Redefining Disability Challenge – Question 24

Each Wednesday, I post my response to a question from the Redefining Disability Challenge. This is my response to the twenty fourth question in the Challenge. As usual, I am not looking ahead to future questions, so I may inadvertently address some topics which will come up later in the Challenge.

Here is this week’s question:

If you could “cure” the disabilities that affect your life, would you? Why or why not?

It’s fitting this is the question for this week, because the Ms. Wheelchair America Pageant is happening right now. Women from 25 states are gathered in Des Moines, Iowa for a week of education and networking. At the end of the week, one will be crowned Ms. Wheelchair America 2016. Although only one will leave with the crown, all are accomplished women who will leave with a new network of “sisters on wheels.”

You may be wondering how Ms. Wheelchair America (MWA) relates to this post. Let me explain.

I participated in MWA when I served as Ms. Wheelchair New York 2001. I came as close as I could to being crowned national titleholder without actually being crowned. I was First Runner Up, which is an incredible and humbling honor. First Runner Up is not losing. Being First Runner Up means the judges thought I could do the job, but they made someone else actually do it. Not a bad gig!

The year I was a titleholder at MWA was the last year the pageant organizers gave contestants a choice of platform speech topics. We were asked to prepare a three minute speech in response to one of two questions:

If there were a ‘magic pill’ which would make you able-bodied, would you take it? Why or why not?

If your life were a country-western song, what would the song title be and what would the song say?

I did not like either question. The first question was a trick question with no possible “correct” answer. If you said you would take the pill, others would think you were not “adjusted” to disability or happy with your life. If you said you would not take the pill, people would question why you wouldn’t want to make your life “easier.” I did not think I could give a satisfactory answer to this question, particularly not at MWA where we spent a week celebrating our unique value as women with disabilities. Besides, how could I “cure” something I didn’t feel a need to “fix?”

I didn’t think I could answer the second question either. I don’t particularly like most country songs. Like many “Yankees” I think of country-western music as depressing. It’s about losing out on love, and cryin’ in yer beer on yer way to Alabama to visit yer mama in prison.

But, I’m a musician. So, in June 2001 I forced myself to listen to the country station while I was driving to my niece’s graduation party. I made it through three songs. They were all sad, and spoke of losing out on love, and everything going wrong.

I turned to my sister Caroline, who was riding in the passenger seat, and said, “My life’s too good to be a country song!”

“That’s it! That’s the song,” she screamed. “Quick – let me write it down so you don’t forget it!”

When I got to my parents’ house later that night, I sat at the piano and this is the song I wrote; the song I sang for my speech at MWA as a state titleholder.

My Life’s Too Good To Be A Country Song (music and lyrics by Denise DiNoto)

Drivin’ in my car

I hear another country tune

Some woman who is down and out

She don’t know what to do

She sings about her sorrow

And anguish drips from every note

I turn her off and shake my head

Thankful her story’s not like mine

My life’s been goin’ much too fine

See my life’s too good to be a country song

I’m much too happy for that

I’ve got a job I like, a car that runs

And friends who love me back

I may be sittin’ in my chair but you won’t catch me feelin’ low

See my life’s too good to be a country song

At least the songs I know

I hear those words of pity

Some people say from time to time

But I’m not sorry for myself

I’ve got no time to cry

I have dreams and ambitions

I plan to make them all come true

‘Cause I believe in workin’ hard

I know I’m able to

Just watch what I can do

See my life’s too good to be a country song

I’m much too happy for that

I’ve got a job I like, a car that runs

And friends who love me back

I may be sittin’ in my chair, but you won’t catch me feelin’ low

See my life’s too good to be a country song

At least the songs I know

Yes, my life’s too good to be a country song

At least the songs I know

 

**Good luck and congratulations to all of the woman gathered this year for Ms. Wheelchair America. I am proud of each and every one of you for speaking out, and making a difference. Enjoy this week and cherish the friendships you make. It doesn’t matter who takes the crown home. You are all winners in your own right.

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13 thoughts on “Redefining Disability Challenge – Question 24

  1. *amused sigh* I know “Rebels” who dislike country. I love it, and I’m from the North. And a lot of modern country is different from the things you’re describing. Here’s a cover version of my life in a country song. Original singer is weird about letting his stuff on Youtube.

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    • I actually like some country music. And I have been told by many that I have a good “country voice” when I sing. But, it’s rarely my “go-to” music. And 14 years ago when I wrote my song, I never listened to country. I know plenty of northerners who do 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks! This song was a gift which came out in about 40 minutes. I’ve never had such an experience while trying to write a song since. The song took me many places for several years, and I was blessed to sing it with an amazing band on the stage of the Ronald Reagan Trade Center in Washington, DC. I would love to record it someday just to have it, even though my singing voice is shot since my surgery in 2013.

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  2. Give that “magic pill” question to moms of kids with special needs. I have two sons on the autism spectrum. My answer is heck yeah! In a hot second! Gimme that thing! It’s not that I am not accepting of their differences. It’s that it breaks Mama’s heart to see how hard it is for them to make friends. I know they get lonely and I can’t fix it. Yeah, give me the Cure!

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    • I can understand why a parent would not want to watch their child struggle with disabilities as they are growing. I suspect my parents would have wanted to take away my challenges as well when I was younger. They may still want to, but I know they worry much less about me now than they used to. The last time I was home, I had a conversation with my father and he said, “I don’t worry about how you will cope or if you will be alright anymore. I used to wonder if you might not live to be a healthy adult, and we didn’t know what would happen when you were little. But I don’t worry about you anymore.”

      It takes time for both individuals with disabilities and their family members to come to an understanding of what disability means in their lives. That is one of the reason I speak about the social model of disability, instead of the medical model.

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  3. Oh what a fun time that was. The trip to PA for the graduation, as well as being the scribe for some of your thoughts. The trip to DC wasn’t too bad either(except maybe the snow!:) I know you have a copy of that somewhere. You, writing this song, and how you tackle a challenge, speaks about your personality. Most people would have just picked a song already sung by a country music star. But you, you embraced the challenge to make up a new one, and perform it as well. I know you are thinking about all the ladies at the pageant this year. It is an amazing event and every one attending will leave with an uplifted spirit.

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    • That was a fun time, wasn’t it?! This song has taken me – both of us – many places. I do miss being at the pageant this week, but I know the women there are having a great time.

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  4. Thanks for sharing! Great insight in this post. A lot of people out there probably wouldn’t have the cringe-worthy response to the question about the magic pill, but I’m glad you did and decided to talk about it. The underlying message of the question is based on assumption as well as a lack of understanding for how to talk about ability and disability. Thanks for making me think today 🙂

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    • Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts! I understand why people would choose to take such a “magic pill.” And I would never criticize their choice. I just know it would not be the right choice for me. Besides, if I were to lose my disability, I’d lose the “perks” that come with it!

      Liked by 1 person

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