Reading Sophie Partridge's blog: Public bodies, disability on display.../ 10 October 2011, I felt an immediate eureka-style 'yes' bursting out of me. I work hard at my public image for two reasons: first, I was brought up that way, and second, to control the damage to my perceived intelligence caused by my wheelchair.
Does my bum look big in this is not my reality, but as a wheelborne woman I'm never free from the constant pressure to assess and reassess the visual impact I make on other people.
The superficiality of this warps my ideas about who I might me.
There are times when I loose sight of the whole-ness of everything.
The wheelchair is always visible and always assumed to carry a body with little or no brain. It has zero attraction potential; I am expected to dislike my chair, to long to be free of it, to constantly apologise for its inconvenience and if I'm not eager to disown my wheels then expected to question my motives and morality.
I am who I am. This is it, the one and only. There is no other and like everything unique, there is some kind of perfection to all the quirks and flaws.
The perfect me has wheels. An exoskeleton of metal and memory foam; a core of unpredictable performance and pain.
And a blind belief in hiking the Pennine Way, of putting feet relentlessly one in front of the other for days and miles and lifetimes.
And this totally in tandem with rolling, with my need for augmentation. With the recognition that the perfect me has wheels.
And with greeting the embrace of my chair like a lover who wraps his arms around me and declares that I am not heavy. I am no burden.
I am the me who can swish a skirt, feel ridges of hard sand under bare feet and move with the music on a dusky shoreline. I am the me who scrambles in forests of tangled roots and haunting birdsong.
I am the me who has been charged by a massive bull rhino and who shared a thunderstorm in a tiny boat on the Zambezi with hippo and crocs. I am the me who has rolled Skytree, 634 metres up in the sky: 35* 42'N, 139* 48'E. I am the me who squeals ecstatic as I roll arms-free in a downhill adrenalin rush.
I'm the me who exists like an impossible Russian doll. Inside me, is the outside me. The alien outside perception eating hollow into the core. And the outside me reveals and conceals an infinity of inside/outside possibilities awaiting interpretation. All of them, none of them, disabled. All of them, none of them magic.
Like a disabled bird,
with meandering lop-sided flutter
it rose and fell, jewel bright
in the sparkle of early spring.
A gust of wind carried it playfully
over leggy fritillaries not yet
hinting at snakes' heads, where
it met the mirror twin, flickering
fragile counterpoint; disability
concept the bright and beautiful norm.
The flight, both eager yet hesitant,
carried both suddenly, sharply
out of sight, leaving only
a haunting beauty,
a perception of disability
and the essence of freedom.
And there should be words - words that let me say the sounds that churn me inside out. The stuff that eats away at my reality.
I'm sorry. I can't accept
the chair. I know you can walk
and I believe you should
try harder to stay
on your feet and not
to give in to
is. Put aside your pain
I know you can walk and
I don't care what it costs you.
In those patches where I seem to be unrecognisable to myself I get to wonder about life, the universe, cake and everything else.
I attempt a little distance from my practice - in order to 'make' the questions I need to ponder people. I need to think about who we are and who I am.
I am, but not in a sense of separateness that singles me out and then leaves me vulnerable: vulnerable to the judgement of others who see themselves as qualities or quantities separate from the whole ness of life; vulnerable to hate crime and to micro-aggressions designed to keep me in the place assigned to 'my kind; vulnerable to the erosion that will reduce my perception of myself and my life to less than reality.
I am part of the whole. And the whole stretches from the moment we were all incomprehensible oneness, through being scattered through time and space as particles with no individual senses.
I was you, you were me. We became dinosaurs and the Grand Canyon. We became the Pacific Ocean and the night sky. We became dandelions and millipedes. We became, and we are.
'I am' exists only as part of that. Today's perception of me sees whatever I am as integral to one humongous whole. But also to one continuous process attempting to hold back chaos by reinventing itself, currently so far down the road of denial that it believes diversity is something external to whole ness; unaware that diversity is, like the diversity of heart from lungs, of eyes from ears, internal and essential.
I am right here, right now, apart and a part of something that is both contradictory, confusing and utterly amazing!
Once upon a fluid time,
here at the beginning, or once before.
Rosy-cheeked and tinkerbell she danced,
and watched with wizard eyes, the future form
that curled upon itself, herself, in alien pain.
Saw vampire teeth draw throbbing blood
from hollow skin that knew her only
as a memory. Watched herself through someone else
who surely wasn't her and yet,
and yet, the unexpected thorn
blossomed - life rewaking.
Another form of she began to rise
and like the summer rose
unfold a fragrant stranger.
touching eternity - rosy-cheeked and
dancing through palaces
some tenuous link along the line
of personal identity. The path to who
you think you are, and back again,
or maybe not.
I am diversity,
your only guarantee
of independant thinking.
your collective wisdom
to the tyranny
you would turn
on each other;
or fade together away.
you would need
to invent me.
I am diversity
the way of the tiger.