Today I made a decision. For the next week I am not going to use any disabled parking. I want to be aware of how much I depend on it and how much I use it as the easy way.
It took about ten years before I could consider getting a disabled placard for my car. Once I had one, I used it, not all the time, but definitely when my leg was tender or painful.
Since I've had kids I've so easily rationalized why I can use it. When they were little and I was getting back down to my normal weight (read: I was still heavy) I did need to use it. Getting around the grocery store holding a baby was a challenge in itself. I knew my limits and that didn't include trekking across a parking lot.
I usually feel awkward getting out of my car, though. I feel like I need to explain to the stranger who walks by me, looking at me with judgmental eyes, why I'm justified in using this disabled parking space. I know I look normal, but there have been a number of years when my walking has not been normal. But the stranger doesn't know that. The stranger only sees me, a normal looking person, get out of the car. I make sure my placard is hung quite visibly on the rearview mirror. No one can question me if I have a bonafide placard.
As I was pulling into a disabled spot today, out of habit and ease, it dawned on me that, in fact, I'm quite capable of parking at the far end of the parking lot, walking all the way to the store, walking around the store and actually walking back to the car. If I can walk for a half and hour everyday, I can certainly walk across a parking lot.
So this tells me two things. First, that I'm becoming more aware of my habits and the stories I tell myself about my disability. I am learning to question myself a little bit and see if there's another story to tell. Second, I am becoming stronger. Even though I felt like I took ten giant steps backwards during my walk today (I had to stop on every block because my residual limb was getting the vice grip feeling again), the fact of the matter is that I walk at least 2/3 of a mile every day.
So, I want to change my story this week. In the new story, I'm strong and capable. I am someone who walks across the parking lot to the store.
With a smile on my face and a spring in my step.