Hello, readers. It’s the day after Christmas, and I admit to being a little sad (and a wee bit jealous of those celebrating Kwanzaa, who have reason to look forward to the 26th). 🙂 But the end of the holidays, for me, always means a new, clean year and a chance to do new things. A chance for things to change.
For almost eight years now, since age 18 (I will be 26 in just a few weeks), I have begun the new year wanting something specific to change by the end of said year. More than almost anything (except maybe a writing career) I want my own home. A place where the space is all mine, a place I decorated myself, and a haven in which I can do things my way, on my time, without input from other people (at least unless I met someone). You’re getting the idea of why I chose the Independence Chick handle, aren’t you?
Now, I realize I’ll have to wait for this dream to come true, because I’m in grad school now and will be living in a dorm for another year. And I firmly believe those closest to me want this dream for me, too. But in my lifetime, especially when I first became a legal adult, the idea of “not ready” hovered around me. In fact, it had hovered at other times, too, for other reasons. As in, “You’re not ready to go to an overnight camp because you can’t style your hair.” Or, “You’re not ready to live by yourself because you can’t cook or make a bed.”
I’ll tell you something now. Because my CP is so mild, I think I always wanted to be “like everyone else.” But also because of its mildness, I think I subconsciously felt there was no reason not to be able to do certain things. I was ashamed not to be able to do them. And so when someone–especially well-intentioned someones like therapists, or even loving someones like parents–used “not ready,” I believed them. I bought the idea that what I wanted was unrealistic.
This, however, is PSE (Paradigm Shift Era). And PSE, I ask myself: “What’s ‘ready’ anyway?”
Of course, in some situations, we can say we know. A cake isn’t ready to eat until a broom straw poked into it comes out clean (bakers out there: do you guys still do that?) A small child is “ready” to be potty-trained when she asks for a wet or soiled diaper to be changed, instead of not noticing it isn’t clean. An adult is “ready” for a certain job when he or she successfully completes the classes or training it involves.
But in these situations–except maybe for the cake–is readiness relative? Sure, that kid may be successful at potty-training. An adult might be able to do that job in theory. But are these people nervous or scared? Sure. Will they fail sometimes–anger the supervisor or have an accident? Of course. But does that mean we say, “Oops, you’re not ready, go back?” Not if we have common sense, we don’t.
I’m not just talking about people with disabilities here. For years, I listened, read, and watched as the public education system handed down new benchmarks to determine who was “ready” for what classes or activities or grade levels. And I watched my school board chairman mother help parents who disagreed fight for what they thought was right for their kids. I listened to my mother speculate about if she sent my little brother to kindergarten at the right time. If she pushed me into something I wasn’t prepared for, or didn’t push me when she should’ve. And though my father wasn’t as expressive with these questions, I’m sure he had them, too.
Yet, we do this to people with disabilities, I propose, more than any other group of people. “Laura will not be ready to live by herself unless she can wash the dishes within 20 minutes of eating.” (Who does that? Don’t we just put them in the dishwasher these days and let it run?) “Jacob will not be ready for third grade work until he can write legibly.” (By whose standards?) “Kathleen cannot participate in horseback riding unless she meets the goal of staying balanced during X physical therapy activity.” (Okay, so define “balanced”. If you can’t–or you have unrealistic expectations for what success looks like–then you’ve got a problem).
One of my Christmas gifts was the first season of Monk on DVD. I love Monk; his attention to detail is something I can only dream of possessing. Seriously. I’d love to be able to look at a crime scene and say something like, “Okay, our guy is 5’10”, a truck driver, and wears a size 11 shoe. And his alibi doesn’t stand up–he wasn’t at Longhorn Steakhouse Friday night. See that rosary? It’s well-worn; the beads are cracked. That makes him a devout Catholic. He wouldn’t be eating meat on Fridays.”
In addition, Monk is almost adorably human. I mean, who else stops in the middle of a crime scene to straighten a pillow? You want to choke the guy, and yet…he always gets his man. Not in spite of his disability–a severe case of OCD–but with it! How cool is that?
Yet, as I was watching the pilot this afternoon, I noticed something–how often Capt. Stottlemeyer told Monk–yelled at him, actually–that he wasn’t “ready” to come back to the force because of his OCD. Now, of course, I see the good captain’s point. “If you’re gonna carry a gun and have other cops depend on you…the bad guy can’t get away because you got dizzy.” But about the fourth time Lt. Randy Disher made a lame joke about Monk’s “weirdness,” as it were, I started to get ticked. Okay, so the guy’s afraid of everything known to humanity, including milk. But Stottlemeyer, if you expect the department’s uniform to accommodate your weight, why can’t you get off the fact that Monk is “not ready?” Consulting for you, working with other cops–that’s what makes the OCD less of a big deal. And may I remind you, Captain S, you regularly tolerate Disher’s flagrant-but-funny idiocy, such as spelling something by beginning, “T as in ‘tsunami?'” Please.
And while we’re on the subject of TV characters with disabilities: what about Sue Thomas? In her pilot, the FBI stuck her in “special projects” (there’s that word again)–analyzing fingerprints. I’m holding in yawns just thinking about it. Why? Because she was Deaf. And Jack Hudson, bless his adorable, stupid, misguided male heart, overprotected Sue at first because she “wasn’t ready” to go out there and take down the bad guys with the big boys.
Well, excuse me. What would’ve made her ready, then? Sitting there watching you do it for three seasons? Uh-huh. I think not.
In no way am I saying people with disabilities should be put in danger on purpose (or accidentally, for that matter). What I am saying is, stop making our judgments for us. We know when we’re “ready,” and if you let us, we can articulate that to you. And if we fail? Mess up? Don’t sideline us. Do what you’d do for someone without a disability–chalk it up to experience and give us real help improving. And as for your “goals” about making a bed or washing dishes within 20 minutes, or cooking pheasant under glass? Do you make your bed every day? Do you leave your dishes in the sink? And weren’t you the one bringing home takeout last night?
Yeah–so stuff it.
“Ready” is a possibility murderer. And just like Monk, this year, I want to take it down. I may not get my own home (although I hope so and would appreciate all you readers out there rooting for me). But there are other things I could do. Like Monk, the idea of some of them scare me to death. Want an example? Socializing has always been difficult for me (more on why later). It would take a lot for me to stay out late on a weeknight and just–have fun with people. I’ve always wanted to try Irish dance, but felt my body would never be “ready.” I love theater, but after being turned down so much, I’m not sure I’m “ready” to try it again.
And yet, I’m a woman. Not a cake.
Readers, what do you think? Should I go out on a limb and try some new things–and then write about them?
I could definitely use a push from a virtual Sharona.