Be water, my friend – Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee, Disability, motivation, be like water

ROLLING INSPIRATION reader Thuthula Sodumo shares some of her thoughts on staying motivated and being more like water.

I’ve always loved Bruce Lee. I grew up watching every movie. He had one quote in particular that changed my life in such a way that nothing can get me down for long. It has allowed me to live my life feeling every emotion as honestly and as intensely as they present themselves. To allow, embrace and sensitise myself to any situation that life as a paraplegic brings my way … and then ADAPT.

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee.

When you have a disability and are dependent on other people, your sense of privacy is gone, it ceases to exist. It is one of the hardest things to accept. It is heartbreaking, because privacy allows you to keep certain parts of yourself to yourself. You get to have your body and do what you think is best for it. When you no longer have that luxury, you might feel like you have no control over yourself. It could be defeating.

I remember, after I started getting weaker and sicker from a compressed and displaced spine, how much I wanted and missed going to the loo without anyone hovering over me. I missed the time alone when my brain was at the height of creativity. I missed feeling that I wasn’t burdening anyone. I missed having a little time with myself.

I am a recluse. I love being on my own. Yet, every time I wanted to be alone, people would think I am getting sicker and that I needed someone to be around just in case. There was no winning. I was never going to be alone ever in my life again. I decided to accept the situation for what it was: I’d never have privacy again.

This was liberating and scary at the same time. There is freedom in accepting your truths and making peace with them. I have never hidden the parts of my disability that make it uncomfortable and disgusting for others to begin with. So, this was another level of acceptance that allowed me to stop whining and embrace my circumstances.

I figure if I’m ashamed and embarrassed over something I never went to a store and bought, something I have absolutely no control over, then I am denying myself a life free of guilt, shame and misery. It no longer matters to me who does what and how to me, as long as it gets done.

The trick is: “Be water, my friend.”

It is human nature to care. But the moment I decided to let things be and let go, my life changed. I cared but about what matters and not what others think of me or my situation, but how I lived my life in this situation.

I remember when I got to rehab last year a male nurse (a sweet, kind-hearted soul who I miss to this day) had to wipe my butt. A female nurse reassured me that he was experienced and that I didn’t have to worry. I said: “Yeah, as long as I’m clean.”

I will never forget that moment – a strange man wiped my ass. I have had men in my family help, but never a stranger. I also had nurses tend to my vagina following a urinary tract infection that triggered my Autonomic Dysreflexia (a potentially life-threatening medical emergency that affects people with spinal cord injuries at the T6 level or higher).

I had to use indwelling catheters that hurt like hell. I felt like my body was no longer mine. To help with the UTI, I had to eliminate the causes, of which constipation was one. My butt was probed and prodded. This was quite invasive.

With a tiny bit of imagination, you might be already gagging or feeling squeamish, but I’m trying to show the level of strength and willpower it takes to be dependent on others. It isn’t child’s play. As the Xhosa saying goes: ayondlwan’iyanetha (It isn’t a small raining house). You have to have supernatural powers in order to survive this life.

In a world full of perverts, rapists and twisted people, I had to let go of the fears I have and let people help me. Sometimes, someone might be helping you into the car and you feel their hands touching where they shouldn’t. It is no secret that some people take advantage of people with disabilities. We are vulnerable and soft targets to all types of abuses.

It is a constant struggle having to trust the universe to send good people your way. People who won’t take advantage of you and your situation. Genuine people who want to help. I’ve had to let go of my own inhibitions and let people in. It isn’t easy or ideal, but it’s how things are now.

I’ve had to adopt the skills and nature of a chameleon and be what the situation requires from me. With this skill, I get to live my life a thousand trillion ways that I never thought were possible. I never thought it was possible for the mind to work so well under immense pressure.

The creativity of my mind is surprising even to me. It comes up with new ways every day in every situation of how I should do things. I feel deeply for those who are new to their disability, as it will take everything they have to get through every single day.

On some really bad days you might feel like you are going to die from heartache, but on some really good days, when you take a bath by yourself, you will feel untouchable … over the moon. It is the little and slow progress that makes it worthwhile and perhaps letting go. “Be water, my friend.”

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