I am prejudiced.
I am prejudiced against people with disabilities. Which makes it mighty tough to be a person with disabilities!
I was raised to believe that you must be doing something constructive each waking hour. Work/school were not to be missed, even if you were deathly ill. “Leisure time” was used to better yourself, your home or your family. TV was allowed, but only if you were reading the newspaper or a book while indulging. I can still remember the guilt (& yes, a bit of a thrill!) I felt when I simply laid on the floor and watched a tv show. Most often it was so guilt provoking I found myself doing useless tasks during commercials.
I bought all of these beliefs, hook, line and sinker. Even on vacation there remained the need to be productive. Sitting on the beach was not enough. I had to be reading a book, or taking a walk or jumping the waves. Always moving, always contributing.
This was the foundation of beliefs I held when I happened across my now ex narcissist. Boy did this make me attractive! I could do it all. I could have a successful career, help pay bills, run the house and raise his son, and never once complain, because this was the way I was meant to live. Putty in his hands I was. All he had to do was put me up on a pedestal, do some rather rudimentary love bombing and the rest, so to speak, is history.
One of the problems inherent in being involved with a narcissist is that you suffer physically. The stress that follows you every minute of every day, though often unseen, takes a toll. This is why there is an increase in illnesses, including cancer, among those subjected to narcissistic abuse. I was no different. In our first few weeks living together I had my first real illness of my adult life, and from there it was downhill. Illness after illness became my life. With my immune system run amok, I was soon unable to continue my career, then barely able to work part time.
I knew, 4 years into my illnesses, that I was eligible for disability, yet I waited 10 more years to apply for it. The reasons were twofold. First, I was raised to be productive. Being on disability is not being productive, Second, I knew I would have to be taken off of the payroll of our business. Once that was done I’d have no income. Despite my ex’s assurances that he would give me money for groceries and household expenses, he did so for only 3 weeks, after which he said “charge it”. This was easy for him to say because my credit cards were in my name.
Once on disability, and able to breathe as I no longer feared bankruptcy, I had to address the question: who am I? If I have no career, no part time job and ongoing illnesses that leave me bedridden, how am worthy to be here? What right did I have to use benefits others needed? What did I bring to the table? Why was I still alive?
These questions haunt me. They haunt me because of careless things others say, like my ex saying “there’s nothing wrong with her” to my father saying “well you’ll have to figure out some way of making money”, utterances denying the precarious nature of my very existance. These questions mainly haunt me though, because of my inherent belief that to be a good person one must be productive.
Good People are Productive People.
Where did this come from? To a certain degree being productive is a human imperative. As cave dwellers, those who did not hunt or gather did not eat, survive and reproduce. I wonder though, what those same people did once they had secured their meal for the day. Did they scramble around, still being “productive”, or were they able to sit back and simply be.
Honestly, I can’t keep from wondering if our obsession with productivity is really an excuse to avoid ourselves. If I am always busy I never have time to ponder issues like the one I’m currently writing about. If my life is so filled with activities that a 6 hour sleep cycle is all I can afford, I definitely won’t have to think about some of the greater questions of life, like am I happy, what is my purpose, why can’t I make a decent pecan pie.
Is there no value in still, quiet, utterly unproductive time?
This topic has come to a head for me because I’ve been laid up with a broken foot, a very visual reminder that I am disabled. In addition, my part time job has forced me to evaluate the topic of disability.
The primary mission of my yoga studio is to bring yoga to every body. That is, to make yoga accessible not just to the young, beautiful people, but to people of all walks of life, including those with disabilities. My studio offers Adaptive Yoga. Adaptive yoga is a class for anyone with any type of limitation. Each person in the class is offered poses meant to meet their specific needs, as well as the support needed to sink in and benefit from the class. Despite my awareness that this class is one of the main reasons my studio exists, Adaptive Yoga remained a taboo for me. When the owner suggested that I was a great candidate for Adaptive Yoga, I admit – it ruffled my feathers. Which brought me full circle, because if I’m not “one of them” but I am “disabled”, well who exactly am I?
I suppose that in the back of my mind there lurked the idea that perhaps divorce and moving into my own home might allow me to regain my health. This has proven not to be the case. In fact, the times I’ve challenged this and pushed myself to be “productive” I’ve ended up flat on my ass – literally, falling down stairs, most likely from sheer exhaustion.
Clearly, I will remain disabled. So I suppose this means that it is finally time to address my own prejudice.
My first step will be going to our Adaptive Yoga class. From there, I’m not sure. Wouldn’t it be nice though if by the end of 2018 I was no longer prejudiced against myself? Imagine that!