Every so often I find myself contemplating whether or not this blogging thing is for me. This past week has been one of those weeks; I had to take some time to regroup. My latest post got some attention and, for the most part, it was all really positive. However this was the first time that I also received some really negative feedback. I’m a fairly sensitive person and while I knew that it was bound to happen eventually, I still found myself reeling from the few personal attacks on my character. So instead of concentrating on all of the messages from people who found my post so relatable, I instead found myself focusing on the few who really hated what I had to say. I started to question, once again, why it is I’m sharing my life in such a public manner. And I determined that one of the biggest reasons is this: to reclaim my anonymity.
I’m sure that seems quite backwards. Sharing my life and point-of-view so openly seems like a sure-fire way to remain the opposite of anonymous. But hear me out for a second. One of my goals in all of this is to normalize my wheelchair way of life. And my hope in sharing my thoughts and stories with strangers is that there will be more empathy and understanding when faced with a wheelchair user in their everyday life. In turn, this allows me to feel less noticeable and more like I can, once again, blend in amongst the crowd.
Don’t get me wrong; I understand that I will still be seen. But there is a difference between being seen and being scrutinized. There is a difference between the everyday niceties of the human race and persistent unneeded help based on predetermined ideas. If reading my blog helps people better understand life-in-a-wheelchair then maybe, just maybe, there will be less to scrutinize because it will simply be understood. And the point I was trying to make in my last post was that there is a general misunderstanding about the abilities of some people in wheelchairs and there is learning to do surrounding how the interactions with them can go. For me, kindness is the way to approach any situation. If there is a true belief that someone is struggling, then offer your assistance. The problem really arises when the answer is not respected and persistence ensues (it happens often). But a lot can be said for a kind smile or nod of acknowledgement to show that “hey, I’m a nice person and if you need something I’m here”. And it goes both ways. I stand by my post as I was making a point. I want to clarify though that I would never be rude/unkind/ungrateful to anyone who was showing me kindness. I was simply explaining what goes on in my mind and my desire for people to see what I’m truly capable of instead of seeing what I’m not (or presumably not).
Some people will say that I just need to get past my chair. I am here to tell you that I am past it. I have accepted this wheelchair as a part of my life. What I want is for society to get past it. Accept the chair as nothing more than my mobility device and know that the more accessibility we advocate for, the more independence people with disabilities can achieve. In putting my life into this blog, I feel like I’m doing a small part to bring that awareness to the general public and I believe in that cause. In saying that, it means I’m going to have to develop a little bit of a thicker skin when people don’t necessarily see it my way. I suppose I cannot please everyone because, if I could, I wouldn’t be saying much of anything at all.
So yes, I am reclaiming my anonymity by being obvious. It seems contradictory but I honestly believe that by sharing this life of mine in a wheelchair that I am teaching and normalizing. That is my quest and my goal. I’m hopeful people will see where my ambition lies and that my intentions are good. I’m just a girl in a chair trying to spread some awareness.
[…] I received a lot of feedback. It was mostly positive but not all of it. Please see my next post Reclaiming My Anonymity to hear my […]
I have to admit that your previous post made me have to think things through. Just pushing a stroller makes people want to help me, sometimes I welcome it but most of the time I kindly decline. You’re right, we do get used to manuvering around (not saying pushing a stroller is the same!- but it’s a visual thing that people assume I need help because of it). Also, I am reminded of the too-often well intentioned times that men stopped on the side of the road to help me with my always-breaking down vehicles when I was in my teens, assuming a girl couldn’t help herself, fixing her own car on the side of the road. My dad, being a mechanic of sorts, taught me so much about my vehicles so I was always capable and it bugged me so much that these well-intentioned men couldn’t understand that I was indeed capable. Even after gently refusing their help they were hesitant to leave me by myself to fix my car issues. I didn’t want to come across rude, however I viewed their kindness as sexism. And I think it was a bit of both. People can have their prejudices and be kind at the same time. But through education we learn, so your post reminded me of ways that this sort of situation happened in my own life. How the kindness of others can be frustrating. Its complex. Not everyone offering help is holding prejudices, but it can feel that way when receiving unwanted help. I hear you.
When my husband became an amputee I was trying to relate in my own way with my experiences to him. Pushing a stroller isn’t the same as the chair, but you’re finding what you can to understand the awkwardness, the difficulty with hills, curbs, and doors, all of it. When I became an amputee I learned things all over again and I gained a new perspective, and I appreciate your comparison and understanding.
I am right there with you and I’m happy knowing there are others out there speaking their truth so that everyone who isn’t on our *wheels* can understand better what we are experiencing and how to approach us with grace and not condescension. Reblogging because I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Keep expressing yourself through your blog and forget your critics. We all tend to focus on the one or two negative comments and ignore all the positives. You’re actually doing a great service for yourself and others.
I read a blog that said don’t blog for your readers. Blog for yourself. There will always be someone who will disagree with your blogs. But there will be ones agree as well.
My husband is in a wheelchair, and he runs into those types of situations — people assuming he’s incapable because he’s in a wheelchair. But you know what? He owns and runs a business, plays sled hockey for handicapped athletes, and he’s one of the most self-sufficient people I know. It’s other people’s uncertainty, assumptions, prejudice, and discomfort that makes life more difficult. Not the wheelchair.
In fact, my amazing husband inspired a character in my first novel.
Keep up the blogging!
You’re doing great!
Codi I think your writing is awesome I am leaning a lot about how and when to help out not having any experience with any one in a chair. your blog is ” helping Codi heal ” not only are you doing that your are also helping ours in ways you will never know Thanks.