Disability, Empathy, Getting Real

I’m not sick!

I had a fairly deep conversation with myself this morning, over a steaming sink of dirty dishes. I realized myself was making a pretty decent point, so I decided to let you in on the chat.
I grew up in a church that subscribes to practice of the laying on of hands in prayer for divine healing. For more than 20 years of my life, I attended youth camps and prayer meetings. I was in church every time the doors were opened, and sometimes I just used my key.
Countless times while in those services, I’d make my way to the altar by way of cane, walker, wheelchair or under my own power to seek prayer for a range of ailments and trials.
More often than not, I’d immediately be surrounded by my fellow believers who were praying, not for the encouragement or guidance I was seeking, but strictly for God to deliver me from my wheelchair.
Just to be clear, Friends, this talk doesn’t really have anything to do with religion, and I’ve got no grudge of any kind. It’s about the prevailing idea that all people with imperfect bodies want to be normal, that we’re anomalies in the spectrum of humanity that have to be dealt with some how.
If typical people didn’t perpetuate that ideology, we would have more ramps and fewer stairs. Ramps work for everyone. Stairs don’t. If there were fewer accessibility barriers, there would be less unemployment among disabled people. I could go on and on…
When people assumed I was seeking healing because I have a visible disability, it feels like A) that attribute of myself is totally unacceptable, and B) they’re disrespecting the way God made me, not even considering it might be for a purpose.
Don’t get me wrong, for the most part, they’re good people doing what they sincerely believe God wants them to do, but why didn’t occur to anyone that God made me exactly the way he meant for me to be? My whole life I’ve heard talk about how we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”, but then we pray for the deliverance of people who were somehow made incorrectly?
People will line up all day long to tell you your plight was God’s will, unless it’s something that makes them uncomfortable, then you need to be delivered from it. Who gets to decide where that line is?
Choose Your Words Wisely, Wisdom

(At Least) 6 Steps to Evaluating Information.

I interrupt my originally-intended blog post to bring you this emergency post about how to evaluate the information you are constantly bombarded with on the Internet and elsewhere. This is by no stretch a conclusive list, but it’s a good jump-start to our common sense.
  1.  Is it a tabloid / gossip page? Tabloids are those trashy magazines in the supermarket checkout that rely on sensationalism to draw you in. If you answered yes, just throw it out now…all the way out. If not, move on to step two.
  2. Is it fact or opinion or fact? Some sources are really sneaky about trying to pass off opinion pieces as fact. If the writer uses first-person pronouns such as “I”, or otherwise injects him/herself into the story, it’s opinion. If it resorts to name calling, it’s an opinion. I personally believe it’s wise to consult the opinions of reliable sources, but even then they should be considered suggestion, not fact. Opinion is the spice of your research, not the meat. Approach it with caution and an open mind. Go to step three.
  3. Step two should also be applied to personal blogs, even this one. I only list blogs separately because they sometimes requite a bit of additional discernment. Arise Ink has a bit of a homemade feel, but there are plenty out there that have a slick, news-like aesthetic, and are still just someone’s opinion. You could also happen onto the professional blog of someone who is a legitimate authority in the subject you’re researching. Just pay attention to what you’re really dealing with, and go to step four (Apply the remaining steps to non-opinion pieces).
  4. Is it biased? For the sake of discussion, let’s use politics as an example. Does the article or website criticize or condemn one party or candidate exclusively? Is it written or owned by a specific party/candidate or anyone who is affiliated with, employed by or donates to them? If you answered yes to one or both of these questions, remain skeptical and go to step five.
  5. Look for sources that use specific language.  For example, “The CEO earned $500,000 in 2015”, instead of “The CEO makes a lot of money”. The more specific the information, the easier it is to fact check and the more likely it is to be true. The most reliable material will cite sources, which you should also evaluate carefully.  Go to step six.
  6. Factual sources will generally not use overtly emotional language, like name calling or finger pointing (unless accompanied by documented facts. See #5). This kind of writing is intended to manipulate you. It’s relying on using your emotions to cloud your judgment.
My only intention is to give you some tools that will help you make better decisions about what you put into your brain and what your inflict on the people around you, on and off social medial. I’ve seen good people do so much damage with misinformation. You don’t want to be that person. Remember the truth seldom exists in extremes. The gray areas are always your best bet.
Choose Your Words Wisely, Disability

Are you an ableist?

Recently, someone questioned my use of the word “ableism” to describe society’s tendency to favor typical people over those with disabilities. It’s a real thing, y’all. For example, everyone can use a ramp (including people with handcarts, strollers, etc) but only the able-bodied can use stairs. In spite of this obvious fact, stairs are the rule rather than the exception, often limiting where people with disabilities can work, live, eat, shop, worship, go to school, socialize and pretty much everything everyone else does..

Inevitably, when I start talking about this sort of thing, someone will feel compelled to tell me a story about how their brother’s girlfriend’s neighbor knew a guy (not a guy, a kid. It’s always a kid), who overcame his disability and learned to drag himself up the stairs, and he’s SUCH an inspiration.

The only thing a story like that should inspire you to do is demand more practical accessibility standards so no one has to resort to becoming a spectacle.

We appreciate your support, but I’ll take dignity and independence over fleeting, warm fuzzy admiration any day.

Getting Real, Wisdom

Beware of the false bottom!

If our society was a work of literature, it would consist of about 98% long, rambling run-on sentences about division, oppression and all the worst things human beings do to each other. There would be page upon page about what one side wants and why the other side doesn’t think they should have it, followed by heated commentary from people who can’t seem to put themselves in another person’s shoes well enough to know what they’re talking about.

The other 2% would be beautifully bold statements about when we finally got it right, underlined with the blood, sweat and tears of those who labored sacrificially to make it happen and highlighted with the joy the of ones whose lives and will be forever changed because of it, radiating out to give support and inspiration to future generations.

We should be careful to never take our progress for granted or forget that we don’t stop being equal in the spaces between accomplishments. Inequality is a fallacy, an evil lie perpetuated by those who desperately want to preserve the status quo that severs them so well.


Snow Days

We humans labor under many delusions that erode our quality of life. One that particularly makes my eye twitch is that we are all extra-special, super-unique little snowflakes. Friends, give me a break.

Like most stereotypes and over-generalizations, there’s some truth to it. We all have our own little oddities that make life more interesting and provide lots of opportunity to learn about different points of view, but while our quirks supply diversity, it’s our common human expereinces that gives us stability.

 “You don’t know how I feel!”
“You don’t understand what I’m going through!”
“Well maybe you’ve done this before, but [insert lame qualifying statement here]!”
Why is that our knee-jerk reaction when people try to identify with us? Statements like these not only isolate us, they also discount the empathy of the person trying to reach out…and that’s something we can’t afford to lose.
Here’s some stuff to keep in mind when you find yourself in a similar conversation:
1. Recognize the Empathy: It might sound a little harsh and sloppy, like the person is trying  to one-up you or make it about all about them, but remember humans are imperfect. Appreciate the effort they’re making to acknowledge your situation and help you feel less alone.
2. It’s entirely likely they don’t understand every single facet of your feelings, because no one can read your mind. Make it an opportunity to explain/educate, not an excuse to shut them down. If I’m every Queen of the World, it will be a crime against humanity to discourage someone’s attempt to empathize.
3. If you are trying to be the comforter in a scenario like this, be careful to keep your “I              statements” to a minimum, and make them reflect back to the comfortee.
All the –isms in the world, sexism, racism, ablism, etc, continue to exist because we make a million little decisions every day that lead toward ignoring what makes us the same and remaining ignorant about the unique qualities of people we think are so different from us.
Not making the effort to put yourself in someone else’s shoes WILL have serious consequences (so will keeping others out of your shoes for that matter). Always remember all we know for sure is everyone you encounter only gets this one life and your existence will affect it.
Isolation will destroy you. An individual snowflake won’t last long on it’s own, but when it starts sticking with its buddies, they are literally a force of nature.
Getting Real

How to Fall Through the Cracks in 10 Easy Steps

I officially fell through the cracks today. * After much consideration, I ultimately decided to forgo telling you every single detail of my feelings, because it’s overwhelming. I also decided not to tell you much about the diagnosis involved, because it shouldn’t matter (just know I’m not dying, so don’t worry). I’m going to more or less list the facts, because they apply to way too many people and it’s unacceptable. He’s how it all went down:

1. After a ridiculous amount of procrastination (Don’t judge. You’re probably reading this instead of whatever you’re supposed to be doing)…(Thank You!), I finally made an appointment with my doctor to discuss a long-running issue he had been trying to talk to me about for years. When we parted ways, he said someone from his office would research my insurance and contact me with a referral in a day or two.
2. A little more than a week later, I called the doctor’s office because I hadn’t heard from them. No one answered, so I left a message.
3.Two or three days latter, I called again and had the following conversation:
Me: Hi, I was expecting someone to call me about a referral two weeks ago?
Her: Ok, let me look at your chart. Ok….your insurance is XYZ, you have to call XYZ Company for your referral.
Why couldn’t they tell me that before I left the office?
4. I called XYZ and recited what the doctor’s office told me:
Her: I don’t know why they sent you here. It looks like XYZ is your secondary insurance. You need to call your primary, ABC.
5. I called ABC and told them all about it. After a 20-minute hold and some odd questions, this happened:
Him: You don’t need a referral. You can go to our website, chose a network doctor in your area and make your own appointment.
6. I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a few options on their site, so I printed off the list and started calling. The majority seemed surprised to learn they were on the list and didn’t accept ABC.  The rest didn’t answer and never called me back.
7. A week or so later, I found that I could contact the doctor’s office by e-mail. So I did, detailing steps 1-6.
8. To their credit, they promptly responded the next day, reminding me about my phone call and how they connected me with the XZY Company. I wrote them back immediately, calling their attention to my previous e-mail and how that didn’t work.
9. The next day (I feel like they redeemed themselves with their uncommonly good response time), someone from the doctor’s “referral department” called me and listed my only three choices in the entire county. One wasn’t taking new patients. The next one had a waiting list through October. The last one would accept my primary insurance but not the secondary, and even though XYZ would pay 80%, the remaining 20% is WAY out of my budget.
10. I spend a couple more weeks pretending to accept my current state as my new normal so I could avoid the insane absurdity of this situation. My symptoms now exacerbated, I started researching a county program that might provide some direction at least. I called them today. The lady on the phone was super nice, NOT I count on when dealing with any large agency. I explained the situation. This happened next:
Her: We have a very rigorous screening process. The first step is a phone interview. It takes about half an hour to 45 minutes and is designed to make sure only people with the most extreme symptoms get through to the next step.
Me: What’s the next step?
Her: An in-person interview. It takes about three hours.
Me: That’s the approximate wait time?
Her: No, that’s the interview time.
Me: But that’s not the actual doctors appointment?
Her: No, just screening interview
Me: Ok, how do I get started?
Her: I can schedule you right now….
Me: Wow really?!! That’s amazing !
Her: The first available phone interview is in about 8 weeks.
Me: Please put me on your list, but I’m going to give my GP another try. Maybe he can come up with a sub-standard, cheaper version of the treatment he really thinks I need a specialist for. I guess specialists are for people who can afford better insurance.
Her: Ok, I think that’s a good idea. (I’m paraphrasing here, but not very much) You don’t sound like your symptoms are severe enough for this program anyway.
This scenario is all too common, and there are many factors involved, not the least of which is poverty. Let me tell you this much, neither ABC nor XYZ stand for Kaiser Permanente or Blue Cross.  Blaming it on Obamacare demonstrates ignorance of how the government works, how the reform was intended to work, and how that differs with the way it’s playing out in real life.
Don’t think for a minute that my chronic lack of financial resources correlates in any way but inversely with my preparedness, desire and initiative to improve my situation.
I don’t know how to end this, because I think the answer boils down to greed. Yes, we certainly have political problems in this country, but that’s only a symptom of our spiritual problems and our tendency to justify the darker angels of our human nature. Until we can get real with ourselves about that, and recognize our laws are bent to serve the wealthy minority, we will continue to suffer in unacceptable, unnecessary ways.
*I really looked for a way to make this more fun to read. Sorry.
Relationship Food, Self-Rescuing Series, Wisdom

What are your true colors?

Humans are complicated and life is messy. One of the many things we do to keep that theme running is miscommunicate, but before you can really communicate with someone else, you have to get on the same page with yourself.

If an 8-count box of crayons can represent your emotional spectrum, keep reading. This is about getting familiar with the super-deluxe 120-count pack.
Somewhere, somebody decided emotions are either good or bad. For example, happiness, love and gratification feel good, so we naturally want to do things that give us that feeling. Guilt, sadness and fear feel bad and are to be avoided. Anger spans both lists, because there’s often temporary relief in lashing out.
That’s all baloney, and here’s why: Every single one of your feelings serve a purpose, and if heeded appropriately, will help you navigate even the trickiest of situations and relationships.
Think of guilt as your emotional pain response. Pain is your body’s way of alerting you to a problem. It says “take your hand off the stove, Dummy! It’s burning!”. A healthy guilt response will let you know when you’ve behaved badly and need to adjust your behavior.
The same way guilt helps you look out for others, fear helps keep and eye on you. It’s the knot in your stomach that warns you not to take a ride from that stranger at the party, or the panic that makes you take your foot off the gas before careening out of control.
Anger is simple. It’s just mad, and everybody understands that. It’s so easy in fact we seem to want to default to it. Are you hurt? Anger. Are you confused by someone’s actions? Anger. Disappointed? Anger.
We’ve got the idea that being mad puts us in a more powerful position than being hurt. The truth is, being aware of your pain and honest enough to admit it, puts you in control because it’s the first step toward a real resolution. Reacting to a situation when you’re not sure, or not being honest, about your motivations is like taking medicine when you don’t have a proper diagnosis. At best, it won’t help; at worst, it can be dangerous.
You can’t be easily abused or manipulated when you’re in tune with your real feelings. Being aware of all the shades of your emotions makes your intuition much more sensitive
Humans are emotional creatures. We can’t realistically stop ourselves from reacting emotionally to both external and internal forces. If you aren’t honest and aware of what you’re reacting to and why, your response will almost always be inappropriate, dumping more turmoil and confusion into your life. Peace is a product of learning to use your emotions as a tool, instead of being a slave to your emotional triggers.