SLOW LIVING: 5 lessons I’ve learned about slow living from having a mobility impairment

Man in wheelchair watching the sunsetMoving slowly gives me time to enjoy the view

Sometimes I wish I could run fast, such as when I’m already late for a meeting or when it’s really cold outside, but I’ve accepted that I’m simply not a fast mover thanks to my mobility impairment. With this realization has come a general appreciation for the benefits of taking things slow. For example, I’ve moved slowly enough over the past few years to really begin enjoying the beauty of nature. The scent of fall in the wind and the shadows that the sun allows to play off of tall buildings are things that I would probably not recognize and certainly not appreciate if I was running from the parking lot to my office. That being said, I’m really more of a people person and my favourite thing to enjoy while moving slowly is catching the eye of a passerby—we smile at each other and hold one another’s gaze for a moment. It’s a brief connection that can last a second, but brightens the rest of my day. If I was moving fast with my head full of “what nexts” I wouldn’t be able to capture this spark and carry it with me!

Waiting for other people to help instills patience

Due to my disability, I sometimes need other people’s help. I usually require assistance with daily tasks that demand coordination or physical strength that I simply do not have. What someone could accomplish immediately under their own steam, may take longer for me because I have to wait for someone to help me. However, that’s OK because I’ve realized over time that I’ve become a more grateful and patient person. I think, for example, having to wait for someone to carry my dinner plate to the table gives me pause and the chance to slow things down. When I finally get my plate and am ready to eat, I really appreciate my meal. This kind of waiting also allows me time to reflect on the support that I have and be grateful for it.

Falling fast does not allow me time to catch myself—isn’t this a metaphor for life!

Sometimes I know when I’m about to fall. It sounds strange, but I can fall to the ground slowly, allowing me time to alter my position and avoid injury. However, at other times I fall fast and crack my head on something or just end up in an undignified heap on the ground. This is a good parallel to many of my experiences in life. When I’m moving too quickly, racing from one thing to the next or not taking time to think through a decision, things in my life are more likely to come crashing down around me leaving me in a rather awkward mess. These may be small events like rushing around and misplacing my keys thus making me late for a next appointment. Or it may be larger events like the time I rushed to accept an exciting sounding job without really thinking through what the job would involve. When I’m rushing I realize what I really need to do is to slow things down and reflect and re-evaluate. I’m often left thinking that if I would just take things slower in the first place and not rush into things, I could catch myself before I fall into a mess.

Repeating an activity is good practice

Due to my disability and related clumsy fine motor skills, I often end up repeating tasks. For example, it may take me a couple of tries to get my shoes tied or to successfully pack something away in a box. This makes getting things done a lot slower. However, I’ve learned to embrace this! I often tell myself that practice makes perfect and I think that this is true because after three attempts at getting my shoelaces tied in a bow that will not undo thirty seconds later, I must say they look pretty good and I’m feeling a real sense of accomplishment. If I’d rushed through this and been successful on the first try, it’s possible that I might not feel the sense of achievement that I do after multiple attempts.

Change (in me and society) can be slow, but is so sweet

Having a disability makes me take a lot of things more slowly. I realize that my ability to accomplish tasks successfully or acquire a new skill may take longer than it would for people who do not have a disability. However, when I do achieve a goal it’s very satisfying and I think that’s because I really had to work for it. I’ve also noticed as a member of the disabled community that meaningful change to disability-related policies and practices in society can take a long time. It’s slow going for sure! However, when things are achieved it tends to be, in my opinion, quite meaningful. It demonstrates hard work and extensive collaboration; a real coming together of dedicated people and powerful forces, working together to shift the tide of inaccessibility and stigma.

Real change is sweet and we are part of it!

by Andrea Walsh
image: Silhouette disabled man looks into the distance, enjoy summer on the ocean via Shutterstock
Posted by × September 26, 2016 at 2:14 PM

3 Comments

  1. Interesting and refreshingly positive perspective! While I wouldn’t wish a fall on anyone, that is a great metaphor you used, the falling in connection with life experiences.

  2. What wonderful life lessons you provided! Right after reading this I met a man who got into a terrible motorcycle accident and it changed his life for the better. We talked about these tips and he agreed as his life has changed in similar ways.

  3. I also take home a subtext, I guess, that reminds me of lessons from the meditation retreat I went to. How focusing in the present on your own experience enables you to find and retain integrity, and not be swayed by peer pressure into comparing yourself with those in the “fast lane”. Thanks!

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