I am just back from a 27,000+ mile, 10 day trip from Minneapolis to Montréal and back again. I had a wonderful time. When you are traveling, especially when you are traveling with a significant disability, it helps to adjust your attitude before you go. I intended to have a good time, treat all inconvenience as an invitation to creative problem-solving and practice choosing joy. It’s the old thing about whether you choose to see the glass half empty or half full… Half full is just more fun.
First of all, nothing went significantly wrong. The equipment on which I depend served me well. The van, the wheelchair, the Hoyer lift, colostomy, catheter and baclofen pump all functioned without a problem. Any one of those malfunctioning – especially in a foreign country (because Canada is a lot like us, but it is still not us) – would have increased frustrations (and possibly danger) enormously.
Of course, there were accessibility disappointments. I expected historical areas to be inaccessible. It’s only recently that people in wheelchairs were able to get out and about (or, in Canada, oot and aboot). I thought some metro stops might not be accessible, but it turned out that none of the blue line in Montréal is wheelchair friendly. (There went my excitement about having a hotel near the Metro line.) Some of the orange line is accessible, but it didn’t go anywhere I wanted to go. As I expected, many of the restaurants and stores in Montréal are also not accessible. It feels good to be back in Americans with Disabilities Act territory. The biggest accessibility challenge is that I can no longer reliably drive my wheelchair. My husband and daughter did much of the driving. (My wheelchair has attendant controls.) That added a preciousness and tenderness to what will have been my last big trip.
Then again, there were accessibility delights. Staff at the Château Ramsay in Montréal happily put a ramp across the front stairs in order to get me in the historical house. When I got stuck on the threshold coming back out, they helped us troubleshoot, putting a few layers of cardboard against the lip and sharing in our joy when it worked! The staff at an inaccessible restaurant in Niagara set up a table in the bar area, which meant that we had a private dining room beside the fireplace. After the resourceful waiter added a candle and a boombox playing jazz music, it felt quite luxurious.
Making a road trip was an opportunity to practice ALL of my kind promises, though a few stood out. Despite my noble intentions, I lost my temper a couple of times (once, getting me in the wheelchair to where I could see Niagara Falls and again, on the way home, driving a long way before supper). Forgive with wild abandon, I told myself. My family knows that I didn’t ask for and accept help often enough and with enough grace, but I tried. I remembered to love without keeping score and to live joyfully for no apparent reason. Having these compassionate phrases in my mind helps me live my values.
How full (or empty) is your glass? Is the last metaphor helpful for you or do you find it annoying?