Note: I apologize in advance for the length of this post. I don’t normally write this much. This post is not intended to offend anyone. Sometimes life gets tough and we all just need to vent a little. When life gives me lemons, I try to make lemonade, but when the sugar bowl is empty lemons tend to be a little sour. Sometimes we all need to vent. I’ve been told it’s not healthy to bottle it all up inside.
Personal prompt: What is the kindest thing you can do for yourself? Make a list of ways you can accomplish this.
The way I see it, there are four kinds of people in the world: the person who doesn’t care about anyone including their self; the person who cares about their self, but no one else; the person who cares about everyone else, but not their self; and the person who cares about everyone including their self.
As selfish as it may sound, the kindest thing I could do for myself would be to take better care of myself. As cliché as it may sound, you can’t help others until you’ve helped yourself.
The first step I need to take in order to take better care of myself is learning to say no. It’s okay to say no if you don’t feel like doing something or you know it’s something that will make you sick. I need to learn to say no when I’m not feeling well and someone wants me to do something as well as when I know eating something is going to make me vomit. When something that looks and smells good is sitting in front of you and someone asks what did you think about my new recipe, it’s hard to say no. However, for my own well being, I need to learn to say no.
Second, I need to learn to ask questions. When eating at a restaurant or someone’s house, it’s impossible to know what ingredients were used without asking. There have been times that I’ve eaten foods I thought were safe and ended up in the bathroom vomiting. Later I found out there was an ingredient used that my stomach doesn’t tolerate. If I had asked questions, I would have known it was going to make me sick.
Third, I need to train myself to eat small meals made with gastroparesis safe foods several times a day. I’ve been told that people with gastroparesis need to eat six small meals a day instead of three regular meals. My problem is remembering to eat. I’ve gone so long without eating much because of my gastroparesis that I don’t get hungry and sometimes I forget to eat. I’ve been working on reminding myself to eat and I’m getting better at it.
Last, I need to learn to pace. I’ve been reading a lot lately about chronic illness and pacing. I must admit, I’m not good at it. I don’t have a lot of good days where I feel like doing things, so when I do, I try to get as many chores done as possible. Then I crash for several days. I’m learning that if I do a little every day, even when I don’t feel like it, I don’t suffer as bad as when I try to do it all in one day.
Creative Prompt: Design a restaurant. What kind of food does it serve, where is it located, etc.?
I’m not sure what direction the writer of this prompt intended for it to go, but I know where I’m taking it.
Living with complex regional pain syndrome and gastroparesis, going to a restaurant isn’t always a pleasant experience. I realize the designers of restaurants try to maximize space so that they can serve the most customers. Most sit down restaurants have booths or tables. Having used a wheelchair for several years, I realize most of these restaurants were not designed to accommodate people in wheelchairs. I’m usually asked to sit in an aisle because the tables are too close to each other to allow a wheelchair between them. Other times, I’ve been asked to sit between the table my family is sitting at and the one next to it. The first scenario puts me in the line of traffic where I’m constantly having to move so people can get through and constantly being bumped by people passing. My wheelchair is not only bumped by other customers, but I also get bumped by the waiters and waitresses carrying food to the tables. The second puts me in a location where I hear as much of what is going on at the neighbors table as I do my own. Both situations are awkward, not only for me as the person in the wheelchair but also the people bumping into my wheelchair, the people asking to be excused, and the people whose space is being cramped because I’ve been asked to sit between two tables. I might mention, sitting between two tables means I have to eat off a table beside me instead of in front of me. I’m left wondering what kind of loss it would be to remove a couple of tables and make more space?
If I were designing a restaurant, I would make sure each table had space around it to accommodate people requiring more space. Some restaurants have a “handicapped” accessible table, but if there is more than one person in a wheelchair, only one can sit there. I would solve this problem by making sure all tables were accommodating. I don’t know anyone who would complain about having more space between them and the table next to them. Why not accommodate everyone?
My next concern would be restrooms. If a restaurant is only going to offer one handicapped stall, they need to ban employees who aren’t handicapped from using it. It doesn’t bother me that people who aren’t in wheelchairs use the stall. If it’s the only stall empty and you’ve got to go, by all means, use it, that’s what it’s there for. My problem is when people use the handicapped stall as their telephone booth, especially employees on break. Personally, I think common courtesy would be to take care of business as quickly as possible no matter what stall you are in so that the next person can use the restroom. Restrooms were created for one purpose and it wasn’t to make phone calls, send text messages, or play games. On several occasions I’ve had to wait to use the restroom and I could hear the person in there talking or texting on their phone… when they finally came out, it was a restaurant employee who couldn’t seem to apologize enough. I suppose if I had wanted to cause problems, I could have complained to the manager, but that’s not the type person I am. On one occasion I was at a restaurant and started feeling sick at my stomach. I excused myself from the table and went to the restroom. I was gone so long my mom came to check on me because she thought something might be wrong. I was trying to figure out how to squeeze my wheelchair into a regular stall. Sometimes I can focus on my breathing and it helps. This time it wasn’t working. I told mom, “I’m trying real hard not to vomit in the floor.” She grabbed the trashcan and told me to use it. About that time the handicapped stall door opened and out walked a waitress. She knew I was sick. She had heard me say I was about to vomit. She apologized. Then, she got to listen to me vomit while she washed her hands. I hope the two regular sized stalls were occupied when she went in because if I had vomited in the floor like I thought I was going to, she would have had to explain to the manager why she was In that stall when the other two were empty.
I know it’s to save space, but what would it hurt to make all stalls accessible instead of just one? If I designed a restaurant, all bathroom stalls would be accessible stalls.
Now that I think of it why do tables and stalls have to be different for people in wheelchairs? Why can’t places just be accommodating for everyone? I don’t know anyone who would complain about their bathroom stall being more spacious or there being more room between them and the people at the next table or booth. I’m sure waiters and waitresses wouldn’t complain about having more space to get through when carrying heavy trays loaded with food and drinks to the tables. I’m sure people would complain if restaurants started putting in special tables and restroom stalls, for politicians only, or doctors, or lawyers, etc. People would probably boycott in the name of discrimination. The Americans with Disabilities Act passed a long time ago, but people with disabilities are still discriminated against in public and it’s legal. Interesting.
Enough on that. I think I’ve made my point. I would name my restaurant Accessible Eatery. Not only would I design the building to be spacious and provide equal accommodations to everyone, I would also design the menu to be accommodating. I would have a large kitchen divided into two sections. One section would be used for prepping, preparing, and plating regular meals, while the other section would be used for prepping, preparing, and plating major allergen free meals. Just because a person can’t eat certain foods doesn’t mean he or she should have to just sit and watch everyone else. I would have a diverse menu that offered choices to accommodate not only people with food allergies, but also people with dietary restrictions. Most restaurants offer something with lower fat, lower salt, and lower sugar, but usually it’s like the accessible table and restroom stall, there’s only one option available.
Now that I’ve said all of that, do I think this restaurant will ever exist? Probably not. We live in a money hungry world where everyone is out to make the most money, regardless of who they have to walk all over to get it. In reality, it would probably take billions of dollars to build and run a restaurant like I just described. So, while I would love to see a chain of “Accessible Eateries” popping up across America and around the world, I doubt it’s going to happen.
However, if you are reading this post and you or someone you know works in a nice sit down restaurant either seating customers or waiting tables, please take into account that people in wheelchairs are paying for their meals the same as every other person who walks through that door on two legs. We want to enjoy a pleasant meal with our families and friends the same as everyone else. Please seat us in an area where we aren’t going to have to move or be bumped every couple of minutes. I’m not asking you to redo the building or provide me any special treatment. All I’m asking for is a little common courtesy. Is that too much to ask?