Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Beyond Frustration

One of the reviewers of my memoir, Seven Wheelchairs, offered the opinion that my "personal drama seems filled with more than the usual testiness ... " and some of my terminology "unduly harsh." Perhaps it is. I think not. I tend to think it reflects my healthy respect for human weakness and frailty, and I don't mean "disabilities" in that sense.

This came to mind following a discussion among a disability rights advocates after a AP news story began to circulate this past weekend.
Unique Dance Troup Triumphs
Springfield News-Leader
In the story, there is a reference to the " ... frustrating distraction ... " of a disability, and the description resonated differently within the group.

Frankly, I passed over it without a second glance. It takes me five minutes to put on a down jacket during winter so that I can walk my dogs. That's frustrating. And if the wrong thing catches in the right place, and thus the procedure must begin again, it is infuriating enough that I curse. And there are things other than down jackets I find frustrating about being a wheelchair user. I will not bother to list them.

But that frustration is my weakness; it is my lack of self-control; it is a failure of my attitude. I was disabled at age seventeen, and there are still little rivlets of frustration and anger feeding the Muddy Waters that are my psyche.

If someone said my disability can be a "frustrating distraction, I would reply, "Yes, and sometimes I curse it. But so what? I hurt no one with my anger. I keep it locked away and pull it out occasionally to learn how I can use it to make myself a better person. Everyone has demons. These happen to be mine."

Which is an entirely different mindset that might be held by someone who has never had a doppelganger ... a persona different from what is.

And I understand that point of view. "Pity be damned." And certainly to have one's physical self labeled a "frustrating distraction" paints a picture that can be perceived as pity-worthy.

Whether we are who we are from birth, or whether we become this new person who we are, the sanest, the happiest of us learn to to "Be" fully in life, in the present, in the circumstance of What Is.

That we do not think alike, that we do not approach the world with identical mindsets that then can be labeled with patronizing or dismissive words and phrases establishes the uncommon humanities of those of us who happen to be people with disabilities.

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