When I read about Stephen Hawking’s death, I was transported to a pub in Glasgow where I once found a prime piece of graffiti: Stephen Hawking hates karaoke. I remember discussing this line with my friends and deciding it was kinda apt.
My first thought on the death of genius was a tenuously linked personal memory.
I went on about my day, steering Isla away from chocolate for all of her meals.
I said nothing on social media because I very rarely feel the need to publicly acknowledge high profile deaths.
Closing my laptop, I did puzzles with my kid and took my writing to a marble composition book.
That evening, I began to see THAT drawing. Y’know, the one with Hawking standing, staring into the cosmos, far removed from his chair.
People thought that was a fitting tribute. I did not. Every part of my being cringed. Closing my laptop again, I went to bed saying,
‘That’s all they got?’
A brilliant man, a genius died. A disabled genius died. And the prevailing public tribute was that in death, he is non-disabled.
I didn’t write those. But the lines in them echo what I want to say, what I have been saying for years.
My chair helps me do what I do, I wouldn’t be without it.
I am disabled and proud, disabled and happy.
Yesterday, I participated in the #DisabledJoy hashtag on Twitter. Again, not my idea. But I shared a collage of photos, of me on my wedding day, on my honeymoon, and in New York with my kid. Sitting on my flat ass with wheels underneath it. Happy and driving.
I got a well-meaning comment, ‘this is so inspiring, thank you for sharing.’
Well. Let me tell you why that’s not a compliment.
Because that’s just how I roll. How I live my everyday life.
Unless you made me, I made you, or we sleep together, I am not inspiring.
I’ve always found inspiration kinda flippant.
To me, it’s a head-pat. You can say inspiring without actually making any change.
Unless it’s to draw someone out of their wheelchair. Instead of making the world a more accessible place, let’s just art out the need for people’s mobility devices.
Because that’s really helpful.
I’m not a complete hard-ass. I do find some things inspiring. A good cup of coffee. A well-crafted sentence, creative swearing. My kid. And I always cry when people on home-renovation shows get their educations paid for.
What isn’t inspiring to me is regular people living their everyday lives. And I am a regular person.
It takes a lot for an actually anxious person to talk about death.
But let me tell you about my heaven. My heaven is an accessible bookstore followed by never-ending dinner and coffee with my Grandmothers.
They both remember my name and might call me a bad-ass mother, but never inspiring.
Take yesterday, for example. I forgot Isla’s open-house at school. That’s not inspiring. That’s stupid. And also human. I spent the evening trying to make it up to her that I didn’t go in and see her drawings on the wall.
‘I’m sorry, baby.’
‘I know, Mummy. Stop talking. We’re doing this now.’
Well. Teaching me to live in the moment. My kid is kinda inspiring. But I’m allowed to say that.
Also published on Medium.