Being born without legs isn’t like begin paralyzed. It’s not like having my legs cut off due to some illness or injury. Being born without legs is quite different.
First of all is quite obvious I don’t suffer from any post traumatic stress. I don’t relive the moment I found out I didn’t have legs and I don’t miss anything, like phantom sensations or like not being able to run.
In fact, I like not having legs. It’s not real glamorous aside from the upfront parking and getting to go up the express line at the airport (and then thoroughly checked). And there are a lot of things that can be difficult to do but as a whole the experiences are different and others expectations have been skewed. Some people expect me to be shy or anxious about who I am. Some people expect me to wish I was just like them. Some people think ‘oh poor guy, he must be suffering’. And strangely enough I have been guilted by some people for asking for help or expecting any special treatment. I’d like to address all of these angles.
I’m not really shy. While I don’t go out of my way to be in the spotlight. I have been in a hospital since I was 2. Having doctors look, x-ray, poke and study me tends to lower your inhibitions. I’ve shared this with a few people and they found it to be frightening while I really didn’t think of it more than any other doctor’s visit. Now this certainly doesn’t mean I’m the first guy to take his shirt off and shout out crazy stuff at a party or football game but it does mean I usually speak my mind. I like to be heard and I will give my opinion. Most importantly I have learn to ask for what I need when I need it both emotionally and physically.
So when I’m at the store and you see me, sometimes on my skateboard because I like to travel that way, I might just look over at you and ask if you can get something off the top shelf. Please don’t be shy. You can look me in the eye and if your kids ask me what happened to my legs give me a chance to answer them. I think it’s important that we all deal with the reality of the situation and not shy away that sometimes people are born differently. And it’s not always pretty but it is their life and they deserves to be treated just the same as everyone else.
Some people think I should wear my prosthetic legs all the time or at the very least be in a wheelchair, not ride around on a skateboard. This deals a lot about what people are use to or their expectations. They think well why wouldn’t you want to walk around. Isn’t life easier with legs? I say I don’t know I only have prosthetic legs. They say Well then why aren’t you wearing them now or all the time? And I reply because not everything is easier and sometimes I’m in a rush and sometimes they aren’t comfortable. I don’t mind being the guy without legs, if you have an issue with it then maybe we need to sit down and have a heart to heart. I can’t name the number of people that think having legs makes them somehow better. I’m telling you that life is about perspective and I can see the world down low and up high or from a wheelchair if that’s what I feel like. Its seeing all these levels that really gives you an experience. And sometimes it’s not about doing it the easy way. Sometimes it’s just about doing it the way you want to get it done. And I’m very thankful that I have the opportunity to do things differently and see what most people are missing.
Some people think oh poor guy, he must be suffering. I’m not in pain. I didn’t have a tragic event take my legs from me. I was raised in a relatively normal family so I’m not emotionally scared. I went to normal school and had plenty of friends. I wasn’t really involved with girls but I’ve had a few meaningful relationships with women. So please don’t look at me with pity, instead look at me with the same joy I have. That I’m out of the house, usually with my kids doing something fun and really getting a lot out of life. The fact that I’m completely aware of the blessings that I have should be enough to tell you I’m doing well for myself and I look around every corner for more opportunity to expand my experience and embrace life.
It doesn’t take more than a positive attitude to really change the way we see things. So next time you see me, say hello, sit down on the ground with me if you want and tell me a funny story or ask me a question. I’d like that and you’ll probably like it too.
Some people have guilted me for asking for help or expecting any special treatment. Now I understand that I am fully capable of doing many things but I have actually been told by a few people that I need to do something without their help. I find the notion disheartening. It’s not that I can’t do everything. Many time there are things that I would prefer not to do. But really its them saying ‘well he isn’t helpless and if I help him he is going to become too dependent on other people’. That is not the case. I think everyone needs help. In fact at anytime you see someone struggling you should do what you can to give them a hand. You don’t have to do it all but say, ‘hey can I help you’ and many times the person will be overjoyed and other people will turn you away. But the point is that offering is fine. I use to think I would show the world I could do everything but now I know better. We as a people are a community and the more we help and the more we share the more we all benefit.
And finally, I’d like to say that I’m over joyed to be dealing with my disability up front. I think some people hide in the shadows with their issues and hold them in shame rather than offer them up for surrender. People aren’t all that different. Sharing your pain allows you to release it and then find others and eventually let it go and teach others how to move forward as well. Sometimes I use laughter and jokes and sometimes I write serious poetry. In all cases, I am dealing with these issues and I hope anyone reading this learn the same lesson I have. Be open to your feelings and you will really begin to feel what it’s like to be living.