December 21, 2019

Temporarily Disabled

broken leg

I'm not "handicapped," "differently-abled," or "disabled." The state has recognized me as "temporarily disabled" for the purpose of parking, but I think I prefer to think of myself as "temporarily fucked up" as a way of trying to keep things less serious. I've sustained an injury that I expect to keep me in a cast and on crutches for at least the next 6-8 weeks. Strangely, this is my first time for both. So yes, I am in pain and temporarily fucked up when it comes to my ability to get around. That just gets to ride on top of all the pre-existing ways I'm fucked up in other respects.

When it happened, I figured it would lead to one of two things here at Atheist Revolution. Either posting would dry up because I'd be in too much pain and/or too preoccupied with other things (e.g., mourning the loss of all the projects I was planning to work on while some are celebrating various holidays that take place in December) or I'd end up posting far more than usual because I'd be bored out of my mind. So far, it has been a mixture of the two but more of the second than the first. This could change, as more expensive doctor visits are needed before I'll know what the future holds; however, an uptick in posts in late December and early January seems likely.

I need to begin by noting that I am somewhat reluctant to write this post. The last thing I want to do is compare my recent experience with those of persons who are "disabled," "handicapped," or however they prefer to be referred to in less temporary ways. My experience is laughably trivial in so many ways, and I cannot know what theirs is like. Still, venturing out in public like this the few times I've had to do so has been eye-opening in ways I never imagined, and I can already tell that I am going to be transformed by the experience. One thing is for sure: how I think of and interact with persons who have various mobility-related limitations will never be the same. I have only sampled a small portion of their experience, but it has already taught me much.

One type of reaction I've encountered a couple times is the expression of genuine concern from strangers. They want to know what happened, if I need help, and what they can do to make things easier. They express sympathy and try to be helpful even if they don't always know how best to do so. I could imagine how this might wear thin if I was dealing with something expected to be less temporary, but it has not bothered me. To the contrary, I have appreciated it. This sort of kindness makes me feel like they care, and it makes it far easier to ask for help when I need it. This is something I'm really bad at, so anything that makes it easier goes a long way.

The far more common reaction seems to be a blend of indifference with a bit of hostility sprinkled in for good measure. I get that some people shut down and do not want to acknowledge the wreck hobbling in front of them. Some of the reasons they do so probably aren't even bad ones. Maybe they figure I don't want the extra attention, that I want to be treated just like everybody else. What I find interesting about this, though, is that it has resulted in some puzzling behavior. There was the woman in the medical center who made sure to close the elevator door before I could get on. There was the man who scowled at me and walked by when I was struggling with a door. There was the cashier who responded only with impatience when I nearly fell down in her line. And there were the few who could actually be seen pointing and laughing.

I'm still early in this process, but I can already predict that this experience is going to make me more aware of my surroundings, more deliberate about how I treat others, and far less likely to ignore anyone I see struggling. There are far too many people struggling with things we can't see to have the luxury of ignoring those we can see. I'm sure I've been guilty of this too, but I believe that's behind me. Going forward, I aim to be one of those people expressing concern and trying to help. In short, I will try to be a better humanist.