Today is the fourth anniversary of Rolling Around in My Head. It's been an odd anniversary. First, knowing that I was going to write this I waited for a 'blog to happen' and when it did, it was one that disturbed me, one that I knew that I needed to write, but one that frightened me to write. Second, I ended up staying in a hotel where I don't get Internet in the room and had to wait until I came down to the lobby to get connected. So, on my anniversary, I'm posting late, I'm posting tough.
I wanted this to be an honest journal of the journey of disability. I wanted to discuss issues, both significant and day to day. I wanted to be truthful in what I wrote about. Since I was 'starring' in the posts, mostly I wanted to be really honest about who I am, how I reacted to the world, how daily prejudice affected me. As a person with a disability that would put me more in the role of 'victim' of prejudice, not so much a perpetrator of stereotype. A comfortable role, no?
Well, I got on to the WheelTrans bus early. The driver was one of those who are not chatty so we just drove. At first I thought we were going directly to my office. Great! I had been out lecturing most of the week and had meetings stacked up. My first meeting was a doozie. I'd get there early and have time to prepare. But then, suddenly, we turned and I knew we were going to pick someone else up. We turned into a narrow driveway and drove to the parking lot of a large apartment building.
After waiting about 10 minutes, we were early in arriving because we were early in leaving, a person with a really significant, a really profound, physical and intellectual disability was rolled up beside me. She sat in a complicated chair and it took a long time for the driver to make it secure. I saw the time ticking away. Now we drove away. I knew where we were going with the other passenger. There is a day programme for people with significant disabilities well to the east of my office. I also knew, just knew, that we were going to drop her off first.
Traffic was bad and I noticed time ticking away. I knew I was going to be late for my first meeting, it was an important meeting, I had an important role in it. And. AND. I hate being late. We come to an intersection and here the driver will turn to go to the day programme which will mean that I will be very late, or turn to take me to my office. We turned towards the day programme.
I know with all my heart that she, the woman sitting next to me gently sleeping, has every right to be dropped off in the order planned. But it was really hard not to think that my time was more valuable and thereby think that I was more valuable. It was really easy to think, 'she won't even noticed if she's a bit late' and 'I will be really noticed if I am a bit late.' I shook these feelings off. I shook the thoughts away. They are wrong, I know they are wrong. But they kept coming back.
It disturbs me when others see me and immediately value themselves and their time more than they value me and mine. A woman had to wait for a moment when I turned my power chair and she was furious at being held up, her time, her self, had been inconvenienced by the way I move. I feel, actually feel, the sense of devalue that others put upon me. I know that the valuing and devaluing of people has led to horrible consequences. I know all that and yet I couldn't stop myself from doing precisely that.
When we arrived at the day programme, I brightly wished her a good day, and realized that I did wish her a good day. I saw her being pushed into the building and greeted by the staff there. The driver then took me to my office, where I was late, where things were in a rush, but where the sky did not fall, people were understanding of my late arrival, the work got done.
In the real world my time did not matter the way I thought it would.
But in my heart my time meant more than her time. My life took more importance than hers. I need to examine these attitudes. I need to ensure that I find that part of me, is it arrogance, is it self importance, is it privilege, that creates hierarchy with me at the top. I need to challenge those assumptions. I need to grow.
So Rolling Around in My Head is four years old ... and my emotional and moral maturity falls significantly behind that. But the best way to deal with these things is honesty. Even when that honesty hurts.
Like it does today.