One persons Courage…

You hear about it in the news, inspirational articles, and in the whispers of people discussing someone’s life. Sometimes you hear it to your face. “You are so courageous.” I have been facing my fears lately and there has been some courage yet, most of what people tell me is courage is merely a will to live. Is the Will to Live what makes us couragous? Does this invalidate courage?

When I hear about someone being courageous, brave, or something along that line the picture in my mind is a bit gender normative and sexist. It’s a brave soldier in a black and white movie with bombs exploding behind him rescuing the little woman and running away from gunfire without breaking a sweat. I am well aware this is a very skewed image that remains in my mind. I use this image to invalidate my own experience often.

How can I be courageous? I just didn’t give up. I didn’t notice it until tonight. Giving the speech about my Thirty Seconds, I was reminded it is courageous to save a life. I found myself afraid of those words. Why fear courage? I think it is the responsibility to be something more than human that the media shows us courage is. Batman is couragous. He’s a super hero. I am just a small and broken woman at the end of her endurance trying to make it through every day.

I am trying to teach myself what courage can be, beyond the black and white John Wayne dreams. I am trying to teach myself that courage is simply living. Transgendered people who have the courage to go through the change, to live in the sex that fits their minds and not their bodies are courageous because it is their will to live. They can die for being who they are.

How terrifying it must be to have to pee in public. How terrifying it must be to go clothes shopping, to go out and feel that fear… what if someone figures out who they are and in their ridiculous hatred they attack? That is courage. It is also horribly sad that we live in a world where it is not a hate crime to attack a trans individual. I didn’t know that until recently, I thought that it was a hate crime. It should be. Living without a legal saftey net, living without basic human respect, and living without the ability to be accepted by any other minority (except for some of us who actually do care) takes courage. There are trans persons who are unable to live as they wish, because it is too dangerous.

It takes courage to live at all. It takes courage for the college student to go to her late night class, because she hears all the warnings about rape. It takes courage for the woman who was date raped to speak up, risking victim blaming and slut shaming. It takes courage for the teen mother to take pride in being a mother, bucking against the stereotypes about teen mothers. It takes courage for the disabled man to go up a flight of stairs on his hands and knees to see if his able bodied friends and family are alright after hearing a gunshot. He couldn’t escape if there was a killer. That is courage.

To revile the word courage is to revile the act of living. It takes courage for our students to go to school. We live in a world where the terror of school shootings is very real, where the hate that a disabled student feels can destroy their minds and their souls. We live in a world where there is no safe haven. It takes courage to raise a child with disabilities and to love them. It takes courage to admit that you are disabled.

It takes courage to say that you do not want to see a movie because it is full of sexism. It takes courage to be a Womanist. It takes courage to be a Feminist. It takes courage to be an advocate. It takes courage to write. It takes courage to cry. It takes courage to go out, knowing discrimination is waiting for you. It takes courage to date a person who is of another color. It takes courage to love someone who is of the same sex.

In a world as full of toxic messages, it is cowardly to defame courage. To hold the power to inspire one person is enough to change the world. To inspire countless thousands? That is a gift unparalleled. Forgive me for feeling that I was unworthy of the word courage.

I have been courageous. I am courageous to write about my time as a Victim. I am courageous to have ideas and to share them. I am courageous to start a business during a Depression.

You are courageous too. I am sure you can list ways you are courageous. I would like the comments on this post to be dedicated to your courage. What have you done that is courageous today?

Today my act of courage is to start planning the wedding ceremony for two young women in love. My acts of courage in life will include officiating their wedding ceremony. I do this with pride, and to honor their love and the courage it takes to stand up and proudly say, “I am Gay, I am Pagan, and I am in Love!”

Thank you for your life. Thank you for your courage.

Confessions and Denial

I have a confession to make. I have been in denial about the extent of my back injury. This was partly to survive, but mainly out of fear. What does a spinal cord injury mean? To me it was this frightening set of words that meant I would never do anything again. I have already proven to myself that this is not true, and finally I needed to know. What exactly happened when my spine began to fall apart? What happens as the damage is furthered? Why am I not supposed to exercise? Why do I keep having palpitations and trouble breathing but my heart seems fine? The last one is what made me start learning. Four years of denial, have ended. The answers are frightening but, empowering.

I found this nifty tool, a spinal cord map! This was the first step towards opening my mind to the information. The map gives a general break down of what happens when the zones are injured. My Spinal Cord Injury is overlapping two of the zones, and knowing now what I do, I can understand all of the above. T-12 and L-1 are both damaged, broken, and cutting into my spinal cord. My sacral region is also damaged, though to what extend I am not quite sure.

I still have feeling in my legs, most of the time, but I have limited control over them. I can do a bang up zombie impression when I am trying to walk, my arms outstretched for balance, moans escaping me as I fight to hide my pain, jerking and halting as I move slowly forward. Zombies aren’t diseased corpses. They are people trying to walk with damaged spines!

There is another set of broken bones in my back, between my shoulder blades. Eventually, if the spine goes there, I will be paralysed in a different way. Some of this terrifies me. I am supposed to focus on stillness, forgoing excercise because moving allows the gnawing teeth of broken bone to flex, shift, and cut into my spine. It hurts to move anyway, even my hands moving enough to make these words causes pain, a deep rooted ache that feels as if it will¬† never, ever end. It might not. If it doesn’t am I lucky? That depends on what comes with the ending of my pain. Death? Not so lucky. Paralysis? Not lucky. Healing?¬† Extremely unlikely, and that would be better than winning the lottery.

I must adapt. I admit openly that adaptation is not a choice, it is the only option. I can risk my life and my health to excercise or I can try to get used to a stillness that is unnatural. It is natural to move, to dance. Watch a small child play, and they are moving, unless in pain. Pain is a rescrictive thing, it constricts us and binds us in ways that our brains cannot always comprehend. That is why I am asking for more help, I need help with food, I cannot always force myself up to get it. I need help to preserve my tattered spinal cord.

In my imagination my spine is like a worn out dress I used to own, it was bright and colorful but eventually it began to wear thin, holes appeared, until one day when giving a speech I lifted my hands and it fell apart. I was thankfully wearing underwear that day but the people watching my speech saw much more of me than intended. I just grabbed my coat and pulled it on, buttoning it, then finished my speech. I no longer have the confidence to fight my body, to risk wearing my spine through. It can’t be tied back together. I cannot move through my life with a tattered spine, pretending nothing is wrong. I must accept it, and adapt.

This is not an act of strength. It is an act of life. I am not exactly sure why, but, I find no inspiration in others who have ‘over come’ their disabilities or adapted. I think it is because the truth is that you die or adapt. That is the exact thing that makes humans what they are. We adapt. We may suffer, we may struggle, but adaptation is not an act of greatness. The acts of greatness come after, with the knowlege gained and what you do with it.

I have admitted many things in my essays and writings here. Now I am admitting that I am afraid. I am afraid to adapt. It means change. I also know that every time I twist, every time I turn, every time I hear loud snaps from my back, this is something I cannot ignore. I already have an appointment in a few weeks with my doctor and I am going to ask for help. I need to see a nuerologist, I need a reassessment of my body. The wheelchair system I have is hurting me. This must be addressed. There is change afoot, and it is unpleasant.

I am admitting too that my mind is dulled often by pills and pain, together, one at a time, seperately. I am not helpless but my body leaves me vulnerable and now so does my mind. I have dreams, I have hopes, but they feel alien. Who am I to dream? Who am I to hope? These are forbidden emotions, just as to dance was forbidden and is once more. The world feels twisted, pulling at me from all sides.

I live in a world of oppression and today it is too big. I am going to write a story in a few moments, for a story telling contest I want to enter. I am going to chase down my dreams, I am going to live, I am going to adapt. I just am not going to give up. I want to. I want to dance, but, if I do I will be paralysed. There are worse things than paralysis despite what people are taught.

A wheelchair is not the end of the world. I just feel that fear anyway. I am in a wheelchair but I am still afraid of it. I am afraid now that I will pass out while using this one, that I will be hurt. This is not the freedom I felt at first, that first taste of being able to go. Now, it is a fear that does not belong. I am afraid too, that when my spine gives I will suffocate. As my spine degrades it effects my ability to breathe. I feel now that I will surely die if I cannot sing. This is silly, of course I can live without music yet I fear it. I once had this fear about my dancing, and although I can dance in my head, I can feel my muscles flexing and moving, I fear that this will not translate through, with music.

These are my confessions. I have been guilty of denial, self harm, and giving in to irrational fear. Apparently I am not super cripple today, just a human. I confess to being just like everyone else who faces adversity and disability, human. I confess that needing to adapt is frightening. I confess too, that I am determined to find a way to get what I want while respecting the needs of my spine.

You are a Fighter!

I have a list of ailments and challenges, and in one of my conversations someone told me I am a hell of a fighter. I am not. I just have to work to have a life. That is one of the things that got me to take pain medication. I had no quality of life. This is where I get frustrated by things like the Teri Chaivo story, people want to prolong the lives of those with no hope of quality, and that is fine, but, to blatantly torture someone is not, and where is that line? Personally, I am not certain, though I wish it was clearer for me. Do I want to live forever on tubes if I am really dead? Absolutely not. However, what if the doctors are wrong? Does that make me a suicide or forcing someone I love into Murder?

The moral lines are very murky. Morality itself is questionable, as who sets the moral compass for others? Does my doctor share my own Morality? How can I know? Asking is considered politically incorrect. Do I want to know if they do not agree with me? The odds are that they do not. My religion is not up for debate, and neither is theirs, yet, religion is what is often cited as a moral compass.

What does it take to truly be a fighter? I do not think I really am one. I know that I have to army crawl through life, but, doesn’t everyone? How can I say that my multiple disabilities make me a better fighter than someone who I percieve as perfectly healthy. There are hidden disabilities out there, some of which might even be up for debate via personal interpretation. There are people who see me in my wheelchair and do not comprehend me as an intelligent being, and others that presume every disabled person is just a faker.

Yes, I fight daily, but, it is a personal struggle. This doesn’t make me a fighter, it merely makes me human. To be seen as a fighter might be an honor, one I am not sure I want. I just want to be alive. I want a life free of discrimination, and I want to remain who I am. I would not be me, without my challenges, and therefore if I am a fighter, it is merely the nature of the beast.

People often claim to fight diseases, another thing brought to mind whenever someone tells me I am a strong person or a fighter. I have even used the words myself, for other people. I have an aunt who has had Cancer for longer than I have been alive. She endures, she fights, she struggles. She is also gentle and I never see her as the warrior archetype. I see her as the almighty Mother, iconography aside I do not see her as a fighter. Perhaps it is because of my youth. Perhaps it is because she is a private person, hiding her pain most of the time. Does claiming you can fight an incurable disease make you a fighter? Does enduring it give you the title?

Is there a better term? I admit that survivor is appealing, though when you are in the thick of surviving it doesn’t apply. Maybe, I just want to be told “Oh, hey, you are a person.” Maybe I am a fighter, but, I just don’t see it.This doesn’t mean I do not get tired, it doesn’t mean I do not fight for my rights, it merely means, I see myself as a writer, a cat owner, a cat ownee, and even a friend, before I see myself as a fighter.

Are you a fighter? What does it mean to you to be a fighter?

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