Limited Mobility Devices: What’s Your Crutch?

I always know when my dad has been using my office because, invariably, the tv will be tuned to the Military History Channel or Turner Classic Movies. As anyone who visits such channels can attest, the ads are finely tuned to, uh, an “advanced” demographic. This particular audience has inordinate interest in buying gold, Stain-away denture cleansers, and foldable walking aids such as the HurryCane (Freedom Edition). I chuckle whenever I watch the scenarios of happy seniors using these gadgets to negotiate everything from billygoating along a mountain trail to gamboling the strand in their plaid pants and jaunty sweaters. The only thing standing between them and Mount Everest, the ad promises, is the appropriate mobility device! I might call that a sherpa, but the good folks at Remedial Odyssey tell me it’s a Bobcat 4 Wheel Scooter. As I watch, I remind myself to be more charitable. “In time,” my older self cautions. “Be nice.”

 

But the truth is, we all rely on crutches of one sort or another. Some of these aids are healthy and appropriate and some…not so much. What’s significant is recognizing that we do it, too. Everyone has their vulnerabilities, and they change with age. What gets us into trouble is when we forget this or scoff at others for needing assistance that we, in our infallible judgment, deem, somehow, excessive or objectionable. Years ago, I met someone who exhibited a somewhat nervous temperament. A particular distinguishing feature about them was the highly structured schedule to which they adhered. Each day was carefully planned and announcements made that they only had X amount of time to devote to an interaction before they needed to go. The first time I heard their proclamation, I was somewhat taken aback, especially since they were the one issuing the invitation, but once I realized what the unspoken reason for doing this was—this was their coping mechanism for an unruly and nervous making world–I adjusted. I could take pleasure in their company without being there for that long.

 

Of course, as we all know, widespread crutches to life’s stresses include the regular assortment of addictions, controlling conduct, martyrdom, a need for approval, irascibility, or acting helpless—we’ve all had experience with people who manifest such behaviors under certain circumstances. Instead of letting it annoy us, the trick is to recognize that the behavior is simply their crutch. They have limited ability to handle certain types of anxieties, so this is their HurryCane; this is the extra wide space in which they choose to park.

 

Ok, but why is this important?

 

It’s important because the more we can recognize and deconstruct another’s maladaptive behavior (or crutch), the easier it is for us to respond with kindness and patience. When we understand what they’re really doing, we no longer take it personally or feel so irritated. If I were to interpret my friend’s announcement as a sign that they found my company tiresome, I’d react far less well and the evening would be a wash. Instead, after thinking about it, I could see that their crutch reflected way more about their anxiety than it did about me. So, I relaxed, ordered a quick drink, and revised my expectations of chortling through the night. We both enjoyed ourselves.

 

Now, take this theory and apply it to an annoying relative or colleague. Can you identify their crutch? Can you see how this relates to a larger fear that dominates their thoughts? Does framing the problem in this manner decrease your exasperation? Maybe there’s a better way for you to interact with them when they start doing that thing that drives you crazy. A re-booter appreciates that kindness and tolerance for others’ weaknesses is the best sort of accommodation life offers. And, we can only hope, the Golden Rule will be applied to us when the time comes…

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One Response to “Limited Mobility Devices: What’s Your Crutch?”

  1. Jim Patterson Says:

    Chrisanna,

    Good stuff below. Also, how much does it cost to use Word press? I have several people who want me to write a few brief essays on my books facebook page but it does not format well. I was wondering if I could write it somewhere else, like in a blog and then use my facebook page to direct people there. Thanks for your help.

    Jim

    NOTE: I think you are going away for a week or so with your Mom soon? Have a good time.

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