Soooooo, obviously this year has been an odd one when taken in the aggregate of my life. It has perhaps contained the worst of the challenges I’ve had in my life since maybe 2005? Not really sure, I’m not sure that I am dramatic enough to rank things based on negativity. That being said, I’ve been congratulated by many for my ability to “rise to the occasion” or “rise above” my challenges. People “can’t even imagine” what I’ve gone through but no one is shy about telling me their prescriptions of what is “good for me.” I’m not sure which occasion they are referring too, perhaps my surgery? my break up? PhD school? Neither really seems like much of an occasion. As for those of you that think drastic life changes would be good for me? You’ve not been paying attention. I am a creature of habit. Changes in my routine? They just give me a headache. I’m not going anywhere, I’m not flaking on my commitments and I’m not running from my life. I don’t want to be reactive. I want to be thoughtful about how I live, considerate, honest, not just brazen. I’m just living my life like anyone else. My path may not be too similar but really, lots of people seem to relate to me, so maybe it is not that dissimilar either. I like my life, I have no regrets, not even in my most pathetic moments.
Grocery shopping. Ah the pinnacle of despair. Perhaps it is because for me, in my busy schedule and with my forgetfulness, grocery shopping was an event. Usually one that coincided with Jason coming to visit me. I would go to the local store poring over the best foods to make taco night, or spaghetti night, or sandwich night. I know, I’m no chef but I did my best. No, it didn’t often turn out right, or even close to right. But we ate it and I’m mostly sure it was healthy. Now? There doesn’t seem much reason to take all the time it takes to cook just to eat what is most likely a disgusting meal all alone. It’s less funny without the opportunity to watch someone cut their meat up into millimeter sized portions fit to swallow directly since it was too tough to chew. Plus, I should really be on a diet. I mean, ever since my spinal tap during surgery I haven’t been able to hold my abs in correctly and this only gets more difficult as the abs play hide and seek behind my lumpy flesh… Anyway, when I could stand it no more and while waiting for my Door to Door Organics to come, I decided I needed some food. Not one to waste a trip to the store, I decided to go to Target so I could buy the new lipstick I saw on the TV commercial (ah to be a willing victim of the corporatized media), I mean, it had been quite some time since I got a new “tumor lipstick.” I’m apparently not a very good shopper when I’m tired. After standing in the frozen meals section for about 20 minutes looking for food that was natural enough, organic enough and tasty enough to fit my mood I realized nothing in the aisle would do the trick. Forlorn, I turned to go and saw my reflection in the glass across the aisle. My image, slightly disheveled, centered under the sign. “Meals for one” it read. Oh no. This is my life now, a sad future of frozen Healthy Choice meals that are so painfully unsatisfying that this “one” purchasing the meal, has to eat three or four to curb my hunger. None of it tastes good. SO I thought, welp, fuck it. I’ve been shoving quinoa up my face for so long, I deserve a break. I left Target that night with the following:
2 containers of Stouffers Mac and Cheese
2 varieties of Oreos
Magnum chocolate and sea salt caramel ice cream bars (don’t worry I got the snack size)
All natural cookie dough
3 containers of eggs (Apparently in my mind I thought I was having an Easter Egg Hunt)
whole wheat tortillas
a can of refried beans
an industrial size container of hot sauce
Orange tic tacs
Pure unsweetened cranberry juice (I heard it gets rid of cellulite which apparently I am planning to double with my current diet)
Overall I think we can call this trip to the store a success, no?
Tomorrow my organic fruits, veggies and meats come in the mail and all will return to normal. And what I’ve learned from this experience is sometimes we just need Oreos, and the birthday Oreos, well they are deceivingly bad. I thought that buying toilet paper and beef jerky online were my lowest moments, then, I went to the store. Ugh.
That being said, I must say that I find myself quite hilarious.
I also had a lot of good things happen in the last week. I kicked ass on my Crossfit Workouts, rocking not one, not two, but several double unders in a row. Then? I ran my little ass (figuratively) off and beat my own 400m time, and pretty much walked away from my workouts feelings stronger and better. I also spent some time with a Vestibular therapist, whom I was highly skeptical of and I think it showed. After several exercises that knocked me off balance the therapist set out to “massage my scar” in order to loosen the tightness in the tissue to help with pain. Well, that night I was in the worst pain I’d had since surgery. Maybe you have to go down before you can go up… not sure, I’ll keep you all posted on the progress (or lack thereof).
I got to visit Raider in Henderson, he was affectionate and fun, and I’m looking forward to bringing him home. We swapped stories about our favorite shows and movies and chatted about life in general. I did most of the talking, being that he is a dog.
Of the most consequence was a panel I had the opportunity to be on about disability and pedagogy. I was honored to be included on the panel and work with such incredible scholars. I had agreed to be on this panel to discuss what it was like navigating the University disability system with my new-found hearing loss. I must admit it has not been great. The impetus to stay silent about a change in health or ability is one that I took to heart, not wanting to be judged or have opportunities lost for me. Taking on the identity of “disabled” still not something I have come to terms with and it comes with a stigma that can be painful and damaging. There is an awkward process of “Coming out” as disabled in which you must locate yourself as not having ability based on arbitrary standards of normal. Upon this revelation in ableist environments I am often confronted with a pep talk, “oh sure, you’ll get better” or “you can’t even tell!” or “it’s just a tough time right now.” This time, it’s the rest of my life.I don’t need you guys to make me feel better, but I get it. It’s awkward. Acoustic Neuromas, while rarely life threatening, leave life long consequences. Reminders of where Herbert was living. If you don’t want to deal with the objectifying process of identifying yourself based on your physical faculties you have to try to “pass” as normal. Pretending it doesn’t bother you to strain to hear or that you don’t need a statement repeated. They are alternatives that assume normal ability as we define it is a neutral status and the rest of us must define ourselves against this norm. One of the other panelists encouraged us all to think in terms of our abilities. To acknowledge the ability and privilege of our hands, our arms, our feet, our strength, our mobility. Life is not a binary of ability and disability, not in practice. In reality we exist on a continuum of difference, no one ability being better or worse than another. Not better. Not worse. Just different. I don’t need to “get better” from my hearing loss. YES, IT SUCKS THAT IT WILL NEVER GET BACK. I admit that. But it’s not my new normal, because normal is a construct. I don’t need to get better because I am not sick. I’m not bad. I’m not a pathology that can be fixed. I’m me. I’m quirky and weird and my right ear is (mostly) decorative.
For anyone who is interested, here is how I closed out my portion of the panel:
“Shouldn’t all education be special? The notion of normal is one of the more problematic notions in the academy. The desire to cure or fix those that don’t fit into presentations of normal is often stifling and offensive. Let us ask ourselves why we valorize some modes of assistance and not others – glasses represent someone who is brainy, dedicated, and smart – a hearing aid on the other hand represents a handicap. Choice and agency are central to individuals navigating systems that are based on structures that have not changed as disability discourse has progressed. While disability rights are central to helping disabled bodies operate in an ableist society the distinction between disability and ability within institutions of education are problematic – the notion of normal is taken as the blank state – assumed to be neutral thus those of us with disabled bodies are forced to define ourselves in relation to the arbitrary category normal.
“Without the monstrous body to demarcate the borders of the generic, without the female body to distinguish the shape of the male , and without the pathological to give form to the normal, the taxonomies of value that underlie the political, social and economic arrangements would collapse” – Rosemary Garland Thomson ”
Anyway, I have to go eat a meal, for one – which I suppose is ok with me. I mean, it’s going to have to be. I also have to go let my freak flag fly.
Peace and love –