#7D4H - Guest Blogger Liam Dougherty #Disability

7 DRESSES 4 HEALTH: Day 322 - Day 328 ~ November 18th - November 24th ~ 

Guest Blogger Bio: Liam Dougherty graduated this year, with his Master’s in Public Administration. He was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia in high school, and gets around with a manual wheelchair and a mobility scooter. Liam just started working at Philadelphia’s Center for Independent Living, Liberty Resources, Inc

Disability is essential to who we are as human beings. We have all been disabled in some capacity, especially through the vulnerabilities of childhood. We struggle with facing our own inadequacy, rejection, and mortality. Disability forces us to recognize our own weaknesses, and I think one reason we stigmatize disability is that we want to pretend these weaknesses don’t exist. We are not all-powerful and immortal, and that is okay. We can fix some of these vulnerabilities, but I think emotional maturity means simply coming to terms with the rest. I wrote this poem because I wanted to share my own disability in this way.

Your Human Experience

You started an average absurdity!

–Literally living inside another average animal,

–Literally sucking your nutrients through this snorkel

That went just right into your new stomach.

And you had the audacity to kick your mom from the inside,

Even though she was the only warmth.

And even after you came out you cried as loud as you could a lot of the time.

You grew like a tomato plant and made many mistakes about where to pee.

You learned language, but then you said things that didn’t make sense,

Or betrayed your naiveté–

About object permanence,

And revealed your total lack of self-awareness.

You grew into an average three-and-a-half-year-old.

You didn’t recycle or do laundry.

You didn’t save CVS coupons.

You didn’t illegally download music.

You didn’t like craft beer.

You didn’t care about carbon emissions

Or what other people thought of you.

You didn’t use a wheelchair.

Despite scorching northeast winters–

Winters that killed flowers and scared away all the geese,

And despite how you fell off your cousin’s trampoline and broke your arm when you were five,

And despite how you used to eat mothballs, and pill-bugs from the yard when no one was watching,

You kept growing every year, like any human,

As if your body was double-dog dared to–

An act of Promethean defiance.

You cried less.

You learned the names of the planets and Great Lakes.

You definitively learned where you should pee.

Dogs and hamsters and birds passed through your home like the tide.

You felt your little brother kick your warm mom from the inside.

You had 4 grandparents and then less.

You saw your dad’s hair flee up his forehead

From the thickening brushfire of his eyebrows.

You were able to reach more things.

But then the ends of your spine started to cringe back into an “S”

An orthopedist measured your obtuse x-ray with a compass and ruler–

And put you in a back brace made of molded white plastic.

You tried to hide it with sweaters, well into that summer–

Your torso stuffed inside like a sweaty sausage.

And your face bubbled with average acne.

Average hormones made you cry more again, but less loud, 

About how people just didn’t understand you 

And about the shape of your spine.

A pubescent clarity came from seeing people without their clothes on.

You even kissed people sometimes, 

But you were unsure how much tongue to use.

You're still not sure.

Suddenly you did not get any better at kickball or violin,

Even though your legs and fingers were getting longer.

And you overheard the whisper about yourself–

The sharp and unique consonants that bent your back,

About how your nerves would freeze and die,

And then you would die because your heart would be too big.

You guarded this secret until you couldn’t anymore.

A surgeon fused your vertebrae together.

The ice of it brought you under,

Drove you to wander across tundra,

Numbed your fingers and took your toes,

Removed something from you and pointed at the wound,

Locked you away and split you from your future.

But then you stole a power that you then nursed 

Like smoking kindling,

And toasted your hands by the fire.

You found a power that opened your throat.

You sought out people who understood you,

You sought to be understood.

You adapted and grew.

You learned how to tie a bow tie.

You learned that most people are scared too.

You learned how to use meaningless words like “naiveté” and “Promethean”. 

You did not sleep some nights, and instead you came home smelling like campfires.

You did not find a missing piece–

You found the power of being this broken thing.

Your audacity became a deep comfort.

You always grow into the completion of this story,

With the centipede of your history walking behind you.

This warm life validates your absurdity.

Call to action: Do you have important information around one of our seven causes: HIV/AIDS, Mental Health, Nutrition, Heart Disease, Maternal Child Health, Cancer, Disability, that you want to share with a wider audience? Do you or a loved one currently live and/or struggle with one of these causes? Do you work in research, advocacy, prevention, treatment or care? We want to hear from YOU! Write to us today: 7dresses@artsconnectinternational.org to become a featured blog writer. Another way to get involved is to wear the color of the day in solidarity. Take a picture of yourself in the color of the day and Tweet it @ArtsConnectInt, tag us on Instagram @ArtsConnectInt, or send it to us on Facebook.

About 7 Dresses 4 Health (7D4H): 7D4H is a year-long arts and health education campaign lead by visual artist, Marian Brown, in conjunction with Arts Connect International. The objective of the campaign is to promote inclusive community practices through adDRESSing health artistically and collaboratively. To learn more about the genesis of the project, read Marian’s New Year Blog

About this week's look & location: All of the dresses for 7 Dresses 4 Health were designed and sewn by Kim's Fashion Design. Love the look? Visit Kim at 100 Huntington Ave, Boston MA 02116, call her at (617) 267-9299 or email her: info@kimsfashion.com. Mention 7 Dresses 4 Health for a special discount! 

Campaign Update (2017): All 7 Dresses 4 Health blogs were migrated from a former site, so the sharing analytics are inconsistent from when they were first published. We apologize to our guest bloggers, and readers, for this inconvenience. That said, the campaign garnered an average of 5K hits per blog, over 500,000 readers throughout 2015! Additionally, the average number of shares per guest blog was over 150x on social media (through Facebook and Twitter). Thank you for making this incredible campaign possible - and for all that it was for so many. With gratitude, Marian & the ACI Team