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January 2005

Movin’ On - "Friendships"

Friendships are hard work. Living is hard work. Most of our days, after an injury or illness, are spent taking care of our physical needs; food, shelter, medicine, doctor visits and other basic and important things. Some people live their lives just meeting these basic needs. But I need more out of life. I need someone to tell me they care about me. That’s what friendships are all about; caring for someone other than your self. I know— it’s hard to do sometimes.

My friends help give me confidence. If I know if someone’s got my back, I can do what needs to done. When I’m in the depth of a depression, a good cry on the shoulders of someone who cares is comforting. When I have good news, I can’t wait to pick up the phone and share it.

Good friendships come with responsibilities. You can’t expect to “get” from life without “giving” something in return. Pick up the phone. Send an email or letter. Make time for your friends. Set dates to share meal or just hang out. Put effort into your relationships. The times I have picked up the phone and called someone I haven’t talked to in a while, have more often been greeted with “I’m glad you called!”

I know first hand that being friends with a quadriplegic requires even more energy. Taking me out can be a hassle. I can’t be spontaneous- I have cathing issues, temperature sensitivities, transportation of a wheelchair, accessibility concerns and the list goes on. But true friends are willing to put up with all of this. They don’t care about the hassles. They may complain, but let them. Not every day is roses and wine!

I have had to end some friendships because I put forth and they just took. Relationships with takers leave you mad, disappointed and resentful, which really bums me out. After my injury in 1990, there were friends who couldn’t handle my paralysis. They had a hard time even looking at me. God, it hurt. As time has passed, I’ve also lost friends because something changed. When this happens, I usually know the reason, but sometimes I don’t, and that’s frustrating! Some folks barricade themselves from the world. It’s all about them and they don’t have time for you. That hurts too. But it’s good to wean the bad eggs from your life; the people who use you for what you have and what you can do for them.

Now, how do you make new friends? Well I did say— it is hard work! Reach out to others who may have similar life situations. Go on the web and find support groups or special interests. My website has a variety of these groups on it. Don’t have a computer? Open the yellow pages, read a newspaper or visit a library and look for organizations you might find interesting.

To meet new people and learn something as well, go back to school. You don’t have to get a degree but just take a class that sounds interesting. You can take a class at one of the community colleges without getting graded- it’s called auditing the class. You don’t take the tests or write papers and the class still costs the same.

Another way to meet people is to volunteer your time at a hospital, a school or a social service agency. Call theaters and see if they are looking for ushers. This is a great way to see entertaining shows too! Who knows who you will meet if you put forth some effort.

Friendships are a reflection of you. If you haven’t seen the movie “What the Bleep Do We Know” you should. It stars Marlee Matlin (yeah a lead actor with a disability!) as a woman who has given up on life and is pretty miserable. It’s also about quantum physics- but don’t let that scare you off. Quantum physics simply states— what you think becomes what you are. The fim/documentary has interviews and commentaries that may be a bit dry for some but I found it to be very interesting. It comes out on DVD in March. And is such a cool movie!

So, if what you think becomes what you are, surround yourself with friendships that are good for you and get rid of the one’s that are toxic. Just get out and meet people! OK, I know we are in the dead of winter now, so getting out for most of us is a challenge! But when it warms up— as our newsletter says— Mov’On!

Katie Rodriguez Banister works with audiences to embrace diversity
through motivational speaking and disability education.

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PO Box 220751
St. Louis, MO 63122