Why New Year's Resolutions can be difficult for disabled people
Ruth is a secondary school English teacher with cerebral palsy and Perthes’ Disease, a condition that affects her hip. She shares with us today her thoughts on New Year's Resolutions as a disabled person.
I’m not sure that I am entirely a good fit for this blog since, if I had any goals for 2018, they almost certainly missed the net. I did not begin the year aiming for another MRI, more spinal surgery, time off work, or a repeat of the morphine withdrawal experience and those things have dominated. And, although they did require a certain resolve, on my part, they often necessitated me placing myself completely in the hands of others; others who didn’t know themselves how it would all turn out.
And that is perhaps why New Year’s Resolutions are particularly difficult for disabled people. I put them in the same unhelpful category as the demoralising ‘Anything is possible if you just believe.’ or, even worse ‘You can do anything if you try.’ These are mantras that I don’t think are true for anyone but doubly so for us. If you Google resolutions, they predictably focus on weight loss, eating better, taking up new sports and activities, things that no growth mindset can make possible for many disabled people. It is not a coincidence that I managed to drop several clothes’ sizes when a hip-replacement, temporarily at least, reduced my pain, nor that, until that point, I had found it impossible to do so. Physical limitations aside, our disproportionate difficulties with transport, employment, housing, living costs and often unacknowledged, endemic discrimination mean that a new healthy hobby may be very far from our minds. I’d definitely like 2019 to be a year during which I help to fix some of those issues.
Learning to be realistic about my goals is an important factor in my happiness and it is not the same as being unambitous. When I was about four, I was utterly convinced that I was going to be the next Margot Fonteyn. Inspired by a performance of ‘Coppelia’, I did not view my two pairs of splints (Perthes’ ones for daytime, CP for night) as obstacles. Luckily I moved on to more achievable aspirations and I didn’t become the most lop-sided ballet dancer in history (I have a left foot several shoe sizes smaller than my right and no amount of effort, on my part was going to change that (if I had ever managed to stand on my toes).
Any resolutions I make this year will be done against a backdrop of my ageing CP skeleton, the frustrating reality that I will probably need increasing help to accomplish them and, like last year, that a fair bit of what will happen in 2019 is not in my control. Accepting those things is no mean feat, particularly as I am the kind of person who likes to have a plan a, b and c. My goals are often more hopes, that I won’t lose too much more mobility, that pain and fatigue won’t stop me from doing the things: seeing friends, swimming, singing, theatre, getting outdoors, that I know keep my mental well-being on an even keel, that I will be able to forgive myself for those failed social plans that I make so optimistically.
A year feels like far too long so I am going to stick to a more realistic timeframe and manage a day at a time. I will resolve to have that shower, continue to run the gauntlet of public transport with a wheelchair, go out for lunch, find the energy to have those conversations with able-bodied people that might mean that their ‘help’ will be more helpful next time. And I will try to ignore those demotivating New Year goals and remind myself that what I am able to achieve is absolutely good enough.What do you think of New Year's resolutions? Can you relate to Ruth's experiences?