The “Stephen Hawking” way to copeAug 29 03:56
When the world makes no sense, your disability makes no sense, and not even your therapist can help you see the world in a brighter light, do what I do - and look to the geniuses of the world to set you straight. Sure, you can seek the advice of a handful of brilliant people, but for me, I choose Stephen Hawking. Severely paralyzed by ALS, forcing him to live mostly in his mind, Hawking’s advice on dealing with disability is perfection.
When he was asked about people living with severe disabilities, or chronic life threatening health situations, who elected voluntary euthanasia, Hawking had this to say: “The victim should have the right to end his life, if he wants. But I think it would be a great mistake. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there's life, there is hope." Ain’t that the truth.
What I take away most from this quote is the part where he says, “There is always something you can do, and succeed at.” What he’s saying is to desist from continually focusing on what you lost, on what you can’t do, because that will drive you crazy. Instead, you need to focus on all the things you can still do, and be as good at them as possible. Let these things consume you even, as it will further ease the grieving over what you’ve lost.
For me, that means getting even better at cooking, writing screenplays, being funny (humor is a learned skill yo), styling clothes, learning makeup techniques, shopping and getting deals, basically anything I can still do just as equally as an able-bodied person.
And if you make it through the long night of Hell alone, and successfully adapt to your new disabled body, consider yourself a smartie-pants. Hawking says, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” We humans may sorely lack the “Yay Change!” gene, but we are adaptable enough to force ourselves into change, if we work at it that is.
Hawking not only stresses there always something you can still do and REALLY succeed at, he also warns against anger and wasting your precious time while alive being consumed with negativity. “It is a waste of time to be angry about my disability,” he says. “One has to get on with life and I haven't done badly. People won't have time for you if you are always angry or complaining.”
Want to learn more about Hawking’s views on disability? Check out his personal site here
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Tiffiny Carlson is freelance writer and writes the “SCI Life” column for New Mobility. She's also a C6 quad from a diving accident that occurred when she was 14 years old. A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Tiffiny has been a writer in the disability community for over 10 years and writes for several publications and blogs, as well as her personal blog BeautyAbility. Her work has also appeared in mainstream publications such as Nerve.com and Playgirl.