Hardwired For Sorry [4]

sorry scream

If I Hear Another Sorry, I Will Scream!

I was confused after listening to the high-achieving female innovators in Amy Schumer’s video string a melody with the word sorry. What did their sorry mean? In my part of the world, sorry is usually used to convey pity and sympathy. It is a word I am intimately familiar with.

I remember being a rambunctious kid, playful and energetic. Then my world flipped and went in a direction my young mind could never have imagined. At age seven, I contracted polio and had to learn to walk again, albeit with a limp. Then, just before my sixteenth birthday, I had a freak accident and sustained a fracture to my left femur.  After a couple of surgeries, I was confined to a pair of crutches. I have used them for twenty-eight years. People say sorry to me all the time even though I’m not in any kind of pain.

Because my physical disability attracted pitiful stares and sorrys, I became obsessed with trying to prove that I wasn’t as helpless and disabled as I looked. I focused my energies on education and worked hard to find a footing where the brilliant students stood. Intellectual development became my foremost life goal: if you can’t walk or run, by all means think.

My worldview changed after I read about Helen Keller’s achievements despite contracting an illness in childhood, which left her blind and mute. I also read about Franklin Roosevelt, who contracted polio at thirty-nine, but went on to become president of the United States and was re-elected three times. I believed America was the only place for my dream of a normal life. I dreamed about studying and possibly living in The States. When I finally had the opportunity to pursue an MBA in America, I was refused a study visa twice.

I was crushed by disappointment but by this time, had become a possibility thinker. I ended up in England, where I received my MBA and DBA degrees. Seven years in England, and I never heard the kind of sorry or endured the stares that made me want to hide back home.

I returned to my country after my studies hoping that because I now had Dr. before my name, sympathy would morph to admiration and sorry would drown in the applause of praise. Not so. People still stared with pitiful eyes and they still tell me sorry.

However, pity that makes me feel inadequate isn’t the only narrative. Once as I stood at Port Harcourt International Airport waiting for my luggage, a porter walked up to assist me. As we made our way out of the airport, he looked at me again and exclaimed, “Kai, fine girl like you; wetin happen to ya leg?” I was speechless for a second. Then I asked him if bad things were the preserve of ugly girls. He laughed out loud, and I joined him. Often wit is the bridge through an awkward situation.

In addition to the old mind-sets I contend with daily, I try not to sound too intelligent on purpose. I even overthink the act of posting my thoughts on social networks. I used to be disability conscious, now I am overly conscious about my intellectual achievements. After striving to be extraordinary and do extraordinarily well in my endeavours, I find myself trying to be ordinary to make everyone around me comfortable.

I have spent a good chunk of my life trying to prove a point and trying to change perceptions. So, maybe a part of me understands why the four leading female innovators in Schumer’s video are chorusing sorry. They seem to be apologising for being women at the top of their game.

We have no control over our gender. I had no control over my physical challenges. I controlled what I could. I overcame the limitations of my disability and developed myself in the ways that mattered most.

I am a woman. I have a physical disability. But then, I also have a doctorate degree. There is nothing to be sorry about. If I hear another sorry, I will scream!

 

Ekpos Waritimi is a management consultant, researcher, and speaker. She currently lives in Port Harcourt.

 

 

©Timi Yeseibo 2015

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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46 thoughts on “Hardwired For Sorry [4]

  1. Dear Ekpos,

    This was beautifully written.

    “…if you can’t walk or run, by all means think.” I agree wholeheartedly with you 🙂

    I admire your resolve to Just Be, regardless.

    We have no control over what life throws at us, but we have the power to unapologetically overcome the challenges, and focus on perfecting the art of living our best life.

    I am very inspired by how you’ve done that.

    Like

    1. Dear Nedoux, thank you so much for reading and for your lovely feedback!
      @”We have no control over what life throws at us, but we have the power to unapologetically overcome the challenges, and focus on perfecting the art of living our best life.” This is a piece of gem! Love it, love it! Mind if I post it on my Facebook page, with credit to you, of course :)!
      Thanks again! Will wait for your thumbs up before posting that beautiful gem :)!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Ekpos, I agree with Nicki of Behind the Story. You are definitely inspiring. I can’t help noticing that the people who are the most inspiring are the ones whose lives are fraught with difficulty. Your perseverance is an inspiration to us all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww…thank you so much for your kind words, L. Marie! I must confess that I haven’t always faced my challenges with a stiff upper lip, I cried my way through most of them :)! I used to pray to have the perseverance of a weed, looks like that prayer got answered somehow. Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ekpos, so appreciate your perspective and, as Timi Said, willingness to share. You turned the whole I’m sorry thing right on its head allowing me to see it from a different angle.

    And so right- nothing to be sorry about.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Diahann, thank you so much for reading and for your feedback! Putting my story out there has given me an opportunity to step back and take another look at my life. And the feedback I have been receiving has been really thought provoking. Totally grateful to Timi for giving me this opportunity!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Dear Ekpos. Thank you for sharing your story. You used Helen Keller and Franklin Roosevelt as inspirations. I’m sure many people also use you as an inspiration.

    You said, “After striving to be extraordinary and do extraordinarily well in my endeavours, I find myself trying to be ordinary to make everyone around me comfortable.” With all you’ve accomplished, you’ll never be ordinary. But, since communication is a two-way street, we do need to speak the language that is most easily understood and accepted by our audience. I don’t think that’s the same as being sorry for being intelligent. It’s simply effective communication.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Nicole, many thanks for reading and for your thoughtful feedback!
      @” But, since communication is a two-way street, we do need to speak the language that is most easily understood and accepted by our audience. I don’t think that’s the same as being sorry for being intelligent. It’s simply effective communication.” This is a gem! Going forward I see that I have to work more on my communication skills, become more conscious of my audience. Thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Ekpos thank you for sharing your story with us.

    I think that this is a universal story of the human race: in a way, we all find ourselves trying to prove a point and trying to change perceptions. Then somewhere along the line, we (hopefully) come into our own …

    “I find myself trying to be ordinary to make everyone around me comfortable.” This speaks volumes … a kind of pseudo-humility that women especially take on. Why do/did you do this?

    @ Often wit is the bridge through an awkward situation, lol! I guess you’ve come to realize many people mean well but are tactless. Do you think the general perception and treatment of people with a disability in your neck of the woods is changing?

    You rock Ekpos! There’s absolutely nothing to be sorry about!

    Like

    1. Timi, thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share my ‘lemonade’ here :)! And for making the story come alive ;)! You are a rock star, gurl!!!
      @“I find myself trying to be ordinary to make everyone around me comfortable.” Since becoming a ‘Dr’ I am often told (by old friends in particular) to break down my views to bit sizes :)! As if my thinking is now so advanced that I am now beyond comprehension! I have always been assertive, but to some people it seem like I only became so recently.
      In my neck of the woods, the general perception and treatment of people with disability is more or less the same. Maybe if I become President of Nigeria, the general thinking and behaviour will change ;)!
      Thanks again, gurl!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Looks like you missed my wink at the end of that sentence. Gurl, becoming president is not one of my dreams :)! Besides, I dont have to be president to influence change. Since sharing my story, the more I think about this issue and reflect on the behaviour of people with disability here, the more I realize that people with disability really do invite pity in my neck of the woods. They propel themselves to cars in the middle of traffic and people, seeking alms. When they come up to me in my car, I show them my crutches, and when they realize that I too have a disability, they back off.
          That said, in my opinion, the thinking and behaviour that needs to change is that of the people with disability! People tend to see us as we see as ourselves. I cant help thinking that the general perception, behaviour and even treatment of people with disability here has been shaped in many ways by the thinking and behaviour of people with disability.
          The change we long for starts with us. I gave up my lofty dreams of changing the world a long time ago :)! The only person I am interested in changing is me. The only person I can change is me. I have been working on that change a long time. I am still working on it. It was Ghandi who said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
          Thank you!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Thanks for giving even more insight into your journey. Lol, I didn’t think you wanted to be president (although that would be awesome 😉 ), I thought you were alluding to changes you may want to see in legislation or some kind of affirmative action. For example, wheel chair access in buildings and public transportation.

            Perception is important. What influences the way ‘they’ see …
            You are a wonderful influence, changing perceptions and all!

            Like

            1. The Federal Legislators raised a Disability Bill about three years ago, but it is yet to be passed into law. Some legislators went as far as confining themselves to wheelchairs to get a feel of the plight of people with disabilities :)! I just hope the law is properly enforced after it is passed. We have many good laws in Nigeria, the only problem is enforcement.
              Thanks again and again, Timi, for making it possible for me to take a critical look at this issue. The feedback here has been really thought provoking and insightful!

              Liked by 1 person

  6. “I was speechless for a second. Then I asked him if bad things were the preserve of ugly girls. ”

    And I asked the same question just a week ago 😀

    Beautiful narrative. I often wonder if Chimamanda isn’t right when she says women are taught from a young age to shrink themselves so the men can shine. The problem with this is we stop knowing when to stop shrinking.

    A similar article I read talked about women qualifying their statements with words like ‘just, really’.
    Since the first instalment of this series I’ve become a bit more conscious of how I utter the word ‘sorry’. It’s totally leaving my vocabulary when its presence is simply a subconscious addition, rather than an apology.

    Lovely post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Uju I’ve also been doing some introspection- what exactly am I apologizing for and are there other ways that I ‘apologize’ without using the word sorry?

      Thanks to Ekpos for sharing 🙂

      Like

    2. Thanks for reading, Uju!
      And thanks to Timi for getting us to take another listen as we say or hear the word ‘sorry’! Since this series started, I’ve found myself hesitating when the word ‘sorry’ begins to make its way out my mouth :)!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. If we have nothing to overcome or compensate for, we often settle for less than we could be. You are not handicapped in what really matters.: intelligence, kindness, humor, strength of character, and perseverance.

    Feel sorry for those that can’t value those because they lack them.

    Your story is a gift to others with challenges. That is something few can give.
    Thank you so much for sharing with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Eileen!
      As challenging as my experiences were, deep in my soul I believe they brought out the best in me. Life is all about becoming our best selves no matter what; the means may not be to our liking, but if we stick with it to the end, we come away with a story that others can build on.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. As Marianne Richardson said so well:

    Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

    Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

    We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.

    There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.

    And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

    As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

    ~ Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. New York: HarperCollins (1996)

    Liked by 4 people

        1. The implication is that you are comfortable with who you are, and there is great power (as well as freedom) in that. It allows you to act in confidence. It plays to inner strengths. It says to the world, I’m me. Thanks for your insights. –Curt

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Hi Curt, many thanks for reading and for your insightful feedback!
            @ “The implication is that you are comfortable with who you are, and there is great power (as well as freedom) in that. It allows you to act in confidence. It plays to inner strengths. It says to the world, I’m me” In the early years, I bemoaned my fate, and wished with all my heart that things could go back to the way they were before I contracted polio. However, as I read about people who overcame different challenges, I gradually took my eyes off my disability and focused them on the person that lived in this body, me. It made all the difference in the world.
            Your comment, Curt, just made me realize that in all my pursuits I was really just trying to get not just my eyes but the eyes of the world to see the person living in this physically disabled body. A lot of people will continue to judge me by my body, and that I cant help. What is important is that I know who I am. This is very liberating indeed!
            Thanks again!

            Liked by 1 person

  9. On one hand people are taught from a very young age to show compassion for people with “disabilities” and on the other their lack of tact can be a little annoying. The truth is people when met with a person who they perceive to be suffering really just feel awkward and usually say something stupid. 🙂

    Maybe it would be more freeing if you just let your real self hang out. It’s hard not to be upset when people misjudge you, but you’ll never be able to have everyone know you or even like you. People judge no matter how you look or what you say.

    Those people who say sorry are probably coming from a place of compassion not judgment anyway.

    You write beautifully, btw and always make me think a little deeper about things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @when people meet with a person who they perceive to be suffering, they really just feel awkward and usually say something stupid, I agree. I know I’ve felt that way too.

      I like how she says that sorry isn’t the only narrative; how she uses wit as a bridge …

      Thanks to Ekpos for sharing her journey with us and causing us to reflect.

      Like

    2. “On one hand people are taught from a very young age to show compassion for people with “disabilities” and on the other their lack of tact can be a little annoying.” This is one of those dilemmas of life :)! Sometimes I wonder if I’m not being too hard on people who are simply empathizing with me. But then I get bathed in compassion so often that it’s difficult not to feel annoyed most of the time!
      Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Loved it Ekpos and thanks for sharing.
    I have resolved this day to do that one thing which I have procrastinated over because of this piece.
    You have inspired me. Thank you 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  11. “Because my physical disability attracted pitiful stares and sorrys, I became obsessed with trying to prove that I wasn’t as helpless and disabled as I looked. I focused my energies on education and worked hard to find a footing where the brilliant students stood. Intellectual development became my foremost life goal: if you can’t walk or run, by all means think”.
    i take my cue from here and must confess, this should be word on marble……..disability is not limitation, but feeling sorry and inadequate as a result is brewing empathy and a sorry life in itself…i read a school of thought lately that posit that all the great contributor to modern day civilization and educational advancement are suffering from one form of disability or the other, then i came to this callus conclusion that disability is just a means to an end…..Timi thanks for sharing, at a point, i thought the persona in the narrative was you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As people overcome the limitations before them, they encourage others to do same. Overcoming my challenges is not just about me, it’s also about those who will come after me. It’s all Ekpos’ narrative- she’s not letting anything hold her back! 🙂

      Like

    2. “… all the great contributor to modern day civilization and educational advancement are suffering from one form of disability or the other, then i came to this callus conclusion that disability is just a means to an end.” I totally agree with this school of thought! I look back on my life and I wonder if i would have taken the paths I did if I didnt have the challenges I had. Life gave me some bitter lemons and I went about making lemonade. Sharing my story is me selling the lemonade I made :)! Thanks for reading, and for your thoughts!

      Liked by 2 people

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