It doesn’t happen often, it may seem so because I’ve written about weird things that happen at the gym, but by and large I’m treated with respect and given the gift of invisibility when I work out at the gay. I don’t want to be stared at when exercising, and I’m not, with rare exception. But things do happen. Yesterday an older fellow stopped, tall, lean, and smiled at me. He obviously wanted to say something so I stopped.
He said that he was moved and inspired by seeing me there. I was, he said, obviously working hard because I was struggling a bit. He said the he only did some weight lifting, with small weights, to keep himself toned. Because I run, you see, that’s what I do. OK, I thought, done now? Nope. He went on to say that he saw me and realized how fortunate he felt that he could run. “I guess you make me realize how lucky and fortunate I am.
“I don’t consider you as more fortunate than me. The very idea is insulting. Why do you think that what you do is better than what I do? Why do you think that you have more joys than I do? Why do you think that fortune gifted you and left me a lump of coal. Let me tell you, being disabled has its own joys, its own magical moments, its own gifts. Go off and run. Go off and feel better than me. But realize you are simply jerking off using pity as a lube. ”
Is what I said an hour later in my head.
Sometimes I’m stunned into silence.
But, this morning, waking up and laying in bed for a few moments while I woke up. I realized that this man, the one I inspired, had given me a great birthday gift. We have a day in which celebrations are planned that I’m eagerly looking forward to, but in my waking moments he created an opportunity to think about my life. To ask myself a fundamental question.
Am I happy?
He assumed that, because he didn’t have a disability, he was fortune’s child. He assumed that, because I do have a disability, I am not.
Is he wrong?
I’m 66 today. That’s a lot of candles. I have only been disabled for about 14 of those years. My life before and my life after seems almost eerily similar. I still like the same things, I still think fart jokes are funny, I still think that value isn’t a gift given by others but a gift given by birth.
But my life did change. It changed in ways that changed me. I have learned lessons that I never would have before. I have lived at the very edge of people’s tolerance and dead center in the eyes of people’s disdain. I have seen extraordinary kindness and outrageous bigotry. I have seen ‘community’ and been frighten by it. I know now what battles need to be fought, I have learned how, in my own small way, to fight them.
There are days when Joe, standing beside me, and casually puts his hand on one of the handles of my wheelchair. He doesn’t notice it, it’s a natural move. It’s a move of intimacy. It’s a move of warmth. It’s a move that acknowledges his love of me, as who I am, in a powerful way.
Does that make me fortunate?
Not more fortunate than any one else.
I don’t know what joys you have in your life. I don’t know where your path has taken you. I don’t. So I don’t assume that my journey relates to yours in any way. We each have our own paths, we each travel different journeys. What is the worth of considering who’s more fortunate?
Yes, I’m happy.
That tall lean man who burst into my day, without consent or permission being asked, that man who felt that his privilege gave him the right to speak to a disabled person working out in a gym, disrupting a routine, and disparage him by being ‘inspired to feel more fortunate,’ that guy — thank you.
I got up this morning to the realization that I am happy. I feel comfortable in my own body. I feel satisfied with where I am and who I’m with.
Thank you for making me think.
I am fortune’s child.
Like everyone is.
I am raising money this year … here is the link if you are interested … https://www.facebook.com/donate/428944460976140/1093891917458984/