Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Talking the Talk (written May 2000)

One thing I have learned is that it is OK to ask for help. There is no shame in it and I know that now. Granted, I've learnt it the hard way. Falling on my face in front of a bunch of school kids as I was going in to give a speech on life with a disability was a somewhat unexpected way of showing how difficult everyday things can be.

It happened because I was trying to carry a bag, some books, and walk with crutches at the same time. I was too proud, and too afraid of looking stupid to ask anyone for help. What happened? I ended up looking stupid anyway.

There were mortified gasps from everyone in the crowd and several people rushed forward to help me reclaim my dignity. One of those happened to be a tall, blue-eyed sports teacher with the finest pair of legs I have ever seen!

I probably could have gotten myself up off the floor with relatively little fuss, but come on ladies, what would you do? Somewhat flushed, I let him pick me up off the floor, and flashed a smile. "And that, people, is life with a disability!" I said shakily. Momentarily I stared at the floor, and then over in the direction of the male teacher sitting in the corner, 'There are, however, some pluses!' I thought to myself.

Truth told, I was cringingly embarrassed, and, as I discovered later, I badly bruised my already fragile hip in the fall. But right then all I could think about was making the speech in the best way I knew how, and getting out of there alive. I did it. I was honest, open, and I just tried to be myself.

The details of the speech are not important. What is more important to me is what I took from that day. I had never talked about my disability like that before. I have written about it many times, but that is different. I have control then. When I was up in front of all those people it was another thing altogether, and I was terrified, but despite my unfortunate encounter with the floor I was ok.

The whole experience gave me more confidence and I think that has stayed with me. I can't really explain how but giving that speech, and laying my emotions bare like that, helped me come to terms with my life the way it is. Well, as much as I ever will.

I made another speech, a year later. It was the same school, another group of teenagers.

This time there were no falls, and my nerves were under control. It is true that the more you push yourself to do things, the easier they get.

Walking out into the bright sunlight, I smiled.

Then, a moment before I left, a smartly dressed lady came up and tapped me gently on the shoulder. I recognized her as one of the teachers who had sat in on my 'talk'.

"Thank you for coming" She said quietly, "You know, you should charge for doing things like this. Make it work for you!"

Who knows, maybe I will.

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