A Confession

Posted on January 5, 2012 by

10


Warning: this contains both mushy and heavy content.

I recently told you about our torturous Victor Harbor skate. What I had thought would be an easy summer roll turned out to be a physically and emotionally draining 3 and a half hour challenge. At the end of the skate I felt jubilant. I also felt a deep love for Erica and Michelle. It was like synchronising my steps with Michelle’s for those hours had also synchronised our souls. And the downhill portions, where both girls had put absolute faith in my ability to guide them down safely, had left me feeling warm and fuzzy despite my rain-soaked clothing.

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Michelle pushes Erica up a hill

That day contained more emotional revelations though and one I was quite ashamed of. Erica has a broken ankle so she was in a wheelchair. Within half an hour of heading out Michelle and I were referring to Erica as if she was her chair. We’d say things like “how are we going to get her up that curb?” or “shall we try taking Erica through there backwards?”. This is wrong on so many levels. For a start, why were we talking about Erica rather than with her? It was like we equated Erica’s ability with the ability of the chair. The chair couldn’t make decisions and therefore neither could Erica. I think it had something to do with the fact that Erica was facing away from us and was physically lower. We then automatically excluded her from discussion. But, if I’m completely honest, I think it was also subconscious discrimination on my part, whereby I equate the passiveness of physical limitation with a passive nature – that is, Erica was reliant on us to move her so she must also be reliant on us to make decisions about how that was to happen. I realised with distress that we were doing this while on the skate and tried so hard to stop myself. With the level of physical exhaustion though, I lost capacity to monitor my thoughts too rigorously and kept falling back into the habit. At one point I suggested naming the chair so that at least I could be obvious about what I was talking about.

It’s ok for Erica, she can just get out of the chair and reclaim her right to be regarded as an equal human. The whole experience left me with a new understanding of the daily interactions of people who are just as intelligent as me but who have physical limitations.

Video edited by Erica

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Posted in: LimboLand