My Clown Car

I’ve been working on this post for a month. The central image equates my wheelchair to a Shriner’s clown car, but the narrative has been eluding me.

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In each attempt and revision, I find myself bumping up against the same wall. I originally thought it would be a quick anecdote, amusing and off-hand, but the more I thought and wrote, the deeper and more tangled it got. I came to the realization (one of several) that I do not identify as a person with disability, but as non-disabled person who can’t walk. I can still stand briefly, with effort and grab bars, so my memories of walking are fresh and un-fading. Such a simple thing, standing up and going for a walk. The idea persists that this disability is only a passing thing, and that if I keep working my PT program, eat clean, etc., I’ll be back on my feet. Disability is an attitude, right? Being sick and never getting better does not make any sense. How can this be? Even I don’t believe that I can’t walk. I feel a bit like a fraud.

There’s a measure of shame when I ask for accommodations, when I “allow” people to do things for me that I “should” be able to do myself. That I am somehow faking or not trying hard enough or that I’ve given up and given in. That I am making a choice not to walk. I know none of that is true, but a large part of me isn’t convinced. There is no objective evidence, no clear reason why I can’t walk. All I have is an MRI image of my brain with dark spots and blank spots and a lot of grey, none of which is comprehensible to me.

Any time I venture out into the world, I am reminded, in no uncertain terms, that the world sees me as less. It is a world not made for people like me. A simple thing like not being able to walk puts endless obstacles in my path, obstacles that would vanish if I would just get up out my stupid clown car. It is a constant challenge not to give in to shenpa and “bite the hook” that dangles, tantalizing, in front of me. This feeling of being less is absorbed subliminally, through the skin. A blatant indicator of my less-ness is with me everywhere I go. It’s the clown car I sit in every day.

Further reading: Waist High in the World, by Nancy Mairs. Shout-out to my peeps at MyCounterpane.com for their unflagging support and encouragement. Thanks to Radio Paradise for providing the soundtrack. And finally, I mean no disrespect to The Shriners or their little cars, who have provided many years of service and entertainment to the wider world. Long may you roll.

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Author: stephen

stephen harris is a writer, painter and a photographer who lives with his family in maine.

7 thoughts on “My Clown Car”

  1. As Steven Colbert used to say..”Oh your black? I don’t see color”. In that same vain, I clearly see you but I dont see a chair.

    Ok, the truth is we all do of course (see the wheelchair) but having had the honor of witnessing this transition from standing to chair with you, I see no less if a man.

    Thanks for sharing the journey.

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