Many decades ago now, I had the great privilege of meeting a wise woman who too called the storied city of Toronto her home. Although, I do believe everyone we meet is for a reason I did not know why we had met at this juncture in my life. I now wonder if she too was housebound like myself, as I only ever met her in the yellow bricked art deco walk up apartment on Avenue Road. I always made my way up the mint and forest green stairwell accented with gold flecks to reach her apartment, I was quite physically inclined in that chapter of my life. It was in her small sitting room with cream painted walls and a rounded art deco mantel piece fitted with an old dark metal heavy electric fire place unit, that I was introduced to the concept of limitations.
Limitations being defined in my concise Oxford dictionary gifted to me on my birthday in 1980 as a limiting rule or circumstance; a restriction. This wise woman in her cream sitting room taught me that one must accept limitations. Specifically we talked of holidays and celebrations with regards to dates and expectations. I have been thinking on this concept these past few days with much rumination. Perhaps, I now am the wise woman.
As the story goes, my husband is born a week before Christmas an unfortunate time for a birthday as religious celebrations are on top of mind for most people. I have for nearly 30 years made enormous effort with unfettered dedication to separate his birthday celebration from Christmas and New Years. This year being a special birthday as he turned 50. I began prepping for his birthday in August and like never before was in good form come the week of his birthday. However, like with everything involving my disability I came upon some challenges and roadblocks, things one cannot imagine until one is experiencing them.
After bursting into tears at his birthday dinner because I was in such pain, a pain that had begun hours before I didn’t know how I could continue celebrating. The truth was as he had identified I was at the end of my abilities come the end of breakfast, which I had laid out the day before. I simply due to my disability am unable to do any daily chores. He was correct as this is exactly when my energy dropped into reserves, on a regular day this was when I set into doing nothing for the rest of the day. After popping much medication to try to numb my pain and make it through the only important day in my year, I had to begin accepting my limitations. I gave up much of my plans that day. Accepting limitations that the Birthday boy would be preparing most of his celebrations planned by me, by himself. Limitations due to my disability, chronic illnesses and something I rarely talk about but a daily occurrence, pain. In fact, it is something I am trying to work through and manage as I type this piece.
At this moment a wise lesson from a woman who passed many years ago now came front and centre in my head. Thankfully Brandon my husband also knew this woman and her limitation lesson well. It was at this time we decided together that with my disabilities, celebrations like birthdays need to take place over several days. What I used to be able to do in one day now takes me several because of my disabilities. If I want to celebrate without pain and enjoy myself or provide company to another person such as my Brandon celebrations require pacing. And this is when Birthday celebrations became an event to savor for several days. We will be testing out our new strategy come March. I am certain to let you know how it goes.
For years as a teacher in the Toronto school system, I made modifications for students learning needs. Perhaps this is why I never realized how much modification I have made to my own life as a person living with disability. When an experience out of my ordinary daily routine challenges my ability, light is shone on how much my life has changed and exactly how limited I am in my new life.
Humans have become quite rigid and strict with celebrations, identifying that all must be done and accomplished in a pocket of time. Rituals must be upheld like a carved stone statue. The wise woman I once new taught me that we make our own rituals, celebrations and set our own dates and times. Hence, celebrations can be modified as we see fit. As we step into the week of Christmas during a pandemic with a province wide lock down, holiday celebrations must be changed. Limitations and restrictions must be adhered to.
It has taken a month of effort and hard work for Brandon to secure a Christmas turkey, as we have been in quarantine since March 2020, we have all supplies and food delivered to our home. He has made three failed grocery orders for a turkey to receive none, it wasn’t until two days past he had success. Of course, we were prepared to accept our limitations, had realistic expectations and had a fully functional back up plan. Appreciating the simple things, setting realistic expectations during this time, making sacrifice and yes, accepting limitations will go a long way in having a joyful celebration. ‘Maybe this Christmas is more than a turkey‘, says the wise new woman.