It’s a sign! she said.
I laughed and told the friend I’ve come to call my “big sis” that I knew she’d say that. She’s allowed. Not just because she’s the sister I’ve always needed, according to my mom, but because she’s been a genuinely positive person in the short time that I’ve known her.
I was thrilled when she asked to read my two books several months earlier, but I was a little nervous about her reading the first one. I reread I’m Not Here to Inspire You before I gave it to her, and knew she would not be a fan of the tone of at least the first couple essays.
The often misunderstood title of the book gives some readers an unfavorable impression from the beginning. While several people with disabilities have offered positive feedback on it, other readers are quick to assume the book is negative because they don’t take the time to understand the title. Of course, I’m not suggesting that legitimate criticism of the book isn’t possible. My big sister had a few critiques, as I recall.
But it’s the claim some have made that the book is negative that gnaws at me. Though my approach may be different these days, I believe the book offers plenty of positive messages that I hope stirs young people with disabilities to stop and think about some of what they are going through, and perhaps take better control of their lives than I did.
Before my exchange with my big sis, I had decided to take a break from writing. My novel, The Birth of Super Crip, hadn’t sold. And paid blogging opportunities for other sites had dried up. My brief relapse into sports blogging hadn’t generated much interest, and I was tired of beating the same drum—and hearing the same drum beat—in the disability blogosphere.
Since my break began, I took my first class in twenty years, which was also my first online class ever. I like to say I “audited” the class—listening to the lectures, but not doing the assignments—as a way of dipping my toe back into the waters of going to school. I eventually followed-up with a second course that I dove into much more. I also started feeling better physically—mostly due to an improving shoulder that has bothered me for years—and got back to lifting weights. I gotta give thanks to my wellness coach big sis on that one. She’s taught me some great shoulder stretches, and has greatly improved my workout program in general.
I even got back to shooting hoops on about a 6-foot high net at the Y. I’m absolutely terrible at shooting, and love every minute of it. I can miss 10 straight shots, and hearing the swish of the ball going through the net on the 11th shot makes me want to keep shooting.
For the most part, I’ve changed my occasional walk from a ride in my power chair to a ride on my recumbent cycle. And I love my just-about-monthly outings with my sis.
I also started thinking about what it truly means to be positive.
I’ve tried not to post anything except upbeat messages on social media (though I recently “shared” an article that may be considered politically-charged and might not be viewed in a positive light by some).
I’ve resisted the urge to tweet about negative experiences with ignorant people I encountered at a restaurant and the pool this year. I did not write about the nightmarish process of buying my new modified van.
I’ve begun looking—or, at least, peeking around—for a job again. Though reticent about the constant rebuffs that I’ve experienced in the past from employers more concerned about my disability than my qualifications, I’d like some of the freedom a paycheck could bring.
Is that being positive?
There’s a part of me that wonders if, as a writer and a disabled person, I shirked my duties in not writing about some of my less than positive experiences. It’s important to stand up for yourself, and I often do that through my writing. Pointing out what’s wrong in the world is almost a natural part of those efforts.
Is that being negative?
I’ve watched The Ellen Show for years, recently making it a daily habit again. DeGeneres has to be the queen of positivity. She’s funny, and seems like a genuinely good person. Her show is, as the theme song says, “a little fun” in my day.
DeGeneres ends every show saying, “Be kind to one another.” It seems like wonderfully positive advice.
Is that all it would take to be more positive? It would be a great step, but I imagine most view the daily farewell as a throw-away line.
So, I’m really wondering. What does it truly mean to be positive?
I’d like to say this is the beginning of a great journey to find out what being positive really means. If only I had that sage voice of a seasoned, roving reporter on some Sunday morning show. Regardless, I hope to find the next step of that journey, and to share it with readers sooner rather than later.