Tuesday, August 14, 2018

I'm Sorry

I was going quickly.

When on my own, in my new chair, I can go much quicker than a walking pace. Because of the construction of the chair, I do this without breaking a sweat. I enjoy the speed of the chair and the power of my arms. It's so freeing.

I was pushing towards a vendor in a relatively deserted hall. Between me and my path a woman with a walker pulled up to a seat. I saw her. I was enough distance away for her to decide to step either right or left to get to the seat she had chosen. She chose to step in such a way that I would have to make a minor adjustment in direction to avoid being near enough to collide or near enough to scare her as I whizzed by.

Nothing happened.

Nothing happened.

I didn't run into her.

I didn't scare her.

I doubt she much noticed me.

But someone did.

I continued on and then saw a woman waving me down. I slowed the chair and angled over to her. She said, with much disapproval, "You've got to be careful with that thing, it's not a toy."

And I am so sorry, dear readers, I didn't take the opportunity to educate.

She had entered willfully into my day. She had pulled me over to admonish me. Like disabled people need parents at every  moment of every day. I was stunned.

And, again, dear readers, I didn't take the time to explain to her that I was careful, that I had seen the woman with the walker and that I made sure she was safe at all times.

Whether or not a chair can be or should be a toy is not up to her or to anyone but me. It's my chair, it's my time, it operates at my will. I do not need people to tut tut about me using the chair in any way that I want as long as I am always in full control.

Finally, dear readers, I didn't dig down into my bag of compassion and understanding for the deep need that non-disabled people have for commentary and intrusion into the lives of those who consider disability permission to interfere and interrupt.


I said, "I didn't fucking run into her did I" ... "Well? Did I?"

And I rolled off.

Dear readers, I desperately do not feel the need to apologize for what I said and how I said it.

Sorry for not being sorry.

I sometimes am simply and completely human.

(And frankly, sometimes I enjoy that.)

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Present, Past and a Couple of Chairs

On holidays, I try to turn off the outrage button that rests somewhere inside my chest. I just want to let some things slide and just deal with the situation and get on with it. I don't want to always have to report it, write letters about it, or even post about it. A place says it's accessible and then we find that the attempts at accessibility are laughable so we figure out a way around it ... do it ... let go of it. At one place Joe was muttering about accessibility and I asked him if we could just deal and enjoy. I left my warrior clothes at home.

But that's a wearing stance to take I discover. And it broke in me last night. I went down to get a table for a group. I was taken to a table that had two more chairs than we needed. I was in place and then those two chairs were being dragged away, one by one, I asked her not to do that. I said the chairs were fine where they were. I was told I needed space. I said that I had enough space. Then it was a series of 'really, I don't mind' and 'I'm just wanting to make you comfortable' and 'it's okay it's my job' in my responses to 'NO, PLEASE DON'T' and 'REALLY, DON'T'. She never heard me and when she was done, I sat at a table with this huge gap on either side of me. The rest of the chairs bunched across from me.

Like there was no way in the world that someone would want to sit next to me.

When Joe came down I was almost in tears. I explained and Joe's face hardened and then he began rearranging the chairs so that each chair had a bit of space around it and people could, if they chose, sit next to me.

When they arrived, they did. I was not an island alone across the table.

I tried really, really, hard just to let it go for a week. But I discovered that some of my outrage is based on just plain hurt. Why is my voice not important enough to hear? Why do others assume they know what I need better than I do myself? How can I be so obviously present and so obviously immaterial at the same time?

Why can't people imagine that someone would want to sit next to me?

Insecure children become insecure adults a lot of the time. I remember as a child when no one wanted to sit next to me. Past hurts can become present hurts. Too much goes on inside each of us for anyone else to understand.

That is, unless, they listen.

But to be heard, one needs a voice that is valued.

When the hostess, who had hauled the chairs away, came by later when we were all eating and laughing, she looked at our table, like something was wrong.

Because she couldn't see what was right.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Getting To Done

Sometimes my mind makes odd connections.

We were sitting on the boardwalk watching people go by. It was a beautiful hot and sunny day but our seats were in the shade and we looked out onto and over the Halifax harbour. People strolled by and we chatted about everything but work, we had realized that the time had come to set that aside for awhile.

Not far from where we sat was a ice cream parlour and many of those walking by had cones or cups that they were enjoying as they walked. Three young girls, maybe very late teens, came  by with a very spritely and beautifuly black dog. They took a seat at the edge of the boardwalk and it was only then that we saw someone had purchased a cup of ice cream for the dog.

They set it down and the dog immediately, upon given permission, went for the treat. He tilted the cup on its side and placed it between his two front legs, holding it firmly, and then licked with rapid fire speed. One of the young women noticed this and reached over and took the edge of the cup and set it upright. The dog stopped, looked at her, and then took tentative licks into the upright cup.

Soon, though, he had it back in his position and was racing to get the sweet from the bowl into the belly. Again it was noticed and again, the bowl was turned upright. This happened three times before the ice cream was finished, and each time the dog looked at the woman who turned the bowl upright with curiosity.

"Don't you realize I'm a dog? Don't you realize I do things the way dogs do things? Don't you realize there is no doggies social etiquette that states ice cream cups must be eaten in upright position? Don't you realize that it's harder for me to eat in a manner that doesn't suit me? Don't you realize that you don't need to control everything and have everything your way?" The dog finally got to done, he turned around with the bowl out of reach and held it between his two front legs and licked until every bit of it was gone.

Now, obviously the dog loved having the ice cream and it was lovely of his mistress to buy him one. He was thought about, cared about, and given the same treat as everyone else. That's lovely.

But, I thought, because I couldn't help it. That this was a metaphor for so much in my life right now. So often people with disabilities are expected to do things the way their staff thing things need to be done. Too often the staff worry, not about the end product, but on the process for getting done. People with disabilities interrupted from doing things the way they want to do it because it deviates from how staff do it. "Don't you realize I have a disability and do things differently than you do?" "Can't you try letting me get to done in my own way?"

I read in the paper about immigrants and their way of doing things, their way of seeing things, and people upset and outright challenged by it. Like they somehow are losing control over the 'way things are done'.  Why is it necessary for difference to challenge rather than enrich? "Don't you realize that I may have a different definition of done?"

I sense an increasing disacceptance of me as a gay man and of the relationship that Joe and I have. Everyone else sees a burst of pride and feel a movement forward. But I am not alone in fearing that there are now other voices getting louder protesting our way of living. I fear that hatred is weaponizing disapproval and I see the results in report after report after report of people within the LGBT community being targeted with violence. Our way of doing things and seeing things is simply too different. There are those who don't even want us to make it to 'done'.

Canadian history is shamed by it's need for Native Canadian kids to be forced to do things the way the invading forces wanted it to be done. Like the narrative on how we get to 'done' had shifted under their feet when we pulled the land from under them? Families torn apart, children damaged and traumatized. We hide our history under a veneer of politeness. We cared too much about eradicating difference that we ended up attempting to eradicate a people.

The girls finished, picked up the dogs cup, and wandered off. They probably thought they'd had a nice ice cream break. They probably had no idea that my mind was making connection after connection while their dog simply tried to eat his ice cream in a way that suited him. He did get to done, he did get to finish his way, but he had to turn away, turn his back on those who tried to insist that bowls are always upright. He had to protect himself and make himself alone.

The dog had left happy, perhaps because he'd just had ice cream or perhaps because he got to finish it his way. Maybe both. But, here's the thing, it didn't matter that he held the bowl between his legs.

What mattered was that people cared about it.

So, just don't care.

We're all just trying to get to done.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Some Do

Joe and I had checked out the ramp down to a floating bridge that connected one part of the harbour from another. At the top, after consideration, I felt that it was doable. It was steep but I had Joe for help. What I couldn't see was at the bottom, maybe three or four feet from the end, the steep slope tilted and became steeper. When we got there, I panicked. I felt out of control and I was terrified. 

Joe helped me turn the chair around to go down backwards, something made difficult by the steep slope we were on and by the narrow ramp. I lost control of my breath. I was truly and deeply frightened. It didn't help that when turning I saw that people were waiting to go both up and down the ramp and we impeded access both ways. So they took the opportunity to watch as we struggled. 

I felt on display.

I get that people do that. 

I get that it isn't always hostile.

But I wish they'd get that, at that moment, their watching made it more difficult.

There's always one, isn't there?

A woman said to her family, "Let's turn and watch the seals, give this man some privacy." I couldn't see what she did because of the flurry of activity, the beating of my heart and the adrenaline pumping through my veins. But I did see, when I turned, a whole family. A mom, some children, a dad, and two elderly grandparents, all turned away from me. All giving me the moment I needed.

Those are the people I choose to remember. Even though I understand that very few people would get what I needed in that moment, I need to notice that some do.

Some do.

And that gives me more comfort than you can possibly imagine.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Chocolate Canada

Yesterday I heard two people talking about immigration, they were against it. They feared the people and they feared for the economy and they feared for their safety.

Yesterday I saw a meme about immigration. People really angry at the direction that Canada has taken. We are losing our culture. Claims that someone somewhere wants to ban bacon. Seriously.

Yesterday I bought these chocolates. I was intrigued by the packaging and placement. It was in a section of local, Canadian made products and it said, "A Syrian family tradition" on the box.

I picked it up.

On the front was a picture of chocolates, the name of the company, Peace by CHOCOLATE, company establishment date, 1986 and the slogan 'ONE PEACE WON'T HURT.' On the back was the story of the company. "For more than 20 years we shipped our specialty treats all over the Middle Easst. Like much of our homeland, the Halal chocolate factory was destroyed in a bombing that forced our family to leave everything behind and flee. With the support of our new Canadian community in Antigonish and the people of Nova Scotia, we have rebuilt our chocolate company and are once again doing the work that we love."

I opened the box.

I don't eat sugar anymore but I was with people who were eager to try the chocolates in the box. The declared it either, 'excellent,' 'really good,' or 'fabulous.' It's a good product.

So a family flees for their safety. Comes to Canada and creates jobs, pays taxes and makes a contribution to our life as a country and as a people.

Where's the meme for that?

Where's the talk about that?

People seem to want to disbelieve their own eyes, the evidence that immigration builds Canada. That contributions are made to our culture.

There are those that would tear at the fabric of Canada.

And call themselves patriots.

I love my Country. I worry for its future, not because of immigration but because of the entitlement of those who consider themselves, falsely, as 'true, original, Canadians.' Those that deny their status as children of immigrants who decry immigration.

A family.

Fleeing terror.

Now creating Peace, piece by piece.

Friday, August 03, 2018

What's Up

My life has been a little out of control over the past several months. What with work here in Toronto and the travel I've been doing, there has been little in the way of down time. I found all the work exciting and the lecturing satisfying, but there's been little time for other projects. Friends will attest that it feels like I 'ghosted' them. (Frankly that's a brand new word for me.)

Something wonderful happened a few months ago. I was approached by a publishing company about developing a book for them and I accepted immediately. I was so excited, it's something I really want to write. But I've had to push that back over and over again because of what was happening with the rest of my time.

I have decided that not only do I want to write it, I REALLY WANT TO WRITE IT. And so I've begun. Got a good start. The editor is awesome and really helpful. So, I'm going to put my attention there and see if I can focus time and energy on the project. Did I say, that I REALLY WANT TO DO THIS? And that I'm honoured to have been asked.

So, what this means is that for the next little while my blog will be updated less frequently. I like to write in the mornings and the blog takes up more time than you might imagine. I will still update the blog but it won't be daily as it has been for years.

I am starting an adventure.

And, no, not telling you the topic or the company, that's all for later.

Thank you in advance for your understanding.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Why Did The Disabled Person Cross the Street?

Sometimes I just need to expect cooperation.

There's no time to ask for it.

I have to trust that people will see a situation and adapt.

Disabled people are good at adapting, living with disability means a lifetime of adapting, it's a skill, an important skill. But, I find, sometimes that those without disabilities have a really tough time with it.

I was rolling, backwards, across College Street. It was near noon, I had to go backwards because of the streetcar tracks. The big wheels go over first the small wheels follow happily along. My chair can not do it in the reverse. So, I go backwards.

Now, I would think that people would understand there is a reason that I'm going backwards, on a busy intersection. I would think that they would get that I wouldn't do it the hard way, looking over my shoulder while steering, if I could do it the easy way, looking forward. Maybe even one or two would get that what they thought was the easy ways, was in fact, maybe not.

I expected the flow of pedestrians would simply have flowed around me, non-disabled people being able to step sideways after all. And they did, for the most part. But also, for the most part, not happy about it. All I wanted was to cross the street. That's all. I didn't want a running commentary about my selfishness.

Then when the street was crossed I need to get up the curb cut, which is now full of people. I have to ask, several times, for people to let me pass. My ass is sitting in my chair on a busy street because I can't get people to move. Polite asking turns louder and more assertive. I am now, I am reliably informed by those in attendance, an 'asshole' one even called me entitled. Shit! Entitled to use a curb cut to get to the sidewalk, how low do you have to be down the social ladder if THAT'S entitled?

Would it have been easier to just have Joe pull be backwards?


And no.

In the moment it would have been easier, but in the long run, it would make me feel that I couldn't go out or cross a street without 'supervision' or 'assistance.' He did walk along side me and give me hints as to whether to go 'passenger' or 'driver'. I don't know right and left, but I do know sides of a car. He could have gone east or west and I'd have been fine, but he's not great with that kind of positioning.

But I made it across.

I made it up and down the cut curbs.

The physical barrier.

I've adapted.

But, I have to use calming strategies to keep myself at peace.

Why did the disabled person cross the street? Just to piss you off.