religion


I am constantly learning that for most non-disabled folks the default mindset regarding disability is tragedy. There seems to be some kind of genetic need to understand difference as abhorrent and wheelchairs as the symbol of captivity. I keep running in to these attitudes, the attitudes that completely shore up the hierarchy between those who walk and those who roll, or those who talk and those who sign, or those who think quickly and those who ponder slowly, or those who love chaos and those who require sameness. A hierarchy that leaves one feeling somewhat pleased to simply not be the other. And it always surprises me.

-Dave Hingsburger

I don’t have the energy or, frankly, the time… or the calm, measured but kind words that would be necessary to really do this justice, but I am probably going to be writing a series of posts about the response my disabilites have elicited in my new environment.  I’m not in NYC anymore, but a smaller city, studying at a divinity school attached to major Ivy League university.  It’s nice here. 

But people at divinity schools have a different way of dealing with the direct visual experience of another’s disability (than do solipsistic undergrads at big urban universities, for instance), and I’m finding that I have none of the tools to navigate this.  I am, to put it quite bluntly, finding myself utterly worn to a frazzle by the solicitous care, concern and curiosity of genuinely good, kind, compassionate people into whose sense of mission and calling I fit precisely into a prescribed role. 

This is often a role that (as the readers of this profanity-laced and often immature collection of rants will immediately recognize) I have some trouble fitting into–and I’m not really sure that I want to.

I’ll have to write more on this in the time to come.  For now, suffice it to say that I’m in the market for new ideas on how to nicely (that’s important, everyone is nice here, the Waif is not so nice, so this  requires careful planning) send off signals that I don’t want to be approached–because one of the interesting side effects of the disabled-person-as-object-of-mercy model is that normal social rules of approach are suspended.  If I’m using my wheelchair, I eat my lunch with a book in front of my face to ward off the smiles, pats on the back, strokes on the arm, and “oh honey–not a good day today?”s that come my way.  It doesn’t work.  Nothing works. 

I will not quit smoking.  It has become the only way for me to take a moment outside in my chair without the deluge of offers of help.

Of course, like any struggling grad-student-parent-with-a-preteen-and-a-toddler, I’d LOVE some help, but not in the ways they mean.  They’re lovely people, the pastors-of-tomorrow who approach me, and I’d trust them anywhere–so I’m seriously considering hitting them up for babysitting when they come rushing up with their offers of assistance.

Either they start steering clear of me lest they be put on the spot, or I get some free childcare.  WIN-WIN, right?


Headless cemetary statue, no icon. Last year I swore I’d know how to do this by the time it came up again… don’t you guys think the above would make an awesome disability blog carnival icon?

Last year’s carnival wasn’t quite about birth, just yet, and appropriately this year’s tackles the subject of death from one of the most death-shy people you’ll ever meet. As I mentioned recently to a friend, I’m that life-at-all-costs jackass who harumphs when someone decides they’re too goddamned tired for their fifth round of chemo, who has made sure everyone around me knows yes, I would too want to live like that, and who has no patience for the idea of bowing out gracefully so as to avoid being a burden. I’m all about being a burden, as my husband and children will attest.

Nonetheless, I have a death fascination of sorts. For a long time, I thought quite a bit about becoming a funeral director (although I don’t think I have anough of a grasp on the realities of that particular job) and half of studying religion is studying how to die.

The other half, at least presumably, has something to do with spirituality, which is another theme for this Carnival.

Death

Spirituality.

End-of-Life “issues.”

Most of the the disability bloggers I’ve read have, with varying degrees of eloquence, had to tackle those issues, and on the whole have managed to do so with grace, honesty, wit and sometimes anger. In their own words, then

It isn’t nice and sweet, this carnival. To begin, we’re going to take a look at the case of Esmin Green, who, as Day in Wshington reminds us, had a name other than “mentally ill woman.” Harlan Ellison once said that no-one should go into the ground with too few words spoken, and Stephen Kuusisto of Planet of the Blind has a few to say about Ms. Green’s death. I thank him.

I don’t think there are enough words for the death of Harriet McBride Johnson. Certainly, the ones that occurred to me seemed trite and inadequate–“hero,” “inspiration,” “courage”–all true, but a bit too telethon-ese for that particular warrior. Thus, I’m going to let Kay Olson at the Gimp Parade speak for me, in her wonderful tribute to Harriet’s life and work.

In Secondhand Smoke, the issue of disabled lives continues to be debated in a hot discussion about Delaware’s proposed resolution protecting cognitively disabled people from euthanasia–and an argument about the term “brain death” (and how it is often confused and conflated with static encephelopathy and PVS) follows in the comments section.

End-of-life issues come to the fore as cherylberyl blogs her ambivalence in a post on disaboom called Would I Want to Live? I really like her style of writing, its very young and fresh without being cloying, and she puts a lot of things that I’ve thought myself in a calm and simple order.

In her raw and honest letter, Ruth at Mom’s Musings looks at how some of the same questions can be asked at the beginning of life, and how those in authority might not be ready to hear the answers. This one is a must-read; I’ve been hoping to see more parents of children with disabilities participate in these carnivals. Ruth is a wonderful discovery.

Another post relating to children: from Adventures in Daily Living, an imaginary phone call that tells the whole story, Meanwhile, Kristina Chew at Autism Vox asks the hard, but essential, questions about “independence” that will shape her son’s future. On the subject of childhood, Disability Nation takes a look at the new “disability dolls.” For the record, I like them very much. I don’t have an ideological explanation for that, I just… like them. It’s a doll thing, I suppose.

Two post by Bint at My Private Casbah are of interest to the topic. In Don’t Call me Differently Abled, she discussed how the saccharine euphemizing (my term, not hers) in the Differently-Abled label actually depersonalizes disabled people by refusing to acknowledge their reality. Also, in a post on Meals on Wheels cutbacks, she gives a harsh dose of reality about the life-or-death need seniors have for these programs.

Emma at Writings of a Wheelchair Princess has written specifically for this carnival, and has done a marvelous job. Her post on the Three D’s is extremely powerful, and includes a wonderful quote that she (rightly) feels is relevant to this entire carnival.

At Touched By an Alien, Laura affirms life, with a post on the best time of her life. Something about this short entry brought home to me exactly how evanescent any “best time” really is–another reason I decided to host this carnival, I suppose.

Paula at E is for Epilepsy also agrees that one cannot learn to die who has not learned to live (yes, that’s totally backwards, remember this is me putting together a late blog carnival while trying to read about redaction criticism) and for Paula, education is the key to a life well lived.

Frida Writes has a post on how issues of sexism affect women’s health and survival, both in the diagnostic process and in their actual survival rates. Women, she points out, are more often told to “think positive” and at the same time often have their symptoms dismissed as being all in their heads. I’ve experienced this myself; many of the female disability bloggers I’ve met (particularly we sickies) have a long history of being patted on the head and being treated for depression, only to later, when the indisputable facts of illness are laid out bare, be told that our positive attitudes will make all the difference.

Elizabeth McClung at Screw Bronze has decided to tell her positive attitude where to go in Angry, one of several important–and immortal–posts she’s made this month. I have to include more than one Elizabeth link here, because the carnival also needs her Letter #1 on Dying, which includes, in the comments page, a startlingly insensitive but genuinely-felt rant on giving up from yours truly–Elizabeth may be a boxer, but I’m the world champion in unsolicited advice for my weight and size.

None of us, whatever decision we make, are taking the easy way out; if there is one, I’ve yet to find it. One of my favorite blogs, I Trust When Dark My Road, contains a recent post “Longing for the Fleshpots of Egypt” about despair as disability, and just how elusive that “easy way” really is.

I include Pentimento’s post on Margaret Sanger, the culture of death, and individualistic spirituality, because the ideas she expresses touch on many of the things I see in the other posts included here. While not disabled herself, the author of this blogs has confronted loss with both gracefulness and grace. I don’t expect everyone to agree with her summation of the New Age movement or her appraisal of Sanger, but whatever one’s political, social or religious beliefs might be, the issue of eugenics in modern culture is one from which people with disabilities cannot hide.

I’m closing this carnival with a post on the funeral rites for Emperor Norton. Although the piece touches on Norton’s disability, asking why other mentally ill San Franciscans were locked away while an attempt to have the Emperor involuntarily committed nearly had the city in mutiny–it isn’t the full disability-studies treatment that Norton deserves. Maybe one of us will write that one.

Thanks to all of you for letting me host again. This isn’t quite the carnival I wanted it to be–I wanted something of my own here, and I wanted a chance to really delve around the blogosphere finding hidden gems–but school intervened, and I hope I haven’t disappointed too terribly.


That was a nice run, right? Eight months remission? Oh, baby.

At least I can administer my own methylprednisone infusions. So sexy.

No, but what is sexy is the Colours Razorblade I ordered. Wheelchair users know what I mean, the rest of you are like “huh?” That’s all right. Super-short frame for little old me, super strength Twister wheels, bright green with black flame upholstery (because I am a GIRL and CARE about such things) and it’s as cute as a little button. Also like me. Natch.

The kids are lovely. Older one is working us hard for a nose peircing. I have no real urge to say no, since in my book it’s basically the same as the ears. I also think, to put it delicately, that the girl is going through puberty. She’s worried about her skin, she’s worried about her hair. She’s an emotional rollercoaster. If this makes her feel utterly fucking beautiful, if this is her way of feeling like the Queen of the May, I say why not.

The little guy is just fat and happy. As it should be.

The husband. The husband is more of less being subjected to a campaign of hostility and degradation at work. They’re pretty sure that the FMLA is something he invented, just to piss them off. He’s in the market and we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

So, to sum up, I’m un-remittant, fairly un-repentant, have a heplock in my arm and spiffy new Provigil prescription, as well as a whole big shiny new dose of Ambition, that I never had before, that I really want to talk about, since it put in its appearance just as my health went to shit. Should I post sexy infusion pics, like Jen used to?

Maybe. Watch this space.

Phoebe is “due” today.  

Or rather, is 40 weeks pregnant, something of an arbitrary deadline actually, but a perfect time to send her some good thoughts.  She’s having an unassisted birth, something I thought very long and hard about doing, and still think that maybe I should have done.  UC’s are, from my perspective, both beautiful and scary.  It does make me want to send some extra love Phoebe’s way.  

There are manymanymany good-childbirth-type deities out there.  May they all watch over her. 

Today is the third day in the trial of Karen McCarron. I wrote about Katie a few months ago.  Her story hit me hard from the moment I first heard it, not helped by the fact that Katie looked an awful lot like I did at that age.  Like a lot of people, I’ve felt the anger well up in the back of my throat when I’ve heard some of the things Karen said about her daughter.  I’ve argued the point on forums and with friends that to use this tragedy as an example of how hard parenting a special-needs child can be is simply horrifying.   

So I really didn’t expect my reaction to the trial to be what it has been. 

I am finding myself very, very sad for Karen McCarron.  The more things I hear about the day she killed her daughter, the more the actual words of her confession are made public, the more I can’t seem to bring up anything more than a terrible pity.  She did a terrible, irrevocable thing, and she will no doubt never live anything remotely resembling a normal life again.   A fundamental belief I hold, which comes from Buddhism but contains within it the essence of what drew me to Christianity, is that the spiritual salvation of humanity is an “all or nothing” proposition.  There can be no peace or enlightenment for me, for you, or for anyone that does not include this woman.  It is not for me to choose.  Somehow it comes close to explaining why I hide in the house most of the time: at this moment I can feel the love that did not exist between Karen and her daughter like a terrible personal loss… as though something has been taken from me.  My barriers are really, really weak, which is something that having a baby will do to you, and I need to step back, take a little time away from the world.

This is not something I can really understand or express, but this evening, for the most part, I simply find myself wishing Karen McCarron a peace that I know she is unlikely to ever find.        For Katie and for Karen. 

I had prayed for everybody: my talking family, cousins far away, passerby, and all the lonesome Christians. I expected to be heard. My voice was certainly the loudest.

Grace Paley, “The Loudest Voice”

~

There have been various updates about the little girl Cecily’s situation on Dave Hinsburger’s blog Chewing the Fat, all of which are worth a read, but suffice to say she’s on the mend and doing well. We couldn’t be happier, and wish her and her family all the best.

In Sis-Update, Cecily’s mother writes a touching-if-unsettling letter detailing how she ran into some of the same prejudice with Cecily’s surgeon as she had with her daughter’s “well-wishers.” Personally, I find this chilling. So does Dave, apparently, and in What If? he writes with intense yet understated anger about what might have happened had Cecily not been able to handle the situation and win her doctor’s heart quite as much as she did.

As a mother, I cannot imagine having to wage a constant uphill battle against a presupposition that my child’s life had inherently less worth than that of another child. I really want to be an intellectual about matters of faith–I really do. I want to be one of those people about whom it’s said: Well, she’s certainly no zealot, you can’t put all religious people into the same box, look at how intelligent she is. The sort of person who makes calm, reasoned, brilliant atheists realize that there can be calm, reasoned, brilliant… theists. And yet, when I begin to stray from the theoretical into the realm of actual belief, I keep coming back to these issues on which I will admit no argument. Like Cecily. Or Katie. Or Ashley. I suppose I’m not really ready to fit them into a sane, reasoned defense of an ordered universe.

Seriously? Nevermind for a minute that I don’t understand petitionary prayer very much, nevermind my kookly interreligious issues, and nevermind that I think prayer requests are often a little bit much.

Go here, now, and read Dave Hinsburger’s request for Loud Prayers on behalf of a mother who’s been on the receiving end of some really chilling “prayers” for her ill daughter with Down’s Syndrome. Since reading the post anyway will make you want to yell at someone, might as well do something constructive with that urge.

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