Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rants and Revelations

On Sunday my friends and I went to Bumbershoot, a music and arts festival in Seattle.  There was one show I really wanted to see - the Axis Dance Company.  They are a dance company based out of the Bay Area, and they have people with physical disabilities dancing with able-bodied people.  It was amazing to see.  I figured it would be pretty amazing, but I had no idea it would touch me so deeply. 

But first, my rant.  The last thing we saw at Bumbershoot was a comedy show.  Since I was in the wheelchair we all sat towards the back at the special wheelchair section, even though I got out to sit in a regular seat.  The first two comedians were great - I laughed and had a good time.  It was the third comedian who grated me the wrong way - so much so I need to rant about it in a blog post. 

If I remember correctly, he started out funny.  Maybe he didn't, I don't know.  Either way, shortly into his performance he started talking about airport security and how it really bugs him when someone in a wheelchair can get out to go through security.  He went on to make more jokes about the wheelchair and how anyone can use one if they want.  I was so mad I nearly cried.  I wanted to heckle him, but he had already turned the audience laughing at the first person who had heckled him. 

He made me doubt myself.  I don't often care what other people think of me - especially strangers.  I don't care if they judge me for getting on the plane first or riding in a wheelchair and then standing up to shop.  Have you ever noticed how hard it would be to see things or reach things while you're in a wheelchair?  I have. 

He made me doubt myself.  I started to think about whether or not I really need the wheelchair now that I'm doing better, and I started to wonder if my using a wheelchair is an injustice to all other wheelchair users - people who can't stand up to shop or walk to their seat on the airplane.  He made me feel little and unworthy.  He made me feel like less than a person.  And then as I sat there I thought about how the people who can't get out of their wheelchairs would feel.  I just kept getting more and more angry.  And I didn't find the rest of his show funny either - probably because the first part made me so unbelievably angry. 

One reason it made me feel so horrible was because what I experienced in the morning. 

The Axis Dance Company made me feel like I could do anything.   When I think back on it I want to feel that again.  As I watched them dance I realized that I can do whatever I want.  With my dancing-  I can adjust to my level.  I will salsa at my pace and I think everyone should accommodate me.  I don't know if I can get a large group of salsa dancers to do that, but maybe I can.  I thought I should start a ballroom dance group for people with disabilities or older people who want to dance at a slower pace.  I have a few dance instructors in mind who might be willing to help me with that.  I'm thinking of leaving the position of secretary - or at least delegating the work to someone else so I can work on my life goals more. 

The dance made me feel like getting my place completely organized is within reach, as is finishing my book.  I want to advocate for patients, or rather teach them to advocate for themselves - and I have a few friends I know who can help me get started with that. 

So all day I was on a high from that performance.  I felt powerful, strong, and self-reliant - despite the fact that I was relying heavily on my friends to push my wheelchair.  But there were several times I got out to shop for Christmas gifts and a couple things for myself. 

And then the comedian crushed my soul.  But after a long talk with my mom, I have realized the comedian was uneducated and discriminating.  He is not the type of person I would want to be around.  And maybe my friends laughed at his jokes, but that doesn't mean they don't care about me or want to understand.  They can't understand.  Living this way can be incredibly frustrating at times - like yesterday when I had to sleep all day - but it can be incredibly rewarding too. 

This is just another example of how I know my CF is a gift.  I am able to see the world through the eyes of others, and have compassion for all types of people.  Even the people who makes jokes at the expense of the disabled - I have compassion for him because he has no idea what he is really making fun of. 

And after I think about the comedian and go back to the Axis Dance Company, I feel empowered again.  I want to work towards helping more people.  I want to dance as much as I can.  I want to live my life to the absolute fullest.  And no one should or can make me feel otherwise!


Chris S. said...

I would have gotten up and left. Perhaps because I've dated someone who uses a wheelchair or because I've had a serious illness, I would not have found that funny either.

Really, who would get in a wheelchair just to take advantage of the slight amount of time gained by getting through a line more quickly when the saved timed would be lost BEING IN A WHEELCHAIR! There's a reason they get through more quickly! Duh!

You shouldn't feel bad about it. It helps you live your life better, so be thankful for that.

Matt Todd said...

When I've felt kind of guilty about being in a wheel chair I just look around at the other people in wheel chairs and about half of them look like they are better off than me. Then I dont really feel bad about it anymore. I did get questioned on my handicapped tag once and I listed off all my problems and that shut the guy up. We cant let these people get to us. We just need to live our lives to the best that we can and know that we are doing our best.

Annika said...

Dear Carla,

This is Annika I'm AXIS Dance Company's Education Director. We came across your post and loved reading it. I'm sorry to hear about your experience with the comedian, but so happy you feel empowered by the AXIS performance! We should just make the comedian watch our show...

I'm not sure if you are on our mailing list or not ( if you are not feel free to join), but if you are serious about dancing more we have an annual summer intensive that usually takes place the first week of August, maybe you can come and join us next year. You can find more information at axisdance.org or watch some of the clips from this years summer intensive on our Youtube Channel

Good luck with all your dreams and please don't hesitate to shoot an email if you ever have questions!


annika at axisdance.org

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