Ambition + Disability

I once told my mother that I just didn’t have her ambitions. It was an explanation of why I kept failing and then running away. Sometimes just avoiding things entirely. The reality is that I have absurd ambitions, they usually get me in to trouble. If I was satisfied with things that are simply good enough, I could be more respectably successful.

Sometimes, it reminds me of Charles Baxter’s, Saul and Patsy. An author recommended by my favorite Uncle, who is also a writer and deals with physical disabilities that I will never understand. Anyway, Saul is constantly jealous of a seemingly ignorant couple that “don’t know” that they aren’t successful and seem so happy anyway. I don’t remember enough of the rest, I need to re-read it, it’s a great book. That part stuck with me though. That and the fact that Patsy created a dance that was beautiful because of its lack of movement. That dichotomy of stillness that is actually full of energy-

That’s me.

That’s why it stuck with me.

Jealous of people that are happy with good enough. Still, because my disabilities make it so difficult to act, but the madness within is an unbearable storm of energy, that sees so much, and wants, wants, wants, so much.

Not greed. Accomplishment. Creativity. Longing.

Maybe respectability too.

Everyone wants to be accepted. And if you cannot be accepted because you are an “other” like so many of us that deal with the symptoms of mental health or physical issues, or are perhaps, just different, you have to do it through accomplishment.

You have to do something incredible to be respected as a handicapped person. It’s so wrong, but that is how it is. Autistic people are only admired when they have a “special talent.” (Same with people of color, I am not borrowing trouble.) And though that is the more obviously autistic that I am referring to, I can tell you that I am pretty obvious when I burn out, talking to myself and rocking back and forth, lashing out. Which seems to be more and more lately.

And I guarantee you my apraxic son will be seen as “obviously” autistic, no matter how smart he is. And he is. He is so smart. Even at four. His therapists used to call him a “bamboozler” because he would quickly work the system to get what he wanted, even if it wasn’t the “right” thing. Like a trapped octopus, breaking out of his cage because he refuses to stay put. Not when there are things that he wants.

Society, which could be read as “expectation”, “normal”, and “respectability” caged me long ago, that and my crippling anxiety of rejection. So, I’ve gone back and forth between stillness and mind-numbing mania- creating, creating, creating.

And none of it up to my ambitious, high standards, just a compulsion to release that energy. That need.

Do you know that feeling? I know that you must, some of you. There is too much out there that echoes that feeling, empathizing, showing that we know. We know what’s that like. Songs, books, plays, art, it all knows, it shows that madness. Non-stop, Never Enough. Written, sung, created by people like me, who pushed past their crippling anxiety long enough to let what they created out into the world. To be loved, to be hated, to be ignored- knowing that you would feel each negative sting like a phantom limb, and the positive would never, never be enough.

How? How did they do it? Is it just that one part gets stronger than the other. Or can you transfer that numbness to your response to the world?

I wish I was an octopus.