I have resisted writing for as long as I can remember. As a kid with cerebral palsy in the 80’seI had very few role models. All I had as a future was whatever that guy from My Left Foot could do: I could become a painter, writer and of course, an alcoholic. But I wasn’t interested in doing anything that guy did because he was sad. ( I thought the same thing the first time my parents brought me along to watch a Woody Allen movie.) Besides, I could move more than my left foot, so I could be more than that, right?
Looking back, that movie influenced how other people thought about me more than it influenced how I thought about myself. Like when you see someone tall, you think, “ I bet they play basketball and put stuff they regularly access on top of the refrigerator.” I won all kinds of art awards in primary school for stuff that even I knew wasn’t that good. One teacher gave me a blue ribbon for a finger painting I did. She mentioned that she liked how I only used one hand to make it, as if it were an artistic choice. I remember narrowing my eyes at her praise of my “bold decision”. That wasn’t “a decision” I was working with what I had. What was I going to do? Use a paintbrush between my toes? I don’t think so lady.
I was never a big fan of art class in primary school anyway. I couldn’t hold paper nicely. It was always instantly crumpled and destroyed in the one hand I had little control over but used to hold it in while I attempted to cut the paper with blunt left-handed scissors. The whole process was so uncomfortable and painful, my joints were always so stiff from trying to make tiny things in class… It’s why started cracking my knuckles to the State physical therapist’s chagrin. And then, at the end of the day, we threw whatever it was we made away. Ugh. What a waste of time and energy! Sure, drawing and painting were ok, though I never really liked the compliments I got for what I did. It just seemed out of proportion to what I was actually producing. They all talked as if I had a plan. I suppose that’s how people who are not artists encourage those they think are “real artists”.
It’s funny how what people assume about your abilities can do one of two things, encourage you to be more like that or it can repel you from doing or being anything like that very thing.
Now, I feel like I have enough life under my belt to say something, not because I’m disabled or it’s expected of me but because now I have something to say.