Tag Archives: handicap

Expo Pens

21 Apr

Mary's bathroom mirror

I reached for the faucet, looked up, and saw red lines covering the reflection of my face in the mirror. Maybe I should be concerned that my first thought was that I was obviously bleeding severely from my face, but maybe blood means more to the heart than red Expo pen on glass and what art isn’t painted with blood anyways? I’m glad my instincts are still in tact.

I wonder if we began to write more once we invented washable markers. I wonder if we became more eager to create once we had pencils with erasers. Without the threat of permanence, I wonder if we began to take advantage of our freedom to express ourselves without the fear of contributing to cultural posterity. It seems more likely, however, that we did nothing but provoke our perfectionist tendencies. There’s too much pressure that comes with creating art that can be erased. We feel the need to wipe away mistakes until perfection is achieved instead of simply accepting the work produced on the first try. When using a permanent marker, letters are different sizes, circles don’t come out round, but humans aren’t perfect. Even God didn’t get creation right on the first try and, unlike sinners, even a flood won’t wash away a Sharpie’s mistakes. With such permanence comes a sense of relief. A Sharpie shouts, “You better love me as I am!” while an Expo pen yawns and tells you to do better.

The problem with our reliance upon erasers is that our lives are not like the whiteboards we hang above our beds, in our kitchens, reminding us of appointments and needed groceries. Society imposes a great deal of pressure on us to not only be the best we can be today, but the best we could have been yesterday. It’s as though we’ve been building the cities of our histories with cement when we had thought it to be sand. Our need to rewrite the past leaves us spending more time scrubbing at our mistakes than laying bubble wrap for the future. We find that our efforts are in vain, attempts to erase past situations proving as successful as removing stains with spit. What’s done is done and our actions claim more than ourselves. We are not only writing our lives in Sharpie, but with a pen whose permanence influences the ink of those around us. When we go back to change the lines, we see that someone else has already finished the picture. Even with Expo pens in our hands and infinite amounts of time, we probably would never get a perfect circle, but when we all draw together, we can get pretty close.

Looking at Mary’s mirror, I wished the message of love had been written in Sharpie so that we couldn’t erase it and forget. Of course, I was naïve to assume that the words don’t reach beyond the bathroom into the past, present, and future. Those words are made permanent every time hellos are said in the mornings, tables are set for celebrations, smiles are shared over jokes. Those words are engrained into a life and every life that encounters that life and other lives in turn. They are made eternal by scars that are never formed, by wounds made unnecessary, by goodness. They become our daily chants as we redefine disability. They live on forever in every hug that reassures us that we were all penned perfectly the first time.

Decorating my room!

Escaping

10 Apr

I went for a run the other day and ended up running 17 miles. I wasn’t necessarily intending to run that far, but once I found dirt paths and trees, distance didn’t seem to matter. I hadn’t realized that I needed a break from the malls and freeways, to escape and remember that I can get pretty far with just my two legs. Society often subscribes to the work hard play hard mentality, implying that our time off should be as effective and well-crafted as our time of productivity. There are moments set aside to relax, but you better relax to the best of your relaxing abilities and waste no time with pillows of the wrong softness and music of the inappropriate genre. Escaping society’s burdens is like solving a puzzle made from the wood of your bones or going on a treasure hunt where the prize is your own right shoe.

Escaping only becomes more difficult when you have a disability, exit doors lacking bright red signs to signal proper paths. There are struggles to brushing teeth, to washing dishes, to putting on socks. Simply waking up is a reminder that a life with disabilities doesn’t come with vacation days. It’s not like leaving work for a Caribbean cruise, preparing pineapple drinks with small umbrellas to celebrate a hiatus from days of drinking water and being healthy. As soon as you begin to forget that life is challenging, and get lost in the story of Harry Potter, you stand up to get some crackers and remember that your legs are two different lengths. There are no sick days, no holiday breaks, no mornings in which you can hide under the covers. Sometimes the house members complain about taking their meds or waiting for the bus and I wish I could tell them that tomorrow could be an exception to the routine. I wish that for just a day I could give them complete independence, complete capability.

Upon second thought, this can’t be awarded to anyone. Disability or not, none of us can escape from our individual obstacles. We are always already living in our thoughts and influenced by our personalities and traits. Even when we are away from our household chores and 9 to 5 jobs, our hands still sweat when we look over the edges of tall buildings, we still jump at the sounds of slamming doors and compliments. The most enthralling of movies won’t take away our less than perfect visions, won’t erase our biases and opinions. We are stamped by the thumbprints of our cultures, upbringings, and genetics, unable to interact with the world with anything other than our uniquenesses.

It is a popular belief in L’Arche that all people are disabled, with some of humanity better able to hide it. Maybe it’s also true that we are better able to escape it, to ignore morning meds every once and a while, to not have to wait for a bus when we want to leave the house and just drive our cars until the road ends. Unlike those we call disabled, we can go on Caribbean cruises and forget that breathing is incredible and not always so easy to do. We can run for 17 miles and forget that two legs shouldn’t go that far.

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