In our vulnerability, we find our strength.

-Albert Einstein

You remember this quote from last week’s post raising the question if it’s different for men with disabilities to ask for help, than women?

This quote is a helpful mantra when we find ourselves struggling to ask for help. As I mentioned last week, age also helps lessen the struggle.

I’ve been wanting to update this post that is a replay from a few years ago (before graphics accompanied the posts) because of the lesson learned about surrendering to help.

On a recent trip to St. Louis, I approached the ticket gate in the Syracuse airport, which is mainly carpeted (unusual for an airport and “Kathy accessible”) in the older terminal, and without hesitation, requested a wheelchair escort once my connection landed in LaGuardia.

Doing this, gave me instant peace of mind and ease because I could focus on my trip and the work I brought I brought with me, rather than managing to make connections while I juggled my work bag and carry on luggage. It was a good thing that I had this built-in peace of mind, as my connecting flight was full of delays, changing gates, and mechanical trouble.

But…in order to get here in 2017, I had to experience this back in 2013:

Who would have ever thought that tile floors and rubbered sole shoes (my sensible mom shoes) would cause an accessibility issue?  But it happened – in the airport. I write this on the final lag of my journey home from a fantastic trip to speak at the Texas Parent to Parent Conference.

I noticed it right away. I walked through the airport doors in Syracuse and noticed it suddenly felt like I was walking on ice. I felt like I would slip at any moment. “Okay, this is probably in my head,” I told myself and kept walking. After all, I have flown and gotten myself around the busiest airports for years. However, I clearly could not walk at the same brisk pace I am accustomed to.

I kept forging ahead,  though, coaching myself like my mom taught me when she read me The Little Engine that Could over and over. “I can do this,” my inner cheerleader whispered, “I can do this.”

I continued inching along. I had planes to catch after all. Thankfully my connection involved a couple hours wait so I could carefully meander through the Detroit Airport, which seemed a lot bigger than I remembered. A few times I thought about getting a wheelchair or electric cart escort. But I can be stubborn and insist on doing things the difficult way. Baby stepping my way through the airports, I made it to Austin, thankful for the concrete once I got outside. One can’t slip on dry concrete, although I’m sure I could figure out a way to do that too!

Less than twenty-four later I returned to the airport. It’s amazing how quickly I can forget things. I walk into the airport at my normal pace and….oh no, here we go, that sensation is back where I feel like I might fall. So I inch my way to security, thinking a little more that maybe I should ask for an escort. I found myself cheating and opening the roped off part of the security rope that creates that silly zig-zag that leads to security.

A nice security officer came up to me, motioning me to a shortcut to security, but then rethought it. “Ma’am, could I get you an escort?” Without hesitation, I said, “That’d be great.” I realized at this point I just don’t want to forge through another day on airport floors. In the moment, as I walked so carefully through the long airport terminals, it felt very stressful to me. It took me out of the present moment and the enjoyment of my trip. I’m a person who usually actually enjoys flying.

So why not surrender to the escort (i.e. H-E-L-P)? I swallowed my hard headedness and sat down in the wheelchair. The stress of worrying about getting to the gate gone, I could relax and accept the kind help of the airport staff.

Another lesson learned – stop trying to prove a point (more to myself) and enjoy the ride – literally! If you’re flying this holiday season, I hope you also enjoy the ride.

 

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