Quit Trying to Turn Everyone Into a Superhero
Probably a Reason, Not an Excuse
It started in the 1980s.
This attitude that "reasons" are actually just "excuses," dressed up in fancy clothes by the lazy and the weak; excuses for not being able to complete some task, or show up for work, or make enough money.
Most of us are not world-class athletes. Most of us need to take a sick day. Sometimes our cars break down, our houses flood, we get stuck in traffic and sometimes, things just don't go our way. Things beyond our control have been labeled as "excuses" for not getting something done; that couldn't be farther from the truth. If your house burns down, that is a valid reason to miss work. If someone dies, that is a reason to not show up for the big PTA meeting, even if you're the President. Your kids being sick, your car breaking down, your elderly mother's deep-freeze breaking down a week before the big 4th of July Ice Cream Social?
They have been called "excuses" for far too long, and it needs to stop!
No, Most Disabled Persons Aren't Secretly Tony Stark
Don't you hate that the disabled get to park so much closer to the entrance at a busy mall? Don't you really hate that they get to tool around on those electric scooters in Wal Mart, mocking us with that handy little basket that they can fill to the brim with heavy stuff and then don't even have to carry it?
Nah, me neither.
I'll tell you what is starting to bug me, though: Disabled people who don't act disabled. Now, this isn't because they have one of those "invisible" disabilities (which is generally something very serious, although not visible to the busybody worried about you parking in one of the 500 handicapped spaces at the local Wal Mart). No, it's because I'm tired of seeing people with actual, serious disabilities who act like they're ready to climb Everest or compete in the Olympics or swim the English Channel, because you can too!
I hate it because you are the exception, not the rule, and you are hurting others who suffer with your same disabilities because they are being held to the same ridiculous standards. I hate it because the reason they're not able to complete, say, the Pikes Peak Marathon, is because they're lazy. It's definitely not because you are exceptional, doing something that even the fully-abled struggle at.
I get it. It sucks that either something happened to you and you were super bummed that you had to give up a "normal" life, and now You Will Overcome. I get that maybe you were born with a disability and you're not gonna let that stuff get you down. I think it's great that some people - some people - who are disabled are able to accomplish things that even the highly-abled would struggle with.
But here's the problem: You may have lost your leg in an accident and are now the front-runner in the Special Olympic triathlon, but the reality is that most people who lose a limb are not going to be able to comfortably walk around a grocery store, let alone compete in the Special Olympics. There are people who will struggle, their whole lives, with not only the physical trauma involved in having a limb permanently severed, but will also suffer with the emotional trauma associated with so horrific an ordeal. There are people who will have a hard time wearing that prosthetic leg or arm and will not be able to go back to work, school, or any semblance of a normal life.
And you know what? That's actually okay. It's okay that all they're able to do is work part-time. It's okay that they are existing at their level, which is just "normal."
My new book, Plastiline, available now on Amazon!
I Swear, I Have a Good Reason!
This "Excuses vs. Reasons" battle has become very clear to me in these past few years. As I get older, my body isn't as cooperative as it once was. Although I never jumped on the "excuses" bandwagon, I admit I often had unrealistic expectations of others, and also tried to live up to others' unrealistic expectations of me.
I have trouble lifting heavy things off the ground. I cannot run because my knees swell up to the size of basketballs. Every chest cold I suffer through brings back the pneumonia I had in 2009. I have never been a particularly athletic person, but age reminds me more and more each year of my wealth of physical limitations.
I don't use my back as an excuse not to lift things; my back spasming so badly that I will be rendered unable to walk even to the toilet is a very effective reason to not repeatedly move heavy plastic storage bins up and down my basement stairs.
I have friends who do Native American sweat lodges. My not being able to sit in a hot tub for more than 5 minutes is not an excuse to get out of the sweat; rather, it is my heart's inability to deal with high temperatures, that is a good reason not to do a sweat.
Being sick is another "excuse." Schools in my state have, blessedly, become much more lax with sick days. They realize a child might be sick enough to stay home from school but not sick enough to see a doctor. Before, the child had to have a concrete, written reason to miss a day of school, proving that the parents weren't just "making excuses" because the child or the parent (or both) were lazy good-for-nothings that just didn't feel like taking their kid to school that day. No, sometimes the kid is just sick.
And admittedly, those people - those lazy, good-for-nothing people - do exist. But it isn't most people, and we shouldn't be punishing everybody for the actions of the few.
It's Okay To Cry Over Cancer
Scott Baio recently announced that his wife, Renee, has a brain tumor. Then he added, "She refuses to shed even one tear."
Really, Scott? Because I know that if I had a brain tumor, I'd probably cry. And why shouldn't I? Is it wrong to cry when you just got the news that you have cancer, in your brain, and you are probably looking ahead at a long road of either chemotherapy, surgeries, or both? I'm assuming that death is a possibility. Why wouldn't you cry over this?
In 19th century Russia, if you were of the Russian Orthodox faith, it was considered a sin to be afraid of death. After all, if you love God, you wouldn't be afraid of journeying to his Kingdom. This is, of course, ridiculous, as most humans, regardless of race, culture, social status, etc., fear death. Fear the unknowing of it. Fear the possible pain involved with it.
When I read the quote from Scott Baio I thought, How selfish! Frankly, I don't know why it would be wrong to shed a tear with that kind of diagnosis, but even more so, how can you burden all your fans with that high of a standard? Your fans reading that who have the same diagnosis, and who want to cry, but you basically just told them that is weakness. That it is wrong.
This is the same attitude that breeds the misconception that valid reasons are just excuses. It is the same attitude that demonizes the poor. It is the same attitude that keeps people strapped to life support long after they should have been let go. We need to rediscover our humanity. We need to rediscover our vulnerability and we need to embrace it. No, I'm not saying we should prop up the slackers and the con artists. What I'm saying is that those people who you deal with every day? Most of them are good people, and most everybody nowadays needs a break. They need a helping hand.
And shed some of your pride! Ask for help. Lean on people. Ask people if they need help, and let them lean on you. After all, Superman isn't human, and Bruce Wayne came from mega-bucks. But none of us are super heroes, and by acting like everyone could be, we are losing our humanity.