Undifference


Today’s post, as part of ‘The Beauty Of Difference’ series, comes to you courtesy of fellow blogger, friend and an all-round amazing person Thom Brown.  To quote the directly from the profile on Thom’s blog ‘To Gyre and Gambol: Reflections of Life, Limpidity, and Perches for Happiness‘, Thom Brown is ‘originally from Virginia Beach and has been a Professor of Psychology since 1975. JT told him the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time, and it made sense. That and a good book. And good friends. Music. Family. Oh … wine, cheese, olives, bread’. 

My journey with disability has probably not been typical, but at the same time, it’s probably just like everyone else’s. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, … it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, … .” It’s whatever you want it to be.

I’m musing again, of course, about my Neglected Left. Twenty-five years ago I could still hold a nail with my left hand as I hit it with the hammer in my right. That is how most of the home in which I am presently sitting came to be. Even then, though, there was motor and sensory weakness, but the atrophy was not yet significant. It wasn’t really noticeable to those who were not already aware of it.

The vicious circle was whirling though. Because my left was weaker, I used it less and less, and because I used it less and less, it further weakened. As the atrophy advanced, it became increasingly obvious to others, and I was becoming increasingly different. Special. A close colleague who is legally blind knows me from afar by the way my left arm is different.

My disability developed so gradually that I don’t think I was ever really aware that I was losing something. That’s not to say I wasn’t disappointed that there were things I could no longer do that I once enjoyed, but I was already successful in life. If this were to become a stigma of some kind, it wasn’t going to be an obstacle in my life. I was unlikely to experience the discrimination or challenges that so many others have confronted.

Then a couple of weeks ago, a colleague told a joke that had a one arm aspect to it. It didn’t bother me a bit, but he was worried that he had insulted me. In fact, the one arm aspect of the joke had not even registered with me. Subsequent to that, I began to wonder how I would, in fact, feel if I learned that someone, students for example, were making fun of me and my Neglected Left.

Although I hope individuals with disabilities are always treated with respect, I have concluded that this wouldn’t bother me. I know who I am. I know what I have achieved. I know what I else I shall have accomplished before I retire in a few years. What these ignoramuses think or say or do is irrelevant to my quality of life. All that will result is that they will have embarrassed themselves, and I shall think less of them.

Yet … there is something in me wanting to know that I am still all that I once was. A close friend wondered if the more important question is why I might think that I am not, and I have no answer for that. I suppose I am not even certain that I do think that way, but if I do, I’m not sure I want to know. It would suggest that I have somehow let “them” get to me.

Most of those with whom I interact did not know me before I became different – a period to which I sometimes refer as the BeforeTime. They know me only as I am today. Whatever the case may be, if those who are close tell me I am whole (and they do), I shall know it is so, and other than my own, theirs is the only opinion that really matters to me.

Although still a work-in-progress, I’m almost there. I like me. I’m quite content with being different. It’s certainly much more interesting than not being different, and I feel for those folks who aren’t.

In fact, it seems to me that individuals without difference are the ones who are missing something. They’re difference challenged. They’re so … well … undifferent. Nevertheless, I’ll try not to patronize them, nor do I want to be indifferent to their undifference. Count on me to do all that I can to be supportive. – TGB

You can find more though-provoking and inspiring posts from Thom Brown at his blog ‘To Gyre and Gambol: Reflections of Life, Limpidity, and Perches for Happiness’.

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Just because it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, doesn’t mean it’s a duck – Amanda Joseph


Amanda Joseph

Today’s post in ‘The Beauty Of Difference’ series comes to you courtesy of Amanda Joseph, the inspirational creator and writer of the blog Confessions of a Green Queen.

Amanda describes herself as ‘a writer (for film), a philosopher at heart, an environmentalist and a globe-trotter’ and is currently undertaking a Master of Science in Sustainability Management, juggling full-time work as an Environment Officer, as well as branching out into the film industry.

Heritage

My heritage is a mixed bag. My Great-Grand Mother on my Father’s Father’s side is from Scotland, and my Great-Grand Mother on my Father’s Mother’s side has Yugoslavian and Portuguese – and of course we have Indian. My Step Mom is French-Canadian, and I lived there for a while. So I actually identify myself as Australian-Canadian in culture, whilst my accent decides to do a jig between Canadian, English and Australian!

Cultural Beauty

The most beautiful thing about my culture is the mixture. I’ve picked my favorite parts of each and amalgamated them into one! We love food. All social gatherings are around food, wine and laughter. Canadians are quite progressive and egalitarian by nature and very friendly and accommodating. Australians are very laid-back and are happy to lend a helping hand when needed. And boy can they throw a great party! French Canadians, or Québécois as they prefer to be called, identify with their French heritage, which means we adopted a lot of the French heritage into our own traditions.

Tradition

Canadian Christmases would be one of my favorite events of the year. I love, love, love going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve and walking out to find snow floating down to cover everything. It was so magical, it made sitting through the mass at an ungodly hour worth it. And then the family would throw a massive party that lasted all hours of the morning, and the first person to go home, usually around 4.30am would have to serve the family breakfast on Christmas morning, around 8am when we would rock up. It was brilliant. Halloween is another favorite. We always went all out on Halloween in Canada, and I miss the traditions around that festival. I’d still be trick or treating if I were there!

 Cultural Misconceptions

I don’t think there are too many misconceptions about Canadians. Or at least none that I have come across. French Canadians are usually considered quaint by our French counterparts, but I say we kept the language French whilst they anglicised it. Weekend is an English word, the French one is fin-de-semaine!

 Knowledge Sharing

The one thing I think people need to understand is just because it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, doesn’t mean it is a duck!

My background is fairly unique, and my constant travelling means I have adopted the traditions of a few cultures into one that is very individual. I commonly get mistaken for Indian until I open my mouth, because of my skin colour. I think in an increasingly globalised world, the safest bet is not to assume where someone is from. So do not start speaking to me in Hindi when you’ve just met me that’s just plain offensive.

The Beauty In Difference

Difference is what makes the world such an interesting place to be. I couldn’t imagine a world where we were all the same. I’d be bored out of my mind!

A respectful approach to cultural differences is imperative. Never assume someone is willing to share that part of themselves. It can be tricky because we’ve all experienced racial prejudice at some point or another and that’s given us a tendency to keep things close.

Words of Wisdom

I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stifled. I want all the cultures of all lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.

– Mohandas K Ghandi

This is one of my favorite quotes. It celebrates diversity, whilst encouraging each individual to maintain their own unique culture. Just because you are open to other cultures, does not mean you lose your own.

It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference – Tom Brokaw


I keep thinking about what I am going to do when I’m ‘unemployed’, so much so that this weekend I have been busily trying to stop myself thinking about what I am going to do when I am unemployed. I cleaned the fridge, bathed the dog, attempted to giver her a hair cut, mopped the floor, washed clothes, swept, cleaned the stove, rearranged stuff…

I was asked ‘the question’ so many times on Friday night…and I provided an array of answers:

Let Sleeping Children Lie

Image by stewickie via Flickr

‘I’m taking some time off.’

‘I’m going to sleep.’

‘I’m cleaning the house.’

‘I’m going to write…lots.’

‘I’m hanging with my dog.’

‘I’m spending time with family.’

‘I’ll start my book.’

‘I’ll work out whether I change careers, or not.’

‘I don’t know. I don’t want to rush into anything.’

‘I’ll decide on my month off.’

They are all fairly airy fairy answers, and they possibly didn’t provide many people with a feeling of assurance. But it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I know what I want, what I don’t want, what is important, and what isn’t.

What is important is my health, my friends, my family, and my happiness. What isn’t is everything that gets in the way of that. 

And what I want? It’s to make a difference. Unfortunately, if I tell certain people that they just scoff. So, instead of telling, I’ll just go ahead and do it anyway.

Stay tuned for the start of ‘The Beauty of Difference‘ series, kicking off on Reflections From a Red Head on 1 September 2011.