Thanks for Thinking I'm Brave, but...
Dear People Who Say I’m Inspiring,
First off, I appreciate you taking the time to tell me I’m “so brave.” Considering that we live in a world where firefighters, deep sea divers and late-night gas station attendants exist, I recognize you thinking I’m brave is quite the compliment.
But I’m exhausted.
It’s cool that you’re inspired by a person who eats string cheese for dinner. To take a moment to dissect this bravery, though, what exactly was inspiring? Was it that I added a #disabilityawareness hashtag to that Instagram post? That was kind of brave, I guess — I’d already popped 13 hashtags and five emojis into the description, but I figured, “Hey, if they haven’t unfollowed me yet!” and went for it.
Was it that I answered your invasive questions? Because that was less brave and more an omnipresent feeling of obligation on my part. When somebody asks, I sort of feel like I have to explain. It’s not my job or anything — it’s just a constant part of living life with a disability.
Was it that I didn’t “let this get me down” or I’m “rising to the challenge?” Oh boy, because I do get down and I sure as heck don’t rise to every challenge. I simply don’t grace you with every moment of my existence. Sure, you might think of my life as a learning opportunity for other people, but I have a rich interior existence that includes lots of infantile whining and almost-tantrums. And as for rising to the challenge — I had dental floss delivered to me the other day. I didn’t rise to the challenge of buying floss.
I know you’re ready to put me on a pedestal for daring to exist with an uncooperative body, but I’m too exhausted to climb up there.
See, when you think I’m “inspiring,” that makes it seem like I can’t be “crabby” or “depressed” or “watching Netflix for five-and-a-half hours on a Monday night.” That makes it seem like I’d better be out training for a marathon, washing wildlife in an estuary after an oil spill or parallel parking in a big city. That makes it seem like I’d better be “inspiring,” or I’m being a bad disabled person.
Thinking that I, a person who regularly uses body wash for shampoo, am inspiring is sort of like saying microwaving a Hot Pocket is fine dining.
Disabled people are inspiring — when we’re trying to be inspirational.
Otherwise we’re just existing. We’re just trying to get by, same as anybody — sure, with some extra difficulties piled on top, but we’re doing it. And you thinking that us just existing is inspiring is, for lack of a better word, insulting.
I don’t need your applause for grocery shopping, dancing, or eating a yogurt with the foil lid instead of a spoon. I’m doing that for myself.
And what do you say when someone says you’re brave?
“Thanks, I frequently want to download my brain into a computer so I don’t have to deal with my ridiculously complicated corporeal form”?
No, you have to say, “Thanks,” and leave it at that.
Thanks for reminding me I should be doing more.
Thanks for reminding me that you think my life is harder than yours.
Thanks for reminding me that I’m different from what you think is “normal.”
Anywhoo, thanks for thinking I’m brave. I’m off to look at pictures of cats on the internet and eat a warm string cheese out of my purse — like a hero.
Getty image by Sergey Nivens.