Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Anecdotalize

I've been thinking a lot about the post I wrote on New Year's Eve about an event that happened years ago when a woman was purposefully and needless cruel to me, and whose apology I spurned that night. I've read all the comments on this blog and I've had several discussions about it with others. After all that, I decided that I wrote the wrong blog to make the wrong point.

Most everyone responded to the fact that she had been cruel and that if I had accepted her apology that night, she would learn nothing from the interchange. At the time, I felt exactly the same way. I wanted her to have something to reflect on, something that might give her a shove towards change. Even so, I'm left with me, not her, I'm left with me and my anger and my hurt and my steadfast refusal to accept her apology. She may have learned something about herself, but, then, I learned something about myself as well.

Kindness is easy when people 'deserve' it.

But here's the thing.

It's not my job to be an object lesson for others.

It's not my responsibility for someone else's growth.

It's not life's work to edify anyone.

Without wanting to sound selfish, shouldn't I be able to simply live my life for me, not the inspiration or education of others?

Shouldn't I be able to take the easy way out of situations so that I don't end up bruised, so that my soul doesn't grow a hard shell?

Why is she more important in that situation than me? Why is her edification more important than the way I will feel about this the next day and, obviously, years later?

Disabled people don't exist solely for the betterment of humankind, no matter what Tiny Tim said. Disabled people need to grab onto their our lives and live them defiantly. We need to take care of ourselves as we interact with those who would use us, those would would anecdotalize their interactions with us, those who would take from us will still thinking us beggars. We have stories too.

Stories that visit us at night, stories that always end up being about someone else rather than ourselves. It's hard, even for me, a storyteller, to place disability at the center of the stage, rather than something that is acted upon, responded to or drained of personal colour.

Forgive me.

Disabled stories matter.

Disabled lives need to be lived in such a way that we are each the protagonist in our own lives. That is a much harder task than you might think.

7 comments:

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

If you don't have the right to not forgive, it's not really forgiveness.

You need to exercise that right every once in a while. To KNOW it exists. For yourself. Not her.

Then your forgiveness means something. We're not Christ.

Ron Arnold said...

It's easy to love a saint, but it ain't the saints that could use the love. Quite frankly - I don't believe in such a thing as saints . . . .

tragicsandwich said...

I'm one of the people who said hopefully she learned something. And hopefully she did.

But I guess that what I want to know after reading this post is: What do you want the story to be about? Because my original response was based on the sense that this was a question of when we choose to be kind, and my response was based on the idea that kindness isn't necessarily what we think it is.

After reading this post, though, I would still say, yes, hopefully she learned something. But I don't think it was your job to teach her, any more than it was your job to be "kind"--whether that's the common interpretation of the term, or one that reflects a longer-term process and outcome.

Whether or not she learned something, though, is for her to grapple with. So what do you want this story to be about? Because it's your story.

bevd said...

I feel a bit ambivalent about this post. I am TOTALLY in support of you refusing to accept her apology and it really irritates me that she continued to press that upon you. I also agree that you get to be the protagonist of your own life, and that your life is not simply to edify others.

But I'm not sure you can 'simply live my life for me'. actually, isn't it part of each of our life's work to help others to grow? Isn't that part of the human journey - to support others in their growth? I'm realizing as I say this that it is a belief I hold to be true, although others may not. And obviously you live part of your life to support others - in your work and your time with your family, and writing your blog. I guess the question is also - does one need to support EVERYONE else's growth? Probably that would be crazily impossible, eh?

I'm particularly interested in your paragraph about taking the 'easy way out' so you don't end up bruised, and growing a hard shell around your soul. I'm very certain you are never taking any 'easy way' - you seem very passionate about bettering your life and others. But I'm contemplating if there are ways, easy or harder, to not allow people's words to bruise and wall you in? It's something I often think about when I am hurt or angered. I grew up in a family that kept grievances like family pets, feeding them and stroking them - and I am determined to live my life differently. Dave, does it help to air these situations on your blog, and are you encouraged by empathetic comments? Is it a way to keep your heart open? I really want to know.

Dave Hingsburger said...

Thanks for the comments. I didn't mean to criticize anyone who suggested that she would learn more by the refusal rather than the acceptance of her apology. In fact I agree with that. I'm trying to say that my enabling her growth cost me, and I remember that too and I carry the weight of that memory. Does the cost of her opportunity to change equal my own peace of heart? And yes, absolutely I find that airing these things here on the blog helps me to process these things and I take other people's opinions seriously. I am lucky to have a blog community where people discuss things, there's very little shouting, and for that I'm grateful.

Liz Miller said...

Thank you for bringing it back up. I was one who said it was better for her that you didn’t forgive her. But here’s the thing, it’s never too late for you to forgive her and to receive the peace that comes with that. Forgiveness is more than words, and if you are in a place where you can forgive her, do that.

Girl on wheels said...

I can certainly see why you could read my comment as her needing to learn from your response but it’s not how I meant it. It is never your responsibility to be someone’s life lesson, that is a heavy weight to carry and should only be done 100% willingly. I just didn’t think she deserved forgiveness because she was clearly not sorry, and I suspect forgiving her then would have made you feel worse. Taking the easy way in that situation certainly would have left me more bruised than refusing the forgiveness. You were standing up for yourself, that is a powerful thing to do.

I am sorry that you still carry anger and hurt and shame about the incident, and that’s why I thought you should forgive yourself. We all get angry, we are all fragile and sometimes we let those feelings dictate our behaviour a little too strongly. You may have refused to forgive her out of anger and hurt but I’m still not sure it was the wrong decision. You will never know what the lasting outcome would have been if you had reacted differently, maybe you’d have forgotten in a week or maybe you would have written a post this week about not advocating for yourself. We can’t go back, we can only learn from our past behaviour and change how we react the next time. We can give our past selves a break for not knowing what we know now, we can forgive others and ourselves retrospectively. As I said on the last post, forgive her now. She will never know but maybe it’ll help you heal.