KosAbility is a community diary series posted at 5 PM ET every Sunday by volunteer diarists. This is a gathering place for people who are living with disabilities, who love someone with a disability, or who want to know more about the issues surrounding this topic. There are two parts to each diary. First, a volunteer diarist will offer their specific knowledge and insight about a topic they know intimately. Then, readers are invited to comment on what they've read and/or ask general questions about disabilities, share something they've learned, tell bad jokes, post photos, or rage about the unfairness of their situation. Our only rule is to be kind; trolls will be spayed or neutered.
In real life, I’m middle-aged, fat, disabled, and often in pain. But I have something wonderful: an imagination. My mother the librarian fostered it by making sure I learned early about the wonders of books. When I had trouble getting to sleep at night, she told me to tell myself a story (I still do this!). As a teenager, I felt sorry for the rich kids down the street who wanted me for a babysitter because I didn’t need a book to spin a tale of wonder (featuring superheroes who looked surprisingly like the little boys sitting at my feet).
Stories became a career – journalism, where I spent a couple of mostly happy decades, and now technical writing, where I turn software and procedures into narratives that non-tech people can understand. But as my body has become less able, my imagination has stepped up to fill the gap in helping me stay sane and in touch with my true self.
In my mind, I’m brave and strong, the kind of woman who WOULD throw an axe at a dragon if it needed to be done. That particular scenario came from a recent gathering of friends to play Dungeons and Dragons (yes, people still play it, lots of them, and it’s fun). I also slay the minions of evil on a regular basis in the online game World of Warcraft, as a member of the DKos-related guild Wreck List, which contains some excellent and fun people, far above average in intelligence and kindness.
Games of fantasy and adventure have been around for centuries – what is chess, after all, but a stylized medieval battle? In a game, I can reconnect with some of the things that living with a disability takes away – power, beauty, strength – and with some of the qualities that can help me in “real” life – courage, empathy, strategy.
Best of all, I get to do this with other people who are on their own journeys of various kinds. It takes a team to kill a dragon, and games bring me together with smart people who share a desire for a challenge and an imaginative approach to their free time.
One cannot live in a fantasy world all the time, and I would not want to if I could. But living with a disability often means living with limits. Not only does gaming help me get through my own limits – it also helps me see the heroes and heroines in my everyday life.
What works for you? What are your escapes, your sources of strength and connection as you deal with disability in your life?