When it comes to romance and relationships, or anything else in life, why is a differently abled woman urged to ‘compromise’?
(This post is part of a special series on #FreedomToBe where people shared their heart felt stories about one’s relationship status and the judgement that often comes with it.).
Freedom has always been an aspiration pivotal to an individual’s survival – not just physically but spiritually, mentally and on all the significant levels of one’s life. Being a differently abled woman in India, I have had a long and arduous struggle for freedom which had little to do with my own physical limitations. It was the burden of those horrific glances which at times questioned my very existence in certain places and at other times showed immense sympathy towards me.
It wearied me down every time I stepped out, especially to have a good time. People were definitely very happy to see me getting an education and loved their responsibility of encouraging me, much to my exasperation. Their proactive support reminded me that I am different. This constant reminder and feeling of being singled out not only ate into my spirit’s freedom to roam free, but left me with serious doubts about my future. I often wondered, “Will I ever be free? Will I be able to run away from all these people who put me on a pedestal and didn’t acknowledge my existence as a normal, young and beautiful girl? Will they ever stop calling me ‘bechare ladki‘ (poor girl) and stop asking me, ‘kya hua?‘ (Why are you in this condition?)”
If you are physically challenged there are moments you feel utterly exposed and moments when people just see through you. I felt elders fully scanning me for a lot longer than I was comfortable with and young people, especially young boys, seeing through me. This left me in a panic and made me grief stricken as being a romantic at heart I wanted them to see me, ask me out and woo me. I felt my identity being limited to the girl walking with crutches. I wanted to run away and break free, yet I needed the support of my crutches.
For a long time, my idea of freedom remained limited to the ability to go out on a date with a boyfriend.
For a long time, my idea of freedom remained limited to the ability to go out on a date with a boyfriend. I paid little heed to the fact that I had studied in one of the best colleges, got a job with a fat pay cheque and had garnered accolades for my performance as I was unable to notice any change in the behavior of men around me. They merely saw me as a go-getter, an inspiration, not someone with the natural desires of any typical girl. People saw me as, the good girl who achieves and excels at whatever she does. I noticed my spirit drowning under the weight of these judgments.
This struggle for self-worth, which for me was clearly defined by being admired by a man continued to stall my spirit to fully grow. To make matters worse my family was also getting worried about my future. They definitely wanted to see me married and were ready to have very low expectations for my spouse – something that was unacceptable to me.
So, with all the judgements and emotional upheaval I decided to just let go of all the matters of heart. I decided to up lock my emotions and keep them in a very dark area of my heart; an abyss of nothingness; deep within my being and decided to have a cordial relationship with myself. I decided to love myself. I embarked on a journey to heal and embrace myself. It was a pretty intense journey considering I had been missing so many pieces of my being.
Once I started the process of healing, all good things started coming my way. Then I finally met a guy who made me feel very special and took extremely good care of me. My first guy friend; and that was somewhat of a milestone for me. He showed all signs of being interested in me and I felt I was very close to having a proper boy friend. He treated me like his girlfriend but never confessed anything and I, ignoring all the red flags decided to wait for that moment of acceptance. All my insecurities came rushing back to me and I again fell from this sacred space that I had almost touched, into the entrapped version of the ‘poor me’ image.
He treated me like his girlfriend but never confessed anything and I, ignoring all the red flags decided to wait for that moment of acceptance.
I felt that he drew great comfort from all the wisdom that I shared with him. All my knowledge and wisdom was at his perusal but when I needed the reinforcement that we are finally seeing each other, he was not there. Maybe he too put me on the pedestal as he once shared that I don’t deserve a girl like you and I would have proposed to you long back had I been worthy of your love. Maybe he was lying and didn’t have the courage to accept the girl with crutches to be the love of his life. Maybe he wanted more, but the sad part is that he never communicated that to me.
It was very suffocating and confusing at the same time. I still continued to be in this relationship which had become toxic for me. I gave all that I had go,t but I got nothing in return. He wanted me to do well in life, celebrated all my achievements, stood right beside me but never uttered a word about where we were as two people spending an enormous amount of time with each other. I reached the tipping point when he decided to make a move at me. That was when I decided to put an end to this traumatic and tumultuous episode of my life. Needless to say, my soul got wounded. I had hopes of flying and felt that my wings got burned before even before my first take off. It was a very dark phase of my life.
After wailing, crying and yelling alone, a question arose within my being. Whose fault was it? It jolted me out of my slumber and I came face to face with the real culprit. It was all me all along, who moped along with this man who had no ability to value the love that I had offered. A disabled person is always taught to compromise and I was doing just that.
A disabled person is always taught to compromise and I was doing just that.
I decided to go to back knowing my own self, except this time I didn’t lock my emotions because of the fear of getting hurt. After surviving a massive heartbreak, I became fearless. I even stopped noticing the unwanted leering of people around and discontinued caring about all those people who couldn’t acknowledge my magnificence.
I decided to be free from all the things that were holding me down. It dawned on me that freedom is an internal process. Freedom to me is a very profound concept. It has nothing to do with being in the best relationship with the perfect person. Freedom requires self-love and a strong sense of self-worth. I believe that we take away our freedom out of our own insecurities and fears. We have to make our way towards freedom with courage rather than begging for it from others. As long as we are surrounded by people we’ll be judged. It is up to us to carve out a space for ourselves from all that is given to us in the name of freedom. Everyone is judged yet freedom is always up for grabs.
I realized that freedom is the one thing that can’t be given to me, yet it my birthright. I have the freedom to sing the song of my life without fear. I have freedom to wear my heart on my sleeves inspite of being physically challenged. There are more risks for sure but I don’t have to abandon my love for romance. There will be challenges and other voices that might pull me down, but I will have to summon forth the strength of my courage at regular intervals so that I continue to be free. Freedom to me is being courageous and kind, not only to myself but to others as well. This is the only way to not only way empower myself but others as well in the process.