​Accentuate The Positive

Posted by Howard Menaker in Life After Paralysis on July 28, 2022 # Lifestyle

howard and patrickHow many times have we all heard people tell us, “Attitude is everything. You will recover from your injury better and faster if you have a good attitude.” I believe this deep in my heart but believing it and living it are two different things. There are days when I just can’t muster my usual optimistic outlook. Those days I feel wounded, confined, restricted and, yes, simply disabled. But as I push myself into a different frame of mind and adopt a positive attitude, I find I am able to do things I once thought were impossible.

My husband and I have always been avid theatergoers, both in the Washington, DC area and in New York City. Nothing can match the thrill of great live theater in the hands of talented and creative people. In the years before my spinal cord injury, trips to New York were frequent, as much as three or four times a year. But after my injury, we did not go for a few years. It was all too much effort, and I was scared to be away from home. Then came COVID, and New York theaters, like theaters across the country, were dark for a long time.

We missed the experience. Feeling the absence of something we loved, we recently resolved to try it again. We decided to make a quick trip to see three Broadway shows. It was not as simple as it once was to avoid having to find an accessible New York City cab, or a way to bring along my wheelchair, we drove from Washington to New York instead of taking the train. We did our research in order to find a hotel with accessible rooms within a few blocks of the theaters, so we could walk and roll to shows and restaurants. We carefully selected theater seats either in wheelchair sections or in aisle seats to which I am able to transfer. We scoped out the accessible bathrooms everywhere we went.

At times, I resent these necessary actions. They feel like chains on my desire for a free and enjoyable experience. But last week, as I gave it a deeper thought, my attitude changed: How fortunate are we that some hotels care enough to have truly accessible rooms? (We have learned: many will tell you the room is accessible, only to find out when you get there the room idles not meet your needs.) How lucky am I that I have a wheelchair that allows me to move from our hotel to theaters and restaurants? How wonderful is it that some theater ushers go out of their way to be sure I can get into my seat, or help me get to the bathroom at intermission? Because of these things, I am able to do far more than I might otherwise be able to do.

So, I came away from this trip optimistic that we can continue to do many of the things we love. Maybe we can’t do them as easily as before, and they clearly require more planning. Maybe there are some we simply cannot do yet. But as I make progress, I see the positive side of my life. I choose to focus on what I CAN do, rather than what I CAN’T. I know trips like these require more work than they did before I was injured, but my husband and I have decided they are worth the extra effort.

Recognizing our limitations, every day those of us with spinal cord injuries assess the balance of effort and the reward of any of our activities. But if we approach them with a positive attitude, and take on the challenges, we often find they are worth the effort. Over 75 years ago, the great songwriter Johnny Mercer encouraged us to “accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.” And you know what? It works!

Howard Menaker is a retired communications and public affairs executive, with over 30 years of experience in international corporations and trade associations. Previously, he worked as an attorney, specializing in civil litigation. He now devotes much of his time serving on non-profit boards of directors, including a prominent theater company and a historic house museum in the Washington, DC area. He and his husband split their time between Washington and Rehoboth Beach, DE.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.