Koinonia (koinonia) wrote,

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When I was a kid, I avoided anything to do with other disabled people. That is, when I wasn't in school. I went to a school for disabled children, and I had done, since the first grade. But when I wasn't in school, my mother would point out disabled children to me, as we drove past on the street, or when we walked by. "Do you know that kid" she'd ask, as if being disabled was a kind of club where you went for drinks, at the end of the day. For a while I would say 'No' and get annoyed. Then after a while I stopped getting annoyed. It wasn't changing anything, and I was pretty sure Mom meant well. I'd say "No, they graduated before I started" or "No, they couldn't make the membership fee to get in."

My mother never called me a smart aleck, although I'm sure she was very tempted. And I went on my merry way. I never thought too hard about it. After all, the world was a big place, and there weren't that many disabled people. Surely I had to learn how to get along with the people I didn't see in school every day. When would someone with a disability be in any position of power to do me any good? Not that I was that calculating at eleven, mind.

I was a lot more concerned with whether or not I'd ever have a boyfriend, or whether or not I was going to grow up and actually be pretty. I spent hours trying to figure out makeup and hair things, since I was embarrassed to ask. How could I ask about makeup, when I had to wear braces every day, and couldn't even wear a pair of jeans? I could write stories, but I didn't want to write them about disabled people. I didn't want to end up depressing or 'inspiring' people. I just wanted to tell stories. I wasn't sure if maybe because I couldn't walk, that meant that I couldn't write about the things I'd never actually done..and that bothered me. But I figured that Isaac Asimov had never actually *made* a robot. Or Ray Bradbury had never been to Mars. So I'd be okay.

And so it went. I hung out with the geeks in high school, the wankers and the bookworms. I argued on the debate team, and I worried about whether or not I was too fat to ever find love. I wrote stories about changes in student policy and reviewed movies. I wrote for the creative magazine, a lot of poems about being lonely and hormonal. I was adolescent. I figured I was going to write about what I knew. Except..not about being disabled.

It was almost as if ..if I didn't mention it, it somehow didn't exist. Like when your neighbor burps, after his bite of vichysoisse. (not sure of the spelling there.) You might know it was there. Everyone else at the table might. But there was an unseen and unmentioned compact not to bring it up.
I got by, on just doing things, or explaining when I needed to. I ignored the sympathy, when I could, and secretly hated myself for enjoying it now and then. I learned how to do things for myself, and learned the lesson well enough that the refusal of help was automatic.
And all the while, I didn't write about being disabled. I didn't have disabled characters in my fiction. I didn't read books about disabilities, and I didn't watch films about it. I figured that if I wanted to get along in the 'outside' world, I had to face facts. Being handicapped put you in a minority. If you wanted to get on in life, you had to be part of a majority. Or you had to do whatever it was you had to do, and not bitch about it.

Then, about two months ago, I was perusing the Harry Potter fanfic gallery called Fiction Alley. Yes, I know, Harry Potter. The kid's book. Shut up already and let me finish this.
In the new posts was a new story by a writer named 'La Guera'. Her story was called "Like Lambs To the Slaughter". It was about a disabled transfer student to Hogwarts. And it was *good*. It brought back memories of the Palace School in Ely, of being a
disabled person in Britain, and all the things I take for granted here, that were just so damn hard, in England. From the killer claw-foot bathtubs, to long flights of stairs, and classes at an ungodly hour in the morning. Sharing a shower with people you don't necessarily *like*.

Her character, Rebecca drew me in immediately. She was intelligent, acidic, wise beyond her years. She throve on conflict and adrenaline. She wanted desperately to be liked. And she was bitter as hell.

I self identified, hugely. And one thing led to another. I ended up writing to the author, and striking up a tenative friendship. The author talked with me about many things, but mostly about disabilities. It was as if a light had come on. I *could* talk to someone about this. I could write about it. The writing police would not come for me.

Now..it seems as if I see disabled people and hear disabled voices everywhere. I have no desire to teach the world to sing, and I'll be buggered if I have to do it in perfect harmony. But I'm here, and I'm not going anywhere, and I feel at last..

At peace, with being disabled.
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