My dear friend and I are in the car, driving home from a girls weekend away. Not long into the drive, my friend realises that the car roof pod wont lock. We’re both aware that, if not secured, all our luggage will fly out on the trip home.
Quickly, we make a stop at the local supermarket to buy ocky straps to secure our load before we entered the freeway. I wait in the car whilst she ducks in.
4 minutes later, I hear my friend talking to some guys in the car behind us. I glance in the car’s side mirror and watch helplessly as my friend pleads, holding up the straps she has just purchased.
“Could you guys please help me out?”
Barely lifting their eyes from their meat pies, they shake their heads in dismissal. Our predicament on how we can secure these spring straps has suddenly become their car park entertainment. Dinner and a show!
My friend raises both her hands in disbelief at their response and begins to attempt to anchor the straps by herself. I watch on in the passenger seat, wishing I could do something to help her with this two-person job.
A couple then pass by heading to their car across the car park.
“Sorry, can you help me here?” My friend asks, hanging off the side of the car whilst unsuccessfully attempting to hook one side of the strap over the plastic car pod.
Without hesitation, the man agrees, and gives his shopping bag to the lady with him. He jumps up on the door footplate and together they quickly anchor the strap around the pod.
With a smile, the helpful man jumps down, grabs his bag and walks to his parked car. I gratefully wave from my seat, miming a ‘thank you!’.
My friend sits heavily beside me in the driver’s seat and turns to frustratingly tug on her seatbelt.
She sees me waving towards the couple and joins me but is noticeably fuming!
“Are you ok?” I ask concerned
She shakes her head and sighs.
“Do you know Em, that guy only had one arm” she says as she drives out of the car park. She throws a grimacing look in the rearview mirror and I know it’s directed towards the meat-pie eating onlookers.
“Really?” I said, oblivious to what had occurred outside the vehicle.
“Yep! Only one arm Em. He anchored the hook to the pod using his teeth!” She exclaims.
“Amazing problem solving,” I think but I don’t say anything. I realise that I’m not surprised by the meat lover’s unhelpful response. It makes me sad to think that by now I’m kind of used to this unhelpful behaviour that I’ve seen so many times before. I’ve learnt to simply accept it.
“Why aren’t you angry Em?! Seriously, it’s atrocious! “
Often when I seem to easily brush off these obstacles, people seem to only get angrier on my behalf.
I write about this in my book-
“Many ask if I get upset and irritated with some people’s unhelpful actions and attitudes. Initially I was very frustrated and alone when I wasn’t offered assistance with stairs or was not given a seat on public transport. It reinforced why many give up trying to feel accepted and included in society. But a few years into my recovery I met a paraplegic who changed my perspective on this. He said, “See it as an opportunity to educate, Em.” From that day on, I began to try to view each obstacle as an opportunity. Nowadays if people ignore me (as pretending that they can’t see my need is probably easier than not knowing what to do or say), rather than put my energy into getting irritated, I choose to ask for help and explain to them how they can assist me. Usually they happily oblige…” (Reinventing Emma, p. 241)
Besides, even if they don’t ‘happily oblige’, I know that if I react negatively to every hurdle in my day, I’ll just crumble and become a blubbering mess.
“Choose your battles Em,” I remind myself.
Aside from feeling really helpless at times, I’m overwhelmed by the feeling of pride. I’m proud to be a person with a disability too. That, despite the negative connotations often associated with this ‘disabled’ title, this man has demonstrated his remarkably problem-solving skills that likely has stemmed from the adversity he’s encountered.
So, when you find yourself in an unexpected predicament, consider how you let another’s actions and attitudes impact you.
How you react to another person’s negative actions can ’s poor form often only causes you to be frustration and resentment, bitterness.
Instead, choose to be proactive and rise above petty actions and attitudes. This will not only change your own perspective, but those around you as well.
Choose to anchor yourself in positivity.