The Hierarchy Of Disability


ceramic urn, 14″ d
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As I sat there waiting for a table at a favorite haunt a man with cerebral palsy finessed his way down a step and out the door as his sidekick held tight to him to prevent a fall.

I saw. I shrunk. I smiled awkwardly and turned away.

I surely did not want to look there, at his misshapen limbs and valiant efforting.

I can put on lipstick, dress myself, drive, eat solo if I choose, do assorted daily life things and get by still able to keep my chin lifted in a dignified stance

Which is often true

And sometimes faked.

I comport myself as I do, dress as I do, act as I do, read what I read, choose words, friends, dreams as I do because it entertains me.

The devilish ‘slippage’ occurring in the form of functionality leaves me feeling naked.

That guy I turned away from was closer to ‘stripped to the bone’ than I am. I am still pretty in my disability. He is not.

Straight vs. misshapen, struggle vs. ease, independent vs. needing support…. hmmmm….

What would I have found there in his eyes had I looked? Perhaps only the effort expended getting from table to door.

Likely much, much more I’d guess.

That restaurant held a man close to 400 lbs. stuffed into a booth and sweating. Next to me were two gorgeous men in their 30’s locked onto their smart phones throughout their entire meal together. At a table across the way there were three women with undernourished skin the color of a pale grey sky and speaking ‘lite’ and cautiously.

I wish I had acknowledged that guy I shrank from.

I really do.

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2 Responses to “The Hierarchy Of Disability”

  1. Rhonda on June 25th, 2012

    I have just read EVERY post you have written, viewed your video and looked at your current work. Simply beautiful… haunting…inspiring

  2. laura Hegfield on June 28th, 2012

    Oh Cathy, it isn’t easy…the visibility of disability. I’m thinking of the month I had one paralyzed eye that would not look straight ahead and had to wear a patch so others couldn’t see that part of me. It healed. And the times when my head shakes side to side and I’m in my chair and people stare. And times like now, being able to walk upright during the day looking perfectly “normal” then by early evening transformed as my legs become wooden and each step I take could land me on the floor (not so upright)… it is painful to see others struggle, mirroring how we feel even when it doesn’t show.

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