Six months after being declared legally blind, the universe threw me the mother of all curve balls when I discovered I was pregnant. Adapting to my newly acquired disability while simultaneously preparing to become a mom was extremely overwhelming. I found myself in desperate need of emotional support. There was a time when I made a concerted effort to schedule in time with friends, family and co-workers. I tried calling periodically, typically offering an in-house playdate or meal option. Usually, my well-meaning hospitality was rejected.
As more and more people from my previously non-disabled, pre-baby life began to distance themselves from me, my social circle grew increasingly smaller. I remember thinking, “What’s wrong with me? Is it the blindness? Is it the baby? Why isn’t anyone making time to be a part of my life?” I completely understand that everyone has their own responsibilities. But how could these people reciprocate the term “friend” towards me when they wouldn’t even return my phone calls? In the midst of extraordinary health related circumstances, my isolation was compounded by a deep seeded sense of loss over these relationships.
I now have two daughters, ages 3 and 1, that I can proudly say I parent independently. My husband has been my biggest supporter, encouraging me in every aspect of our relationship. While my blindness does complicate my ability to independently travel during this tricky toddler stage; I feel like I’m making it work.
But every now and again those old feelings of abandonment bubble to the surface, as my family and I are conveniently forgotten to be included in family events, work functions or other social occasions. In the world of social media, it’s pretty hard to miss the fact that you haven’t been invited someplace where you had previously occupied a place.
Exclusion Means Bad Manners
Make no mistake, I’m don’t consider myself the Emily Post for the entire disabled population. I’m no Abigail Van Buren. Hell, I’m not even Heloise. But if you want to be a part of my life and my children’s lives then you just can’t dip your toes into our relationship waters. With me, it has to be all or nothing. I need people to stop using my disability as an excuse for their bad manners. Please, stop saying:
We didn’t think you would want to go.: Really? So you just took it upon yourself to decide that I would not want to go someplace based on you own presumptions. You didn’t even think to ask me? Everyone should be given the opportunity to decline or accept an invitation. If you respect me as an individual or consider me a friend, then you shouldn’t assume to know my opinion.
You need your rest.: Yes, you’re right; I do need my rest. I’m fricken’ tired! I’ve got two kids, a job, and this blog! The caveat to this stupidity is, “Doesn’t everybody need their “rest?” Don’t we all have hectic lives? Crazy schedules? Responsibilities? As a mom, rest is something I don’t get very often. All the more reason, I would appreciate a genuine invitation to spend time with you. Or, if you’d like to make it easier on me, feel free to stop by my house so we can both “rest” in my kitchen, enjoy a cup of tea and spend time with my two beautiful kids who suck the life right out of me.
You Never Feel Good.: No arguments there. Very rarely do I wake up on any given morning and feel fantastic. On those rare, pain-free days when my disability doesn’t impact my daily life; I feel truly grateful. However, you should know that while my blindness complicates my physical health and can be very painful; I still function. I take care of my responsibilities. I honor my commitments. My disability does not dictate that facet of my life because that is innately who I am.
The kids are a lot for you.: Absolutely! Chasing two toddlers around while having a visual impairment is like The Hunger Games of parenting. Most days I hope “the odds are in my favor” and my children take their naps, eat their broccoli and try not to kill one another. Parenting is hard for anyone; disabled or not. Please stop using this as an excuse to exclude me or my family from an event. Honestly, it’s pretty lame.
We’d love to have you, but it’s complicated.: Friendships shouldn’t have to be “complicated.” Yes, I may need a ride. You will have to verbally describe, in great detail, whatever venue or home you take me to. I may need assistance to find the restroom, especially if my children need to use it in a hurry. But, isn’t that what friends do? Aren’t friends supposed to be there for you no matter what the circumstances? If you think about it, it really isn’t that complicated.
There’s No Middle Ground
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a sensitive kind of gal. I don’t take my friendships for granted. I require loyalty. I need trust. I truly believe having meaningful relationships with people is what makes life worth living. On that same token, if you want to have a permanent role in my life, either personally or professionally; I can offer you no middle ground.
To be bestowed the term of “friend,” I must be:
In return for that commitment, I promise I will always have your back. I will treasure our relationship and be happy to share whatever milestones you are ready to celebrate. I will do my best to meet you half-way and work out a mutually beneficial time for us to catch up and share our lives.
As long as you don’ t use the circumstances of my disability as justification for partial inclusion in your life… then I’m willing to start over.
Can you do that? Are you all in? I can begin again. Can you?