For a whole month after foot surgery in 2017 I was dependent on a wheelchair for most of my mobility. I learned some wisdom about how living is like being in a wheelchair.
1. There are two small wheels on the front of a wheelchair that determine which way the big wheels and chair will go. If these little wheels are lined up in the same direction, the wheelchair will stay on the chosen path and reach its destination.
If one front wheel gets turned the wrong way, the wheelchair could end up off the path or sidewalk and into obstacles, the dirt or grass. (Or in my case, end up repeatedly bumping into cabinets, walls and doorways.)
If the wheelchair gets into the grass or mud, it is much more difficult to extricate and get it back on the path or sidewalk. But the wheels can be righted with persistence, strength or help.
Just like in life, one may get off of one’s chosen path and find one’s self stuck in unpleasant situations. Then persistence, strength, or help may be needed to get back on the chosen route and get out of the mire.
2 . If only one leg or only one arm pushes the chair forward the wheelchair will go in circles. There has to be balanced forces on both sides, with all four wheels lined up properly to make the chair go straight.
Likewise in life a healthy balance between work, play, family and/or friends, spirituality, and learning is needed. To focus on just one or two of these pursuits and neglect the others, will keep one going in circles, making for a less than productive and happy life. These pursuits are vital to balancing your motivations to accomplishing life goals and maintaining happiness.
3. A wheelchair can be manuevered to turn 360 degrees by using one hand to stop or slow the wheel on one side, while pushing the opposite wheel with the other hand. This is helpful when one finds one’s self going to the wrong place or in the wrong direction.
When this occurs in life, one’s life may be found to be going in circles or on the wrong life path and going nowhere. This is when one needs to first stop what they are doing, consider what needs to be done, and redirect their life; then one can turn their life around and make plans and implement a new life goal and a path to accomplish it.
Usually doing a 360 degrees turn around facilitates an often new, necessary and enlightening point of view of one’s life. This turning around can help one contemplate alternate, more productive directions or goals.
Often there are obstacles in one’s life plan which may require a 360 degree turn around to avoid an insurmountable obstacle. By doing this one’s mind, body or spirit may be made stronger for having traveled further through different circumstances than was expected.
4. On each wheelchair there is a brake on both sides of the seat. There are times when one needs the wheelchair to be secure while one is transferring to or from the wheelchair. If the brakes are not engaged on both wheels the chair may turn on one wheel’s axis and leave the passenger on the floor.
In life there are times when one needs to put on all their brakes, stop what they are doing and take a moment to consider their life, situation; take deep breaths, pray, meditate or just be thankful. Otherwise they may be dumped into depression and hopelessness.
Participating in these activities may refresh one when they feel overwhelmed, tired or sluggish mentally or emotionally or even physically. We live fast paced lives. One should take a moment to stop for awhile and use one’s senses to be aware of their body, their feelings, thoughts, and their surroundings.
5. While in a wheelchair there are times when one needs help. Unless a motorized wheelchair is used, a steep hill, a narrow passage, a rocky, rough surface may be very difficult to maneuver. Being too proud to accept help which was carefully and respectfully offered will not get one through those situations.
It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help when one has accurately assessed the path ahead. It is a sign of wisdom and strength to ask for help when it is truly needed. It shows that one is not too proud to admit that there are times in life when one simply cannot accomplish their goals by themselves.
By asking for help one may also allow someone else to feel helpful and good about themselves. It is a joy to help another who is strong, wise and unafraid of judgment.
(Personally I have felt nothing but love and compassion from everyone from family, to friends, to neighbors, to strangers when I asked for help.)
6. Wheelchairs are designed for movement. Sitting in a wheelchair for long periods of time is not healthy. One needs to change their position, their view, home, or environment or even in their seat every now and then.
Change in position is good for the body. It helps promote circulation, prevents blood clots, and is good for the brain and soul to move about. Changing position mentally and physically is also necessary for us to learn what we are able to do; what we need to learn and what we are not able to do.
Just as in life sensory stimulation and position changes are a vital part of mental health. To sit in one room all day doing only one thing may lead to a sense of boredom, depression, uselessness or helplessness, as well as weakened muscles, lack of mental stimulation, blood clots, and stiffened joints or muscles which can cause pain.
Changing one’s point of view on some topics is also good and healthy. Our minds need to be open to new ideas, new ways of doing things, new lives, new improvements, new feelings, new friends, new outlooks on life, new beliefs, and new challenges.
So it is good for one to move about, go places when possible and not let one’s home, nor one’s mind become a prison. One should use what one has in order to live, learn, move and continue to experience life through every sense, when possible.
Remember, “Where there’s a will there’s a way.” Be creative.