So I bet you're all just itching to know what the heck has been on my mind lately? Well, lots of things, actually. Some more important than others. You know. Whatever. We've all got things on our minds. Big deal.
But the thing that is a Big Deal - at least for me - is my fresh new self awareness.
Aha! Intriguing, yes? Allow me to explain.
(Ooh, boy. I'm not sure how I can possibly make this a light and breezy/soft and easy post. I'll try, but I'm warning you now.... this may be a doozy).
Where to start? Okay - here's as good a place as any...
Have y'all heard of something called People First language? Up until early last week, I sure hadn't.
(Check that. I was actually given a child's activity book a few weeks ago that happened to discuss People First language. But at the time, I honestly didn't give the whole concept much thought).
Anyway, if you click this link, you'll get the full (and not altogether positive) definition of People First language. If you'd rather not click, then I'll just tell you - it's a type of speech intended to separate the disability from the person.
Huh?! Who knew?!
How I found out about People First language doesn't much matter for this post. But my personal thoughts on it - at the time - do matter.
I thought - well, that's nice, I guess. But whatever. I have always called myself a disabled person - as opposed to a person with spina bifida. If only for the sheer fact that it's a heck of a lot easier to say it that way. Why go through the effort of using those extra words? And anyway, I know I'm much more than my disability! I can "label" myself any way I want - not that I even consider it labeling. And as for how others refer to me? They can say I'm a disabled person too, for all I care. Like I said - I know what I'm all about, as do my family and friends. How I'm addressed makes no difference at all.
Isn't it all just another way for able-bodied people to feel better about themselves, anyway?Using the "PC" way of addressing others who are somehow different from themselves?
Oh! But THEN!...
Last Friday, I watched this episode of Oprah. She and her panelists continued their discussion about The Law of Attraction. They talked about how naturally strong and alive you feel when you're doing something in line with reaching your destiny. They talked about listening to yourself and loving yourself. They talked about striving for your Core of Peace. Basically, they talked about all of this.
And I said:
Aha! I get it!
I realized that all of the greatest things about my life - what I've already accomplished and what I strive to achieve - all have very little, if anything, to do with my disability. Some include my disability. But absolutely none of them rely on the fact that I have spina bifida.
I've felt that feeling of strength, confidence, and openness when thinking about or pursuing what I want most in my life.
And I've felt that closed off tightness associated with negative thoughts and pursuits.
Examining things even more deeply, I understood how all of my "I can'ts", "I'm afraids", "I'm not at my bests" - all of them stem, consciously or subconsciously, from a "disabled" point of view.
In one way or another, I've told myself over the years:
I can't do such and such because I'm physically unable to do it/it's harder for me to do, so why even try?
Sure, I could do such and such. But other, more able-bodied people are around and willing to do it in my stead. I'll just let 'em!
My fear of loud noises stems from my spina bifda - there's scientific proof out there, isn't there?
Hubby loves me, sure, but I can't always understand why, given my ungracefulness and added physical difficulties and "props" that help me get through each day and night.
(Okay, people. Don't get yourselves all worked up here. I don't need calls or emails telling me to get a grip, lighten up and stop being such a self-deprecating person. I'm in the process of learning my lesson! And anyway, until this Oprah show, I never even consciously realized how down I was on myself regarding all these things).
SO! Back to this People First business.
Maybe it's a pretty great thing after all. I really should address myself as a person first. And expect others to do the same. I'm a woman, a wife, a mother, daughter, sister, friend, etc. I am smart. I am interesting. I have done a lot of great things. And I am able to do - and certainly will do - a whole lot more.
And, oh yeah, I have spina bifida. If that even matters to you.
I've just realized for myself that it doesn't matter a lick to me.
Yes, like I said, I've always claimed that statement to be true - that my disability doesn't define who I am. But if that's really how I feel, then why on earth would I care to define myself as a disabled woman?
As a writer, words obviously play an important role in my life. As of now, I understand how critical proper word usage personally is for me in terms of my life's role.
I see the importance of People First. I will move forward much more confidently because I'm starting to know who I really am. I have a greater sense of where - and who - I want to be in the future.