People complain about bad hair days. They complain about bad workdays. They complain about Monday’s very existence. I complain about all those, too. Frequently. One might even say, insufferably.
There is another day I feel less comfortable complaining about: the Bad Blink Day. Some days, everything that can go wrong does go wrong, in the context of blindness at least. This morning, for example, I was trying to prop my cane against a door. It fell no fewer than four times before I accepted defeat and folded it up. At that moment, I thought “I should have gotten a dog!” We all know how I feel about getting a service dog. I remember a day two summers ago, when I was learning the route to work and back, in an unfamiliar neighbourhood, with absolutely no one to go along with me. Everything went pear-shaped from start to finish…
The inauspicious beginning: I was sorting out some new outfits to wear to work, and found that I’d forgotten which skirt went with which shirt. I was panicking, because I apparently lack the ability to prioritize calamities. I eventually threw on something I thought might be okay, and off I went to catch the bus. The bus, of course, was late, and the driver very grumpy. I used my GPS the entire time, trying to make sure I didn’t miss any stops. (I’ve since learned to pester the driver, however annoyed they may become.) During the work day, things went reasonably well, but for a few accessibility hiccups I dealt with quickly. Well, okay, so I was on the phone with tech support for an hour, but otherwise it was great! And then …
I caught my first bus home, and transferred at a busy station. It was pouring, and we were under a tornado warning, I believe. I got onto the second bus, and when the driver reached the approximate location of my stop, she said “I’ll just drop you off over here.” The chosen spot left me disoriented, since I didn’t really know my way around yet. I wandered for ages through rain and wind. Normally rain doesn’t bother me much, but this rain was unusually cold, for July anyway, and it was really coming down. I was hopelessly lost, though I knew I was only a few blocks from my destination. The GPS was no help. My phone was nearly dead, and in any case my fingers were so wet and cold that I couldn’t get the screen to work (this was before I had Siri). I knew that, had I been sighted, this day would have gone a lot differently.
The dreary end: I ended up standing in some stranger’s yard, hiding under a tree, bawling my eyes out and getting soaked. The stranger was kind, and drove me home (yes, I got into a stranger’s car—sue me). I got in the door (wringing out my skirt as I did so), went upstairs to my room, and curled in a ball to cry. That day, like many days, I was so done with being blind.
Most of my “bad blind days” aren’t nearly as dramatic as all that. Usually it’s little things, like getting somewhat lost, calling cabs to go to an unfamiliar place, fighting stupid stereotypes, and generally getting people to treat me normally. We all have them. So why don’t I like talking about them?
I’m very free with blind friends. They’ve all gone through what I have, so we can share our frustrations without inviting negative perceptions, seeming whiny, or killing people’s buzz. Yet I have difficulty talking to sighted people about days like this. Maybe it’s because I feel ashamed: after all, blindness isn’t so bad. Many people have it far worse, so what am I grumbling about? Maybe it’s because I feel very slightly unsafe—as though anything I say will be twisted out of context. I don’t want one bad day to make people think my life is always confusing and frustrating. Maybe it’s because I’m a generally upbeat person, and I only feel safe venting to a select few.
I’ve recently decided to change this. I was chatting with my fiancé Gregg about social media. He was pointing out that people hardly ever post negative things there, and when they do, it’s usually to gain sympathy (we’ve all done it, don’t shake your head) or shed positive light in a subtle way. Oh, look how brave I am, fighting adversity! Oh, look how desperately busy I am; I can hardly keep up (but I actually can, see?).
What you don’t see, he said, is people posting genuinely negative things that have happened to them, without any intention of garnering sympathy or making themselves look good in crafty ways. “Maybe,” he continued, “posting more negative, less self-congratulatory things will help everyone feel better about the bad stuff that happens to them.” I decided he had a point. Research has shown that people often feel depressed as they scroll through Facebook, because all they see are the good times everyone else is having. All they see are the successes. All they see, in essence, is how well everyone else is doing, and how badly they are doing in comparison. It never occurs to people that what you see on Facebook is carefully chosen, and that it doesn’t represent the whole. I’ve met people who had glittery, perky, and plucky Facebook lives. I thought they must be the happiest people in the world, with a million friends and so many successes. These are some of the unhappiest people I know, by the way; all you have to do is ask them how they’re really doing. I’ve often heard the following: “I have a thousand Facebook friends and no one to talk to.”
So, on my Facebook, Twitter, and the blog, I’ll endeavor to share the foibles, failures, and trials without trying to be inspirational. I’m not trying to uplift others. I’m not trying to make everyone feel sorry for me. And I am definitely not trying to flatter myself in any way. What I want is to get people—disabled and otherwise—to feel comfortable talking about the bad stuff; the embarrassing stuff; the frustrating stuff. Share the things that aren’t inspirational, or uplifting, or flattering. Share the things that make you squirm just a little.
I’m not suggesting you roam into “too much information” territory, and I’m certainly not suggesting you post content that a possible employer might find unsavory. I’m not saying you should share stories about your latest drunken mishaps. Share the little stuff—the stuff we all go through but don’t like to talk about.
“But Meagan!” you say, “won’t that turn Facebook into a sea of negativity?” Nope, it really won’t. The less time we waste comparing our lives to someone else’s–without even seeing the whole picture–the more time we can spend supporting each other, keeping up with friends, and generally having a good time.
You can share the good things, too. Share your success in sports, music, art, and the workplace. Share things that make you proud. Complain bitterly about the impersonal—traffic, the government, the state of kids today. Just remember to share the personal stuff, too; if you can share the personal good, feel free to share the personal bad, too.