To Be or Not To Be an “INSPIRATION PORN STAR?”

“Inspiration Porn” is a term I have been reading about lately in many articles across different forums.  At first I was confused as to what was behind the meaning, but from my understanding, it’s when people who don’t know you see you in a wheelchair, approach you, and tell you what an inspiration you are.  Mind you they don’t have any back story on who you may be except that they see a person in a wheelchair or with a disability.  They then proceed to tell you what an inspiration you and I assume it is meant for simply being in a wheelchair.

There appears to be much controversy over this as many folks, whom I have spoken with, are not necessarily offended, but frustrated at the fact that able-bodied people see them as an inspiration for just having a disability.  You may be a lazy person with no ambition, but simply because you are in a wheelchair you are an inspiration to them.  I can certainly understand why this would aggravate many because people with disabilities since they just want to be seen as “normal” people who are complemented on being inspiration for what they do; not just for the fact that they are in a wheelchair.

However, I have a slightly different outlook and perhaps my dark sense of humor might contribute to this, but when someone calls me an inspiration even when I am just sitting quietly in a corner I always seem to find myself chuckling in amusement.  Also, I love to be different and my wheelchair is just one part of my life that sets me apart from many others.

The way I look at it is this –

I may inspire people through my actions and what I do with my life because of all I attempt to accomplish despite the hardships of everything that comes with life in a wheelchair. However, I often times do, in fact, feel like I’m inspiration for merely waking up in the morning with a disability.  Many people don’t realize this, but when I wake up in the morning and have my caregiver come into my room, put their hands in places that no one should have their hands put in on a voluntary and regular basis, dress me, get me in my chair, etc. it’s a damn long process.  Often times its painful, frustrating that I can’t do it on my own, and exhausting not to be able to get myself up in the morning.

There are some days it takes all of my effort to just wake up in the morning and start my day only to rest, repeat, and start all over again the next day.  I take this all with a sense of humor, but sometimes the mere act of getting ready in the morning, which takes many able-bodied people a few minutes can last hours for me.  If you ask me, that’s inspiration enough!

I have lost count the number of times I have left my house and ventured out only to have people come up to me and tell me what an inspiration I am, and they don’t even know me.  Sometimes I might be sitting quietly at Starbucks reading a book and strangers will approach me to ask if I need help with anything, they hope I feel better, they hope I walk soon, and what an inspiration I am as a young person in a wheelchair.

While I sympathize with my fellow wheelchair users that this may be trying at times – I wear it as a badge of honor.  If so many of these strangers only knew what I had to go through on a daily basis just to get up in my wheelchair in the morning I bet they would give me a gold medal, and not just call me an inspiration 🙂 Heck, I’d even settle for a free coffee.

On one occasion I recall leaving a coffee shop and a young lady came up to me and asked me if she could pray for me.  Yes, I get that more often than you think.  I didn’t see any harm in it, so I said “sure, of course you can.”  I didn’t realize how serious she was at the time, but she grabbed both of my hands and asked me to close my eyes.  She told me that when she was done praying for me I would be able to move my fingers.  Another lady saw our prayer circle and asked if she could join in.

My brother was in the background watching me in amusement as I was locked into a multi-person prayer circle.  I’m not religious per say, rather spiritual really, but I had to respect these women as they truly believed from the bottom of their hearts they were going to help me move my hands in several minutes.  Once our prayer circle came to a conclusion the nice young lady asked me if I can move my finger.  I didn’t want to disappoint her because the power of the belief she had in her ability to heal me was so sweet, well-intentioned, and frankly rather intense.  I politely told her I could not move my fingers, but I was confident that the prayer needed some time to work and my fingers would likely work the next day.  A big smile came over her face, she hugged me, and went about her merry way.

The point is, if I was not paralyzed, it’s not likely anyone would come up to me tell me what an inspiration I am for walking around.  However, there are many folks who look at people in wheelchairs and think we are inspirations merely for being in a wheelchair.  Could I get offended?  Of course I could, but life is too short, I deal with too many challenges in a day, and I don’t have time to sweat about the small stuff as they say.

In my opinion, if it makes another human being feel better about their day, themselves, or simply puts a smile on their face because they think they did something great by telling another human being they were an inspiration; who am I the judge or get offended by that?

I like when people smile and feel better about themselves. Frankly, more people need to.  Perhaps it’s a shame they can’t find their own inspiration in a day and they need an outside stranger to help them, but if I’m that person so be it.

I don’t read into it, it takes up a few minutes, and I go about my day with the thought of making someone smile because they thought they truly helped me.  It doesn’t matter that they did not or that I’ll likely forget about them in a few minutes, but what if they were having a horrible day and I made them feel just that much better because of my wheelchair?

If I’m being honest I’m sure many that look at me probably feel sorry for me or they think about how lucky they are that they are not my situation.  Even a pity “hello” might make them think twice on that day about how lucky they are to have use of all of their limbs.

It is icing on the cake with respect to the fact that I choose to do something with my life, but I do think my wheelchair is inspiration enough be called an “Inspiration.”

There are days when I’m feeling particularly cheeky and on occasion when someone randomly approaches me to tell me I’m an inspiration, I will flip the conversation back on them.  I will tell them what inspiration they are to me.  The usually give me a puzzled look and are not quite sure what to say.  However, this normally sparks a conversation about their life and I will either learn something interesting about a new human being or I will walk away with a really great story.

Life is just short, plain and simple.  Most of the time I do things for the story just so I can have a funny memory years down the road about something that happened to me.  It may sound absurd, but over the course of years these stories add up, and when times get tough I reach back in my memory bank on some of the things I did or said for a great laugh.

There are certainly a lot of negatives that come along with the wheelchair from a medical and psychological standpoint.  However, if I’m going to be stuck in this chair for the foreseeable future and I love to help people, even if it is in the strangest and most unexpected of ways, then I proudly take on that responsibility.

I’ll gladly call myself an “Inspiration Porn Star” if that means I made somebody’s day just that much better.  Heck, you can make me a bumper sticker and I’ll stick it on the back of my wheelchair just to make someone smile or giggle if they are having a rough day.

Giggling and laughing … none of us do enough of this.  I’m as guilty as anyone, but when opportunity knocks, even if it is for the minute and microscopic things in life, I’ll take it!