Several years ago my former line manager – a fellow parishioner and a great Augustine scholar, as it happens–observed that I often looked at opportunities in terms of why I couldn’t do something instead of why I could. She was mystified by this.
There may be psychological reasons for this I have not unearthed yet. But one of them is quite simply that I, like most disabled people to varying degrees, have internalised an ableist outlook. By this I mean I ‘naturally’ look at what I am doing and am not doing against a set of expectations. Those expectations are set by societal norms and are thus based on what ‘fully functioning’ ‘able-bodied (and minded)’ people do.
I have come to realize a much more appropriate standpoint or starting-point is what I am being and doing in themselves and as they connect with others. That is, I take away the metre-sticks, the key performance indicators, the milestones and millstones along the road of midlife crisis. One way I do that is by starting the day with the Lorica or Breastplate prayer attributed to St Patrick. It begins:
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.
This prayer thus establishes what I am in terms of praise and prayer–a calling out, invocation. Invocation is open-ended. It is something I do but not something I achieve. And the invocation of the Trinity sets me in the midst of the truth of Christian reality, the tension and dimensions of infinite love within God as Trinity and of God for the world as creature. As a disabled person, a visually-impaired person, a partially-sighted person, I am fully part of that creation, tension, truth, and beauty. It is not my goal , but I can then look at challenges and opportunities in the round and not simply as impossibilities–in the round because these opportunities are part of that open whole of creative love flowing from the Trinity.