You Do Get to Choose.

I really should know better by this time. I know that there are some wonderful, well-informed blogs out there, and I also know that there are blogs which, if I dare to read them, depress me for days on end and make me want to buy the first available ticket to anywhere that isn't this community. Last night I was stupid enough to read this article. I am the kind of person who tries to find something positive in a day, however tiny, and never to go to bed on a downer if I can help it. Last night I couldn't help it. It wasn't only the whole tone of that article which made me cry with despair, but the fact that so many people thought it was totally wonderful.

Why is it that the whole tone of our community seems to be ruled by such angry, snarky, self-righteous negativity? If I had to sum up the way a high percentage of our community thinks, it could be summed up in the word "Don't". Don't pet my dog, don't touch me, don't speak to me in case you say the wrong thing, don't be inspired by me whatever you do, don't look at me, don't notice me, don't you dare invade my personal space and annonymity. Above all, don't ever expect any consideration from me. I won't tell you why it's not good to pet a working dog, I'll just be rude to you. If you dare say the wrong thing I'll bite your head off. If you're inspired by me I'll write endless blog entries, twitter and facebook posts about how it's wrong, if, God forbid, you try to offer me any help I'll tell you where to go in no uncertain terms. Offer me a seat on the bus, how dare you? Show me an elevator? Outrageous, you were being thoughtful, can't have that! Be kind to me? Intolerable! We don't do kindness and consideration for others here, you have to understand us by osmosis without any help from us at all.

Of course I'm exaggerating. We aren't all like that. But you know, it looks as if we are, because the ones that make the most noise are exactly like that. The ones that really have personal space and annonymity aren't the ones that blog. They're the ones that get on with their daily lives, do their jobs, take care of their families, deal decently with people on a daily basis, advocate for change where it's needed in a quiet, polite, low key way that doesn't draw attention to themselves but to what they're advocating for. These are the real members of "the community" as a whole. These are the people who don't make a noise about it. And those are the ones, let me tell you, who do get the seats on the board, who do get good jobs, because they don't have a bad attitude and do have the good skills; not only the skills needed for the job, but the good people skills, to earn them.

Of course I'm not saying that predjudice doesn't exist, I'd be a fool to say so. What I am saying is that being angry, frustrated and exhausted, in the words of that article, are not the ways to deal with it. Promoted features, (such as I'm seeing on our dedicated blindness radio station over here in the UK about the worst thing you can say to a blind person), are not the way to deal with it. Good grief, people are already scared to say a word to us for fear of having their heads bitten off. Personally I'd rather have someone feel they can speak to me and have the chance to have some kind of dialogue, to show them I'm a person, a person, not a blind person, not a plaster saint or a bogie man, than someone see my cane and think: "Blind! Mustn't go near. Unexploded bomb!" And that's the way more and more people are seeing us now.

That article had the subheading "You don't get to choose what makes my life easier". It's all about choice really isn't it. You can choose to go around, living with frustration and anger, being offended by everything and everyone you meet, always thinking life is giving you a raw deal because you've been told to sit there and look pretty rather than be allowed to help with the christmas dinner. Guess what? Some people are spending Christmas all alone, or on the street, or in an army camp far away from home, or knowing this is the last Christmas there's ever going to be for them. Or you can choose to look for the good in people, for the kindness in them, thank God that people want to help you, however misguided they might be.

As for me, I'll tell you something now that I seldom talk much about. I have to have people who don't know me in this house every day of the week. I have to be helped to get up, washed, dressed, fed, to have all kinds of personal stuff I used to be able to do for myself done for me. I'm far from being a saint. I mind. I hate the loss of my independence and being seen by others as that person in the bed or in the wheelchair rather than as Lulu, the person you know on Twitter, or on the radio or wherever you know me from. I mind when people speak too loudly to me, or say things that show they have weird notions of what being blind or physically disabled is like, or ask insensitive questions. But I choose to politely engage with them if I can, and if I can't to let it go. There are more important things, much more, like doing my work, loving my husband, laughing with my friends. I don't have the time or the energy to feel as if the whole sighted world wants to do me down. I don't get to choose what makes your life easier no, but I sure as hell get to choose what makes mine easier, and let me tell you it works for me. It's called positivity. How about we give it a try, just once in a while?

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