the writing on the wall and quickly informed person A, of my intension to leave. She then went back very angry at person B - until she got clued in to the situation. Then person A, didn't try to dissuade me from leaving. I'm sure everyone felt bad, but with me gone, they could get on with life without needless delay.

Friends, this stuff still really hurts. It hurts bad enough I feel like doing something stupid, childish and rebellious. As I said, right now, I wish I could get drunk out of my mind. The problem with this situation, is I do work slower, see less and basically would slow down the hysterical pace of a bunch of dedicated church people who saw a way to get gone as fast as possible. Unlike racism, where there is nothing physical hindering performance, I can hardly compete up against someone with 20/20 vision who is totally ambulatory.

I used to think it was my pride that is screaming. I just can't quite find peace over being so isolated. Oh, sure, I do things for the church. Real things, but they are done off site, at my computer, alone. It is the lack of company that is killing me. Now I see why I can't shake this one. I had the same problem on the job and in school. As long as we are at our work stations, pews, or desks I was welcome to be there. But, socially, where to you get to know people? Volunteering together, or going out to eat. Activities away from work, school, or church. I am having to grieve the loss of something I thought I had found. A way to make some social inroads. Yes, part of it is my fault. I don't know how to gracefully break into a conversation. I do tend to hang back in a crowd.

This does answer why some of us disabled chase after employment, as though we are searching for The Holy Grail. Work is another place, where you can (supposedly) be with and enjoy other people. I've seen several blind people have breakdowns over having absolutely no social life and no energy to change that reality Because the act of working sapped all their energy. Many totally blind people are tolerated on the job, but somehow never break into the social scene. After awhile, usually about 20 years, you just stop pushing so hard.

I realize I am grieving spending the remainder of my life, as I have spent it up until now. Unless specifically asked to help, I'll do what I've always done. I'll go home and play "nice" in my room. It is the loneliness that is killing me. The dread of more of the same, anyway.

1Th. 5:18 "In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." Here is the Bible way, the right way. The way I pray I can quickly return to. I've never faced down the Loneliness Monster before. I know God will help me, now that I have some idea of where the real problem is.

No, I don't have this one resolved. How can a human being expect to really be at peace with the reality of being too screwed-up for an intimate relationship and finally realizing that I'm always going to be like a beloved pet, or football team mascot? I have trouble interacting with people. It is lots better at this church, then at any other, but people are too busy to do social activities.

I've tried the local senior center, where I meet people who are tragic (older) versions of myself. So lonely, they just are driven to talk. I only give of myself in that environment. I don't find many of my needs being met, although, since I am a good listener, I am liked. I come home from several hours there completely drained and sad.

I'm going to try volunteering at a pet shelter. They need someone to "pet and socialize" the stray kittens, puppies, dogs and cats, before they are "adopted". I am so beaten down by the constant hassle over my disabilities, I probably won't actually carry this out. I can't face more rejection, especially for a volunteer position. Eventually I will be ground down to a numb kind of acceptance. I pray a lot, because I can't face a life without company. Right now, in the midst of pain, it is hard to focus on God. I have to let my very real sadness hang around for awhile, and I'll once again become at peace with my life, as it is, and not as I foolishly believe it "should" be.

1 comment:

MacPhilly said...

Dear Cybergal,

I'm letting you know this is a really long reply that addresses several issues that you've mentioned. Sorry it's long, as soon as I can master using less words I'll make it shorter. :-P

So, what I'd like to address is this post here. I was going to try to cover two posts - but this is LONG. As I'm wont to do, I'm going to shoot straight with you and say something to you like I would to anyone else that is an adult. In order to do so properly I'm going to have to deconstruct a little of what you posted because you really were dealing with more than one issue at a time, and I believe that you're confusing the issues.

First issue: Disability. Not to be cold, heartless or to seem uncaring or concerned - but I think at this point (53 years young) should should have a firm grasp on the fact that you don't move as quickly or see as well as folks that are fully ambulatory and sighted do. This is a disability. This limits what you can and can't do, regardless of your great heart. Welcome to the rest of our worlds. I know that many of the rest of us are not physically disabled, but you know what - we ALL HAVE LIMITATIONS. That's why there are many parts of the body.

Let me share an example. I wonder if you know what it feels like - as a guy - to sit there and watch or hear guys talking about all kinds of plumbing or building stuff, talk about tools or even building stuff for the church - when the whole time you've got no clue! Surprise, I do! That's a limitation! Yes, part of it is that I've not had time or prioritized those skills - but it's STILL a limitation. So, you know what I do? I carry my PowerBook with me to church - just in case. Guess what I got to do? How about rescue a situation for a visiting minister who's PC wouldn't plug into our AV system, and whose file couldn't play with audio on our PC. I got to make a DVD! Viola! They get to play their video as part of what they're ministering. Let me see the plumber do that baby! HA. And that's the point.

You see Cybergal, you may not be able to help around the church cleaning up, but you can contribute in a vital way to your church and to the body - just like you do with your computer. That's why the body is made up of many parts, because all of us have to contribute our own gifts and abilities. Just like you don't want a toe for an ear, you don't want a nose for a finger either. There are lots of people that can't carry a tune in a bucket that have the spirit of a worshiper - but they aren't going to be on the worship team anytime soon! They may have that as part of who they are, but God has given them other gifts to use for the edification of the body - not singing! So, if they're smart and mature Christians do you know what they do? They worship God in the song service, they sing in their shower and they use their - oh, how about TEACHING gift to minister to the body! Use the gifts that you have where you're supposed to and you won't have to worry about being disabled, OK?

The SECOND issue that you really were talking about is SOCIALIZATION. You wanted to "serve" because that's when you perceive that people socialize. Well, I'd have to tell you that your perception is about 70-80% faulty! Most people that are staying to serve in that manner, to clean up, break down, set up - are not there to socialize. They are there to get what needs to be done, done. Period, paragraph. Oh sure, if some are single they may hang out a bit more, but if they're married or have children they're doing what God has called them to do and then they're going to fulfill other responsibilities of marriage and family - which I can tell you from experience are multitude! You know, there's a reason why they're moving that quickly and it's not just so they can sit down and shoot the breeze in the sanctuary afterwards. OK?

So, to socialization. We both know that I'm married, but I wasn't always. In fact, I was almost 32 when I got married. I dealt with being single and being a Christian. Let me share this with you in all honesty: the grass is still always greener on the other side of the fence! I'm not saying that marriage isn't great, it is. I am saying that it isn't REMOTELY what I was expecting. The biggest thing about being married and being a parent is that your time is no longer your own. Ever. Even being married it's a job to socialize. But, I can tell you the secret that I learned as a young single guy. Adopt a family :-). If you want to socialize with married people, then go where the married people go when they go. Do the same church social gatherings. Do prayer (like you do) and mid-week services (like you do). GO to the married people's homes (if you're not invited, ask if you can visit and volunteer to bring something - like BREAD or something! whatever!). Be prepared to do whatever the family is doing. That's how you socialize. if there are some older singles, then get together and do something that older singles might like to do - as opposed to what 20-something singles like to do (like play volleyball - and what is attractive about that anyway?)

To whit, I've got a friend that I really like. He's single and makes as much as I do when I'm working full time. Obviously, he's got loads of money to burn - while I'm paying a mortgage and clothing and feeding 4 kids. He'll IM me or give me a yell and ask if I want to catch a movie in the middle of a Saturday. SURE! I'll blow off the family on about the only free day I have and go to a movie while I leave my poor wife home alone again with the 4 kids. NOT!!!!! So, what do I do? I say, hey! Come on down! We'll make dinner for you, we'll send the kids downstairs to watch a video, we'll have coffee and chat. That's what most couples with kids do. That's why we always have friends that have kids - we've learned to throw them in a room with some food and a movie, lock the door and enjoy an hour or so of conversation :-) Anyway, you got the gist?

THIRD issue. Lastly. The real issue that you're dealing with here is not disability or socialization, it's self image. This is not the same as the need to be liked, wanted and needed. We all need that, some more than others. With your temperament (you Sanguine I you!), you have a tendency to need a bit more confirmation than other temperaments do - but that isn't the issue. Frankly, I can pretty much go without anyone telling me I did a good job or I'm a nice guy or whatever these days. (outside my wife that is - but that's part of the relationship). Why is that? Because I'm really comfortable with who I am in God, and with what he's telling me to do. I don't need your affirmation, I don't need my pastor's. If I'm doing what I'm supposed to do, I don't really even care if you like me. I'm not going to be crushed.

Was I always like this? OH LORD NO! I used to be a complete basket case if someone else got invited over to a common acquaintances home or out to dinner and I didn't! I'd be despondent, I'd scream at God, I'd cry, I'd get angry, I'd wail pitifully, I'd pout. You name it. I'd be devastated. But why was that? It was because I had a self-image problem. I didn't really understand how much God loved me. I didn't grasp just how wonderfully I was made. I couldn't (and still really can't) comprehend his wonderful can caring attention to me, the marvelous way he constructed me or the incredible things he has planned for me. Thankfully, after almost 24 years walking the walk - I'm now getting a clue. :-) And I know that you are too. If you weren't you wouldn't have even begun to post these posts. You see my friend, the best way to get a good self-image is to get the real GOD-image of us. Once we're comfortable with that, it gets much easier. Oh yes, and people like hanging around us more too.

So, there ya have it. My two cents worth, which, with inflation and all that isn't even a penny's worth anymore. Sigh. So, would you like me to share with you my thoughts on loneliness now? :-D

Shalom my friend!
Phillip