Taking Stock of Life with Multiple Disabilities --By Rolf Kotar

Submitted by Jose Torres-Vega on December 10, 2017 - 1:26pm

 

At Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio, my undergraduate alma mater, we students would gather in the cafeteria, exclaiming in conversation, “Life is hard, then you die!” While challenged in a very stressful existence resulted in developing a major mental illness and a serious anxiety disorder (schizo-affective and obsessive-compulsive disorders), I can justify accomplishing my graduation with a baccalaureate degree with great pride. Also, through hundreds of hours of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy (CBT), the memory-shifting I preformed cleared my mental life by bringing many happy memories at school to the forefront. Do I awaken each morning regretting that I’m alive, as I now have acquired several more disabilities impacting my life choices on a moment by moment basis? These are Parkinsonism, uncontrolled diabetes, severe stage angle closure glaucoma and congestive heart failure. I ingest 15 different medicines every day. Under these circumstances, do you, reader, think I’d prefer to be enjoying the “reward that’s coming at the end of my life?” This is the only existence I know with substance — that is, with a corporal body and a brain inside, having consciousness attached. What is coming to me later is uncertain.

 

I read few novels in my small amount of unstructured time at Antioch. One of the first books having a lasting effect was The Chosen, by Chaim Potok. In this masterpiece written for  teenagers, Potok’s protagonist Reuven (Bobby) Malter’s father admonishes him that the only reason to be alive is to create meaning, in a life “that’s as brief as a blink of an eye.” Potok chronicles the Hitler’s holocaust in a backdrop, and the lack of value six million people whose lives were taken. I also read and reread Caviar, a short story by Theodore Sturgeon (Ralph Waldo). Sturgeon paints a fascinating picture of a very developmentally disabled man, who discovers and drags a woman who’s been cut up with a sharp knife and sews her up. She retains consciousness, gratefully thanking the man. The developmentally disabled character immediately grabs a cast iron skillet, cracking the poor woman on the head and no doubt killing her! The story ends there. Both of these creative works are penned in the interest of showing that there’s little more important in life other than it’s quality. Such are the results of my over 50 years of counseling by professionals.

 

Do I want fewer years for a shorter life because my body doesn’t work as well as a less disabled person? No! Every bit of life is precious, no matter what negatives we attract! People with multiple disabilities justify living frequently with our serious dysfunctions. Because seeing my life as worthwhile is sometimes stressful, I live in the future a great most of the time. While this is not recommended by professionals, it has always worked for me. Accomplishing my goals for my work projects has vital importance, I constantly picture them finished and feeling good that I made the effort.

 

Life’s  quality is the bottom line on measuring human existence. It’s a very good indicator of successful results in making good choices in life’s pathways. Which rod do you use to take stock of your earthly existence? If you’re not including quality as a benchmark, you maybe be missing the point.

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