John and I first met Chris and her hubby Brandon while they were on vacation here at Disney, and we've had a standing date since for every time they visit. They're the best kind of nerds and One Of Us - trust me, you guys would love 'em.
:D :D :D
(Go check out her Disney tees; they're awesome.)
Chris also drops some serious sit-back-and-think life observations on her personal Facebook from time to time, and a little while ago one of these socked me right in the gut - so much so, I asked if I could share it here with all of you.
She said yes, so I'll let Chris take it from here:
[transcribed from Chris' FB post, so you don't have to squint]
Dear a number of folks I came across today who will never hear this because I'm too cowardly to say this to you directly:
One you: I don't need your sad, sad eyes while you holler out to "have a blessed day."
And other you: please don't wish I "feel better soon" with your pinched face, or give me a heartsick "good for you" when I tell you I'm not sick.
Oh, and THIRD you: do you think you're having a ~real moment~ with me by catching my eye as I leave and noting how "at least it's nice just to get out for a little while, huh?" and then capping that with a conspiratorial wink and sage nod of ~understanding~?
I am out today with my dear friend. Just out - having lunch, doing some shopping. I know I'm in a wheelchair and she's in scrubs, but that's because she was excited to hang out right after her midnight shift so she came right over without changing. She's not my nurse, but it wouldn't matter if she was. You make me forget the pep in my (figurative) step I had from how much I like the cardigan I'm wearing and the way I got my hair looking kinda on point by myself and how much I was digging this new lipstick because now I'm fighting the feeling of being a rolling sad sack.
I don't want to be a part of Your ego boost. My leaving my house isn't consent. I can and do ignore a You here or a You there but god, there were so many Yous today and You All emotionally exhaust me. Please, please, just talk to me like a regular grown ass adult with a real life, or don't talk to me at all.
That was a Facebook memory Chris shared from last year, so she also included this addendum:
Woof, this day was a doozy and it was followed shortly thereafter by some complete rando who came up to me midway through singing at karaoke, throwing her arm around me and filming us with her phone (surely to get posted to her Facebook as inspo-porn or sent to Upworthy as inspo-porn or something equally cringy).
At least that one I kindly but firmly called on the carpet afterward and thoroughly explained why it was all Super Not Okay. I was proud of myself (and loved my friends for their outrage/self-control at letting me handle it), but I still cried most of the way home from the bar that night.
Yowch. Anyone else cringing with me through all of that? And yet, is anyone else able to vividly picture it all happening, because we see this kind of behavior all the time? Maybe even know folks who do it?
I think that's what got me the most: it's not that those people were trying to be jerks. They honestly thought they were doing a good thing, when in fact they were being patronizing and selfish. Selfish, because it made them feel good, not Chris. Like they were the hero for noticing her, for cheering her on. And my heart is pricked, because I can only hope that in the past when I've seen folks in chairs or with other visible disabilities - a common occurrence at Disney - I hope I didn't fall into that trap of, "Oh poor them, let me smile extra bright in their direction, just in case!"
Thanks to Chris I can see how self-centered that is, how potentially damaging. We all fight hard battles, and we all deserve bright smiles, not just the ones with the most visible battle scars. No one should be singled out of a crowd for patronizing head-pats and "atta girls" just to make the rest of us feel magnanimous - no one. And going forward, I hope I can think a little less about what makes ME feel good - about how *I* can be a hero - and think more about what my friends and fellow fighters through life want. About what makes them feel most respected and most comfortable.
I hope Chris' posts made you sit back and think, too, and maybe kicks off some conversations tonight around the dinner table. There's nowhere else online I'd feel safe even broaching this topic, but our tribe has proven again and again that we can talk and learn and challenge each other here, even admit our own failings, and do it in a safe space. I love that. I love that you guys make me a better person.
And thank you, Chris, for letting me stick you in the spotlight today! Love you, and see ya real soon.
[Quick Editing Note: I originally wrote that "Chris happens to be in a wheelchair, but she tackles life with optimism, etc." Several of you pointed out that my wording was problematic, so I changed it and did my best to understand why. Just as this post is trying to point out, I want to do better, and I appreciate the grace from folks who corrected me.
At least one of the corrections was quite cruel, however, which makes me wonder: If you rip people apart for not knowing the exact right words - especially when they're trying quite hard to get them right - how are we ever supposed to learn? You make us afraid to talk about things, and fear will only lead to more ignorance. Grace, guys. Please. A little goes a long way.]