Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Towering Identity

Identity is an interesting thing, isn't it.

I often hear, particularly politicians or celebrities or sports stars, say about their disability, 'I don't see myself as having a disability.' Which is kind of like an immediate disavowal of both the concept of disability and the reality of the disability community. They'd rather be recognized for 'ability' and in saying so they imply that disability somehow negates ability. It doesn't. It never has. But the game continues, non-disabled people continue to laud disabled people who claim non-disabled status. It's like somehow everyone is buoyed up at the continued impression that disability is less than ability. OK. Let them have it.

For me, though, something different has happened. Over the last five years I have come to both embrace the concept of living with a disability and identify with the disability community. It is who I am. So, there is no conflict in my mind between who I am, who I present myself to be, and most importantly, how I think about myself to myself. I'm happy with that, I came out of the closet because I had no desire to life a life of discordance: a lie humming one tune, the truth another. Whatever the cost of truth, and there was cost socially and professionally, it was worth the fact that my soul could sing along with my life.

So, the other day Joe and I were talking about going to the CN Tower to take some friends. Joe said, 'Well, we need to check out to see how accessible it is.'  I said, 'But what do you mean, the last time we were there we got in fine.' Joe looked at me quizzically and said, 'But you were walking then.' I said, 'No, I remember clearly being in a wheelchair.' After a few minutes I had to admit that, indeed, I was walking. But in my memory, even now, I remember being in my chair.

Now, I can grumble about how disability is taking over memory. Or, I could realize that I remember myself in the past and myself is simply myself. I remember 'me' being 'then' and 'me' is a wheelchair user. Nothing else about the memory is skewed. We went over the last visit in detail and I'm on the money with everything that happened, everything that was said. Joe and I are completely in sync with the visit and the dinner.


I was in a wheelchair.

Identity and self acceptance has done me a favour, I realize that my past would be the same as my present. I would have still gone to the tower, I would have still had dinner with my friends. In this instance my wheelchair is transportable through time. Cool.

I wonder if in a year or two I will expect to look at my baby pictures and see that cute little kid riding a chair!


Nan said...

Too funny. You are you through and through. Admirable!

Belinda said...

I want to see those baby pictures--wheelchair or no wheelchair! :)

Princeton Posse said...

I second Belinda. Baby pictures would be very nice. Where I work, we all brought our baby pictures in and then tried to match them to who we are now. Very interesting.

Anonymous said...

I loved this post. And I've done the same thing a few times. 'This place is totally accessible, I was just there' and someone looks at me and is like 'that was then.'

Anonymous said...

I loved this post, so strange that the one area your memory was incorrect was about the wheelchair, very, very interesting! I also love the way you speak of cute baby pictures (your own) as you don't always complement yourself as much as you should (in this readers opinion!)!I hope all (well ok, most!) of your memories are happy ones - with or without the wheelchair

Andrea S. said...

As a deaf person, I sometimes encounter some challenge in communicating with others if they do not sign and there is no interpreter available. Of course this can be particularly a problem with hearing people who refuse to write things down to aid my comprehension.

But sometimes if I find that real-life communication with a particular person goes easily and smoothly, if I then dream of that person at night, they are able to sign in my dream. Even if it is a person who actually does NOT sign at all! Sometimes communication may go smoothly for completely different reasons, such as a sign interpreter being available, but my subconscious mind seems to "translate" real life "easy communication" into "person can sign" in dream life.

Not quite the same thing, but I suppose it can be considered another example of the weird tricks our brains like to play on us!