I’ve talked a bit on here about positivity and how constant positivity and smiling faces are a lie. That’s still all true. I can’t be positive one hundred percent of the time. It’s unfair to be asked that society asks such a thing. Plus, constant positivity is not truthful. It’s not real. I’ve had plenty of difficult, exhausting days. You all know that by now. Do you know what else is exhausting? Expectations.
I feel like I exist in quite an interesting place –– what I call the in-between –– as a disabled person who uses forearm crutches. What do I mean by the in-between? Consider this: I use forearm crutches as mobility aids. But I can also navigate stairs with a railing. I can walk without the crutches inside, but only holding onto nearby furniture or the wall (because The Fear gets in the way). There’s my single point cane, too, which I’m still trying to master using inside since SDR. It’s difficult. Anyway. Point is, sometimes I feel caught between what I’m able to do (climb stairs with a railing, walk with crutches) and what I’m not (carry an open container across a room. Walk across a room with open space unassisted. Lift a heavy pot of boiling water off the stove. Run from some bulls. You get the idea). It’s a weird place to be. I try not to dwell on the in-between too much in practice but it’s interesting to reflect on in theory. Even so, while existing there, I think about others’ expectations of me. Let me elaborate.
I’ve had firsthand experience with non-disabled people (not to single you all out or anything… actually, yes. I am) who don’t expect me to achieve the things and goals I absolutely can achieve. Like hiking Diamond Head Crater in Honolulu. Or climbing Machu Picchu in 2003. Or going to college and despite long, full days, earning my Bachelor’s degree. Deep down, I knew I could achieve those things and I know I can achieve even more and go farther. But sometimes there’s still that nagging voice in my head that makes me feel like I have to work extra hard to prove those doubting non-disabled people wrong, that says I still have to prove something in the first place. It’s got to be internalized ableism. Because I can achieve things. I’ve achieved a lot already! Truthfully, society has lowered expectations of me because I am disabled. Not only am I acknowledging this, I’m breaking those expectations and going above and beyond them. I did before and I’m doing so now. If I can do it, you can too! But get this….it’s exhausting AF. It just is. I won’t sugarcoat it.
It’s doubly layered in a way. Because I’ve achieved so much already, things and goals I’m proud of, because I’ve shown that I’m capable, bright, strong, blah blah blah, others might think I can do everything! Then they don’t listen when I communicate my limits and boundaries. ….No. Don’t do this. Listen to disabled people. I have limits. This is ok. Limits are realistic. Boundaries are healthy. They don’t make me a failure.
Take inaccessible restaurants (this is NOT ok) that have a ton of stairs. Because I can navigate stairs with railings in general, there’s this unspoken expectation that I can go up and down stairs at the restaurant. They see me standing up with the crutches so they assume I can go up and down the steps with or without a railing. Even if I could, that’s not the point. The point is, it’s tiring. To navigate this space. To be caught there. If this hypothetical restaurant were accessible in the first place, I wouldn’t have to be so physically tired and emotionally burnt out because so much of society is ableist and doesn’t include disabled people in the overall sphere. That’s the truth. I don’t know how many of you are ready to hear it.
Know what else is the truth? Not only is this society inherently ableist but also capitalism constantly drives us to feel like we are all cogs in a massive machine that have to do things all the same way and in the same timeline. Newsflash: that is BS. Who cares if you’re age X and haven’t accomplished Z yet? Or Y? Or W? Who cares! I’m definitely guilty of thinking this way sometimes and I just want to say breathe. Stop. Go at your own pace. Yes, you’re disabled. And yes, it matters. Not saying it’s a bad thing. I’m saying it’s important. Slow down. You have goals. You’re working to accomplish them. And you will. You will.