"On Being a Cripple"
Most of us will never know what it is to be handicapped or a "cripple". However, accidents, illnesses and many other misfortunes cause millions of people to lose use of their arms, legs and other parts of their body. In "On Being a Cripple", Nancy Mairs talks about her life struggle with multiple sclerosis, a chronic degenerative disease of the central nervous system. She demonstrates that life is what one makes it to be and that humor will help us deal with its harsh realities. She begins by talking about her life and why she refers to herself as "crippled". Nancy Mairs believes that crippled is a more proper definition for her condition than other words like "disabled", "handicapped" or "differently abled" (44), which cause people to view her as something she is not. She prefers to choose a word that represents her reality, and if it makes people "wince, perhaps I want them to wince. I want them to see me as a tough customer, one to whom the fates/gods/viruses have not been kind, but who can face the brutal truth of her existence squarely. As a cripple, I swagger." (44) She leaves no doubt in your mind that she is a strong enough person to endure this hardship. She explains how she continues doing many of the things she always did, then writes, "
I don't like having MS. I hate it". (45) When Mairs sees herself in the mirror as she walks, she is horrified by her abnormal gait. But then she dismisses even the thought of her appearance, stating that "the self-loathing I feel is neither physically nor intellectually substantial. What I hate is not me but a disease. I am not a disease". (50) She does not allow her condition to control her life. Although it may not be what she envisioned her life to be, she gracefully accepts and lives with her disease. Nancy Mairs takes her life and turns it into a comical story. She finds humor in her life though she suffers from the brutal fact of her malady. For instance, one afternoon...
Cited: Mairs, Nancy. "On Being a Cripple." The Conscious Reader 10th Edition. Caroline Shrodes, Michael Shugrue, Marc Di Paolo, Christian J Matuschek. Pearson & Longman (2006): 43-53.
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