One day back in March of 2020, right at the beginning of COVID, I decided to go for a stroll.
Of course, the Disability Gods promptly decided to make this Pandemic Parambulation as entertaining as possible. Just when I was about to grab my white cane and step out the door, I began hearing incoherent screaming out in the hallway of my building. On the off chance that it wasn’t just someone practicing their song for an audition for “Canada’s Got Talent,” I chose to wait things out a bit. When things quieted down, I ventured down the stairs and out of my building, but was immediately accosted by the gentleman I’d heard exercising his lungs earlier. As I began heading along the sidewalk, he followed me saying, “I know you’re faking it! You’re not really blind!”
When I stopped, took out my cell phone and flatly stated, “OK, I’m calling the police now,” he magically disappeared, so I assumed that was the end of the drama.
After a couple of blocks, I stopped to check my cell phone for any messages, and suddenly heard the sound of someone running up behind me. I assumed it was just some guy out jogging, but the next thing I knew, I felt someone grabbing my cane away from me, and the guy ran off!
At first, all I could think was “Well now I know what they mean by ‘deer in the headlights!'” I just froze up! I couldn’t get my mind around what had just happened.
Very quickly, however, I got myself calmed down and focused on managing the situation. I called 911 and made sure the police were on their way, called my Life Partner to come and pick me up… good thing they had just invented Curbside Service… and settled down for a serious discussion with my ego.
The first thing I had to do was simply accept the fact that I felt in that moment more vulnerable than I’d ever felt before in my adult life. I knew the only way I was going to be able to manage that feeling and move past it was to first accept that it was OK to feel that way, and to simply allow myself to BE WITH those feelings for a little while.
In the end, my girlfriend showed up wielding powerful Starbucks Weaponry (for personal defense purposes only) and guided me home. The cops found the gentleman and escorted him to a Mental Health Clinic, and they even recovered my white cane!
Because I was able to reframe what happened and work through my feelings around it, I can look back now and actually feel empowered by the experience – and even feel I grew stronger from it.
How did I do that?
First, as illustrated above, it’s crucial to be able to find the humor in life, and especially about yourself! When you’re stuck with something about yourself you can’t change, whether it be a disability, a mental health issue or anything like that, in the end you can either laugh or cry. And while of course there’s nothing wrong with crying, eventually it just makes your clothes soggy, while laughing doesn’t. Unless of course you’re drinking something at the time.
Next, it’s important to have a mantra, which acts sort of like a “context,” to keep you emotionally on track when it starts to feel like someone stole more from you then just your mobility device. For situations like this, my mantra is “My blindness is PART of who I am, not WHO I am!”
In other words, I don’t have to deny my disability in order to feel masculine or like a complete beautiful person or whatever. I can accept it as a beautiful part of who I am because I’m so much more than that.
Another essential component is knowing I’m not in this alone. I have a powerful support system around me.
I don’t know if I’d be the powerful, empowered man I am today without the challenging and inspiring support of my men’s team and many other men MDI has brought to my life. They’ve provided me with a community I can feel I belong to. Every time I’m crossing a busy street or someone puts something in screen share on Zoom or whatever, and I start to doubt myself and feel like less of a whole man, I remember that all those men are right there with me.
I can’t tell you how empowering that is!
Also, it’s my time on a men’s team that I feel gave me the confidence and courage to find the love relationship I’m in now, with a woman who empowers me by showing me every day how strong and loveable I am and makes it clear that my “disability” is in fact part of what she loves about me!
This brings me to the point of what I’m trying to get across here. The whole reason I’m able to feel empowered is that I am the complete, loveable, supportable example of the mature masculine I am today BECAUSE OF my disability, not DESPITE it!
OK, you’re probably NEVER going to catch me quoting from a pop song again folks, so pay attention here.
It’s our perfect imperfections that truly make us the men we are.
Keep THAT in mind men, and no one will ever steal anything truly important from you again!