Dear Inspiration,

I have a friend named Kimmie, who is a darling dumpling of a girl. She has the biggest heart, dives into everything with abounding enthusiasm, and is a honestly, truly shirt-off-her-back person.

We were chatting online about how Big Far, my service dog, and I were walking at the mall, and people’s interesting reactions to us. A stranger had said something along the lines of, “When I see you two out here, I tell myself, ‘If you can walk a mile a day, what’s my excuse?'”

This kid wakes up every morning and thinks, “My job today is to inspire couch potatoes into signing up for Gold’s Gym. This is why I have a lucrative contract with Gold’s that will pay my way through Harvard.”

I was trying to tell her how weird and awkward it felt for this stranger to basically say, “You’re obviously not as able-bodied as I am, but here you are! And if someone as messed up as you are can do it, then someone as fully fit, someone so not you should be able to do at least that.”

Kimmie’s response was that no, I was an inspiration. I had gone through and continue to go through so much, and it inspires strange mall lady and Kimmie herself to keep going.

Let’s just count how many things are wrong with this. Who ever can list the most wins the Internet.

I tried to explain that I don’t want to be someone else’s inspiration, I just want to walk my dog inside, where it’s cool.

Kimmie was belligerent at this point. It was my responsibility to be inspirational whether I wanted to or not. I was flabbergasted. I didn’t have to words to tell her what was sputtering around in my head. But I’ve been thinking about it since.

There are a lot of smart people talking about this as well — the term “inspiration porn” is one I’ve come across only in the last six months or so. These writers have helped me turn my churning thoughts into a cohesive diatribe. Here’s my favorite bit on inspiration porn:

It’s there so that non-disabled people can look at us and think “well, it could be worse … I could be that person,”  Stella Young, ABC, The Drum.

Because if I’ve got a good attitude, hand tremors, deafness, nerve pain, and crushing migraines won’t matter a bit!

I’m just walking my dog. You, strange mall lady, would never think an able-bodied person walking a dog was inspirational. So you, knowing nothing, have made extreme assumptions about me. You feel it’s okay to come tell me that my life is obviously so hard and so different than yours that I should be recognized for walking the dog.

And you’ve turned me in to the other. By singling me out like that, you’ve culled me from the herd of humanity, pushed me to the fringes. Strange mall lady, we’re both white women of a certain age, living in the same area of this city, probably of similar social and economic backgrounds, with more in common than not. Except now I’m other. I’m no longer, in your mind, equal to you.

I don’t want to be someone’s inspiration. Walking with my service dog shouldn’t make me other.

And so I remain,

Payne

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3 thoughts on “Dear Inspiration,

  1. Perfectly put – I don’t know if people realise how much the terror of becoming someone else’s Inspiration Porn keeps some disabled people indoors. I know I swim and gym less than I’d like to, simply because the amount of people saying “Ooh, aren’t you brave?” and then a whispered “What’s wrong with you?” are an exhausting intrusion.

    Like

    • Last night I was reading blog posts and came across that exact “What’s your excuse?” some girl posted. She then talked about how inspiring we are and listed stars like Helen Keller. I was in a foul mood, in a lot of pain, and I totally shat on her post in the comments. I told her we didn’t want to be her inspiration, and she should shut up, or something to that order, but hopefully worded a bit better. And I don’t feel guilty about it. In fact, I’m kind of excited to see if she responds.

      Liked by 1 person

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