Recently I was interviewed about Trapped at my husband’s church, and the experience was over so soon, I felt I hardly had time to draw breath. I had prepared some answers to questions, which were helpful to hold on to. When we went off script, it felt quite natural, easy and relaxed.
The minister was gentle. She asked thoughtful questions, asked, why did I write Trapped; and was so perceptive and kind that, almost, despite the laughter, it would have been easy to weep, though not for the obvious reasons.
Being disabled, one runs the constant risk of being misunderstood. I felt I was, and that process turned me initially guarded, then defensive, then prickly, then isolated. In retrospect, and having had the courage to spell everything out (as much as for myself as for the reader), I see that retreat is not inevitable, of course. I can’t help feeling that much misunderstanding and sorrow might have been avoided, or shed more easily and naturally, if there had been more people around who were unafraid to grasp me in their arms, speak to me as I needed to be spoken to, firmly and kindly, in order to break through the self-imposed isolation that has been one consequence of being misread.
I grieve for the obvious reason that life was awful, and for the less obvious reason that I have wasted so many years being unhappy. There is the other, more insidious pain of knowing that my perceptions – like those of others! – were often greatly mistaken, and that if I had been less fearful and stood my ground, no-one would have minded terribly.
Sure, the world is full of insensitive oafs, and cruel people who are casually unjust, and it is our focus on such people that turns us inward. But the world is also brimming with delightfully kind, forgiving and thoughtful people.
This also makes me grieve now, because I missed so many opportunities for joy, and for love, and for fun and humour and sheer delight. Meeting wonderful people, knowing they can see past my social awkwardness, my stumblingly stupid statements, to the smile that hopes it will be accepted, is so liberating. That makes me grieve now. Life is full of inexplicable contradictions, isn’t it?
Without having gone out of my way to excavate my experiences by writing them, none of this would be clear. Muddy confusion would all be sitting still, at the bottom of a dark glass, festering.