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  • Writer's pictureErin Clark

A Benefit to Ourselves

When @french_painstry_chef first showed me these pieces, I felt that she captured the vibe of how I feel like a benefit to myself so perfectly. And then I thought about The Little Match Girl.

I read the fairytale when I was quite young, I can still see the illustrations of each of her visions in the glow of her matches—her grandma, a cooked goose (?) come to life. When the matches ran out, she died, and became a shooting star. Another fleeting flame.

The lesson the fairytale meant to impart was a moral of charity for the “less fortunate.”

I knew even then, I was among the “less fortunate” of my reality, receiving charity was a mainstay of my experience. It felt like, at the core of my life, there would be forces acting on me as harsh and penetrating and impoverishing as the little girl’s winter.

What if all I had was a box of matches?

More unnervingly, I understood the temptation of her resignation. Since no one bought them as she hoped, she binged on the relieving heat of each match, even though the heat —and her life— would be brief.

I don’t make resolutions, even the word “resolute” makes me think of determination steeled against something relentless and cold. Admirable, but lone. Resolute and lone cohabitate. Which makes me think of desolate, and that’s what resolutions are to me.

Being disabled, and being resolute are often linked. Without considering that the soggiest, coldest, voidiest part of disability is the fantasy of a desolate life we didn’t imagine in the first place, thickening like a cold humidity around us. How our choices are narrowed until it feels like we are left to our last resort.

But the little girl didn’t only have two options —Sell the matches, or burn them — she had the tools to build warmth the whole time. What I always wondered was, why didn’t she start a fire?

Flame is hungry and loves to grow. It drinks oxygen, and we are wealthy with air. May we combust against resignation and drink the humid air of empty projections. We do not have to be anything new, but if we must be resolute may we also be warm. And may we know how to be a benefit to ourselves.

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