There is nothing worse than being a cripple. I should know. I’ve been one for over twenty years now, ever since I was hit by a car and my spine was shattered. I am paralyzed from the waist down and use a wheelchair to get around.
People always tell me that I’m lucky that I can still move my arms and hands, but that doesn’t make me feel any better. I can’t walk, dance, run, or even stand on my own two feet. I have to rely on other people for everything.
But you know what? Despite all of this, I’m still happy. Why? Because I’m alive, and that’s something to be thankful for.
Sure, there are days when I feel down and out, but I always try to remember that there are people who have it worse than me. So, even though I may be a cripple, I’m still living my life to the best of my ability. And that’s all anyone can ask for.
Many of us are fortunate enough to never have to experience what it is like be handicapped or disabled. Unfortunately, accidents, illnesses, and other misfortunes rob people of the use their arms, legs, and other body parts every day.
In On Being a Cripple, Nancy Mairs candidly discusses her life with multiple sclerosis – a chronic degenerative disease that attacks the central nervous system. Her story shows us that laughing in the face of difficulties can help us get through life’s challenges.
Nancy Mairs was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 28. The disease slowly began to rob her of the use of her limbs and eventually confined her to a wheelchair. In “On Being a Cripple”, Mairs uses strong language to describe her experience as a disabled person. She is not afraid to talk about the dark reality of living with a disability, but she also finds humor in her situation.
Mairs believes that we should all be comfortable with who we are, whether we are “normal” or not. She argues that society should accept people with disabilities and see them as human beings, not as objects to be pitied or ignored.
While “On Being a Cripple” is specifically about living with a physical disability, it is also about overcoming adversity in general. Mairs shows us that it is possible to live a full and meaningful life, even when faced with challenges.
Nancy Mairs starts by discussing why she calls herself “crippled” instead of other terms like “disabled”, “handicapped”, or “differently abled”. She believes that the word crippled is a more accurate description of her condition than those other words (44).
Mairs was born with a degenerative disease called transverse myelitis, which is “an inflammation of the spinal cord” (45). This disease has left Mairs unable to use her legs and have full control over her bladder and bowel movements. In addition, Mairs has also lost feeling in her lower body from the waist down. As a result, she uses a wheelchair to get around.
While Mairs is okay with referring to herself as crippled, she does not like it when other people refer to her as such. She feels that when other people call her crippled, they are putting her in a box and pigeonholing her. They are viewing her as someone who is less than them and is not capable of doing things that able-bodied people can do.
Mairs does not see herself as less than anyone else. She is a smart and successful woman who has a husband, children, and a career. Just because she uses a wheelchair does not mean that she is any less of a person. Mairs believes that we should all be more accepting of people with disabilities and see them as equals.
The narrator appears to be at least somewhat self-aware, as she frequently uses metaphor and simile within the same sentence. As in most stories, the protagonist is a black woman who must endure racial discrimination. However on this occasion, she finds herself at odds with society because of her disability; therefore,
She is not a victim. Society has a way of making people with disabilities feel like they are less than human. O’Connor shows that she is just as valid as anyone else. “I am not sorry for myself. I am sorry for the words, crutches, which I have to use sometimes, because I can’t walk properly.” (45) In other words, she is not going to let her disability define her. She is still a whole person, even if she needs a little help getting around.
O’Connor also dispels the notion that disabled people are always in pain or suffering. “It is true that my life has been severely limited by MS; but it has not been dulled by pain or by the fear of pain.” (46) She goes on to say that she has actually been quite fortunate, all things considered.
Overall, O’Connor’s essay is a powerful reminder that people with disabilities are just like everyone else – they want to be seen and respected for who they are, not defined by their condition.
Mrs. Mairs describes how she continues to do many of the activities she’s always done, including “I don’t like having MS” and “I despise it.” (45) As Mrs. Mairs walks down the street, she is shocked by her unusual gait. However, when she considers herself in the mirror, she dismisses any notion of her appearance, declaring that “the self-hatred I experience is neither physically nor intellectually significant.”
It is simply the product of my ignorance”. (46) Mairs argues that many people with disabilities are forced to focus on their appearance because of the “ablest among us” whoare obsessed with looks. (47)
While Mairs does not like having MS, she does not believe that it has made her a lesser person. She explains how her mind is still sharp and she is able to do many things that she enjoys, such as writing. (48) In fact, she believes that her disability has actually made her a better person. She writes, “I have had to learn ways of doing and being that non-disabled people take for granted”. (49) This has given her a greater appreciation for life and has made her more patient and tolerant. (50)
Mairs concludes by saying that she is not sorry for the person she has become. She writes, “I would rather be disabled than able-bodied, any day”. (51) She believes that people with disabilities have a lot to offer and should be respected for who they are. (52)