There’s a, possibly misattributed, Vonnegut quote that talks about not letting the world and pain make you hard and bitter, continuing to see life as beautiful. I am learning, better every day, to find the beauty in this life. And while it may not look like it at first glance, I am a softer person than what I project to the world.
Despite this, I am regularly, and increasingly often, told I am bitter, that I have a dim view of the world, even that karma is going to collect on my negativity one day. In fact all of these comments came from a single comment made recently on a social media post where I pointed out Ableism. In another recent interaction, I asked a question about the accessibility of a local business and was told to shut up by another commenter. In interactions with people I’m closest to I’m often cautioned against sounding mean or harsh, told not to write while I’m angry. In her birthday message to me, my mother told me to be gentle with myself and the world.
I recognize the difference between strangers’ comments and familial advice. I grudgingly suffer one, and gladly welcome the other. But they both reiterate for me the fact that non disabled people lack an understanding of what it’s like to live as a disabled person. They don’t have the experience of existing in a world that constantly reminds you it wasn’t made for you. All the while society force feeds us the idea that we should be grateful for any little crumb of equality we get. So yes, perhaps I am bitter.
I’m bitter I can’t even get through the news, the latest movie, or even a YouTube video I was enjoying, without encountering Ableism. What can I say, I get a little tetchy. When my every day is a count down to the next time I am discounted, forgotten or “othered”, I have found I acquire a certain bitterness.
But I can’t bring myself to apologize. I can’t apologize for the way the world has made me, any more than the world will apologize to me for its treatment of myself and others like me. I can only continue to do the work of dismantling Ableism where I find it, being gentle where I can. And where I can’t, I only hope those around me learn to appreciate a little bit of acquired bitterness.