What’s it like to be Disabled?

Recently, Geoffrey agreed to an exclusive, tell-all interview with himself about what it’s like to have a disability. Below is the riveting account of his internal dialogue. You may want to grab popcorn for this one, ladies and gentlemen.

Q: What is your disability?

Hawaiian A: The official name of my disability is arthrogryposis, and it involves multiple joint contractures in my arms and legs. I have had the condition since before I was born, but it’s not genetic. Most probably, a virus that my mom caught interfered with my movement in the womb during a crucial developmental stage. My disability is non-progressive (votes Republican) and affects nothing essential to a relationship or a marriage. I’m perfectly capable of sex, and when the time comes, I’m sure there’s an incredibly awkward book out there on the “Theology of the Body” by Christopher West that will teach me how to do it right.

Or I could just skip that and become a monk…

In any case, I’ll live a long, happy, healthy life, but I will need assistance 24/7. Physically, I have the capabilities of a six-month-old. It would take a few minutes for me to combat crawl from one side of my house to the other, and I wouldn’t be able to reach anything once I got there. Needless to say, I prefer traveling around in a motorized wheelchair. I also need help with everything from going to the bathroom to getting dressed to brushing my teeth.

But, on the plus side, I have never suffered from the delusion that I can rely only on myself. Every day of my life is a family and a community effort. Without exception.

If you want to know more, please ask questions in the comments. I won’t be offended. I welcome curiosity. I love teaching people about how individuals with disabilities get around. Despite what you might think, our quality of life is generally on par with the non-handicapped. We face the same problems and form the same kinds of relationships. In fact, I’d argue that I’m a whole lot better off than the average person.

Q: You’re better off than the average person?

A: Of course I’m better off than the average person. First and foremost, I’ve got a vibrant and deep personal relationship with Jesus, my Lord and Savior. And as the Bible says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage” (Ps. 33:12)! Unlike the average person, I know that there is more to life than careers, bank accounts, and good-weather friends. I’ve got the sure hope of everlasting life to look forward to—God has promised me that everything wrong with this world will be set aright at the resurrection of the dead. And I believe him wholeheartedly.

634834762839778887 Through God’s grace working in my life, the Terry Foundation provided me with a full-ride scholarship straight out of high school that covered my bachelor’s degree. Other scholarships took care of my master’s degree. And now, God has blessed me with a teaching job while I work through my doctorate degree in mathematics education.

Furthermore, because my parents gave me a firm foundation in Christianity, I’m not addicted to porn, I haven’t ever fallen into drug use, I don’t whittle away my whole life playing video games, and I’ve got a great circle of loving and supporting family and friends who will stick with me through thick and thin. I also can’t name a single Miley Cyrus song.

Q: Aren’t there any drawbacks to being disabled?

A: Well yeah. Being disabled. I may not regard my disability as that bad of a thing, but some other people do. And that can make finding a job, going to school, and especially getting a date much more challenging.

Girls simply don’t realize that it’s my sense of humor, not my disability, that they need to watch out for!

Q: Wait a minute…you have trouble with girls? I don’t believe you…

29415_10151098573762765_229903550_n

A: It is rather hard to believe, right? Of course, simply making friends with women has never been an issue. Romance is what gives me trouble. But quality in matters of love is always better than quantity. I’m pleased to say that every girl I’ve dated so far, with one or two exceptions, has been an awesome person, despite not being a good romantic match.

The main difficulty for me is actually finding women to date in the first place. Many girls assume that disabled men are asexual beings only interested in platonic friendship. So, there’s a barrier you have to break down. At the same time, you don’t want to be too forward because you don’t want women to feel like they’re your prey. And that advice holds for all guys.

Disability forces you to be bolder than usual. I’m definitely not on a hunt, but some girls are going to get creeped out that a guy in a wheelchair is asking them out on a date no matter what. And that’s a reality I’ve had to learn to accept. Actually, I’m kind of glad that my disability filters out all of the shallow and selfish girls.

Some guys don’t find out that they’ve picked the wrong partner until after the wedding bells have chimed. But when I find my match and she says yes to me, thanks be to God, I will know for a fact that I’m marrying a woman, not a little girl. Of course, she won’t be perfect—and I wouldn’t want a perfect wife anyway, because I’m not a perfect man—but she will have to be a Proverbs 31 woman. It will take courage for her to say yes to someone with a disability.

But a lifetime spent with Geoffrey? Priceless.

Q: Was that humor or ego?

A: Probably a bit of both. You know, Blessed John Paul II said that humor and ego are the two wings on which the human spirit soars aloft. I’m pretty much in perpetual flight.

IMG_0287

Q: I think the two wings were faith and reason, not humor and ego…

A: In any case, it’s not only girls that give me trouble. After high school, there was a long period when I was interested in becoming a monk and joining a religious community. However, every one of them turned me down. I learned the hard truth that the vast majority of religious communities in the United States have strict policies that bar anyone with a permanent disability from joining them. While these policies aren’t always on paper, that doesn’t make them any less real.

Now is that unjust? Of course it is, but I have decided not to waste my time fighting to join communities that don’t really want me anyway, especially when I’ve got a community of family and friends that does want me.

Peacock Photo

So yes, there are drawbacks to being disabled, but they aren’t what you’d expect. They have more to do with how society views disability than with what it’s actually like to be disabled. But the Lord is watching over me, and as Julian of Norwich would say, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”

Q: That’s a rather charming platitude, but surely you get mad at God sometimes?

A: For what? Monk and girl troubles? It’s not his fault.

Q: You mean, you never get mad at God because of your disability?

A: Not really. I have gotten mad at God before, but my disability has never been the reason. I get more worked up over macrocosmic things.

n29617732_38051008_5823 When I get upset at God, it’s almost always about issues of social justice, such as, “Lord, if you have the power to stop abortion, why haven’t you? Do you even care about the unborn?” I want God to work terrifying miracles, convert people en masse, and smite all who would dare resist his will. I have a feeling that I’m definitely in the minority here, because most Christians are very uncomfortable with the idea of God’s wrath. It may just be my personality type, but I want to see the Lord personally come down and crush, in a very overt way, the powers that are causing so much pain in our world today. I keep company with the sons of Zebedee, “Lord, do you want us to bid fire come down from heaven and consume them?” (Lk. 9:54, ESV).

Jesus has had to be very patient with me. Understanding the Crucifixion as the fullest expression of the Lord God’s might, will, and love has not come naturally—it has only come supernaturally. A warrior who freely chooses to lose in order to win is a very strange being indeed. But as the Bible says, “…my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Is. 55:8-9). Thus, I shouldn’t expect God to agree with my temperament.

But I can see how the situation might be very different for someone who used to be able to walk and lost that ability. Or went deaf or blind. The pain of loss can easily make larger concerns like social justice fade into the background and focus an individual’s attention on the microcosm of their own tragedy. However, since I’ve never had the experience of walking, it’s not something I could miss or resent God for taking away from me. I can certainly wonder what it’s like to move around freely on two legs, though ultimately, the concept is about as alien to me as flying would be to a beaver.

Q: Do you have any advice for people who are experiencing loss?

A: I would remind them that Jesus Christ has already conquered their problems. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’” (Rev. 21:1-4).

5733219084_b721b529ec_o

Of course, I would be surprised if those words fully satisfied them. Future promises can only relieve present pains to a certain degree. To work through agony in the here and now, books like Job and Ecclesiastes may be much more profitable reading. The Alan Parsons Project did a good job of summarizing the message of these books in their song, “What Goes Up…”

What goes up, must come down.
What must rise, must fall.
And what goes on in your life
Is writing on the wall.

If all things must fall
Why build a miracle at all?
If all things must pass
Even a miracle won’t last.

What goes up, must come down.
What must stand alone?
And what goes on, in your mind
Is turning into stone.

If all things must fall
Why build a miracle at all?
If all things must pass
Even a pyramid won’t last.

How can you be so sure?
How do you know what the earth will endure?
How can you be so sure?
That the wonders you’ve made in you life
Will be seen
By the millions who’ll follow to visit the site
Of your dream?

What goes up, must come down.
What goes round, must come round.
What’s been lost, must be found.

The_Fabs I’ve also heard The Beatles have a relevant song, but like with most of their work, I bet the lyrics leave something to be desired in the realm of originality and the melody, though catchy, is rather dull and simplistic.

Blasphemy, I know. You may proceed to stone me.

Q: You’re kidding about The Beatles, right?

A: Of course I’m kidding about The Beatles. Everyone loves The Beatles.

I’m disabled, not evil.

  • Trenton Henrichson

    Q) {I apologize in advance this is going to be a three part question} Have you ever received the anointing of the sick? How did it feel? -By making the anointing of the sick a sacrament the church is basically saying that those who are seriously ill have a power to make Jesus more present in the lives of those around them. Have you ever been aware of Jesus using
    you as a sacrament?

    • Geoffrey Miller

      I’m not sure what you’re asking me. Can you please clarify your question?

  • Trenton Henrichson

    Their is a young women (Jennifer Wells) who had so large an impact on my faith life (in this world and the other) I some times call her my patron saint. In life she suffered from MDA I mention her because she inspires the next question. Q) Jennifer and I had a philosophical disagreement about her disability that was never resolved. One of us believes that clearly God was working through her disability and concluded it must have been Gods plan all along. The other agreed God used her disability but did not believe God intentionally brought suffering upon her. Who do you believe is right? Or the real questions is was you disability part of Gods plan or is God simply using the evil already present in the world for good?

    • Geoffrey Miller

      It doesn’t matter whether my disability was directly intended by God or just used by him. It also doesn’t matter whether it was inflicted as a punishment for somebody else’s sin, or my own sin, or simply for the mysterious purpose of showing forth God’s strength in weakness. We know from Scripture that all of these scenarios are real possibilities, but it doesn’t matter which one happened in my life. And that’s a very good thing, because I don’t have the answers to your question. So, if it did matter, I’d be totally lost for sure!

      I do know, however, that whatever the origin of a particular suffering may be, we are still obligated to endure it constructively and use it as a means of sanctification.

      Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church (Col. 1:24).

  • Trenton Henrichson

    Q) What would you say are the best and worst ways others reacted to your disability? How can we as the Catholic community most effectively deliver Gods love to the disabled persons in our community?

    • Geoffrey Miller

      I’d say, just treat people with disabilities like normal individuals. Most will make their needs known. And don’t expect us to be Hallmark Cards on wheels. ;-)

      Also, it isn’t rude to ask what’s wrong with a person. Don’t stare, just ask. It’s really awkward to pretend like a disability doesn’t exist.

  • http://lindsayloves.com/ Lindsay

    Thank you for sharing. See, you can write humorously—it just has to be natural. You do a great job interviewing yourself, and I am very glad to have you as a friend.

  • Cathy Cho

    My disabiity is not so visible – Asperger’s – but it is a challenge to live with. Thanks for being my friend over the past couple of years, Geoffrey.

  • Lauren

    this was a great post! I enjoyed your humor, your perspective on life and your honesty! You are quite an inspiration, and I’m glad to know you a bit better!

  • Joe Barrera

    I know you touched a little on this earlier, but just wanted to ask this as clarification. Society sees yours and others “conditions” as a disability and as such refers to it as a disability. Do you view yourself as having a disability? I’m just curious since I feel labeling people as being disabled at times can be no different then the government defining people of certain background as being Hispanic as an example. I hope that makes sense.

    In terms of getting around, do you travel? If so is it much different for you traveling then anyone else. Have you heard of Zack Annner?

  • Pingback: Conversion Story Redoux - Austin CNM | Austin CNM