Monday, September 20, 2010

But I am Disabled!

December 25, 2009
I have been told again that I am "courageous" for going on with life "in spite of" my disabilities.  I am afraid I did not react well.
If you told me of all of the complications of your disability – physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, economically – and I simply replied, “So what?” would you be offended?
But I give this very response to myself every day when it comes to living with disability: I have disability hardships, so what?
Yes, I am insensitive and crass and jaded, and kind of an ass. And I simply know that when it comes to viewing our disabilities, often simply saying to ourselves "so what?" is a key to continuing with life.
Sure, people can easily dive headfirst into victimhood at some point, making a three-page list of reasons why they couldn’t attend school or work: I can’t speak. I can’t move my limbs. I can’t feed myself. I can’t toilet myself. My disablity  prevents me from doing what I want and dream. And, as a society, we’d never argue with that reasoning.
But there’s no accountability in such thinking, is there? The minute that we look at disability as happening to us – where we make a list of excuses why we can’t rise to its challenges, we live in defeat.  It’s not my fault that I can’t attend school or work – I have a disability. It’s victim thinking at its best – and it serves no one.
Often when it comes to the limiting factors of our disabilities, they’re based almost entirely on our own negative thinking, our embracing victimhood instead of valid barriers. Sure, we could all play the victim, make our own three-page list of how our disabilities limit our potentials – and, we could check off every box as yet another reason why we can’t pursue our goals or live up to what we should achieve, why we’re casualties of disability. Heck, we could even get everyone from family to doctors to society to sign off on that tragic list, validating why we can’t do something we should be doing, acknowledging why we deserve to feel robbed, defeated, and depressed.
The fact is that we all have limitations - my singing frightens children, so I cannot be a blues singer, as I once aspired.  I do not have the ability or talent to be a NFL running back.  I would love to have a doctorate in applied mathematics from Stanford, but I am not smart enough.  Deal with it.
At some point, though, if we’re going to move our lives forward – we must assume full accountability for how we live with disability, and throw our three pages of disability excuses in the trash, where victim thinking is replaced by accountability, where we pronounce to ourselves, I have a disability – so what? and just get on with life.

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