Sunday, February 05, 2006

How much is really in our head?

So, my upcoming date started me thinking. My dating life has been pretty barren, to put it mildly. I've always had this struggle with myself, trying to reason things out.

As I've already mentioned, and I'm sure is pretty clear anyway, I think too much. I overanalyze everything. So how much does disability really get in the way of "normal" life; having friends, "normal" family dynamics (whatever they are), going on dates, having a sex life, going to university, having a career, getting married, having children... etc? I tend to think it gets in the way quite a bit, but there's that nagging question of whether it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. I've always been told (by my mother) that life would be harder for me. And in many ways it has been. I'm mid-thirties and my professional and personal life are not near those of my able-bodied peers. Now, I know for sure that there are a lot of people out there who either a) wouldn't give a disabled person the time of day, b) will think that they always have to help a disabled person because things are "harder" for them, c) will look out them as heroes ("bravo") for simply living, d) will always be nervous around a disabled person for fear of not knowing what to do/saying the wrong thing. Those 4 aspects don't cover 100% of people, for sure. But, would you say they cover over half? How much of this barrier inside my head is really inside my head and how much of it is an actual barrier? I phrased that wrong... an internal barrier is still an actual barrier. But how much of it is barriers we make ourselves as opposed to barriers imposed on us. Yes, the barrier inside my head is shaped by external barriers, certainly, but it's still something which I have control over. Yet, letting go of it means facing my fears. Huge fears. Gargantuan fears. What if I'm right? What if it really isn't all in my head? Ok, I know it's not all in my head, and I also know it's not all out of my head. There are many people with disabilities who get married, have kids, lead full lives doing what they enjoy. And then there are the shut-ins. And a whole spectrum of people in between.

No matter how much someone tells me I have the right to make friends with or date who I want, it doesn't allieviate that fear. The fear's too big. Of course I have the right. I have the right to walk too, but I can't do it. I can have the right to do anything, but if you get shot down all the time what the hell good is that right? And you don't always know you'll get shot down before you try... but sometimes you do. Often you do. And regardless, that little nagging voice in my head says that that chance negates the right I have to what I want in the first place. It negates it. Totally negates it.

I've had many friends come and go. I've even had men interested in me (considerably less than many). But I don't want just anyone. The few men who have shown an interest are men that I have not been interested in. The first person I dated was someone I wasn't interested in, but I didn't know it at the time. I was so overwhelmed with feeling someone else's interest in me that it overshadowed my own lack of interest. I have become quite cynical and jaded in my life. I find very few people really, truly interest me. I've tried to challenge that, but it doesn't feel right. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt is tough when they bore and annoy you. Being disabled has made me see the world in a very different way than I might otherwise have seen it. But then again, maybe not. Maybe I would have thought this way regardless. I'm not interested in going out partying every Saturday night. I like wine and beer and vodka, but I enjoy downing a Coke more than anything. Sure, I like to look good, but I hardly wear make-up and find less and less will I sacrifice comfort for fashion. I don't care too much what my friends look like either. I say "too much" because yes, I do care a little. I wouldn't want to be with someone who shows up at a fancy restaurant in sweat pants, really.

A couple friends have asked me what attracts me to my near future date. I find it hard to pin down. He's balding, has a big nose, is extremely formal when we're setting up plans. If we're meeting in 2 days he'll email me to say "I'll meet you on Tuesday, February 7th, at 7:00p.m. by the ticket office at such and such movie theatre". I find it amusing. I know he's nervous so I also find it a bit sweet, but maybe in 6 months it'll bug the crap out of me. We'll see. But for now, I'd much rather actually have someone who is real, down to earth, genuine, and doesn't seem to be fazed by my being in a wheelchair than spend my time swooning over someone I completely can't have, however smart, beautiful, witty and sarcastic they may be. (Gotta love that sarcasm!).


Tokah said...

We certainly erect some barriers for ourselves, accustomed to rejection and lack of understanding. But equally so, we disrespect barriers others assume we have.

I figure it works out.

Good luck!

The Goldfish said...

The question to ask is, does thinking over this stuff ever do us any good? Your date is unchartered territory, you have learnt from past experiences, but you have the opportunity to have a bit of fun and get to know someone new - even if he is Mr Right, going on a first date with a mental checklist for things that might annoy me further down the road is likely to take the edge off for both of you.

I think in the same way you have long since accepted the ways in which you must work around your physical impairment, I think perhaps you should stop placing so many expectations on your emotional self. There is nothing wrong with having very few close friends, there is nothing wrong with being unprepared to settle for less than an ideal - that may place limitations on you, but if that's just who you are, you can't do much about that.

Best of luck!

Ranter said...

Very true, Goldfish. My mom always said "why would you want to be with someone just to be with them?" And I gotta say that to an extent I agree with her. I don't want to go out with someone for the sake of just going out with someone, but on the other hand I don't think everyone we date needs to be "the one". You learn from experience, and that includes a lot of duds. :) I believe it's okay to date someone you can have some fun with, or even someone you're not sure you can have some fun with, regardless of where it goes in the future, just to see.