A Disabled Leader? Gasp!

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.

11 Comments

  1. I wonder what your authors mean by self-sustainining?
    That doesn’t sound like any version of paganism that I am familiar with.
    Presumably they self-sustain by selling books which means they are relying on other people to buy them.
    Even the most apparently self-sufficient people must rely on the worms to turn the earth and the insects to pollinate their plants.
    Zen monks have very few personal possessions, one of those possessions is basically a begging bowl, and yet they are respected spiritual leaders.
    We all rely on others, true self-sustenance is impossible. The more arrogant and privileged among us cannot sustain themselves any better than anyone else, they just fail to recognise those they rely on, or worse; believe that those they rely on have no inherent worth of their own.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Michael says:

      Right?! I love your example of the Zen monks! Very insightful!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yewtree says:

    You are a leader.

    Throw that book across the room and get a different and more affirming book. Like mine (The Night Journey: Witchcraft as Transformation), for instance. It has a whole section on leadership, and another about dismantling oppression.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Michael says:

      This book was given to me, haha, I didn’t choose it! Maybe I’ll have to get your book and throw it at people who make me feel less than.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yewtree says:

        Whatever its other merits, my book does have pleasingly sharp corners, I suppose.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Michael says:

        Yay sharp corners! haha

        Like

  3. O. says:

    As someone who struggles with spoons, and is hoping to start doing group rituals sometime this year, I really appreciate this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Michael says:

      THank you so much!

      Like

    2. Michael says:

      Are you planning on leading rituals?

      Like

      1. O. says:

        I would like to! I’m hoping to start small, with a friend, then go bigger by adding one person at a time XD
        (additionally, my friend needs to start small too because he is a newbie pagan and he’s asked that we be just us two)
        I’m a teacher, so I am sure I can get to a point of handling bigger rituals. I just wanna take baby steps for the first few times to get my confidence going!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Michael says:

        That sounds great! Be prepared for lots of people to flock to you though, for people can get really excited about rituals and not everyone wants to host one. Ahhh, teaching experience will absolutely come in handy! Also, I am in the process of putting together a teaching book on paganism and Wicca that says who’s what and how what developed in the movement… once it’s done, would you like to look at it?

        Like

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