Writing a post on a blog every day is a new challenge to me. It was easy for the first, say 100, posts. But then I had to tax my memory for nuggets and I found myself paying very, very close attention to what was going on in my world. As they say, "everything is copy" and that became really true for me. I store images away and hope that they will come together in an interesting way.
I was thinking about this last Sunday when we were downtown Toronto. I got the urge for a veggie dog and Toronto hot dog venders have the best in the world. We headed to a cart that we knew on Queen and Spadina. It was a beautiful sunny day and we had the windows down and the music up. We both felt 16 again - except in a much nicer car. We both still miss the dogs like crazy but we gleefully point out pooches we see on the sidewalk.
"Look, quick, over there," Joe said excitedly and I glanced to see a brindle dog of an interesting lineage. The dog was running with an odd lope. Then I saw that his bag right leg was missing. Gone. His gait was an adaption for his disability. But there he was, running hell bent for leather down the sidewalk. He glanced back, like something was chasing him, and I swear he smiled. Then he disappeared down an alleyway and was gone.
It was such a powerful image to me but I didn't know how to use it. I loved the fact that his 'dogness' was not even slightly compromized even though he was missing 25% of his legs. Sure, he'd adapted for the loss physically but psychologically, he was still just a dog. It was beyond cool.
I thought of the dog again when Joe and I went computer shopping the other day. I'm going to get a wireless laptop and we went into a store that sells electronics. These stores intimidate me and I immediately feel slow and stupid. Especially when kids, not old enough to shave, talk to me in a language I don't understand about things so abstract to have no meaning to me. I don't think I would have noticed at first if I hadn't been in the chair. He held his hands oddly as he spoke. Since my eyes were even with where his hands were I saw that one of the hands was formed very differently than the other. He did everything he could to keep that hand out of view. I understood why, I'm sure he has a long history of stories about that hand and the social reception it's gotten.
But I needed his help in getting to the computer I was interested in and he had to use that hand to pick it up. He blushed. I don't know if it was shame or fear, or maybe both. But I didn't give two whits about the hand, I just wanted to see the computer. So we talked and decided to buy a computer that we then find is out of stock. Great. But as we thanked him and left the store I just wished for a second he could have seen that dog running down the street. Just running. Just being a dog. To hell with everything but dogness.
Again I thought of that dog when I was at the Vermont conference, after my first presentation to people with disabilities a woman came up to speak to me. She typed on a keyboard faster than it should be legally allowed and then held the keyboard up and a voice spoke. She asked a question about the presentation. Then she said, "I like your blog" and introduced herself as Ballastexistenz. I flipped. I love her blog and told her so. She's a brilliant writer because she's a brilliant thinker. It was an honour to meet her.
We agreed to talk again later and we did. We actually managed to have a couple very long chats. The fact that a communication devise was used made no difference to the flow of the conversation and the sharing of ideas. It was exciting to talk with someone who views the world in a similar manner, who understands the nature of prejudice and further has a keen sense of personhood in a world that robs people with disabilities of that status. It was transformative. With a suddenness that is unusual to me, I trusted her and shared things I don't tell most. It was so easy to just 'be' with her.
Then, I remembered the dog.
Adapting with every step to a disability never forgotten but seldom remembered. For awhile I thought that that kind of 'state of being' was a 'state of mind' forbidden to us as humans.
I was wrong.