Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Who Are You? Do We Know Each Other?

I sat in my chair this morning and greeted it (silently), looking for our usual familiarity. But it was just going to be one of *those* days: the days where your chair, no matter how long you've had it, is simply alien. Yesterday, we floated over the sidewalk, zoomed through the world. Today, the chair is heavy, with no grace, no sense of integration coming back at me. Yesterday, the wheels slipped into my hands as if my hands had always had wheels. Today, my hands groped around slipping off the wheel, grasping for grip. Yesterday, there was responsiveness; today, there is weight. And so on.

What happened? These things happen every couple of months or so. The sensation usually wears off by the end of the day. But I always wonder whether or not that feeling of alienation heralds a change in my body -- did something get worse overnight? Better? Am I stronger? Weaker? Rested?

When change occurs, I usually worry about my body and my future, but I am beginning to wonder whether I shouldn't begin to worry also about my chair. Clearly, sometimes, a lack of responsiveness can be due to, say, flat-ish tyres or to, say, the kinds of things that get taken care of (or are supposed to be taken care of) invisibly in that tune-up no one every schedules. On top of that, I do with my chair things that designers don't usually think of as being regular parts of a chair's life. On stage and in photos/video, it all looks nice, but you can't see the effects of torque, speed, and other kinds of junk. All chairs have weak points, and dance -- just as it does a fleshly body -- discovers and rides right on through them.

I enjoy the implications of these fears: that my chair is alive, a body as vulnerable to change as my first body. We will have to settle on some things together and work together. I might be the wheelchair user, but it is becoming permanently apparent that my chair is not a secondary partner in our daily life.


  1. Anonymous11:14 PM

    Thanks for posting on this. I am not a wheelchair user, but as my body shifts, I am sometimes not sure what is me and what is the floor or other elements of the environment--what is me and what is outside me. I appreciate you sharing the relationship you have with your chair and how that shifts.
    Between head sensations and numbness which comes and goes and I can't always tell when it's there or not, I cannot trust myself or my world around me like I used to sometimes. and although it's probably different somehow--I relate to the worry--the is it better or worse or just different. It's strange not to tell if it's better or worse.
    Reading your post I'm wondering if there's been a play or something where someone's wheelchair is a personified character, maybe played by a person?

  2. You know, WCD, I've never even thought of scheduling a tune up for my chair, but as it is now integral to life and must be taken care of as we take care of ourselves, that makes complete sense.

    I do hope your chair gives you many years of dance. Have you ever thought of contacting the engineers at Ti-lite and discussing what you do with the chair? They might be surprised, but they also might be able to make a suggestion or two...Just an idea...

    Happy Dancing!