It’s a weird thing to be thankful for, but I was, deeply.

We are in a small city in the middle of Wisconsin where we arrived after a several hour drive from Minneapolis. When we checked in, I had to set up to do a webinar for Vita and for The National Alliance of Direct Support Professionals. I’m always nervous before one of these and was glad of the time I had to prepare for the hour long ‘conversationar’ which is really what it is. Once a month we go on air and chat with the author of the most recent article of The’ International Journal for Direct Support Professionals. The conversation, as always we engrossing and the hour up quickly. They make me nervous, these things, but I love what I learn while doing them.

Afterwards I told Joe that I’d like to get out and go to the grocery store to pick up supper. Our hotel room has a fridge and a microwave so we can cook our own supper. We headed to a store not far from the hotel and went in. Now this is a small city, everyone seemed to know everyone, and then in we come. Me, with my weight and my chair, arriving anywhere new is like throwing a massive boulder into a pond. People look, they stare, they make comments. I know I’m facing that going in so I can prepare.

One of the reasons I wanted to go to the store was because I’d felt cooped up, I’d spent the day in the car or our new hotel room working. I wanted a bit of a ‘run’ in my chair. So I started whipping up and down the aisles getting in as much speed and distance as I could. The exercise made my shoulder feel good, my back stretched out, it was all great.

But what was awesome was … though there were people in the store, none took much notice of me. It was like they saw big men on wheels zipping around their local grocery store on a regular basis. Several figured out what I was doing, this never happens, and made sure that I had a clear pathway to get up speed and race down the aisle. It was strange just to be in a place and just doing what I needed and wanted to do, and have it not be remarkable.

Not one stare.

Not one silly, or rude, comment.

Nothing, not even, thank heavens, encouragement.

No one was inspired!!

I don’t get to go out and just be out. I don’t get to take off the coat of armour that I wear to keep me safe.

But after about 20 minutes, I did, I took it off, I felt safe. It’s been years since I’ve dared to do this and I couldn’t believe how much the protection I carry weighed. I felt free for a moment. I noticed a long pathway, with no one in it, right near the end of my run. I decided to hit it and hit it hard to see if I could really make the chair fly.

It did.

I did.

Because I was free.

It’s hard to be disabled and feel free.

It shouldn’t be.

But it is.

We’ve closed institutions but not opened minds.

Except for today.

And it was good.