To the person behind me in the checkout lane

To the person behind me in the checkout lane yesterday at the grocery store:

As you could easily see, I am in a wheelchair. Not because I lack intelligence, am damaged, or am part of a subclass of humans. I use a wheelchair because my legs don’t work properly due to a chronic disease that has damaged the nerves in the Central Nervous System of my body. Maybe you’ve heard of Multiple Sclerosis, or MS as it is commonly referred to. If you haven’t, I won’t hold that against you. A lot of people haven’t heard of it, or if they have they don’t actually know what it is. Kind of like how I didn’t know what a self-absorbed, judgmental, narcissistic person was until I met you.

I heard your long drawn out sigh as I took longer that 5 seconds to pull out my credit card to pay for my groceries, I heard the comment you made to your friend about disabled people being a burden to society, and I noticed how you so conveniently refused to make eye contact when I turned to look your way.

At first I was going to say I’m sorry to you and your friend, but then I thought…no, I’m not sorry. I’m not sorry for any delays in your schedule because you ended up behind me in line. I’m not sorry for the discomfort you felt watching me fumble with the zipper on my purse or because I took longer than you wanted while pulling the credit card from my wallet. I’m not sorry for taking time to greet the cashier with a warm smile and pleasant conversation even though I stumbled with my words. I’m not even sorry for being in a wheelchair or having MS.

You know what I am sorry for? I’m sorry for people like you who are so shallow that you only think of yourself, and in turn miss out on many beautiful moments in life. I’m sorry for whatever happened to you in your childhood or in times past that caused you to become so callous and smug. I’m sorry for how alone you actually are inside and for the hurts you are secretly carrying around with you everywhere you go. I’m sorry that the only way you can feel good about yourself is to put another person down.

I’m sorry because you are the real disabled…not me. I’m just someone living with MS.

Penelope Conway
(Is this one of those times I can hit someone upside the head and blame it on MS?….Oops, sorry, that was an involuntary spastic moment.)

22 replies
  1. Lucy shortt
    Lucy shortt says:

    This made me smile lol x I live in Birmingham UK recently diagnosed after I’ve lost count of how many years misdiagnosis. On the face of it I’m an upbeat, young (fortunately to look at too lol well apart from the humongous hold-all’s under my eyes which was my very first gift from the wonderful MS and even younger mentally 🤪) slim figured 37 year , I appear well bodily abled I’m confident chirpy, always wearing a smile and I’m quite loud so I don’t go unnoticed lol and that is how I’ve always been but now i mimic the old me as my front to hide the new me that I’m not quite ready to admit to nor am I confident enough to reveal to the world yet . Im finding it ridiculously hard to let go of the old me and of her capabilities 😒so I’ve sussed how to hide my stumbles , style out my forgetfulness that’s got me walking busily round in circles, hide away when my flatulence catches me by surprise and make a busy loud fuss at the till to deflect away from my incoherentness and fumbling around in my bag and being all flustered with my purse when paying! But all of this is only possible if I feel rested, good mood, my legs and eyes aren’t heavy I’ve taken my pills , I’ve done my injection been to the toilet,completed any essential chores, sorted my son out and then and only then I’ll venture out or go to the shops . So to look at me you’d think I hadn’t a care in the world so if I do have a twitch or I really stutter my words or drop something or I just can’t seem to get the bloody bread inside the moving shopping bag . Then I start to feel conscious, I’m getting annoyed with my body and brain I feel like everyone is looking at me , nothing to do with me being judged about my disability , how could they know I’m disabled? I’ve concealed it well upon till now ! But that’s where my problem is, They all look at me as though I’m a crazy woman or They think I’m drunk or on drugs so I get flustered, anxious and annoyed at the thought of people judging me all of which lowers my mood and makes me retreat safely back to solitude. I think I’m my own worst critic though I’m quite hard on myself, I’ve never been a quitter and nothing has ever beat me I simply cannot allow that . Also I’ve truly 100% never ever been concerned by others opinions or thoughts and I’m slightly excitable, loud ,joker, childish, prankster so believe me many have commented , judged and stared all my life , I’m me , I know who I am and what I stand for so apart from my circle other people their thoughts and opinions have always been irrelevant. I don’t know maybe I’m a lil lost , unsure of my identity perhaps xx

  2. Laura
    Laura says:

    I am so happy for you I my life the way you see or shere your feelings about MS makes me see it more positive or at least smile about it

  3. Peggy
    Peggy says:

    As Meeya (and others said) I love these “involuntary” spastic kicks! Just the thought of them mskes me chuckle…..
    Thanks again for making me smile in spite of it all.😘

  4. Rodger Ashton-Smith
    Rodger Ashton-Smith says:

    Thank you Penelope there are some people out there who have no idea about others even those that are not sick or disabled and probability never know. They must have a shallow life and I would not like that type of living. we have a strange mess that no one really knows about or knows any cure for, only how we might live a little better.

  5. Gale Vester
    Gale Vester says:

    Oh, how I love the thought of the involuntary spastic kicks! This might be a use for time machines, for just long enough to visit yourself and say, ‘Just kick her. She’s so self-absorbed that she needs it.’ Okay, it wouldn’t accomplish anything, but wouldn’t it feel good? 😀

  6. Jan
    Jan says:

    Thank you, Penelope, for making me realize I no longer have to say “I’m sorry for holding you up”. Why should WE apologize for those who are self absorbed & ignorant? Next time it happens to me, I’ll ask them if they have an incurable disease. Your the best. Jan

  7. Jana Morgan
    Jana Morgan says:

    I no longer think I am the burden on the world but those who have no compassion or empathy for other people are the real burden and I would have ms anyway rather than have their disability!!

  8. Lara
    Lara says:

    Penelope, I am so grateful to you. You have put a ‘real’ smile back on my face today.
    I go theough the same ordeal every time I go to the checkout. Honestly, people are so selfish – I just want to turn round to them and ask them if they would like to swap places for a day, just so they can see how frustrating living with a chronic illness is, as well as show them how their spiteful comments hurt.

    • Penelope Conway
      Penelope Conway says:

      Awesome, that made me smile. So glad to have helped with a real smile for you today. I would love to be there when someone gets asked if they want to swap places. It would hit a bit closer to home for them if they thought about their actions a bit more. xoxo

    • Suze
      Suze says:

      I haven’t encountered the issue of rude people yet, but if I ever do, that is exactly what I will turn around and say to them! Thanks for the idea.

  9. Jackie
    Jackie says:

    Luckily in my area of Central Texas, so far, my experiences have been pleasant when out and about waiting in lines when in either a store provided chair or my personal motorized power wheelchair. Sorry that there are those who have to be negative, like you however am not sorry it takes me longer to finish my business. Life is meant to be savored and since MS entered into the equation that has hit home too many times for it to be ignored, so I don’t anymore. Plus it seems smiles are actually more contagious than frowns with most folks and much nicer then a frown too. 🙂


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