Today, I was doing great. I worked on a course I plan on giving, compiling materials and sources. Then, unexpectedly, I felt “a little bit down”. Okay, I decided to be an adult about it. I sat down and rested. When that wasn’t working and I kept getting worse, I watched TV. Halfway through my second episode of ‘Grace & Frankie’ I paused the episode and declared to my wife that “this isn’t working”.
So what? Now I’m feeling better, having shaken off the dregs of depression and anxiety to a point. But what’s my point?
Life isn’t all roses. I still struggle. I like to think that I’m all better.Sometimes it feels like I’m normal. Lately I’ve begun to think I won’t need a second service dog. But then… I break down. I face the reality that I still am not able to go grocery shopping alone. I … I face the fact that just showering daily is still a struggle. I mean, I’m not ‘as bad’ as I once was. Instead I’m in this hazy background shade of grey, pastel-ified with reborn happiness and covered in glitter through my sheer desire to survive and bloom.
I’m reading a book on pagan leadership. In there, the authors decry the leaders who go on food stamps. A person should be able to self-sustain, they argue. What, I think, would they think of me? More importantly, what do I think?
I’m one of those people who’s incredibly hard on themselves. I want to think I’m good. I want to think that I won’t need a second service dog. And today, reading that it’s not just me, that there’s others that would probably look down on me as a leader, who would say I should focus on ‘getting a job’ first before doing the small amount of service that I do as a ‘leader’…it was crushing.
It’s also incredibly insensitive (and oh so typically American) to think that we must first self-sustain before leading or even thinking of contributing to society. Let’s take me as an example, because I feel the need to defend myself.
I can’t self-sustain yet. I can’t. But what I can do is spend a few hours a month leading a ritual. I can happily chat with friends and students, offering support (and even doing too much of that can send me into a downward spiral). Can I easily leave the house on a regular basis? No. Am I functional after the exhaustion of leading a small holy-day ritual? No.
But you know what? Disabled people can lead. We so can, because being a leader is not the same as holding a job. A leader is a way of life. It’s offering moral and emotional support, connecting people, coming up with ideas, and sharing the weight. It’s not about doing it all by yourself.
I want to finish by saying that I think I am doing a damn good job at leading (despite my obvious insecurities on the topic). Better yet-my pagans think so. They love the energy of my rituals, and so far those who study under me love me as a teacher. So don’t take it from me, but take it from them. This disabled person can lead. And if I can, then so damned well can another disabled person. What does that mean? It means we need leaders who can do the job and walk the talk. And sometimes the ones who can do that the best are those who have gone down the rabbit hole and who are fragile. Sometimes it’s not the able-bodied loud mouth who should be leading. Maybe it’s the quiet person.