Disability, in the minds of many, is an experience to be learned from, either as directly experienced or though second-hand experience as a parent or a care provider. "I've learned so much about life from having a disability." "My clients have taught me more than I have ever taught them." Haberdash and bullshit! If you are paying attention you learn from living the life you are given. And, no other group has to suffer through, "I learn so much from you," like the disabled. "I just learn so much just from being around women." "Gay people have taught me more than I have ever taught them." Bletch.
I say all this because I keep getting asked the question, "What are the most important lessons you've learned since becoming disabled?" Well, yeah, I have learned stuff, I mean 10 years have passed, you'd think I'd pick something up over that time, disabled or not, right? Have I learned things that are lessons from 'disability' ... I don't know. I've learned stuff from how people regard disability and about how discrimination lives in houses with only one step. I've learned that ...
Disability simply is.
It just is.
It isn't a classroom where your heart gets to grow simply because you assisted someone to do something. It wasn't created, like Dickens created Tim, as a lesson for others to consider how lucky they are.
So, I'm going to answer a question I was asked yesterday, tomorrow. That question was, "What's the most important thing you've learned from having a disability." But I'm going to change the question to ... "What's the most important thing you've learned in your life and did disability have anything to do with it?"
Today's post was simply to state that I don't like disability as an object lesson for the non-disabled to help the nondisabled self actualize. And I don't like the idea that disability is an experience from which one is supposed to learn special lessons to make you an extra special person. Both ideas make me shudder.
But I do want to answer that question ... tomorrow.
One important thing I have learned in the last 30 years is that change requires hard work. Nothing extra special about that and nothing I couldn't learn multiple other ways. Disability taught me that life is short and if I want to make some changes I better get going because nobody's going to do it for me
What is the main thing I've learned from being disabled?
To ignore it as much as humanly possible. To not let it take the rest of my life.
Because other people sure can't.
I agree with your idea that life (no matter what kind of life) is one long opportunity to learn about life and the world we live in.
However, I do say that I have learned so much from my clients (or patients, depending on the setting) because I have! But I learn by being present in the interactions and by being introspective and curious and fascinated by the complexities and layers of living a fully present life. I do not see any person as having value only to teach me something or to be an object lesson for my benefit...each person is valuable and wonderful, just as they are. I learn more about human nature..not about 'addicts' or 'geriatrics'. I don't use those terms but I think it is the way you mean 'disabled' - that it is a class/category where all the members are the same, and have lost their individuality.....
Looking forward to reading your next blog post......Clairesmum
Why does no one seem to have the damn balls to talk about EVERYTHING they've supposedly learned through their disability. Why is it considered somehow gauche to say "I learned about deep disappointment" or "I learned what it was like to have a huge part of me die off (without a burial) and still press on" or "I learned when people said things like "It could be worse" or "God never gives us more than we can handle" that they have no idea what the hell they're talking about. Finally, no one ever says "I learned that disability has a deep effect on your entire family and "I've learned what it's like to have the single biggest event in my persona life have no answer no matter how many times I asked "Why?" And on and on and on. It's not ALL about learning patience and acceptance and tolerance and connection to others. That's all true and disability did make me a person with a far softer heart but many other experiences might have done that same thing for me. If I sound angry, I'm sorry. I'm very frustrated by the lack of candid stories "out there." When I was struggling with what happened to me and how I felt rebuilding my "self" over protestation from my ego (the protective ego we all have), I searched and searched for honesty from others who've gone through it - and its basically nowhere to be found. Barf.
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