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I wanted to take a break from my regularly scheduled health/ability discussions to talk about race, ethnicity, and white privilege. I don’t view issues such as racism as distinct or different from health issues, because they are intrinsically linked. What about the soaring HIV/AIDS rate among young African American women? What about folks with multiple identities (e.g. dis/abled and Asian-American)? I could go on, but I hope you get the point.

Anyway, I was eating in an “Asian fusion” restaurant today with someone, reflecting on table manners and the process of eating. I know someone who is Indian-American (as opposed to American Indian), and I’ve noticed her instruct her son to remember not to eat with his hands when they’re at a restaurant. At home, it’s okay to scoop up curry with naan bread. In a restaurant, he has to use silverware.

I always use naan bread. It’s the way the food is meant to be eaten. It’s really hard to scoop up all of a delicious lentil dish with a fork. Bread (or rice) is a necessary and delicious part of the eating process.

I mentioned this to an Arabic friend of mine, who said that her grandmother and mother always insisted that she use silverware in public when she was growing up. She said they didn’t want her to look “common” or like she was “from the country.”

This seems to me to be an issue of racial/ethnic self-censorship: “We must eat with silverware to prove how white/upper-class we are.” I don’t say this to chastise folks who decide to eat with silverware instead – rather, I see it as another facet of privilege and oppression.

I have much more freedom and privilege eating in a restaurant as a white person, particularly since I’m a white person who grew up with class privilege. (I’ve noticed that people who grew up poor/working class often have similar hang-ups about not seeming “common.”)

If I eat with naan bread at an Indian restaurant, then I am (purposefully or not) showing that I know how to eat Indian food the way it’s “supposed” to be eaten. I can fill a role as an urban, worldly person. Even if I don’t use the naan bread very deftly, I’m still making an effort to fit into another culture – another thing that can get me cultural bonus points.

In writing this, I’ve decided to tie it back to dis/ability issues. I’ve found that I sometimes want to “prove” that I’m still able – either to myself, people who know me personally, or to the general public. I end up trying to be a super-productive superwoman, just to show that fibromyalgia hasn’t got me down. Sometimes I feel frustrated when I start feeling pain or fatigue because of all the work I’ve done. It’s then that my friends have to sit me down and tell me that anyone would be tired accomplishing what I’d just done. My disability isn’t the only thing making me tired, it’s how much I try to do. Feeling the need to overcompensate – to show my disability who’s in charge – causes more pain and suffering than I would encounter if I allowed myself to follow my body’s lead.

So lots of people talk about having “blog carnivals,” where you link to great writing from other peoples’ blogs. I thought I’d give it a shot! Who knows, maybe this will turn into a monthly thing. Or maybe not.

(Just FYI: not all of these blog posts are from this month. But I found them this February!)

The Comment from Hell: On Health and Ideologies of Health is a great article/commentary on the way perceptions of health and disability have become issues of “personal responsibility.” The author makes some good points about the institutional aspects of health care issues.

Cripchick posted about the balancing act between living/working as a fast-paced disability activist versus listening to what her body is able to do. You should really check out her entire blog, really – she has some great stuff about disability activism, community, multiple identities, and oppression/liberation.

Abnormal Diversity has some great insights about what constitutes disability prejudice. “The root of disability discrimination is treating disability like it’s a big deal.”

I guess a common theme with these articles is a focus on what dis/ability means: activism, diversity, prejudice, and the de-institutionalization of disability discrimination.

I wrote the following piece after a visit to Guatemala in 2004, and it’s more “creative writing”-y than some of the other things I’ve written.

I think it’s very relevant to healing issues that we are able to let go of control when there’s nothing we can do to change a situation. Buddhists call this principle equanimity. Greeting card writers call this principle “don’t sweat the small stuff.” Alcoholics Anonymous refer to the Serenity Prayer. It’s all the same principle.

I should also mention that this piece can be read as romanticizing of daily life in Guatemala without suitable historic, cultural, or social context. Bear in mind that I was years younger when I wrote this, and that there is much more to Guatemala than dangerous public transit. So, if you can, bear with my younger self as I explore life lessons found in daily experiences.


I had heard stories about the “chicken buses” typically found in Central American countries.  My mother—who lived in Guatemala for two years—talked about them with a knowing laugh.  Chicken buses:  even the name sounded uncomfortable, the harsh consonants jammed together like people on the bus.  Traveling with livestock was not my idea of a comfortable journey.  But then, how else are people who don’t have cars supposed to carry their chickens across long distances? Read the rest of this entry »

This is actually something I wrote a year-and-a-half ago, but I think it’s still relevant today. I would also add the caveat that thinking only in terms of what one cannot do is not a healthy endeavor. It can be empowering to think about changes in privilege and perspective resulting from major life events. It can be even more empowering to see how many of those glass ceilings you can bust wide open.


A few years ago, I encountered Peggy McIntosh’s piece, “White Privilege:  Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.”  In it, she talks about race, racism, and privilege in a way that was unfamiliar and eye-opening for me.  She states that, “As a white person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, white privilege, which puts me at an advantage….White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools , and blank checks.”  She created a list of fifty privileges she had as a white person that people of color do not.  Her work inspired me to look at racism and my own privilege in new ways, and ask new and difficult questions of myself.  How do I contribute to racism?  How can I share or give up some of my privileges?  Am I unintentionally oppressing others in my everyday encounters?  I haven’t come up with concrete solutions on an institutional scale, but I hope that I have been able to change some of my everyday actions in a way that challenges white privilege.  I hope that, in the process, I’ve become a better ally, not just to people with a different skin color, but to people who are different from me in general.

I also have an invisible difference.  [Four] years ago, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.  Fibromyalgia is a Rheumatoid “syndrome,” or collection of symptoms.  Doctors don’t know what causes it, and diagnosing it can be difficult.  Its main symptoms are pain and fatigue.  Until the 1980’s, medical professionals did not even have a classification for Fibromyalgia.  Fibromyalgia primarily affects women; women with Fibromyalgia were discounted as being “hysterical” or prone to exaggeration.  Being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia drastically changed my life and led to a loss of privilege. I began to think of all the assumptions I’d held about people in wheelchairs, or the health classes I had dozed through in high school when they talked about chronic illnesses.

Disability status is something that can change, as race cannot.  It is also more easy to ignore, as many chronic illnesses are invisible.  In most cases, you cannot look at someone and see that he/she/ze has HIV, or Fibromyalgia, or Heart Disease.  At least in my case, when I was able-bodied I went through the world completely unaware of the ability privileges I held.  I have found that it’s often difficult to communicate with people who have never experienced disability before, either through their own ability level or a close relationship with a friend or loved one with a disability.  I find myself playing “educator” a lot, a role which can get tiring rather quickly, especially when you are already dealing with fatigue.

At the suggestion of a friend, I decided to write something modeled after Peggy McIntosh’s work.  In the following list, I write about “everyday” privileges I used to have as an able-bodied person.  I use the present tense, to make it more relevant and accessible for people who currently have able-bodied privilege.  Although I have co-morbid illnesses along with Fibromyalgia, I decided to focus on that illness in particular.  In addition, it should be noted that my experiences are not the same as every other “disabled” person, or even every other person with Fibromyalgia.  However, I do believe they share common elements, even if the specifics are not the same.  My hope is that people will find new insight into their own assumptions about their invisible knapsack of ability privilege, just as Peggy McIntosh helped me realize new things about white privilege.

  1. I can wear whatever clothes I want, without worrying that wearing them or putting them on might hurt my body in some way.
  2. I do not have to remember to take medication, or suffer the consequences of forgetting.
  3. I do not have to worry about the side effects of my medication.
  4. I have never had four doctor’s appointments in one week.
  5. I have “sick days” instead of sick months.
  6. I do not have to “out” myself as a disabled person, or worry that people will treat me differently because I am disabled.
  7. I am able to drive myself places when I want, without worrying that I’ll get too tired to drive myself back.
  8. I can go to school full time, if I wanted to.
  9. I can have a glass of wine or a bottle of beer if I wanted.
  10. No one has ever ended a budding friendship because they were afraid of my illnesses. Read the rest of this entry »

My Etsy Store

A fibro-friendly item from my Etsy store

I've been working on making fibro-friendly jewelry. I'd love it if you checked them out by clicking the image above, or going to

About Me

This blog is intended as a place for me to reflect on my own healing journey, in the hopes that others may also gain insight from my experiences. I've "borrowed" a line from Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken:

'Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.'

I think the most important thing for me now is that I feel empowered to be a force for positive change in my life. And that, my friends, has made all the difference.

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