Moving Forward Series
Meena Dhanjal Outlaw
I looked up the definition of acceptance today. The dictionary says it is the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable, typically to be admitted into a group.
This word can also be applied to many things including being accepted by a person, people or having your ideas heard.
However, as a disabled woman, mother, friend and member of the human society, for the past seventeen years I have found this to be the most difficult of all.
Before my paralysis I already knew what it meant to be different. I grew up in England at a time where Indians were considered even below minorities. We were persecuted, slandered and for many, jobs were difficult to find. However, over the years and with the implementation of the discrimination laws holding people and companies accountable for such behavior, I remember not feeling so anxious every time I walked down an alley way anyway. Before then, I would have to witness even workmen on a ladder taunt my Grandmother or mother.
What was even worse witnessing that was I was only a little girl who had been brought up to always respects others. Yet, here I was witnessing the display of human unkindness right in front of my eyes.
When I became paralyzed and now residing in the United States I realized very quickly that even a person of color has more rights than I do. So, I once again found myself questioning where exactly it that I fit in? I went from being an employee on maternity leave only return to be a volunteer for a company I worked at for over several years. In my own home I was ridiculed for making a choice to save my children that resulted me in being in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. Shortly after, I was divorced and not just by a husband, but also by an entire family I left my whole life in England for. Shortly after I was no longer allowed to leave the country to visit my family without taking permission from the courts. To think that I could even return to London and live with my family who would have taken care of my children and me at a time where I had no one to help me here was completely out of the question. Without my consent or knowledge, the divorce decree clearly stated my custody over the children would be threatened should I leave completely. So, it would be fair to say that for me specifically, being accepted was a huge part of my journey as a disabled person.
Eventually, I found my way. I remarried, had another child, and became self-employed as a writer and Author. Therefore, life had allowed me to heal and rediscover myself as a woman, wife, mother, but most of all person. I found myself realizing that I had to decide what type of person I was going to be. Because not all people inside or outside my family were accepting of me. Not everyone felt comfortable sitting and talking to me without being skeptical.
What I did find was that as I continued to become self-sufficient, independent, and look as if I was put together in appearance sake, others respect for me increased. This only motivated me to want to continue in this path, because through it even if I didn’t have a lot of friends the ones I did have were real.
We have all heard that saying ‘you attract how you feel’. Well, this is definitely a great clause for all the events in my life.
In the beginning stages of the paralysis I definitely felt down. As I worked to gain perspective of my new self through physical, occupational and psychological therapy is when I became stronger than my self-doubt.
Now, seventeen years later I am even more self-confident, but that doesn’t mean the fight for social acceptance isn’t still an issue. It is and from what I can see even in today’s political world, it will be for a long time. Therefore, I have come to the conclusion that acceptance can just as much be a state of mind. So, if I accept myself for who I am and what I am, then, isn’t that all that matters?
I think for my life, I feel it is a start, and with every person that is listening and respecting me, I have a chance to keep opening minds up to the possibility that I could be apart of their group too.