Just about a year ago, I came out abut my “invisible” disability on this blog.
I was on a panel yesterday about diary writing and I left feeling a poet should give everything away, have no secrets, withhold no knowledge.
And yet I have a secret, one in plain sight. That I admit to and lie about. That other people see and don’t see.
I’m disabled. I’m crippled on my right side. I have trouble walking, and trouble moving my arm. I can’t really drive a stick shift anymore. Or comfortably walk or sit for much past thirty minutes. I use a cane. But not at work.
On Friday night I ran into several people from work at the opera. I was wearing a cute gold and brown tunic, jeweled earrings, and leaning on my fancy cane carved with flowers I got in Red River. And I was suddenly horribly embarrassed, as if caught out somehow. Crippled.
This is not a secret. This is part of my HR supported work life. Everyone in my family has seen me weep in pain, and crawl when I can’t walk.
This is a secret. I look able bodied if you don’t look closely. I lie and say I’m overextended when I’m flattened by fatigue. I’d rather be thought clumsy or anti-social or elusive than admit I need to lie down–right now.
I’m thinking of taking my cane to work tomorrow. If I have the nerve. Wish me well.
Well, I did take my cane to work. Pretty much all year. And guess what happened? My pain level came down, surprise, surprise. Faking it was not working very well. My favorite cane-in-the-classroom moment was in a lit class when we were doing the riddle of the Sphinx. Everyone was looking at me blankly. I started gesturing with my cane. “What goes on three legs at night?” Finally, yes, the answer—a person!
I was part of a proposal for a panel at the AWP conference on writers with invisible disabilities. I gather three disability focused panels were proposed. All were rejected. Goes to show…I’m not sure what. That writers with disabilities are still either invisible or discounted in academic writing programs?
My politics didn’t change. I haven’t connected with a disability community in any more profound way. I haven’t had an ideological shift. Maybe I should, maybe I will, but for now I remain the same. Actually my politics have been about the same since I was about 14. A totally outdated romantic feminist socialism. Of which I am quite fond.
More to come