I remember when I took a walk down the main street of Princeton, NJ. You need to understand that this is a very wealthy community and rather elitist. So I was walking down the street and couldn’t find the center of me. That’s what I call it when I’m off balance. This dapper man with a coat and hat on, came up to me and said, “You should go home and sleep it off. We don’t like people walking down here inebriated.”
I was so stunned, that I burst into tears and his mouth gaped open. I blubbered out loud, “But I have Multiple Sclerosis. I can’t help that I walk like this.” It was his turn to be stunned and he took off his hat and bowed his head. He put his hat back on, took my hand and put it on his arm. He said, “Where are you going? May I escort you?”
I sniffled and said, “As it so happens, I was heading home. I just taught a class at Pins and Needles, a high-brow knit store where yarns are so expensive it’s cheaper to buy a sweater already made.”
He smiled and said, “This is Princeton and everything is like that.” Then he looked at me again and smiled, “You teach? Is it difficult to teach with your condition?” I told him that I had the students come to me and everyone was so kind and respectful of me.
We chatted like this all the way home. He guided me up the stairs and he finally said with hat in hand again, “I apologize. This was a good lesson for me. I shouldn’t have assumed what I did. I shouldn’t assume anything about people I don’t know.” I just nodded and offered to give him a cup of coffee, but he had to go.
My Take On This:
Sometimes I notice people looking at me. I no longer live Princeton, but just outside of it. However, it seems that people are the same everywhere when it comes to looking at someone who is either very attractive or somewhat different. I am guilty of the same behavior.
I used to worry about what people thought of me even when I was “normal.” I no longer waste my time on what I consider is frivolous worrying. This is part of the benefits of getting older and it’s also part of the benefit of having a disabling disease.
This is why I say that in many ways, we are enabled by our disease. With the loss of something we gain other things. I think, for me, I gain wisdom in knowing and understanding that I have better things to do than to waste my time worrying about what is on the minds of other people. They will think what they will, but their thinking, has absolutely no impact on my life.