Happy International Day of People with Disabilities!

On this International Day of People with Disabilities #IDPWD2020, I am grateful for my new found freedom with my power wheelchair. It has been interesting becoming a part-time wheelchair user. Reactions from others have been both positive and negative. For people who don’t know me well, they become concerned when they see me rolling by, “Oh, what happened? Oh, what a shame!” They feel sorry for me or they feel like I am “giving up” on walking. Strangers who don’t know me are confused when they see me step out of the wheelchair and pick up my crutches.

Those who know me well know what a joy this chair brings to me! My next door neighbor was super excited for me as she has seen my daily struggle with walking. I have gradually been slowing down in my walking. I can’t stand for more than five minutes at a time. I still walk around my house but now I don’t have to outdoors. I have pain in my left knee from walking, and now pain in my left shoulder from using my crutches for so many years. To me, my chair means less painful days ahead.

My power chair also means freedom. It is a joy today when I can stroll around my neighborhood and enjoy some fresh air without having to fear falling down, or fear being in pain and not being able to get back home. It is a joy to stop and chat with a neighbor (socially distanced) and stay there as long as I want to, because I am not experiencing the pain I would from standing. I even got to surprise my mom by rolling over to her house (a couple blocks away) and surprising her with my new chair. My chair also allows me to spend the energy I have on physical therapy, and yoga rather than using all the energy I have in walking. I will be so excited once the world opens up fully again and I will be able to enjoy going to a mall, or an in-person conference again. Whenever that happens, I will be ready!

Question for Episode 2

At the end of each episode of DISIRabilityALT, I will be asking a question for you to consider. The question at the end of Episode 2 is, “As a disabled person, how do I meet people and find a relationship?”. I share my thoughts on this question in Episode 3, but I would love to hear your thoughts.

Please share your thoughts with me on this blog and please let me know if I can share your thoughts on an upcoming episode! If I have enough response, I would love to include comments from my followers in my podcast.

Visit: DISIRabilityALT and subscribe on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify or Stitcher.

Thank you for tuning in and responding here!

The Toll Social Distancing takes on Relationships

How is your relationship managing through this period of social distancing due to COVID-19? How are you handling it? Feel free to post your comments below.

This strange period of time can be hard for people in long distance relationships, or even relationships where you don’t live with your partner(s) and see them often. People, now a days, are utilizing technology (Zoom, social media and phone calls) rather than spending time together face to face. Using technology is certainly better than having no contact at all. However, we may still miss physical connection when we rely on technology. We not only miss sexual intimacy, but also the intimacy of cuddling, or even simply hugging a platonic friend. I have seen a meme going around stating “I will never again take a hug for granted” and I feel that very deeply right now.

Social isolation can take a different type of toll on relationships when you live with your partner(s). I will share the toll it has been taking on my relationship and how my partner and I are handling it. I hope it is useful for some of you.

My partner and I are both home all the time now. Having a disability, I am used to being home during the day. My partner is not. He is used to working a lot of overtime. So while he is enjoying this much needed rest, he is also struggling with boredom.

As a couple, we are not used to being home together all day long. I admit, there are times we can get on each other’s nerves. This doesn’t mean we don’t love each other. I wouldn’t want to ever live without him, but still, being together all day long, every day, is quite an adjustment.

Here is a small example. My partner loves watching tv and movies. I like to get the dishes cleaned right after we eat, but he doesn’t like me running the water while he is watching one of his shows. So, I have to be mindful of that. I try to wash the dishes when he gets up to do something else.

Then of course, there is the matter of who controls the remote to the tv. Typically, he does. Because he works so much, I usually watch my shows while he is at work. That of course, hasn’t been the case in the last couple of weeks.

Now these are small examples, but if we allowed our feelings to fester, they could turn into bigger resentments. To avoid that, I told my partner how I was feeling. He told me how he was feeling. Communication is key in any relationship. We communicate and we make adjustments where we need to in order to compromise. He has since given up SOME control of the tv. Lol.

It is important to make time to connect in other ways and that helps. Things like sharing ideas about the future, doing projects around the house, and turning the tv off to talk during dinner. You never know what you might learn about your partner, even when you have been together a long time. We have been discussing the type of house we dream of living in some day.

We also spend some time doing individual projects and that helps our relationship as well. As much as I love him, I do need some alone time and some personal space. I think most couples do. I spend a lot of time in our home office while participating in online meetings and chatting with friends. I crochet and loom-knit. He does woodworking. Of course, when he goes to the garage, it is the perfect time for me to grab that tv remote.

Whatever toll this social distancing has been taking on your relationship, please remember that social distancing won’t last forever. Our communication skills may be more important right now than ever. Whether it is telling your partner about your needs before you get frustrated, telling them about your future dreams, or telling them you miss their touch. Communication may be hard at times, but your relationship is worth it.

Setting Boundaries on Social Media

I have learned I need to set boundaries on social media. This may come off as rude, but it is to keep myself safe and to keep my attention focused on my work. These are my own thoughts. I am interested in hearing other opinions and thoughts in the comments, but I will not participate in any debates.

I have never used Social Media for dating purposes. In the past, I have used dating apps specifically for that purpose. I use social media to make new friends and nowadays, I use it to network for my business.

I also work on my own business at home during the day and sometimes in the evening. This work often involves creating posts for social media; most often Facebook, but Twitter and Instagram too. So though, I am often seen online, I am also busy working.

Before I had my business, I really only added friends that I knew in real life (IRL) Since starting my business though, I have added many people I don’t know IRL, particularly, if they are either a part of the sex educator community or the disability community.

I have noticed when I add new friends, I get a lot of generic “Hi” or “How are you” private messages. I’d like to think some of them are well-meaning texts from folx just trying to be friendly. Unfortunately, there have been too many times where I have answered these texts and then it quickly becomes someone flirting and/or asking me inappropriate questions. I typically do not respond to these. I have two reasons. First, to protect myself from someone being inappropriate. Second, to protect my time and stay focused on my work.

I wish there were a way to warn folx that just because I add you as a Facebook friend doesn’t mean I want to chat with you in messenger. I don’t have the time and honestly, I don’t have the interest, when 95% of the time, it is someone trying to flirt with me. I am not looking for a hookup on social media.

Even worse, some people will continue messaging me when they don’t get a response from me. When I see this behavior, I will delete them as a friend. That is a red flag for me. If they become belligerent because they expect a response back, they will be blocked.

On the other hand, there are new folx I add that I genuinely want to connect to. I have many friends on social media that I have never met IRL. We follow each other’s lives by following each other’s posts and getting to know one another slowly over time. This is how I prefer to get to know people.

Please understand, my health and my work is my priority. I am an introvert so I have limited spoons to be online and limited spoons to socialize. I prefer socializing in person to online.

To my new friends on any social media platform, I would love to connect and get to know you over time. If you have a direct question or comment, please feel free to message me. Be aware, I am much more likely to respond to something direct than something generic. If you message me with “Hi” or “How are you”, I am sorry but you won’t hear back from me unless I know you or we have some connection.

Please understand, also, that if I do respond, it will likely not be right away. I may respond to you later in the day, or even a few days later. Give me time to finish what I am doing and get back to you at a more convenient time. If you can be respectful of that, hopefully we can be build a friendship over social media.

It’s Not You, It’s Me.

We probably have all heard this line from someone, or we have used this line with someone else. Whether it is a relationship breakup, or it’s someone telling us they are not interested in us from the start.

It’s the kinder, more polite way to reject someone, right?

Last week, I wrote about being the person being rejected. This week, I want to focus on the even more difficult position…being the one to reject or turn down someone else’s advances. This could be turning down a dinner or coffee date, it could be turning down a sexual advance, or it could be breaking up a relationship. I have had more experience with breaking up relationships than I have with the first two so I will mostly share my thoughts on that. I want to explain my thoughts on how to turn someone down in a mature, respectful manner.

The reason we hear “It’s not you, it’s me” so often is because it is polite and not threatening. It may also be true. I have found the best way to reject someone is to authentic and honest, but still polite. Starting with “I” statements, just like you would in a conflict”. Examples could be:

“I am not looking for a relationship right now.”

“I am interested in someone else and I am focusing my attention on them.”

If it is a sexual advance, you want to be clear on whether you are giving consent, both verbally and in body language. Step back/roll back from the person if need be. Put your arm out if possible to block someone from giving a kiss. Don’t make eye contact, turn your head. All while saying No if they are coming towards you. Verbal consent is important but we must not forget to look at body language. Some people with disabilities are not able to speak so they will show consent/non-consent in another manner, mostly body language. Our words are best to use, if possible, but our body language is also very important.

When you are rejecting someone at the flirting stage, it is easier than when you are breaking up a relationship, of course. You can simply say “I am not interested”. Relationship breakups require more attention and honesty.

First, you have to be aware of your own feelings. For me, there are signs of a problem when I can’t sleep or concentrate on other things. You want to look at the reasons you are staying in the relationship versus leaving. I know I did the right thing, if I feel a sense of relief after breaking off the relationship.

Breaking up with your girlfriend via text or email is not only inconsiderate, but can be viewed as childish and immature. There may times when a face to face breakup may not be possible, such as long distance relationships, but when possible, please have the break up discussion in person.

When it comes to relationship break ups, you still want to keep the focus on yourself and your feelings.

“This isn’t working for me any longer because I feel…”

This puts the responsibility on yourself rather than on your partner. This is best of you are hoping for an amicable breakup.

Being part of the kink community in my city, it is important to me to have amicable breakups. I will continue to run into my exes, because we have the same circle of friends. This could be the same case if you have mutual friends or co-workers with your soon to be ex-partner.

So being respectful and taking responsibility for your own feelings is important.

I also recommend taking a break from seeing the person if possible. It may or may not be possible to “be friends” with an ex, but it takes some time and some boundaries need to be in place.

When I have had break-ups in the past, I also did my best, to keep the reasons for the breakup private. The reason for the breakup is between you and your partner. Talking about it, or worse yet, trying to ruin your ex partner’s reputation on social media makes you look bad, in my honest opinion. It may end up ruining your own reputation as it is another behavior that can make you look immature. When breaking off a relationship, or turning down a romantic gesture, it is best follow the golden rule and think about how you would want to be treated.

Learning to Flirt and Handling Rejection

I have always had a hard time making friends, let alone, getting involved in romantic relationships. I didn’t date at all when I was young. This may or may have not been related to my disability. I do remember having a lot of crushes, and having those crushes make fun of me or tease me when they noticed my feelings for them. I was pretty awkward and high schoolers can be cruel.

As a result , as an adult, I never really understood flirting or when people were flirting with me. I can still be pretty awkward in social situations.

I have a hard time figuring out if someone is actually “into me” or not. I often wonder if it is related to my disability as many people are so sweet to me, out of pity. I get the smiles as I cross the street. I get people being polite and being overly complimentary. I get the people who will talk to me whenever I call them…but never take the time to call or text me.

The few times where I realized someone was flirting with me, I have taken their flirty behavior to mean something much more than it actually was, and then I have ended up humiliated. I remember being in my 30s, and a man was flirting with me, and I got all excited like a teenager because someone was finally paying attention to me. So I threw myself at this guy. I got his number. I continued texting and calling him. And he had quickly moved on. Looking back, there were definitely clues that this person was just not into me. Of course, I didn’t see any of that at the time. I was in my thirties but felt like I was a teenager when it came to flirting. He was always nice to me and would chat with me whenever I texted him. He would never text me out of the blue though. He would spend time talking with me when we were at the same event. I was the one making all the effort to stay connected outside of the event though. I would invite him to go out on a date. He would give me excuses why he couldn’t or conveniently “forget” that I had asked him. Now I am sure this guy would do these things to try to spare my feelings. For the purposes of this writing, I refer to these types of behaviors as being “falsely sweet” to the disabled girl. I know it happens to abled bodied people as well, but I have to wonder if it happens to us disabled people more. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

I think people are “falsely sweet” to me as to not hurt my feelings. People really don’t want to hurt the girl who walks with crutches as they see her as pathetic and lonely. Problem is once I get to the realization that it was just an act and they are just stringing me along, it hurts more. By that time, I may have gotten to know them and I am more invested. Then it hits me that they just see me as the cute little disabled girl with the crush on them. It is more cruel than the kids in high school who teased me.

For me, a kind rejection would be much better than this sweet ambivalence or “false sweetness”. I would rather hear a firm “no” or “I’m not interested” rather than “Ok. Let me get back to you. Sounds good. Let me check my calendar…And it never happens… And I ask them again… Because I can be a bit persistent when I want something and I think there may be even the slightest possibility of a connection between us.

I may seem weak to you but, I can handle rejection. I have handled rejection in the past from friends and romantic interests. It is easier to handle if you are upfront about it. If you don’t want a friendship or a relationship with me, I understand and I can take no for an answer. If you don’t tell me though, I won’t know and I will keep trying. Unfortunately, this gives me a false sense of hope, and then I feel like a big fool once I realize you just weren’t into me from the beginning.

It not only hurts in the moment. It hurts my chances of flirting and opening up to another person in the future. The feelings of embarrassment lead me to not want to “put myself out there” anymore.

There have been many times since where I lost opportunities because I didn’t realize someone was flirting with me. I let them walk away, because I had these negative thoughts in my head “That person would never be interested in me. Why would they be? They are just being nice to the disabled girl. I must be misreading signals.”

So if someone you are not interested in (even someone with a disability) is flirting with you, please find a way to politely say “No thank you”. It is the much kinder thing to do. Be polite about it, but please make sure they understand you are not interested so they can move on.

Of course, I recognize that letting people down and saying “No” can be uncomfortable to do. What are some ways that you have said “No” to someone who was interested in you? We will talk more about that in my next blog. Be sure to subscribe to DISIRability.com and stay tuned.