Sunday, August 04, 2019

The Art of Embracing the Suck

Try not to take this the wrong way. I just need to get some things off my chest.

Historically, disability has been stigmatized if not demonized, including so called Ugly Laws designed to make able-bodied people more comfortable in the face of difference.

Thanks to the now 29-year old Americans with Disabilities Act,  outright discrimination of people with disabilities has been formally abolished, but the cultural stigma remains. Unfortunately, the 180-degree over-compensation for this societal shame has resulted in Inspiration Porn, a fetishization of the disabled community as noble and courageous -- Chicken Soup for the Able Soul. I've received my fair share of compliments over the years about how well I've managed the hurdles thrown my way and how inspirational my story is. And while I know and appreciate that those statements are meant with genuine, good intent, I also often feel like they come from a place of lacking self-respect for what "you" would do in my shoes. There is no bravery nor honor necessary to simply want to live as independent and self-possessed a life as one can. It's mostly survival instinct and habit. Yes, a handful of resilience doesn't hurt, but curling up in a ball is rarely a viable option for getting on with the job at hand. As one of my favorite tactical messenger bag morale patches says, Embrace the Suck. This turn of phrase is military slang for, “Deal with it”. For me, it's a bit of c'est la vie and a call to inspire myself. I've never been terribly competitive nor found upholding others' expectations to be motivational (as much as that eagerness to please led me to excel academically in my youth). I was recently at a conference where a speaker recounted a time she was dismissed by a philosophy professor for answering the question, "How should you treat other people?" with The Golden Rule -- as you would have others treat you. She (a stroke survivor) didn't recall if the teacher ever revealed the "right" answer, but I can only imagine it to be the less presumptuous, "As they want to be treated," apparently known as The Platinum or Titanium Rule. Of course, to fulfill that standard, one would have to constantly ask how someone wants to be treated, as inconvenient and awkward as that may be to work into every conversation.

To that end, and in the spirit of this essay, try to inspire yourself and not draw inspiration from others' accomplishments. Ironically, I've drawn that suggestion from listening to a Paralympic Triathlete who spoke at work the other day. Her words and deeds are objectively inspirational, though only intentionally so for young amputee athletes like her. Her goal as a motivational speaker is not to shame the "two legs"into getting off your asses and running some races, because, "what's your excuse?" People with disabilities aren't here to make you feel better or worse about yourselves.

Having her tell me that my elastic, no-tie shoelaces are in fact Triathlete Laces for their quick-change capabilities from biking to running shoes and hearing about her completion of a 7-7-7 World Marathon Challenge (seven marathons on seven continents in seven days), has, however, inspired me to set my sights on a 3-3-3 this September (three 5K tricycle rides in three towns on three consecutive weekends).

Don't call me a role model.

No comments :

Post a Comment