I appreciated reading Cahn, Avery, and Mairs because the authors opened my eyes to the lived body experiences of people with disabilities. I do not have any close friends with disabilities and, thus far, have not had a disability myself. Therefore, I hadn’t thought about how their bodies impact their lived body experiences.
When I think of my own lived body, and reflect upon previous readings’ interpretations of the lived body experience, I see the body as something to accept and nurture because it is a tool for us through which to live our lives. My mind/body separation comes from an internalization of the female norm that leads to anger at my body for not shedding the fat cells that hug my abdomen.
However, Cahn, Avery, and Mairs all had a very different situation in that their bodies were often at odds with their minds and were standing in the way of their goals. The mind/body separation for these authors comes from an actual physical disconnect, rather than my superficial desire for an aesthetically pleasing body. Reading these essays, I couldn’t help but think about how hard it would be to feel that your mind and body were truly connected, and that you were living through your body, if it was constantly fatigued, like Cahn, or at war with itself, like Avery and Mairs. Autoimmune diseases, in particular, complicate the idea of a lived body experience. How can you truly live through your body if it is attacking itself?
I think that the authors of these essays struggled with this question as well. Cahn struggled with her own identity, wondering if CPS was a part of her or merely something she had to deal with. Avery struggled with identity as well and had trouble finding a label that she felt truly fit her. Sometimes her body was “too disabled” to pass as a person without a disability, sometimes not enough to claim she had a disability. Nancy Mairs felt shame discussing her bodily processes, as most women (and maybe people in general) do. And yet, all of these authors found sanctuary in writing. They could express their lived body experiences and saw their bodies as their own, even if they were working against them. I feel as though if we start making our world more accommodating for persons with disabilities by making wheelchair accessible ramps a commonplace, letting workers have sick leave without begrudging them, or by believing them when they say they are feeling ill, they would be able to have a more positive lived body experience because their disabilities would no longer stand in the way of their goals.