September 29, 2020 § 4 Comments
By Adam Hubrig
Under a thin cotton sheet, my face is illuminated by the dull glow of my smartphone. It’s 11:57 pm on a Thursday night during a global pandemic. I can see another midnight writing deadline come and go unfinished and I feel trapped in a cycle of doomscrolling on Twitter. Yet another day has passed and I’ve nothing to show for it.
I don’t know if I’m comforted or depressed to know I’m not alone: My email inbox is saturated with a particular genre of email I’m calling the “sorry, I’m exhausted” message. This genre, largely from my beloved circle of disabled friends, expresses guilt that they have been unable to write, that we often do not submit writing to our online group when we had planned. Even amidst a global pandemic and an economic crash that has unequally harmed disabled people and particularly multiply marginalized disabled people, we feel guilty for not writing.
Like my disabled friends, I want to write. I sorely want to write.
But I’m overwhelmed by uncertainty, which was already staggering before the pandemic. Already precarious access to mental health resources has been further strained. Like many disabled people, I am being asked to put off medical procedures because of the demand on medical resources caused by Covid.
It’s clear–in this time of upheaval–I simply cannot produce at the same rate. Of course, our worth has nothing to do with what or how much we produce. As Shayda Kafai reminds us, “productivity is how our capitalist-ableist culture regulates us, makes us feel less than.” Still, as disabled writers, it’s so easy to feel guilt for not responding to every opportunity, for taking a day off (or weeks or however long you need) from writing without feeling guilty. I know my own feelings of guilt are often manifestations of internalized ableism.
In my own efforts to combat this ableism, I keep trying to remind myself that pandemic time is crip time.
Understanding crip time has been extraordinarily helpful to me in my own efforts to be kinder to myself and my writing habits. Alison Kafer describes in her book Feminist, Queer, Crip as an interruption of the paradigm of time. Crip time resists the notion that time is experienced that same way by different people, that the timeline of how long any given task takes cannot be standard because our bodyminds are not standard. Instead of forcing a bodymind to be “productive” by ableist, normative frameworks, crip time is a reminder that there are no universal standard timelines. And during a pandemic, we are constantly reminded that nothing is standard. Tasks like procuring groceries become logistical nightmares (or even more so, for many disabled folks), and social lives evaporate. Pandemic time is crip time.
But even understanding that we need to prioritize the needs of our bodyminds, it remains true that others will not understand. In her essay “Six Ways of Looking at Crip Time,” Ellen Samuels describes her own complicated relationship to crip time. Samuels describes how the disabled needs expressed through crip time are often not accepted by employers or publishers, how the arithmetic of working lives is often cruelly uninterested in our own needs. This seems amplified by calls to work remotely–or worse, the employers who seem indifferent to the pandemic and are forcing their workers to risk their health and safety to keep the coffers full.
And I get that–for many of us–we want to write more out of a love of writing. Writing can bring joy in itself, and we feel a sense of loss when we can’t. Those feelings are valid, too. Crip time–and disability pride for that matter–doesn’t mean you have to be happy about that loss. Leah Lakshmi Piepza-Samarasinha writes about caring for disabled bodyminds “that for most people, the words “care” and “pleasure” can’t even be in the same sentence. We’re all soaking in ableism’s hatred of bodies that have needs.” Despite the pervasive ableism, Piepzna-Samarasina insists that our needs should be present in the room without guilt.
The capitalistic push towards productivity asks us to ignore the very fact of our bodymind. As Christina Cedillo reminds us through her experiences as a disabled woman of color, this erasure of bodies “fosters institutional oppression.” As disabled writers, sometimes crip time means we can’t write or we need to turn out attention to other tasks tied to care that are more pressing in that moment. The number of pages we write and the time it takes to write them doesn’t dictate our “value” as a writer, and we are always more than what we produce.
Adam Hubrig is a multiply disabled caretaker of cats. His writing has appeared in Typehouse Magazine and The Lincoln Underground. He currently resides in Huntsville, Texas, where he is an Assistant Professor of English at Sam Houston State University.
In conjunction with Brevity’s “Experiences of Disability” issue, I purposefully center disabled writing experiences here.
This Blog essay is part of our September 2020 special focus on Experiences of Disability. Read our guest-edited special issue of the magazine for more.