Over the past week or so, during the ADA Symposium or the Brain Injury Employment Conference, I've met so many people. I used to be the person who looked for the person they knew and went to everything with that one person. Now, (ok, IF I'm using my wheelchair) I often find myself looking for a group or table of people who I don't know. It's been interesting! So over the past 2 weeks, here were some interesting people I met... I'm categorizing too - sigh...
* At one breakfast, I sat with a table of guys and 2 of these guys were the cool, athletic types, who had spinal cord injuries (SCI). One asked me what my level of injury is. I think I should start telling people I'm an incomplete (thus I can walk some) T12 because that can end conversations and be somewhat fun. But I said I had MS. Cross that lady out of the conversation! No wait, this lady may have MS and be a slow wheeler, but it's because she had shoulder surgery and the carpet is thick. She ended up with surgery because she's an athlete and didn't know when to take it easy. Well, I never made it into the cool athletic SCI group with these guys, but maybe they'll consider that someone with MS can still be athletic. Perhaps I'm making it up, but I don't think so. Should have video-taped it! It felt a bit like how I didn't quite fit in with the high school athletes, and didn't quite fit in with the high school band geeks either... or the nerds... Ahh... back to high school. STOP.
* At a lunch, I sat with a random mix of people and met each of them, if only briefly. One was using a wheelchair and seemed anorexic. I wanted to reach out to her even though I think that's crossing a boundary since I just met her, but I didn't have the time during the lunch, she quickly disappeared, and I only saw her from a distance after that. Maybe that's a blessing - it wasn't supposed to happen. It's not my struggle to manage, just like I don't want people managing my MS? She ate the salad with no dressing (or croutons!), 1 piece of chicken (after peeling back the fat), the broccoli, no dessert, and a few pieces of fruit. She told me she was skipping the next session and I saw her headed out the door to exercise. I've had trouble with eating in different parts of my life, but I don't think it was the same. I just wonder what's right to do there? And where's her support at home? Does she have it?
* At the same lunch, I met a lady who was diagnosed with lupus when she was 5. We talked about early diagnosis of things, as having definite symptoms of MS at age 17 is very young, and the "but you were so young!" comment that we do not love to hear. Yeah, we know. We were (too) young. So are lots of people with various things.
* Randomly in the hallway I met a "big wig" without any "big wig" kind of attitude who works at the Department of Justice. She uses a chair and has MS. She pointed to how many women are now "out there" with their chairs in life, particularly at this Symposium. She said times of changed - I felt young. I only notice women missing when I do athletic stuff.
* I saw all the friends I knew, of course. One brought my walker into the hotel - it's critical that I have it if I'm going to mostly be in my wheelchair all day. And it's annoying to have to ask someone to go get it, even though they say it's no big deal. Another brought the walker back to my car. And many other friends.
I met many other people and each one was interesting. I was left internally laughing at the jock guys, wondering if God could tell me, what God would tell me to do about the very thin woman who I'll never forget, pausing to think of things that happen to people when "they are too young" while knowing that God is with us at these "too young stages," considering the visibility of people in wheelchairs and how it has changed that I am too young to know, and knowing that I have friends all over the place who are right there to help me when I ask for help and should ask for help, but absolutely hate asking for help. I still want to do things my way. God helps with with that journey, as I stand, fall, ask for help, or am stubborn. Always there, whether I ask or not.
And I meet all these friends, if only briefly, along the way.
Thanks be to God. Peace (especially to the thin woman).