We use the practice of a toast in many situations. There are toasts at a wedding or maybe on a first date. We use a toast to mark an occasion like a holiday dinner or an anniversary. It is a way people drink together in honoring a person or thing. The idea of raising a glass in toast is a situation causing me a feeling of dread. Even thinking about it now, anxiety begins to creep throughout my body. The holding of any glass containing liquid has always been a challenge with cerebral palsy. Even with my body at rest in a seat, holding a glass often proves difficult. If asked to hold a glass while standing the objective becomes almost impossible. The process of balancing liquid in the glass while standing takes almost all my power of concentration. Stripping away the most important aspect of a toast, listening to the speech before our glasses are raised.
On a Saturday evening this summer our family celebrated the wedding anniversary of my uncle and aunt. They have been married 50 years. That’s not a typo you read it correctly 5-0. Couples get married today without making it a week in a half, so taking a moment to let the idea of 50 years soak in makes sense….okay, on we go. The whole family was brought together for a weekend celebration. The neighbors came by for a toast to celebrate the anniversary before dinner. As their family friends came onto the deck they were packing a box of champagne flute glasses with a bottle of champagne along with sparkling cider for the non-drinkers. The box caught my eye first because of all the champagne glasses poking out. A tinge of anxiety hit, as there aren’t many types of drinking glasses I can balance enough to drink out of. A wine glass and champagne flute are two glasses that don’t seem to work at all. Even the thought of picking up those types of glasses while they’re empty causes me to shake with anxiety.
When the box of glasses flashed into my field of vision it brought a warm feeling in addition to the anxiety. The thought of a toast for my relatives was exciting. I had a plan of standing without a glass and listening to the speeches given in honor of their lifelong commitment. The environment promised to be great, I didn’t want the struggle of holding a glass to impede my ability to listen and absorb the moment. My thought was to stand in the back and if offered a glass politely decline. I thought everything would simply move on after I declined, allowing me to simply stand and listen without propensity. Unfortunately, the well-conceived plan didn’t translate into reality.
Inclusivity seems to be the name of the game. So, in attempting to provide me with a flute glass of champagne, my plan of politely declining failed. When an offer of a champagne glass was made a second time the panic in my body began freezing my thoughts. I articulated that I couldn’t hold the glass, but felt even that answer wasn’t sufficient. It became an embarrassingly awkward situation as I turned into the center of attention regarding something I have no control over. Fear brought the world to a sudden halt, I had declined politely, then explained briefly my reasoning for an inability to accept the glass of champagne. The options in my mind had been exhausted as I stood in fear. Luckily the kindness of my cousin’s girlfriend was about to relieve the panic.
As one of the people gathered around to celebrate the anniversary she sprang into action. All I remember hearing is I’ll go get a glass, as I looked to find my cousin’s girlfriend walking into the cabin in search of a glass easier to handle. Immediately a sense of calm rescued me from the frozen state I was paralyzed by. I followed her into the cabin, as she pulled out a large cup. I thanked her and took the cup back onto the deck, where it was filled about a fourth of the way with champagne. I could then be included in the celebration. It still took considerable effort to hold and balance the glass, but the awkwardness had been resolved. I was thankful for her ability to react in kindness with a helpful solution.
There are many times I find myself stuck in a predicament like this. I struggle with the balance of being kind and understanding my limitations. With the feeling of not having time or maybe courage to fully explain my reasons for saying no and the desire not to be an inconvenience. It occurs to me that maybe I should have taken initiative when I saw the box of wine glasses, finding a glass that would work for me and setting it next to the box. After all I had a pretty good idea about what might be coming. The situation signifies a desire of fully including me in these celebrations, which is heartwarming. Maybe it’s incumbent on me to find solutions, where possible, allowing myself to be fully included. Either way I’m thankful for those around me willing to help.