Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Uniquely foolish

My son's grade 4/5 class has been doing a lot of work exploring visible and hidden disabilities lately. They have taken turns leading each other around blindfolded, things like that, as well as having a lot of discussion about the different sorts of challenges we all face. In a class of 22 students, half have IEPs in place to address their uniqueness, so it's a group that is all too familiar with the variety of ways we are wired differently. This got me thinking about a certain uniqueness of my own, which sparked this creation. I rarely write "I" stories, so this felt a bit awkward, like trying on an unusually-styled coat in a clothing store to see how it fits.

Uniquely foolish

I will never be you.

What you see so clearly is enigmatic to me.

This clumsiness, this lost feeling, these bruises

from banged shins, little toes knocked against doorframes

and shattered against mysteriously appearing chair legs,

I used to blame it all on my vision.

But glasses will never fix me.

They won’t fix my terrible tennis game,

all those useless frustrating swipes at a ball

that hasn’t arrived yet.

They won’t fix my driving,

those perplexing slow-motion encounters

with snowbanks and power poles.

They won’t fix the dozens of dishes

I’ve fumbled and broken over the years, each one special

and mourned like an old friend lost.

They call it a spatial perception issue,

a disability, one they quaintly file alongside

social awkwardness and ‘special interests.’

Really it is harmless.

I will never be you.

But this is just me

and I need to live with me, care for me

and not beat myself up over it too much.

Rachel Westfall
February 25, 2009


Noelle said...

I really like this...I teach in a title I school and the students face a lot of challenges, I constantly talk with them about how our uniqueness and differences are what makes us who we are, and what a great thing that is so I was glad to read this today. Thank you.

Faith said...

I really like your describtion of what it feels like to write an "I" poem. It is odd to write out of one's usual way. This poem works so well. And I like that it is about you.

These lines really strike me

"They won’t fix the dozens of dishes

I’ve fumbled and broken over the years, each one special

and mourned like an old friend lost."

And the idea of a disability being filed away that way...something one lives with each and every day written off in a way.

Thank you for sharing.

Fat Arse said...


"I will never be you" - because I will never be this good.

Tonight, here in Winnipeg, we had the tri-annual meet the 'teach'. With three of our four kids all in one school t'was a busy 2 hour greet & meet! Beautiful all, the news was good, "happy pupils" they say - as we knew they would.

But our flower (who get 80-90s) is in for a fall. She doesn't think like the rest of us - not at all.

Her teacher, big and caring, felt bad to relay that her petals, they are starting to fray. Rote memory will no longer due - fact is, next year (Gr.7) she may not pull through!

He felt so bad, as he told us this, but sitting there she was... oblivious. The words, their import, all were lost - she was staring at a book on the shelf about the Holocaust.

"Mommy, I read this one, don't you know?"

"No Hon, I didn't - what did it say?"

"Oh, I can't remeber now - but it was sad anyway."

"Why was it sad? What did you learn?"

"Just what I had to - they all got burned."

You see, she doesn't think like you or me - she's a removed savant - and will always be. The 'teach', so upset as he delivered the news, her mother cried, but had seen the clues.

We knew this day had to come - elementary limits save no one.

Absent empathy or compassion - its not her fault - she came wired like this by default.

Next year, our challenge will be, to tell our child "its okay" she will "never be you" or like me.

She will only, only, ever be she.

Ida said...

Thank you for your comment Rachel, your blog is lovely!

Karen said...

Rachel, aren't you glad that we are all unique? What a boring world if we were the same. What used to be called a disability is now often called a challenge or even being "differently abled." Silly, almost, that we put names to certain challenges and not to others.

I am not denying that some people are truly disabled; I spent many years as a leader in an elementary school where we served most of our district's disabled population. It was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life, working with those children and their families. One thing that did happen, though, during my time of familiarity with so many different types of disability, was that I forgot to see these as disabilities, and simply saw people living with their circumstances. When that happened, I believe I gave more honor to them than I could have if instead I viewed them as different.

Karen said...

By the way, at first, I thought you might be describing me -- stubbed my toe and rebroke a broken foot - so, as they say, "takes one to know one!" LOL

Lisa said...

it works so well rachel xx

Anonymous said...

because your like all of us..unique and different in your own way..which is a good thing

RachelW said...

Thank you all... this is a subject that touches us all in so many ways. I'm also in awe of how many in our blogging community are teachers; this has struck me before, reading your profiles. Teachers are so much more in tune with differences and disabilities these days, maybe because the classrooms are integrated (at least where I am).

Fat Arse, I love your rhyming couplet prose. :) Your daughter sounds a lot like my two kids. "Empathy" is one of the core learning objective that underlies my son's IEP. Both my son and daughter have been diagnosed with Asperger's/ autism. Not to say that your daughter has Asperger's too, but it sounds like she relates to the world in a similar way to my two urchins.

Karen, the worst damage I think I've ever done to myself was when I had a broken leg, as a child. The 3 months I was in a cast, I must have smashed that little toe on half-a-dozen doorframes, and I repeatedly skinned the end of my big toe on rough surfaces. My toes hurt much more than my leg! So yeah, takes one to know one, lol!

joaquin carvel said...

this is so powerful - i think a lot of us have something - physical or otherwise - we know sets us apart (in a way we'd rather it didn't) - but if we can just live, care, stop beating ourselves up - what a world it would be.

RachelW said...

Joaquin, thanks. I'm all for self-improvement, but sometimes acceptance is more important. It's hard to remember that sometimes, though. :)

christopher said...

Rachel, I see what you mean about the stubbed toe. :) Poetic connections. I wrote mine hundreds of poems ago, only to post on that post.

RachelW said...

Christopher, maybe it is serendipity. :)

Anonymous said...

The more I read you, the more I want to read more of you.
I think humans generally are frightened by what they don't understand, what they don't see enough of.Frightened to be different in case they are not accepted.
I always think something is well written when it makes the reader think. By mine and others responses you can tell how well this is written, hey?