It was my goal to update this blog at least once a month for the entirety of 2022. Since last time I updated was June, we can see that I have fallen short of this goal by a lot. And it is because I am trying to talk about something that has been on my mind for a long time, but it has been very difficult for me to voice. The topic: what it means to me to be disabled.
Here's what I wrote three months ago about being disabled and what has caused me to have a massive writer's block ever since:
"I read somewhere that disabled bodies are just as good and wonderful as able bodies, and if you didn't agree, there was something wrong with you. I mean, I understand the sentiment. My life is just as valuable as anyone else's life. I believe that. But the idea that my body was just as good and wonderful as someone with a working body seemed like a stretch to me. As positive of a person as I am, and as much as I minimize my struggles, underneath it all, I feel very broken because of my physical limitations. Less than. Somehow, I feel like no matter what other kinds of things I accomplish, nothing can overcome or eclipse the fact that I am permanently physically broken. I'm not successful, and I can't be no matter what I do."
I am severely disabled and I need help with every single aspect of my life in order to survive. Also, there is a certain level of difficulty that comes with a disability such as this. Almost everything that I do is SO MUCH MORE difficult than it would be for someone more able-bodied. Thinking like this sort of set me off on this weird mental tangent where I was constantly pondering how hard my life was, how sad it was, and how alone I felt. And this was coming from a place of wanting to share my life and struggles with others, but I couldn't figure out how to do it without falling into a downward spiral of depression, and that's just not like me.
To get out of that loop, I kept thinking about how someone said that disabled bodies are just as good and wonderful as able bodies. I kept on thinking about things that would work to compare able versus disabled bodies, and I came up with something. Humans as tools, specifically multi-tools, because I have an addiction to them. I can't ever physically use one of them, but I love them and always want to buy more.
|The beast of a multitool
Let's examine the above pictured multitool. It contains 15 different things! You could hammer a nail, chop down a tree, open a bottle, screwdriver something, whittle and saw wood, and even use the pliers. This is what I picture an able-bodied person as, maybe one who works out a lot. It is easy to think of this multitool as superior to other multi-tools. It's just got way more things it can do; it's a beast. But it really isn't better than any other multitool.
|The much less unassuming multitool
This little credit card knife is what I sort of picture the kind of multitool that I would be. It's not fancy, and instead of having a plethora of different tools, it kind of only does one thing – cut things. However, you can sneak this guy past Disneyland security, which is very useful because sometimes you want a caramel apple, and you don't want to bite into it. You want it cut! And you know what they won't do for you at Disneyland? That's right. They won't cut your apple for you. All they will do is give you a plastic knife. Good luck. It's not going to happen, which is where this sneaky little multitool saves the day. You would never in a billion years be able to take that ax hammer multitool into Disneyland. In this case, this small little multitool is more useful than the beast.
That is how I'm framing it my mind. One tool is not better than the other. They both are useful depending on the situation. That's how disabled people are compared to able-bodied people. Our bodies are not inferior. We are just DIFFERENT. Society places a lot of value on utility and physicality, but society is not always right. I have always known that my life is just as valuable as anyone else's life, but I now know that my body is just as wonderful as any other body. If you don't think that way, you need to adjust your understanding. Because you're wrong.
For a long time, it was easier for me to say that I was paralyzed than it was to say that I was a quadriplegic. "Paralyzed" is an adjective, something that just describes my current state of being, whereas "quadriplegic" is a noun – so much more permanent and depressing. It is very likely that I will be both this adjective and this noun for the rest of my stay here on earth. What does that mean to me? It means that I had to give up a lot of things that I wanted/still want for my life. There are hard realities that I have to face every single day because of my very different body situation. My little nephew, Konnor (when he was 4) said this about me, "Kim's not a worker. Her legs are broken."
|This is me.
It is easy to see me as "not a worker" and "broken." It's just not the truth. I work hard every single day, and I'm one of the most unbroken people that I know. The difference that I deal with every day has made me stronger and more resilient than I would have been otherwise. Sometimes, I truly think that I am one of the luckiest people in all of the world, and it's because I understand my value as a human. My life is beautiful, and my body is wonderful. All lives are beautiful, and all bodies are wonderful. There is no reason that we should compare them, because they are all glorious in their own ways. It seems silly to want to be all the same, like we should all be the same multitool. Our world would be less than what it is today if everyone were the beast of a multitool. We need many different multitools in order to be the best world. Wanting everyone to be the same multitool is like wanting everyone to be the same color, speak the same language, or live in the same country. You see that we would be losing out on so much if those things were to happen, right? We are better because of our differences, and my difference looks very difficult from the outside (and it is a lot of the time), but it makes our experiences here on earth so much more valuable and meaningful that I am this different kind of multitool.
All multitools are good multitools. All bodies are good bodies. Period.