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AU and disability stuff


I am, as usual, tired. And behind on reading... I still have tomorrow's reading to do and about 40 pages of Thursday's reading to do. I did not want to be reading on Wednesday. I needed a day off--and I need some time for me!




I'm close to making an executive decision to skip chapel tomorrow in order to read. I have really mixed feelings about this. I enjoy chapel very much on one hand. On the other hand, there are aspects that are very painful for me, and I haven't allowed myself to even begin to sort these out. Even thinking about it is painful, and I am afraid to allow the waves of emotion to wash over me when I am in such a vulnerable state because I'm so tired and run down physically. I'm not sleeping an ideal amount of hours because of all the time I'm putting in studying. I'm still healing from my nose surgeries; and my healing is not going quite as well as I or my doctor would like. There doesn't seem to be much to do about that. So adding emotional issues into the mix seems to be something I should approach a bit cautiously. On the other hand, I don't want to avoid issues out of fear and use the need to respect my body's needs as an excuse...



Being back at AU, even though the context is as a graduate student now as compared to being an undergrad student 15 years ago, is a bittersweet experience. So many memories are stil so vivid for me! So many things were left undone, avoided because I didn't know how to handle them and no one knew how to guide me! I took a lot of time off for personal growth and getting what pieces of my health I could in order between graduating with my B.A. and entering seminary. I sometimes feel like it was wasted time; but truthfully, it wasn't. I couldn't have truly succeeded if I had entered a moment sooner: I would not have had the maturity or strength that I needed in order to face the challenges before me personally. Everyone carries his/her own challenges and needs into the graduate school experience. Mine just happen to be related to living with disabilities and chronic medical conditions that don't respond well to treatment. I'm realizing every day how much emotional strength and stamina it takes to cope with the demands of college life: advocacy situations, relationship issues with other students, the impact of stigmatizing incidents and social isolation, frustration with lack of access and other problems that don't resolve quickly or at all, taking twice as long to complete the same amount of work but trying to get it in by the same due date and not seem antisocial in the process, explaining to people for the hundredth time how I do my homework and that I am not amazing, wondering how I'm going to bring in some kind of extra money when I have no time to work, trying to give back to other students and feeling rejected when they brush aside what I offer because they think it's too much of a sacrifice and don't understand that I NEED to contribute... Is it any wonder that I had difficulties as a college freshman? Not really. Sadly, I think that most people were too caught up in admiring me for doing well to realize what I was dealing with every day and think about ways to help me with it--and at age 18, I certainly didn't know how to talk about it!



I never allowed myself to feel the need for fellowship with other blind students in 1990. I think that part of the reason for this is that i was aware, somehow, that blind people are not a homogenous group. We don't all feel the same way about the same things. Some of us love crowds, and others don't. This impacts our feelings about whether being left out in a social situation feels stigmatizing. Some of us use this technology, and some use that; and there can be near wars between us over which is better. Some have grown up in environments that have caused them to want nothing to do with other blind people--and some may just not like each other because their personalities don't mesh. So I'm very cautious about the idea of forming friendships based solely on a common disability...



But I've found over the last four weeks that I have dared to think in the recesses of my mind that it would be so nice if there were other blind students at AU, even young ones who wanted to have coffee once in a while--or who I could treat to a home-cooked meal. I admit that some of my feelings about this are selfish. Some are not. It's lonely there, and it always was... And there isn't really any kind of substitute organization I can affiliate myself with to address the loneliness. I think sometimes about the international students and wonder if they feel these things. Does the international student organization help? If a student is the only student from Kenya, is it helpful for her to compare notes with the only student from Russia? I wish there was something similar for me...



But it goes beyond the desire for a community of sorts. My passion is opening doors of access for people with disabilities. I want to know that my struggles had meaning--not just for me but in the wider community. I've spent years and years opening my own doors. They're heavy sometimes, and I'm glad that recently people are starting to help hold them. I want to hold the door for someone else, too. I never realized how much I loved AU until I went back. It's not just general school spirit. It's something about feeling at home there, even when everything was all wrong. That's why I'm so passionate about making it right... I really never felt this way about SFA, even when I served on the ADA committee. It was something interesting that I did, but never something I was passionate about. Here at AU, I want to be part of making a place of acceptance for other people with disabilities--and I have to admit that I have a particular interest in blind students.



I'm acutely aware that I need sleep much more than I need to read at this moment in time... Based on the amount of nose blowing I'm doing, I hope I have not contracted someone's stray infection... I literally don't have time for one of my bouts with sinusitis-turned-bronchitis.



I'll look at this disability thing again in the morning in light of today's notes from class--we talked about raltional ministry and hospitality. It's worth examining; but I think that tonight I just needed to allow myself to feel some of it. Maybe since I gave myself permission to cry and write about it, I can stop feeling the urge to weep every time I'm in chapel. I want to be free to enjoy chapel. At the same time, is this some kind of burden that is here to remind me of my calling and keep me moving forward? Does the pain have a purpose? I've always thought that behind pain there is a promise that gets found through prayer. Is there a promise in this pain?


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Sarah Blake LaRose
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