I begin the writing of this blog post stiffly, with defenses up; I'm conscious that they're up, and want to look at them and see if I can... do something about that.
I am required, at least once a month, to "update" certain organizations on my "progress" so they'll continue providing me with "disability services." (Note the quotes; I'm already speaking defensively.) I understand the "need" to track progress and prevent resource abuse, and I do appreciate my hearing aids and realtime transcription in my classes and want ("but don't need," my pride hurriedly adds) to keep them, all else being equal -- but it's not. I got an update request and immediately saw myself snap into BATTLE MODE, choosing to read it as a challenge to prove my "worth" as a "return" on their "investment," rattling off my international travel schedule, the publication status of my book, board appointments, featured speaker invitations, news clippings on awards I've won, etc. It's a destructively competitive framing: if I outperform the majority of people you see as less-broken-than-me, the vision of me-as-broken must be wrong.
It must be wrong. If it were right, I'd somehow be a lesser Mel -- and when I was 7, I thought I was. My human worth wasn't intrinsic; it was earned by constantly generating school/work output. I remember deciding to protect my 7-year-old self from a world I didn't trust to treat her right. "You're worth it, little Mel," I'd whisper. "I'm big now (I was 8), and I will keep that statement true by doing things to justify your worth!"* Say what you will about using anger as a fuel, but I'm pretty sure my joyful, puppy-like wide-eyed wonder wouldn't have survived without the barricade powered by outrage that something so happy and good as Small Mel Self should be in danger.
As I edit, I realize I'm writing this in the past tense, standing in a present where I do not need that barricade. My automatic reactions are based on beliefs I no longer hold. Everyone, including me, is intrinsically worthwhile; there are no Broken People. So why would I react as if I were scared of being something ontologically impossible?
Habit. Yep. Should stop that now. (Easier said than done -- but easier than I used to think it'd be.)
*Christians may recognize echoes of Sola Fide here, albeit from the weirdly primitive perspective of a 2nd-grader who hadn't yet quite reached Piaget's formal-operational stage. The Catholic perspective, as I understand it at the moment, is that faith does justify -- and that God grants us (through our faith) the grace to do the works which constantly perfect our justification. So we keep on growing -- but that doesn't mean we're broken. It just means we're... growing.
(Geez, this took way too long to write and edit. Lemme post it now. *Button!*)