I’ve noticed something funny lately. I broke my knee [that’s not the funny part] and my doctor has had me wear this huge, bulky knee stabilizing brace. We’re trying to avoid surgery and a full cast would make my life insanely more difficult than it already it. [Still not the funny part.] Since I’ve had the brace on for the past five weeks, people are constantly asking me what happened. Typical conversation:
Person: What happened to your knee?
Me: Oh, I broke it.
Person: [shocked face] How?!
Me: You know, I have no idea.
Me: [awkwardly laughing] It’s really OK! We’re hoping it will heal.
Person: So you’re in the chair until it heals?
Me: [looking at the completely tore up, scuffed paint nature of my overly expensive customized wheelchair] ….No…. I was already a paraplegic.
So here’s why this is funny to me. People never asked why I was in the wheelchair before. Well, that’s not true. Some times people did but they were generally older (like 80’s, 90’s with no inner monologue or filter) or kids (who asked what was wrong with me). The conversations were fewer and far between than they are now.
This leads me to my new conclusions: something about a more common brace is comforting to people. They have seen braces throughout their lives, probably used one at some point or know someone who has. Wheelchairs are not as common or comfortable for people. They are curious and probably want to know why I’m in the chair, but don’t know how to ask. We have become such a PC world that people are uncomfortable asking questions anymore. And how does that do anything to assist communication? Understanding? Bridging gaps? It doesn’t! On one of the first days of school for my kid, a totally beautiful young hipster mom saw me getting into my car. She rushed over and said “Is it offensive if I ask you if you need help?” The answer is “no!” Don’t ever feel like you’re offending me if you offer assistance. I think it’s so nice. (But, don’t keep persisting if I say I’m OK and don’t need help.)
The point of this rambling mess is: ask questions! If you want to know why I’m in the chair, ask. If you want to know how I drive, ask. If you want to know what I struggle with, ask. If you want to know how it feels when I can’t go places because of inaccessibility, ask. Trust me when I say that if it’s something too personal, I’ll let you know and won’t answer. But for the most part, I’m an open book [hence the blog!] and want to answer your questions.
I think in this day and age we need more conversations, not less.