Posted by Reset U Today on Thursday, March 16, 2017
About 15 years ago I discovered I was an angry person – finding Buddhism helped me with lots of discoveries, but only the anger issues shocked me.
I didn’t think anger was an issue for me in any way and as I inquired of my friends and family if they thought I might be angry they all did the same thing – they burst out laughing.
“Ummmm, yeah Ross – I’d say that you are angry. Glad to hear you are working on that.”
Recently I’ve had a very similar experience with self-loathing.
I was under the impression that arrogance meant I loved me too much but apparently that is not the case. If you know me you might be giggling right now. Yup, my childhood can reasonably be described as messy and I always wondered how people seemed to just know that without me telling them.
Quick aside – if this is your first time here you might not be aware that I transitioned into a wheelchair around Thanksgiving, which was about a month ago. I probably should have gotten a chair more like last summer but like lots of stubborn folks I resist most medical things.
I’m a long way from done with the #lifeonwheels process but losing the ability to walk without wheels is maybe the greatest challenge I have ever faced in my life. It’s hard to learn all the skills, it takes time to build muscle and balance, and the feelings involved are pretty gosh golly molly complex. Everything happens for a reason though and I know Buddha has a plan for me.
Most folks aren’t quite sure how to react to a person in a wheelchair and that creates little challenges every day.
So back to my new friend self loathing, which is apparently something most humans have at least a little bit of.
I haven’t liked what is happening.
Some people I encounter daily haven’t liked what is happening.
Friends and family have had their own emotional process too, most folks are “sorry” to hear about the chair.
That combination has thrown a match onto the drum of gasoline that is my own self loathing. It blossomed and ballooned like a bacteria.
Today I have so much less physical pain than I once did. Neuropathy sucks but “walking” with canes and crutches while you have neuropathy from the waist down just plain jane hurts. It can be hard to discern the difference between emotional pain and physical pain. I think that’s because one tends to cause the other and vice versa.
So this past summer I started drinking scotch. A lot of scotch.
As a guy that never took the pharmacy pain killers they offered me I felt pretty Ok about using this ‘pain killer’. It did seem to make me feel better.
I’ve never been a big fan of alcohol which is probably because my father was an alcoholic who frequently talked about how his father died in the bottle after once being tremendously successful.
My name is Ross Robert Lasley.
My father was Robert Art Lasley.
My grandfather was Ross Art Lasley.
I think that’s three generations of guys that the people who sell scotch are really happy about.
I spent time with my wife’s family at Christmas and had a little incident with a step-monster. This particular step monster has had 4 back surgeries and may be looking at life on wheels herself someday, presently she has a lot of challenges with the prescription medications doctors like to pass out like candy when they don’t know what to do.
She was supposed to ‘talk’ to me so we got left alone to chat. Long story short she called me a coward.
“If you weren’t a coward you’d do the right thing and kill yourself, that’s what I’m going to do. I’ll never be in a wheelchair.”
So I proceeded immediately away from that house to the liquor store. Bought a bottle of Dewars and made some guzzling sounds. And I made sure that the right family members had the hotline numbers that are appropriate for folks that have extreme physical pain.
Then the next day – Christmas – I reflected on the experience.
My four year old daughter had the Christmas morning we all hope little humans will experience – Santa brought her both the strawberry shortcake doll and the clifford stuffed animal she asked for. The cookies were gone. It was magic.
Looking at how happy she was got me thinking about my own happiness and what had been going on in my life.
Scotch isn’t making me happy – in fact it’s doing the opposite.
Today I am half way through a juice fast cleanse as I write this article. I’m committed to sobriety. That’s enough now, time to get on with living my life and time to stop being so afraid.
The thing that bent my brain about the step monsters comment is that she was right, I have been running my life based on fear and shame. I was being a coward and I need to stop doing that now. More than occasionally people tell me that I’m actually doing pretty well, most folks that get an acquired disability have a lot of trouble with it.
This year my big goal is to transition from being ashamed of my disability to being a proud disabled man. I’ve been struggling with that in all sorts of ways – I thought the alcohol was helping me but in fact it was doing the opposite.
Inebriation was preventing me from doing my daily meditation and all sorts of other things I need to be doing to be a happy me.
If you see me feel free to ask me if I’m sober and if I say no feel free to kick my ass.
I’m really excited about 2017, I think it’s gonna be my best year ever.
So I’m starting to get used to life in my wheelchair – and I’m starting to realize some things about the people I encounter. Every one is a human being , but now I’m digressing…
I agree with the common notion that most people have self esteem and image problems, I think mine tend to come from a large vocabulary and being a “smart guy”.
As a youngling you might have called me a brain, a teacher’s pet, a hardcore geek – but whatever word you used it surely was not synonymous with popular and likable.
An important part of the chess team? Sure.
Prom King? Not so much.
I’m arrogant and emotionally distant – and as a result I sometimes piss people off.
In my life BC – that’s Before Chair for those of you keeping score at home – I often was concerned about being liked and not making people angry. I wouldn’t say I was particularly successful or skilled in this endeavor, but it seemed a good and compassionate activity to be aware of when I might be making people unhappy while trying to not do things that piss off humans.
Flash forward to a life on wheels – and I’ve found that one of my worst old fears has come true.
I always secretly feared that people didn’t like me – and nobody ‘likes’ a guy in a wheelchair.
I mostly get one of two responses: contempt or consideration. Both tend to be inappropriate.
The contemptuous folks are being reminded of their own fragility – I also think some of them are just pissed off New Yorkers who are angry at everything. This is a city where the words fuck you can be considered a greeting. The contemptuous people sigh, they make noises when they have to wait behind you, they make a big show out of being in a hurry. Sometimes the young men say stuff that is actually rude, I hear “get our of my way” about once a day. When that happens I giggle.
With the contemptuous folks I am able to understand the horrific experience the aged and infirm have in America – people fear they might “catch” whatever I have. They want me to be hidden away and kept out of the public view. Their actions are in their mind simple self preservation, eminently reasonable. They see the world through a popular plastic lens where any less than perfect people should be separated from society – and preferably ethically forgotten.
Then you have the shockingly considerate people. Most of those folks talk to me like I’m about 5 years old, they are so proud of me for actually continuing to live and function. They open doors, move things out of my way, and they look at me like a dog they found that got hit by a car. It is insanely ironic that I have pissed people off with my high IQ and now many people talk to me like I’m mentally deficient.
The contemptuous folks just say stupid rude things – ever wonder what the considerate people do?
They say the’d rather be dead than be disabled, and they actually intend to communicate to me that they are proud of my courage and fortitude. In case you don’t know it (I think you should) if your body needed a wheelchair you’d figure it out, I promise.
I recently came across this excellent article on 10 Things To Never Say To A Person In A Wheelchair – and I made a loud guffaw noise when I got to number 6.
So these are the facts of my worst fear come true – and now I need to embrace life on wheels and figure out what to do about it.
WWBD. (What Would Buddha Do?)
Contemptuous people need soft education and exposure. Humor helps a lot here.
I try to let my mind focus on the reality these folks are like people that say they “hate Jews”, but in fact don’t personally know any Jewish people. If you can make these people laugh it is wonderful. Teach softly.
When I see a young man who reeks of desperation for the fairer sex and cologne – quite common among the contemptuous – I try to get my joke about the fairer sex in. Here it is:
“Once You Go Wheels, Nothing Else Appeals”
If the young man laughs, I’ve got him. I can tell him to have a nice day and to keep smiling. To be grateful for what he has. His mad will dissolve when lovingly massaged by humor.
I am grateful to the contemptuous as they help me see the happy humor in life.
Thank you for helping me see the ludicrousness of reality and thank you for helping me laugh happily at the absurdity of my own situation. Laughter feels good. So good.
Shockingly considerate folks need to see I am a real person. Real emotional connection helps a lot.
Considerate folks take my feelings in another direction entirely. What they say and do feels good – at first. They open the door, they fall over themselves to help me get things in a store. They immediately engage me and glare at those who don’t.
But then they take it one step further – and they reveal a fear just as profound as the contemptuous folks have but one of an entirely different flavor. They imagine themselves trying to live in my chair and they believe they couldn’t do it. So they say stuff about being proud of me or admiring my courage or some other thing that is just wildly weird – many of them tell me about things their mother’s taught them.
This is the spot where they emotionally tell me they couldn’t do what I do, that they’d rather be dead. I still am not sure what to say when folks confess that to me. Your life could be harder, I get that.
For some strange reason considerate folks also have a great tendency to grab my wheelchair when they see me struggling with a curb or a door.
Brace yourself as I’m going to get real for just a second here.
Please do not ever touch my chair. Fucking never touch my chair.
My chair is basically part of my body, it’s how I get around and grabbing it is no different than grabbing a person’s arm.
The fact is I might indeed ask you for help or a push – please please wait for me to do so.
Ok – that’s enough of that rant. Giggle.
So the key with the considerate is to connect with them as a real person, to remind them of how beautiful and strong they are. If they feel their own incredible power, I’ve got them. I can tell them to have a nice day and keep smiling. Their weirdness will be dissolved by real human connection.
I am grateful to the considerate as they help me see how all human people need love and hugs and support.
That’s why we all love messages like this one.
And finally – after the human populace that is the contemptuous and considerate come the people who are my friends.
Those people are so beautiful.
They show me that my reality matters not, they simply love me for who I am. Some of these folks have other physically disabled friends but most have simply made a wonderful choice. They trust in what they know of me, they like me and they don’t care what else might be going on in my life.
I am grateful to my friends for helping me feel and be so loved.
And so the adventure continues – I’m excited to see what comes next in my life on wheels.
So on the advice of assorted helper folks I now have a wheelchair.
It’s made by Drive and the model is called Cougar. It was kind of fun to notice most chairs have model names like that – viper, pride, and I even saw one called the Jazzy.
I got it at Big Apple Mobility from a guy named Alex. He was super duper awesome.
It was kind of intriguing to be treated like this was no big deal, like I was placing an order for a burrito or something.
“Your condition temporary or permanent?“, he asked.
“Permanent“, I replied.
“Ok – so that’s a purchase and not a rental, right?“, Alex offered.
I was amazed to learn every single question was like that. From my size, to where I intended to go, to my level of experience.
Unless you are a member of the ‘wheeler club’ you probably don’t know what anti-tip wheels are – but my new chair has them firmly installed right now. Think of them like training wheels on a bicycle, I guess that’s what they are.
One important skill I need to learn is the “wheelie”, I am on a quest for my COG. That stands for center of gravity in case you didn’t know. It is awesome that wheelchair life has that in common with geek life, three letter acronyms are just the most fun.
So the anti-tip wheels prevent me for going over backward and bashing my head as I learn how to do wheelies.
The goal is to be able to pop a wheelie and hold it for 30 seconds – and then to roll while I am in a wheelie. Once I can do that reliably the anti-tip training wheels come off.
So now I am hanging out at my office and rolling around in a chair.
It’s actually pretty awesome and I’m having a very nice low pain day – which I think is the result of not trying to stand on my neuropathy legs.
I went out to Union Square today and even successfully crossed a street on wheels. Funny, but it’s actually easier to navigate the park in a chair, the crowd gives you more room.
My heart is heavy and a bit confused about all of this. I’m really glad to have my new chair, but I am also realizing that having one verifies my change in status. I’ve been disabled for quite awhile now – having my own chair makes that much more real somehow.
I wonder about how these feelings might help my heart and mind grow.
I’m a Tibetan Buddhist and I try to pray every day. Recently I changed one of my daily prayers.
It used to be: “Medicine Buddha, Please help me to heal my legs and to learn from my teacher pain”.
Now I say: “Medicine Buddha, please help me to heal and to learn from my teacher pain”.
I’m excited to learn what “healed” really is for me – and I am gratefully accepting that – in this lifetime at least – healed might not be my legs working like they used to.
Until Next Time,
Hello there and welcome to my blog – Yelling at Tenzin.
I suppose it makes sense to begin with a bit of background and why this blog exists.
My name is Ross I am a disabled man.
I have a cat named Tenzin – and I yell at her.
In fact, I say the nastiest most horrible things you could think of.
But I say it in a sort of sweet voice and as my cat does not speak English she thinks I am being nice.
This blog is about my journey, about becoming a proud disabled person. It is my hope that sharing this will help others, and be good for me as well.
So let’s talk about my “Medical Status” for a bit.
I’m a 42 year old man that has always been a computer geek.
This means I was sedentary, and fat, and tended to view going outside or participating in sports as a punishment.
From birth until 2013 I didn’t have much happen to me that was medically significant, I mean I had the chicken pox and a few other things but nothing extraordinary.
Then I started to have sore back problems.
These rapidly escalated to shocking back pain and I couldn’t get out of bed.
I thought it was “standard middle aged guy back problems” but when I finally got an MRI I found out it was pretty serious. I found out I had herniated discs L3-L5 with free floating fragments. That is the most serious type of herniation and those pieces of disc floating around in the spinal column are kind of dangerous.
So they planned for immediate surgery so they could try and fix me.
It worked – sort of.
I was able to walk but I was left with a tingling feeling in my toes, I was numb.
Over the course of the next year my numbness and tingling increased – and to make a long story short I was eventually diagnosed with Neuropathy.
I started walking with a cane and dealing with a lot of ongoing chronic pain problems. My legs sort of randomly fail or cramp up or just stop working sometimes.
I was offered “western” painkiller meds but made a decision that I didn’t want to go that route as they really don’t work well long term. I’m still in my 40’s and I might live a long time.
Instead I eat a bunch of vitamins and herbs and spend time in chinatown getting acupuncture and moxibustion treatments.
So fast forward a year and my neuropathy keeps degrading and then moves to my other leg.
The best summary of what happened is that my spine problems “crushed” my nerves and while pressure was released surgically the damage done had been done.
I have neuropathy from the waist down and it is chronic/degenerative.
Today / Why this Blog is Here
So recently I switched from a cane to cuff crutches – and these days I am experiencing muscle paralysis – sometimes I can’t move my legs.
As my legs get less functional there is a good possibility I’ll be in a wheelchair soon.
I’m kind of freaked out about it – and I’ve spent the last few months in a bad emotional spot as I have begun the process of coming to terms with what is happening with my body.
I’ve had a lot of shame issues about being disabled. Apparently that’s normal but I still don’t quite understand it.
I think I’m mad and bitter at the world, but I’m really trying hard not to be.
I have so much to be grateful for, so many amazing blessings and so much happiness opportunity.
It is my hope that I can make a journey – that I can move forward and not be ashamed about my disability. I hope that sharing it with the world might help someone else with an acquired disability.
My cat is named after the Dalai Lama – Im a Tibetan Buddhist – her name is Tenzin.
I yell at her almost every day – in a quiet sweet voice. It makes me feel better.