Monday, December 31, 2007

For Bendy Girl

I had planned a very different blog today, it's the last day of the year and I wanted to write something about new year's, resolutions - a fairly typical post for this kind of year. But then I got a very thoughtful comment from Bendy Girl on a post called 'Us' that I wrote a few days ago. It was a critical post, not written out of anger but in deep thoughtfullness. I have a 'way' of dealing with criticism. My 12 step process.

1) Anger: Who the hell does she think she is?

2) Self Pity: Don't people realize that I really put myself out there and can be hurt by what they say.

3) Decision: That's it, I'm never writing the blog again.

4) Anger 2: What have I ever done to her?

5) Defensiveness: Well that's the way the world is for me, I'm free to comment on MY world an way I want.

6) Denial: It's just a bit of criticism, who cares?

I'm in a huff, blood is pumping, adrenaline rushing. Then an hour or two later when I'm thinking of something else and the comment pops back into my mind ...

7) Realization: You know she kind of has a point.

8) Minicapitulation: OK, well I'll think through what she has to say.

9) Capitulation: Actually she has a point.

10) Self Immolation: You are a worthless piece of poop that needs to be careful about what he writes.

11) Self Degredation: You have no talent to write, why bother.

12) Self Evaluation: You aren't defined by this comment, you wanted people to talk to you, and you've probably learned from this, it's a good thing.

So, I'm a little tender about getting criticism - who isn't? Actually, I'm ok with criticism that I don't agree with (I just blow that off ) but with criticism that I need to hear in order to grow, that's the stuff I have trouble with. You'd have to read her whole comment but she begins with

"I'm glad that you have all the equipment and access requirements around you to make life the way it should be for all those with disabilities, but for many of us, that is an unimaginable luxury. "

And ends with the fact I need to consider 'privilege' in my writing.

The post had me describing my house as being set up for me, thus reducing my experiece of disability at home, Bendy Girl, in her comment gives a dramatic description of how that is so not the case for her. Well, in fact, we bought a home with a ramp, it has a walk in shower. But as for the rest, we've adapted. We found that the kitchen wheelchair fits well under the counter and I can help cook from there. I've got a kitchen wheelchair because someone who had a 'fat chair' no longer needed it and gave it to me. It's huge, it's comfortable, I took it eagerly. I have a wheelchair in my bathroom because my old wheelchair was destroyed by travel and I use it to get around the bathroom. My toilet is low with no bars, but it is positioned right by the shower and we've put a tall stool beside it so I can use the stall and the stool as grab bars. We really need a tall toilet and grab bars but haven't been able to afford them.

There are other inconvienices in my home but they are more minor irritants than they are major impediments. I haven't written about my frustrations about being disabled at home because frankly I don't want to. This is my home, for better or worse, it's my home. Both Joe and I recognize that we are going to need to sell this house and move to Toronto, living in the country in a wheelchair is incredibly limiting. But I've compartmentalized that. I'm good at not thinking about things, tucking them away, bringing them out when need be.

Other commenters have mentioned that I have a fairly 'sunny' disposition to disability and a fairly optimistic personality. Well that's true. When the glass is half full ... My God A Bird Could have a Bath in There!! Whoo Hooo. Part of this is the result that I am (and I'm not going on about this) a child of abuse. And every day as an adult that I am not hit, sworn at, wished dead, burned or otherwise scarred - that's a very, very, good day. I was judged to be almost ineducable at one point in my schooling, the bar was set low for me. I amaze myself every day by putting on matching socks. Out of all that could come bitterness. Then I met Joe. I don't know how many readers know him, but Joe laughs at everything ... that's everything. When we met it was like a dark shadow walking into bright light, I didn't disappear, I just discovered that I was not the shadow, I was the person casting the shadow. I didn't know that relationships - that people - could be safe. So under Joe's direct influence I moved from despair to hope. My world view changed. I became aware that life could change, that it was possible to be safe, create safe places.

But as to Bendy Girl's comment, she was right, I do present the world a little unrealistically because of how I focus my writing. I want people to read about the joys of living with a disability as part of a counter attack on 'you're all so miserable, wouldn't ya wish to be dead?' crap that you get from so many. I didn't want to feed into that kind of stereotype yet I want to write about the challenges as well. I clearly didn't do a good job on that post, and I think, honestly I've made that mistake before.

So Bendy Girl, I thank you for your comment, I've taken it seriously, and I hope it will affect my writing, will help me grow deeper in my analysis. But I warn you, I am an optimist, I do believe that the world can change if challenged, I do beleive that disability is just another way of being and should be respected as such - none of that will change. But my expression about the real world frustrations will attempt to be a bit more accurate.

This is not a resolution, it's a realization -- and for me, realizations are always the greater prod to change.


Katrin said...

As much as I hate to say it, I read Bendy Girls comment when she posted it and mentally said "Thank you"

I have never posted a comment here, but I have enjoyed reading your blog, if not for the overwhelming optimism and positive attitude it seems to exude, even though I have doubted the true reality of it on a fairly frequent basis. I enjoy that you try to accentuate the positive, while not being all flowery and peaches and cream all of the time, while still getting your point across and making readers think and try to push their growth. (in the end I am a realist who tends to lean towards the more negative sided of life, but that's just me)

I live in a 3 story victorian house. There are stairs to get into the house from the outside, to get to the 2nd floor, to get to the basement, there are these awful round wooden door knobs on every single door, the bathroom is a disaster waiting to happen, etc. And while I am not wheelchair bound, the stairs are a huge challenge as are the damn door knobs and the bathroom, due to pain and ataxia and muscle spasms and other neuro issues, and every time I need to go upstairs or open a door, I have to barter with myself, "do I really, really need to go into that part of the house?" and the people I live with, who own the house, see no need to make it just even a little bit more accessable for me (I think they're still hoping I'll 'grow out of it and get better')

I think it's commendable that you don't simply reject criticism because it is criticism, but instead try to come to a conclusion within yourself and possibly grow from it.

Thank you.

BenefitScroungingScum said...

Dave, thank you for such a wonderful response to my comment, and I am very sorry if it was hurtful, as I'm sure you know, it certainly wasn't meant that way.
I do agree with you that disability is just another way of being, or that it should be. The world isn't that way as yet, and I think it's our job to get it there. I'm just don't believe that in always being optimistic we have to deny the difficult realities. I use humour to deal with my disability, something I've only been able to do since further along the road of accepting it. However, any time I feel even slightly sorry for myself, I consider not just what life would be like to live in a developing country, but what life would be like for me, as a disabled person in such a situation. Puts things like ramps and equipment into perspective pretty quick.
Thanks for what you said about learning people and relationships can be safe though..I'm just starting out with that!
Happy New Year Dave, Bendy Girl x

Belinda said...

"Self Imolation?" Oh, that sentence made me laugh out loud!

Whatever we write it is always only part of the picture, isn't it?

Thanks for rounding it out Bendy Girl and to Katrin too, for reminding me of how much I take for granted and how much less tolerant I should be of the pain others have to suffer just to "get in" or "up."

lilwatchergirl said...

Ooh, very interesting post.

I think I respond to your writing in similar ways to how you responded to Bendy Girl's comment. It isn't always how I think, or how I'd want to think. But it opens my eyes to a new perspective. And I appreciate that a great deal.

I look forward to reading more of your optimism in 2008!

Mieke said...

What I'm going to say now may seem truly stupid, but still I want to say it.
It seems obvious to me that accessibility and having a comfortable home can never be of utmost importance from the point of view of happiness.
I must say that when I personally look back on my own life, the most difficult and least "wealthy and comfortable" periods, later appeared to be the best.
Another thing: I have written a book in Dutch about overcoming breast cancer, together with my gaenecologist dr. L. Afterwards he said some of his breast cancer patients couldn't stand very well that I hadn't suffered as much as they had. I had been far too positive!
It hurt me a little to hear him say this, and quickly understood that most people take greater comfort out of "worse cases than their own". They certainly offer better "catharsis", in the old Greek sense of the word!

lisa6wks said...

Dave, you are too hard on yourself. I know how it too, to feel that saftey and security equal happiness. My outlook on life is brighter just knowing that now I am safe. It may not seem like much to some people, but to others of us, it is everything.


rickismom said...

RE MIEKE's comment-
Actually, I think that most people only take comfort from "worse cases than their own" when THEY themselves say it. Not when others tell them. For further explanation, see my blog of Dec 16th

Elizabeth McClung said...

Hehe - well brave of you to come back and reexamine the post - I mean of the advantages of blog world is never having to admit we are....incorrect. I do have to say though that if you start a post "There are times I hate my fellow cripples" and end just with "reciprocity" - well, I kind of thought that Bendy Girl was being kind and gentle. Shit, maybe ontario is some sort of disability utopia but here in BC you have to fill out a form on a computer before you are allowed to talk to a person who asks you "Do you currently have shelter?" (Am I the only one getting that irony?) - so in the UK where you have the luxury of say, taking YOUR particular crip issue to the European court versus, say, (BC, Canada) where you can't get a designation of a person with disability if you have employment or any funds or objects which can be sold for funds. You have a house? Sorry Dave, here in BC, you aren't disabled.

I still think that you will forever be the more acceptable face of activism, simply because you are optimistic, and you do see the positive and people don't come away from you feeling like accomplices to human rights crimes ( my point of view, they are). But also, I guess like the odd Purpose Driven Life books; it is directed toward a particular audience (And for whom I wonder how much the 'changes' amount to genuine life altering change after a11)

Rick said...

A Happy New Year to you. Check out the give-away on my blog. I think that you'll be glad you did.

Tom said...

I appreciate your willingness to grapple with these issues in such an open and vulnerable way... Just wanted to say thanks and hope that the New Year brings more self-evaluation and less self-degradation. Cheers!

Gwen said...

I laughed... I cried... it was an emotional roller coaster!

This was a great post, Dave - I'm glad I stumbled onto your blog! The paragraph about your meeting Joe made tears come to my eyes. Lovely, lovely.