The Invisible Woman

Rose Wolfe

I have the unique ability to be invisible.  For a while, I thought it was because I am shorter than most adults.

If that is true, I thought, how is it that children are not bulldozed down into the ground?  Maybe, I reasoned, that is why kids have such high voices; it is a survival mechanism to alert adults around them that they are “down here.”  Eventually, I came suspect that something else is going on – a societal preference.  Our mores define children as needing protection and consideration.  So, we notice them; we see them.  The same is not true for the disAbled; our societal position is muddied and conflicting.  As a society, we nod our heads with smug smiles agreeing that the disabled should be treated with respect.

As a wheelchair occupant, I can tell you that society does not often practice what it preaches.  I will admit that a small segment of people will notice me and make accommodations.  However, navigating the streets, stores, and social situations is a burdensome task.  All my plans and movements must – and I do mean must – include me being responsible for everyone in my vicinity because I do not exist.  Sounding alarms as I wheel with the foot traffic, I need to watch for cigarettes, purses, bags, and people who swerve in front of me.  Without as much as a blush to the cheek, they admit, “Oh, I didn’t see you.”

You might think this is as humiliating as it can get, but no.  Worse yet are the times that I am scorned for being invisible.

Recently, my husband and I spent the day in Chicago at Navy Pier.  I was sitting out of the major pedestrian traffic path, but still blocking a small walkway.  (I have to sit somewhere.)  With a quick step and an urgency of importance swirling about her, a woman came straight towards me.  She came to a screeching halt (I heard her brakes squeal) as my invisibility faded away.  With furrowed brow and lips, she waved her hand as if swatting an annoying insect (speaking is difficult with a frowning mouth) for me to move.  Realizing that I had become visible, I turned on my wheelchair.  (Let me give you some inside information, electric wheelchairs take about five seconds to charge up before they are operational.)  Well, the necessary five seconds was too long for her.  Miss I Can’t Wait Because I Have Important Things to Do, huffed and puffed (was she about to blow me away?), told me to move (without wanting to hear that I needed to wait for my wheelchair), stomped about (was she ready to stampede me?), and then turned sharply to her left, took three steps, and walked (or should I say charged?) past me.

With her went my moment of visibility, and I retreated once again to wait for the next moment.

 

Published by

Rose Wolfe (Living Free with disAbilities)

Let's get to the elephant first: I have myotonic dystrophy which defines my physical limitations, but it does not define me. Without the distraction of physical activities, I have found my passions: (1) Encouraging others to live more fully with fun, faith, and hope; (2) finding freedom in oil painting; (3) writing about my experiences; and (4) encouraging others to live more passionately. It is my belief that every person lives with at least one disability - for impairments are not limited to those with chronic illnesses. Many neurotypical people are psychological architects who have constructed enclosures in which they trap themselves. Mindsets, attitudes, and perceptions are fluid realities. Many of us have forgotten that it is possible how to live beyond our disabilities. Life may have challenges but faith and hope are within reach. I have made my choice: I am LivingFreeWithdisAbilities.

20 thoughts on “The Invisible Woman”

  1. If positive reinforcement guides our motivation then you are very likely to gravitate towards being invisible. However, that goes against the very nature of being a person. It’s being part of a community that is a key part of defining who we are. Without concerted effort someone in your situation would soon come to the conclusion that they are a ‘nobody’.
    We can never be accused of giving too many reminders and pulling things into focus, as long as people are not able/willing to see, acknowledge and engage other-abled people.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. When I was in my wheelchair (for a short time only) I wanted to go to the Bank but the outside door had a huge step up ! I asked a passer by to go in for me and tell the Bank I was there —-with amazing results. They helped me back into my car and said that if I phoned them next time I was outside they would come and conduct my banking from the car !! They did put a handle outside the door, but as yet have done nothing about the step !! Its hard to be visible !!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. What a rude woman. I encounter these types too – too important!, too much in a hurry!, get out of my way, you hindrance! One day she may slow down – or, be forced to slow down! – and learn compassion and a better way to be.
    Love you, Rose! xox

    Liked by 1 person

  4. To think that she was so very stinking important and you were preventing her from plowing through??? Oh, the pain and suffering she must have endured in those five seconds. If only there were a font for sarcasm! Thank you for sharing this story, however challenging it must have been to have to experience it and write it. The more humanity as a whole is made aware of the differences among us, the more we can try to understand those differences. I’m not saying your beautiful and crushing post could immediately change HER, but we start small, right? Keep writing. Keep teaching.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wendy, You always make me smile. (I would love it if there were a font for sarcasm. It would be most appreciated.)

      Thank you for encouraging me to continue to write. Lately, I have been wondering if I was making a difference. 😏

      The “woman” is not alone in her unawareness. There are bullies everywhere. Learning that our value is not defined by how others perceive us, but by how we perceive ourselves can keep us calm and content while the world rages around us.

      I hope your son #1 knows he is number #1 son for me, too!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My pleasure. It’s only front of mind as I just finished reading it. It was moving and I recognised the same (albeit for different reasons) exasperation in his words as in yours.

        Stay strong and be happy!

        Eli

        Liked by 1 person

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