Disability is Normal
Sometimes when I’m lying in bed, I’ll press my stomach against the sheet and push my legs as far away as I can and reach my arms up and pull in the opposite direction, squeeze and release every muscle I have access too. All the parts of me that have sensation will buzz a little, the entirety of me feels… alive. And then, spontaneously I will think, dear god i love my body. Exhilarated by my own aliveness, even when all I’m doing with it is stretching in bed, I truly swoon for it.
When I create, selfie, film, write, I often start from that swoon.
But I don’t expect other people to feel that swoon.
My experience of loving my body is not a political statement and it’s not a directive of how anyone else should experience me. It’s not even instructions for how you should feel about yourself. It can’t be. It’s what happens inside of me when I remember that I exist and am kind of awed by the entire thing. I wish that kind of no-reason joy for you. But I can’t instruct you to it, or art you into it.
What I do intend is to create an atmosphere of... allowance? What’s a good word for “that feeling of being completely used to seeing such things?” "Such things" meaning, disabled people doing things.
Did you see Lizzo's instagram post where she says that body positivity isn’t enough? She says, “I want to normalize my body, And not be just like, ‘Ooh, look at this cool movement. Being fat is body positive.’ No, being fat is normal.”
Normal is a loaded word. Distinctly so to the disabled community. Used as a weapon against us. Normal often refers to an ‘ideal.’ It means, put a non disabled white guy at the center and then measure how many degrees of separation between you and him. That’s how you solve for the self esteem and confidence and approval you are meant to have.
The concept of an ideal body requires comparison to thrive. And “normal” is what we have been calling the thing we should compare ourselves to. But, in the sense of what a human body is “supposed” to be, being disabled is normal. Disability is normal.
I am frequently asked how I ‘got' my confidence. The assumption is, when you accept the ideal as fact, for someone like me to have pleasure and comfort with my wrecked and crooked body, I must have had to overcome the obstacles represented by those degrees of separation between me and normal.
I say this with the full thrust of my vanity because it’s how I saw through the mechanism of comparison: I did not get confidence. I just had it. Which, to me means, comparison doesn’t have to have anything to do with it. Proximity to ‘ideal’ has nothing to do with it. Of course you can get confidence, people do it all the time. But not by negotiating with the ideal.
Ideal is the spell of society. You are told to compare, that is how you will know how much to love yourself, how ‘ok' you are. What you are entitled to. Negotiating is how you cast it on yourself. If the pity or disdain or disgust assigned to your ‘station' is not enough for you, expect a fight.
But a spell isn’t a fact. A spell can be broken.
Part of breaking that spell is the Lizzos of the world being on magazine covers, using glamour magic, and saying the spell-breaking words. Part of it is it the #sexicons of the world announcing, with their bodies, the mundane playground moments of real life, silencing the clamorous projections.
Part of it is you.
Start with yourself at the center. If you must compare, compare yourself to the methodical turtle, undaunted by the effort of crossing a sandy expanse on legs made for swimming, to build a nest so your babies can start their life re-crossing that exact same expanse because determination is an animal instinct and you have an animal body. Compare yourself to a flutter of fiery leaves in a fall breeze, jubilant with surrender as they are dying. Compare yourself to the idea of success you find most thrilling until it looses it’s charge and then compare yourself to the fog off a lake, or the sunrise piercing through.