Melanie Reid‘s weekly column in The Times Magazine is always a great read, but it’s behind a paywall. Today’s is so spot on that I’ve reblogged it below.
Published at 10:36AM, December 6 2014
‘Worrying about body image is toxic’
Here is a list of what I’ve learnt in the past four and a bit years:
1. There are a couple of tiny compensations for paralysis. Being able to pee like a bloke, for one. The ability to whip my leg bag out of the top of my trousers and discreetly empty it anywhere is handy. So is the gift of slow time and stillness, which has educated me in euphorbia, cosmos, goldfinch and yellowhammers.
2. Reaching into fridges from a chair requires arms 5ft long. This is a critical problem. Nothing frustrates me more than being unable to get things from the top shelves or that have been pushed to the back. Especially chocolate.
3. Cobbles are the enemy. And gravel. Not words. If we really want to tackle inequality and social justice, we need to stop obsessing about semantics and change the school curriculum to put every 15-year-old in the country into wheelchairs for a week as part of their life skills course. Ditto undergraduates doing planning, architecture and engineering degrees; plus all those able-bodied bods advising on disability (a growing industry), who rarely have a clue about what really constitutes an accessible environment. Ditto all health workers in training, from doctors to porters. Because when it comes to walking, ain’t nobody got a clue what they’ve got till it’s gone.
4. Worrying about body image is toxic. If I could do one thing, it would be to reclaim the hours I wasted over the decades before my accident, fretting about weight, clothes, appearance, self-doubt. Knowing what I know now, I wish I could liberate three generations of girls and women to enjoy their bodies. It’s healthy and it works, sisters – so stop looking in the bloody mirror and criticising yourself. Get out there and play, run, do sport, study, work, dance, laugh, travel, hug, love ’em and leave ’em, devour every damn opportunity life offers you. You can move and you’re alive. Energy is sexier than anything ever invented by Burberry or Gucci.
5. The ratio of disabled parking spaces to the number of blue badge holders seems to be 1:1,000. Which means I can rarely park easily. Which puts me off leaving home in the first place. Which makes me feel scared and stirs an irrational resentment of other blue badgers who may well be dying, or crippled with pain, but who can walk. What’s wrong with a bit of grade inflation? Any political party that brings in a new, higher category of spaces and badges for us elite, the totally, utterly, wrecked, pitiful and wheelchair-dependent, will get my vote. Bright pink would be a good demarcation.
6. Truisms are true. Hope, positivity and a sense of humour are the most vital attributes in the world. You should go for that ambitious job; you should tell people you love them; you ought to make the most of every minute. What you take for granted is precious.
7. I miss being able to see over hedges.
8. Horse riding is very dangerous. But it’s only marginally more dangerous than cheerleading. In America an estimated 100 out of 7 million riders die per year (0.0014 per cent) and about 2 out of 500,000 cheerleaders are killed (0.0004 per cent). Not to mention the toll of head and spinal injuries. I know it’s academic for me now, but I’m quite glad I didn’t crash and burn wearing tan tights and waving pompoms.
9. Life is not fair. You don’t realise how many other people it’s not been fair to until it happens to you as well. Nor do you realise how many wonderful people devote their working lives to helping us, for a meagre reward. Experiencing the kindness of strangers has been a profound education for me.
10. Power, influence, wealth, prizes and celebrity are very nice but they are nothing – mere dust – compared to health. The more comfortable your life, I suspect, the more your sense of security and entitlement grows. Nothing bad can happen to me. But, take it from me, it can. I would give up all I possess in a nanosecond if I could get my body back.
11. Hands that work are without price.
12. Most of all, I miss being spontaneous. Going to visit my son. Cooking a quick meal. And going somewhere without telling anyone. But, hey, I’m here to write this list.
Melanie Reid is tetraplegic after breaking her neck and back in a riding accident in April 2010