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How to Overcome Chronic Disability

There is a famous literary quote ascribed above the gates of Dante’s Inferno that reads as follows, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” For those suffering under the imprisonment of chronic disability, whether it be of physical, mental, emotional, or social constraint, the burden of an unfulfilled life can feel at times to be just short of a living Hell. And all people, whether rich or poor, or famous or forgotten, will at some time in the marathon of life come across insurmountable hurdles that trip, bruise, and injure with a sense of ambivalent disconnect that seems as if the world itself is cruel and merciless. But the sun shines equally on the good and the bad alike, and not everyone hates a rainy day... so to some degree our imprisonment is partly due to our perspective. Right?

I have always admired the emotional stability of cats. Living in suburbia I frequently come across the curious happenings of the neighborhood alley cats. They are tough by nature, as can be expected, typical to the stereotype. They harbor all sorts of scars and scratches from earlier battles but still limp up the stoop for a quick warm meal, bearing absolutely no trace of self pity for their condition or maladies whatsoever. In fact, for those who own cats (or more appropriately - share a house with them) this lack of observable distress or pain response can be an emotionally challenging experience. Cats will famously hop around on a broken leg, and still fight for their right to lie in the sun.

But cats are cats, and people are people. And cats are mysteriously strange creatures...

For those inclined to the musings of philosophy and metaphysics to find “questions to their answers... to their questions,” there has always been a debate on suffering and the value of life. Is suffering inherent to growth in life, or does it detract from experiencing life more fully? There’s also the classically ambiguous question of self worth, ascribing value to what I can do for others versus who I am inside for me. An obvious cycle of never ending questions and answers can no more guide us toward our escape from disability, than distract us from the finality of the predicament we’re living.

Is life a forced predicament? Does a fish not swim in circles in a bowl without ever showing signs of withdrawal, or depression, or boredom? Please, I will not attempt to insult you with a reasonable comparison from a fish to a human being! But... how do you “reasonably” search for hope within a sealed room?

Houdini was made famous for escaping from the inside of a hermetically sealed metal vault. He was also known as a child to sleep very little and to stare at space incessantly thinking. The point is that the escape was done, and can be done, realistically and without magic or delusion. Houdini was known for proudly debunking mystics and charlatans, claiming his tricks were simply the extreme end ranges of human ingenuity and incessant training. The key attribute here being “incessant,” that is never giving up and going on continuously. Just imagine how long he would practice inside those vaults, running his fingers along the cracks and seams of the door, feeling the intricacies of the spindle-lock-mechanism, struggling to get some movement from it… some freedom from just a crack. Even his celebrated live escape could take up to an hour to finally experience!

Of course, very little is spoken of the locks Houdini could not pick, or of the one time he broke into a swearing rant from frustration and simply walked away.

Most everyone would agree that frustration, itself, is perhaps one of the worst, most disabling imprisonments of all, simply because we impose it on ourselves. There is nothing worse than scratching along the impenetrable surface of a brick wall that we have created before us. Even worse is the one sided wall, with no boundaries or corners to trap us... just our own illusions. Sometimes we need to step back, evaluate ourselves and simply look at the big picture to find a solution. I personally have found that in most, if not all cases, I needed to reach out to someone “outside of my head,” who could walk me around the wall from his or her own unique perspective. The ultimate path to freedom was so natural and simple, but I could not have seen it standing from my solitary angle.

In the end, all types of people deal with their suffering in diverse and different ways. I just hope for your sake that it is not alone. And although it may sound cliche, remember that tomorrow is another day! And that where there is the sun and there is life, there is always hope!

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