This morning I walked into the (quietest) bank and I must have made some noticeable noise with my flip flops because two people turned around and gave me “the look.” They looked at my feet, my face, and then back at my feet. It happens nearly every day but today these glances felt different. It was quick, almost undetectable by anyone else. They probably didn’t even realize they were staring a few seconds too long, but it was obvious to me. It felt a little disheartening, mostly because it is unwanted. I don’t like this kind of attention, as would anyone who deals with a physical disability or noticeable condition. I just want to go about my business some days but it is inevitable. It is just a part of having CP, I guess.
I don’t know why it bothers me so much. I know that it is human to be curious, interested, concerned etc… but there are some eyes that linger a little too long and that seems impolite. I wanted to look at both of them and say “what?!” As if to wake them up and help them understand that yes, people aren’t all the same. Our bodies all carry us through life in different ways. No, I am not in a wheelchair but yes, I have a disability. Yes, I look so “normal” but I have CP and I am not afraid to share that; it’s always been and always will be apart of me. I’m good with it, trust me. Can you be good with it too?
That is what I want to say to people sometimes but usually I will walk away if I don’t feel very strongly about it. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter but I think it is good to speak up in moments like these if it is warranted; it is an opportunity to education those who are ignorant of disability. It takes a lot of courage to do so and you might risk the chance of drawing more attention to yourself, but it may be worth it. You might embarrass that person and that is okay. A lot of people need to realize that to have a disability does not make us less capable of handling the opinions and reactions of others. Countless times, people have approached me and simply asked if I was okay and in response I would say, “yes thank you, I have cerebral palsy. My muscles are just tighter on this side of my body.” And I am putting into words what they have already seen! But they act as if they suddenly asked the worst question in the world, and tell me how sorry they are for bringing it up–as if I am as uncomfortable as they are with talking about it.
Well that reaction needs to change, but I wonder, will it? I wonder why things are this way in a world where there is so much diversity already. When will it be okay to exist in the grey area of our humanity? I mean this in terms of disability but also in other binaries. Think about it: we aren’t always normal OR disabled, republican OR democrat, black OR white, happy OR sad. Sometimes we are just fine, we become injured, we change. We are just bodies and odd mixtures of opinions, emotions, and spiritualities. We identify with ourselves and the world around us in this way, but is life really meant to be categorized in such strict boxes? (Yes, physical characteristics may need more clear definitions) but shouldn’t it be okay to be sometimes this OR that?
That is really why I like to talk about having a disability so openly because I believe it encourages empathy and understanding in others; even if it is to one person at a time, a one-on-one conversation does make an impact. So if there is a grey area to everything, I passionately support the notion that it is “normal” to fall in between these identifiers as we move through life. That’s just it– life is transitional. We go through stages, and phases, and we develop, and grow. Every day we wake up, we discover something new about ourselves and the world around us!
Much of this is my perspective from my own experiences and understanding of things I’ve read and discussed with others and you are free to dismiss it… but either way, I hope to have enlightened the way you think about having CP in the context of just being who you are, no matter who you choose to be today. Thanks for reading. 🙂