In my writing and discussions, I often say “when I was introduced to disability”.  But why do I say that?  Afterall, who’d want to be introduced to something that turns your life upside down.

Introductions are for shaking hands with new friends, co-workers, people who have common interests, or someone who could enrich your life. Not for something I hated, it was my arch nemesis. 

It stood behind me pushing and laughing as I lunged forward crashing to the ground.  It laughed at me because I couldn’t stand still, having to walk with a cane, and losing my job.  It laughed at me when some of my friends disappeared.  At times it would hit me and make me cry.  It would remind me that I would have to get used to it being around, handshake or not.

I let it go on until I realized I had to find a way to get to know it so maybe, just maybe, we could learn to become friends.

Like having to accept my life before, I looked it in the eye and said, “Listen up, I’ve worked hard to accept what happened to me and it looks like I need to do it again”.  But this acceptance means that I have the power to control my feelings.  I will not allow you to control me.  Either you accept that or leave me alone”.

Each time it pushed me, made fun of me, or stood in my way, I said, “Stop it, I am in control, I control my feelings so buzz off”.  Little by little, we began to understand each other.  We began to walk beside each other and share how we felt.  Sometimes, it poked me with its elbow, just to keep laughing at me and I’d poke it back.  We waltzed, I led, but we decided rock and roll would be more fun.  We took a step onto the dance floor and away we went. 

Occasionally, it still gets ornery and tries to bully me.  I scold it by saying, “Dude, what did I tell you?  Go to your room and stand in the corner.  When I decide to let you come out, we’ll dance again”.

What I learned is I had to get to know my arch nemesis.  I had to learn its ways, what makes it tick.  I had to learn why it did the things it did, how it came to be that way.  I had to dig deep to learn how much I was letting it bully me.  Until I introduced myself, there was no way for it to get to know me.  We shook hands and introduced ourselves again.  It has been a challenging friendship, but what I’ve learned is just like the saying goes, “don’t judge a book by its cover”.

So, sometimes when we’re introduced to someone or something that goes against our norm, maybe, just maybe, we can become friends.  Perhaps learning more about them can help us learn more about ourselves, because you never know what’s behind that handshake until we join hands.

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