Disability, Pollyanna, and Job, or How I Wake Up

Each day I wake and stretch my arms. The stretch is almost the first thing I accomplish. I do not take it for granted. I’ve too many friends whose disabilities prevent even this. And so I stretch and silently express my gratitude. I am not Pollyanna. Nor am I essentialist. I’m certainly not capable of writing like Eleanor Porter, whose narrative prosthesis subjected her dear girl to a disability a la God to Job, testing her famous character’s prominent optimism. As I’ve written many times: disability isn’t a test of identity or ethos. But it is a test of something, and you, as the cripple, get to be the examiner and supplicant. I do not like my blindness. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do like the bluejays. And I like my morning calisthenics. In this way, precisely, I’m like you, you non-disabled thing you, for I’m engaged in the pursuit of happiness. My pursuit may have a few more rules than yours. Or, obversely, I may know the rules you don’t.

I’m Pollyanna with a difference. It’s not my job to prove anything. If the world is filled with cruel men, women, and children, then let it be. Performative optimism gets you nowhere because in the real world, (every place that is not Beldingsville, Vermont) the locals will never see your optimism as fettshcrift largely because of what Carl Jung called “the shadow”. Unhappy people will take your cheer for odious tooting. Now, back to Job via Jung—or, why Job isn’t Pollyanna—Job’s suffering is so entirely and only in the sight of God (don’t forget, Job’s neighbors disappear early) that only God can reckon what human suffering means. In Jung’s view, God undergoes transference, and feels the soul of his creation, a thing so profound that it leads to the appearance of Jesus.

There has not been a Pollyanna Jesus. There have been many poster children. There continue to be unhappy people. Very few of them deserve their sufferings. Job is all of us. Which leads me back to gratitude. I stretch my arms. I’ve accomplished this. It is a small gratitude. It gives birth to others. It is a small thing I know. I live this way. It is a small thing I know.