Desperately Seeking Angry Jen

Lately I have been unable to avoid the fact that I have changed and not for the better. Instead of being filled with indignant rage at acts of disablism, I start thinking about how the other person must feel, make excuses for bad behavior, or let obnoxious attitudes continue unchallenged. Even in this blog, where I try to be so honest, I avoid certain topics, including examples that involve people currently in my life because I do not wish to upset friends or family with my words.

Vague feelings of missing my former self have been around for a while, only coming to a head as a result of a recent event. Apologies to the person involved. Or maybe that should be gratitude since I finally confronted something important. I was at a bonfire roasting my hot dog over the flames. Across the blaze, A friend looked over and told me my face was extremely red. To me, this was not a big deal, but my friend persisted. Blaming the redness on a failure of sunscreen changed nothing. He wouldn’t drop it until I moved back. A lot.

Did this annoy me? Definitely, but I made light of it because I recognized he had just hit the “overly concerned” phase most go through when getting to know me. What would be cause for worry for most people is not even a blip on my personal radar since my body does odd things all the time. Fretting is reserved for big events, like my face swelling and hurting so much that it interferes with eating. Though I appreciated being told, I didn’t appreciate the degree of concern persisting past me saying everything was fine.

Why didn’t I say something? I recognized what was happening and knew the phase would pass. Rather than force the issue, I let go. Formerly, I would have spoken up asking him to back off and show some respect for me by accepting it when I said things were fine. I want to know where that Jen is now.

As one of my earlier entries indicated, 2009 has brought up tons of romantic relationship issues for me. One unfortunate part of dating is how friends and family of the other person react to me. Often, badly. Grandfathers try to talk their grandsons out of seeing me expressing concerns about how much care and attention I will require. Mothers have tried to talk their sons out of dating me. Friends have expressed concerns. It is ridiculous, disablist, and based on misconceptions about me along with a complete disregard for my positive qualities.

I was pondering this happening again a few days after the bonfire situation. Guess what I realized? These concerned friends and relatives are just going through a phase and once they know me they will get over it. Hello? Where’s my indignation? Do I really think I should stand by and let this happen? I thought passive tolerance of outright stupidity was not my thing, but apparently I’ve changed –I am fine with being valued less than a cat.

One more example that has informed my opinion that I’ve lost my edge. A friend has a couple of kids who I have been around frequently. Earlier this year, when one of these kids was asked about me, she said something like, “Oh, so and so helps her.” There was not a thought given to all the things I do for myself let alone any of my talents and abilities. I was reduced to somebody in need of help. Made me so mad I almost screamed.

Instead, I brought my concerns to a friend of the family, who said it was no big deal. I let that convince me to leave it alone. In the past, I would have sat the child down and explained to her that while I did need help occasionally, I also did many things for myself sometimes even helping others. In asking her specific questions, I could have reminded her of all she has seen me do independently. Even teaching her something I could do that she could not would have fostered positive change.

From the above incidents, I have been left with a muddy tangle of feelings magnified by my own frustration with my passivity. I have become so keenly aware of how others feel that I have made myself tolerate what I know is wrong. The “mustn’t offend” has overpowered the “I’m offended.”

I dearly miss the cleansing fire of pure anger — the certainty of knowing people should not say/act /perpetuate the things they do. There is a sense of self-worth inherent in the knowledge that another person is wrong, not based on superiority but on knowing humanity and individuals can and should do better. While I like myself more now than at any other time in my life, I am aware the clear flame of anger would add something I currently lack. Becoming a person filled with anger who lacks human compassion is not for me, but neither is this passive person I have become. Somehow I want to reclaim the good parts of that kick ass, take names woman of years ago while leaving the bitterness and self-hatred behind. I must temper indignation with compassion exercising grace and tact. As we all know, I have those two things in abundance. (Yes, that was sarcasm.)

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About Jen

After acquiring a degree from Vassar College in psychology, I moved to Western Mass where I ran a peer mentoring network for disabled college students as well as activism and organizing around disability issues. I also conducted research on disabled women’s body image. An Upstate New York native, I eventually followed my heliotropic nature to the sun of Southern California. I divide my time between writing (disability fiction and essays) along with moderating San Diego Bisexual Forum which is one of the oldest groups of its kind in the country. In my off hours I can often be found in my neighborhood live music venue enjoying our local talent.

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