I have a habit that offends a significant percentage of people who otherwise love me. I refer to myself as a “cripple.” I’m a below the knee amputee. Even as I typed that sentence, it occurred to me that I ought to revise it. Nah… I don’t want to refer to myself using person first language. That’s my right.
I have a disability that I can easily hide. I simply choose not to. Moreover, I choose to claim a label that historically has been disparaging as part of my identity. I own my brokenness. I was referring to myself as a “wounded healer” long before I became a visibly wounded person.
It’s comical and terrible when people get to know me in the late fall through early spring because they don’t see my missing pieces. Then they see me in the spring with metal where a shin should be and they experience a bit of shock.
It turns out I’m not as they assumed me to be. The reactions are kind of tragically funny:
- When did THAT happen?
- I…I…I didn’t know!
- OH my god! Are you ok? (No. That’s why I’m meeting you for lunch.)
- What happened to you? (“Shark” is my favorite response)
I’ve learned that the more comfortable I am with myself, the less what’s happening with anyone or anything else can shock or unbalance me. The world I live in seems to contain relatively few folks who are truly self accepting. Our propensity for disparaging others reflects that.
So I’ve been a “cripple” for years now and most recently, I have been labeled as a “snowflake.”
As I understand it, this is designed to make me feel bad about my liberalism and for having opinions, values, and beliefs that clash with Republican conservatives and/or people who support Donald Trump. Maybe it’s also an attack on my individualism, the belief that I am special (I am) and/or my masculinity. The only thing I’m certain of is that when it’s been applied to me it has been done so with hate or disgust.
So I am claiming it as my own. Just as an actual snow flake, I am unique. There is no one quite like me. I am a delightful mix of love, character, beliefs, practices, values and contradictions and I do this really, really, radical thing:
I really like me and I really love people who are misfits like me.
My favorite thing about me is that I stopped being the brilliant chameleon that I learned to be. Love me or hate me, I’m the same person independent of who I’m around, what I’m doing, or where I am. I am genuine. There are more than a few people who don’t happen to enjoy who I am at all and there are a far larger number of people who find me offensive. I’m okay with all of that.
Radicalism: Choose exactly who and how you want to be and be that person and live that way.
Common Decency: Accept that others are who/as they are. Respect them. Refrain from labeling or otherwise behaving hatefully toward them.
In our quest to “Make America great again” maybe separating ourselves into “us” and “them” and disparaging others is exactly the wrong way to go?
I am proud to be a snowflake and you can’t take that away from me.