Disability Life Writing

That’s Just How I Roll: Thoughts On Inspiration

27th March 2018

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.

Wrong.

Now.

I woke up the next morning, and began to read, honestly, several articles I wish I’d written. Like this one on Claiming Crip.  And this one on the BBC.

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.

And.

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.

 

 

 

 

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My normal, disabled life.

 

 

 


Also published on Medium.

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28 Comments

  • Reply Nicole 27th March 2018 at 12:35 pm

    Isla is inspiring. <3

    • Reply Lorna 27th March 2018 at 4:52 pm

      She’s a good kid.

  • Reply SickChristine 27th March 2018 at 1:26 pm

    Yes, girl, yes. That is all.

    • Reply Lorna 27th March 2018 at 7:59 pm

      *clink*

  • Reply thebeasley 27th March 2018 at 5:31 pm

    Too fucking right. The only thing I find inspiring about you, is your hair. Your hair is my #hairgoal. Plus those shades look awesome on you. I would never look as cool in those shades. I’m really hitting on the important issues here, aren’t I? In all seriousness: excellent post x

    • Reply Lorna 27th March 2018 at 6:04 pm

      Real talk time. That hair is nearly five years old. My after-Isla hair is less impressive. But it was the best trade-off.

      • Reply thebeasley 27th March 2018 at 6:22 pm

        My hair seriously went down hill after birthing a child too. It’s lost all thickness. Tis very true that I don’t mind the exchange either.

  • Reply bluerosegirl08 27th March 2018 at 6:47 pm

    I saw the picture and I cried a little bit. It took me that long for me to reacr to his death. I found the way the stars were drawn was beautiful and I appreciate the detail put into drawing his chair.I That being said if an able bodied person of his caliber had died most of the talk would be about his accomplishments instead of how his death ‘freed’ him from the terrible fate of being in a wheelchair it makes me angry.

    • Reply Lorna 27th March 2018 at 7:13 pm

      I’d have been fine if it was him sitting in the chair. Like the one of him at the bottom of the stairs. I just keep thinking of that quote, ‘You keep using that word, but I don’t think it means what you think it means.’ You know?

      • Reply bluerosegirl08 28th March 2018 at 5:46 pm

        YES! Yay Princess Beide

  • Reply TanGental 27th March 2018 at 11:10 pm

    I’m glad I read you Lorna because i’m one of those dumb asses who say non-inspiring things in a well meaning way and all I am is a thoughtless tit who’s empathy skills are as crap as post-partum hair (if I understood your and Hayley’s discussion – me, I’m happy with what hair i have left, frankly and it wasn’t the giving birth that killed off my follicle-adhesion it (since that wasn’t me) but the twenty something years of being a parent after…). Sorry, i’m rambling. Serious point however is listening to your musings help me begin to try to understand how to try and empathise with other wheelchair users. I’m a rather fallible work in progress; hopefully, assuming we meet at this year’s bash, I’ll have learnt something.

    • Reply Lorna 28th March 2018 at 3:49 pm

      Hi Geoff, Rambling is encouraged here! I appreciate your words and look forward to meeting you at the Bash.

  • Reply You Can Always Start Now 28th March 2018 at 11:19 am

    Well said. I have always thought we deal and live with the cards we are dealt and create a life we want.

  • Reply Lise 28th March 2018 at 11:21 am

    This is well said! I was very provoked by people drawing him out of his chair too, since the chair didn’t restrict him, it gave him the support and mobility he needed to work his genius. It’s a tool, not a prison 🙂

  • Reply Losing the Plot 28th March 2018 at 11:29 am

    Ok, so respectfully I disagree, regardless of how we see ourselves we may still inspire others just by doing our do.

    I was totally inspired by Stephen Sutton, and how he handled his cancer diagnosis. When I had my accident, he was in my head a lot when things got very hard, and his example drove me on, and kept me from feeling too sorry for myself, inspiring me to find the humour. Apparently this in turn helped another friend of mine who was going through a shit time – not that I thought I was doing anything particularly good.

    By doing absolutely sweet FA other than what you do every day you will be inspiring others in ways you don’t even imagine.

    Now, I absolutely take your point that someone saying that – is more than a bit bloody patronising, and you should have an electric cattle prod for such occasions, but it’s not necessarily untrue.

    • Reply Lorna 28th March 2018 at 3:34 pm

      Sounds like a conversation I had in the pub a few weeks ago. Once our words are out there, it’s kind of not our business how those words are perceived. It’s just that being called inspiring because I posted a photo of myself drinking bubble tea seems a bit naff to me.

      • Reply Losing the Plot 28th March 2018 at 3:53 pm

        Yeah, well obviously when you put it like that, cattle prod bizzzzz

  • Reply anhistorianabouttown 28th March 2018 at 12:32 pm

    I’ve always thought that people who say that your every day is inspiring are rather condescending- clearly this is my normal life, and I’m not a project for you to watch. After the break up, when I was a barely functioning human, people said I was impressive. How was I impressive? I barely ate and did the absolute minimum to survive. It rings false to hear that most of the time. Here’s to the regular people who are living their regular, every day lives!

  • Reply Midlife Smarts 1st April 2018 at 9:41 am

    Hey Lorna great post. Like you I cringe a bit when social media goes into super-drive when someone dies and can see where you’re coming from re being’ called inspiring’. Enoyed the read thanks. I live in Glasgow and that graffiti baffles me ! 🙂 Jill x

  • Reply Thewanderingdarlings 1st April 2018 at 10:02 am

    Love this post so much! 🙌 I think your awesome not because of the cards you were dealt but cause your fricking hilarious.

  • Reply josypheen 1st April 2018 at 4:59 pm

    Like everyone above, I really like this post. I always thought the same thing about my mum. She is inspiring because she’s an amazing artist, not because she lived in a wheelchair or copes with losing her eyesight.

    People with disabilities can totally be inspiring, but it is because of what they CAN do, not because they can live! Everyone is so much more than their ability to walk, or not to walk.

  • Reply Lisa 8th May 2018 at 10:46 am

    I appreciate your writing. I think that people need to be educated (which is what this post is doing) and I think that people need to be open to that education (which is what I hope we all can be).

    • Reply Lorna 8th May 2018 at 10:57 am

      Thank you, Lisa. Not an education as much as ‘be a human meeting all humans where they are’, which is being open, so yes. Ha! And I’m just reading about Bru!

  • Reply Ris Phillips 8th May 2018 at 12:25 pm

    It’s interesting what people find inspiring–and how sometimes we don’t see that sometimes treating people differently (even if it’s with admiration) can be othering. Thank you for sharing. (And I also find my kids inspiring!)

  • Reply Jen 8th May 2018 at 8:06 pm

    Love this post, love your message, and love your writing! “Inspiring” is a buzz word that’s thrown around a lot these days – this was a refreshing read.

  • Reply ahmurray33 8th May 2018 at 9:01 pm

    Very thought provoking post. I love your writing!

  • Reply juanitafe 9th May 2018 at 11:35 pm

    It’s so frustrating when the able-bodied want to normalize people with disabilities, as if we’re less than them as people. Imagining Hawking as anything other than who he was, including his disability, does him a disservice. Thank you for sharing this <3

  • Reply Lorna 10th May 2018 at 7:19 pm

    Thanks, Juanita. Looking forward to your blog launch! Keep me posted!

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