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.
You bring up memories of how hard I was socialized, as a girl in Mexico, to be 'nice.' Always. Regardless of my own needs or interests.
Part of that was necessary; a lot was not. I stood my ground on many things, but I was never really a rebel - I wanted to please my parents, and they seemed to have such firm ideas about things...
I've had to fight back as an adult - and I only went through the plain-vanilla version.
Writing has liberated me (except that I need readers) to do things my way; then I have to defend it. But it has also made me very conscious, and aware of how it affects everyone.
And it is so easy to fall back on conditioning. That dog already knows to wait for the attention to turn somewhere else again. Ouch.
there is always more than one solution to a problem, or way to get to done...
the old saying "There's more than one way to skin a cat" is macabre, but I learned it at a young age. And most of the time it doesn't matter a lot - how you load the dishwasher, or arrange your bureau drawers, or which recipe you use to make a dish...but we all get hung up on doing it the right way...something that starts in our families, and is definitely reinforced in school.
You are right, we are becoming too focused on differences and allowing those who are 'other' or 'different' to be demonized...as those of us born left handed were once labeled.
just gotta keep getting out there and living as fully in the world as we want to/manage to, each day.
and sometimes we just let it go, and sometimes we push back, at the injustices of human behavior.
I always enjoy reading your blog but this post really resonated with me. I've worked in the field of disability for 15 years but in the past few years have become disabled myself and what a blessing and a challenge it is to be able to see things from this side now.
My journey into disability has necessitated me to radically expand my definition of getting it done. I have found that accepting the identity of disabled has given me freedom to be the new me and to do things my new way. Rather than losing who I was I can focus on who I am now. I don't always keep that perspective but I try.
Thank you for sharing your stories. Voices like yours create an enticing community surrounding disability, rather than just the leftover spaces at the margins of "normality".
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