The Experience of Exclusion: Incorporeal Embodiment

I am a ghost, but have not died
I walk among the living unseen
Apart from the occasional, startled stare
Everyone else looks quickly away

I am a ghost, but have not died
I speak, though I’ve rarely been allowed a voice
It is easier to dismiss some body different from yours
More comfortable to cut me out of conversation than to answer me

I am a ghost, but have not died
My presence alone has sometimes invoked fear
In the mirror of my sightless eyes, you see your vulnerability reflected
And the truth about mortality, long rejected, haunts you

I am a ghost who has not died
The undead vampire taking resources from the able and the strong
A zombie who cannot belong, with whom you need not empathize
I shoulder shadows, bear the burdens outcast from the light

I am a ghost, though I have yet to die
Invisible to most, but not to some
My heartbeat the same in everyone
I long, I love, I ache, I cry

I am a ghost, a human born to die
And in that we aren’t much different, you and I

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11 thoughts on “The Experience of Exclusion: Incorporeal Embodiment

  1. This is so beautiful Eilis, sad but beautiful. I can only imagine what it must feel like to “be” but not be noticed. Lonely, frightening and sad I’m sure. I feel like I want to hug them all. Just wow.

    1. Thank you for such a beautiful and moving comment, Donna. I really appreciate your words. It certainly can get really, really lonely. I’m so fortunate to have friends and family who really do see me, though. Inclusion and equal consideration of everyone and their needs is probably going to take a long, long time. Usually I can remind myself when I run into situations where something is inaccessible or someone speaks over me like I’m not there that there are plenty of people who understand and respect me, and don’t see me as anything less than. Sometimes, like yesterday, I get discouraged, have enough of it, and wonder how hard it is going to be to make it in a world that is sometimes not a world I can fit in, literally. Sometimes I get homesick. And sometimes, I get angry or sad, when it effects me like that. You keep going. 🙂

  2. Oh Êilis, I sincerely hope you don’t actually feel like this! That it’s just artistic license. But it resonates so much with me, as I’m sure you know. Lots of love to you!

    1. I really did feel like this while writing it, Ali. It’s a feeling I have far too often. The world is not constructed with people with disabilities in mind and sometimes that fact is just in my face and I’m excluded. I wrote this yesterday after I’d tried registering for a web forum and found that I had to write the words in a picture and name the site’s banner color in order to join. My reaction was, okay obviously people who can’t see aren’t welcome here. That was a pretty minor incident of not being seen but as we both know and as I tried to show, prejudice and othering can be rather ubiquitous and range from ignorance to discrimination and fear. We place so much cultural value and judgment on bodies– their appearance, abilities, functions, limitations,– all relative to some undefinable but incideous concept of normal. It creates “us” and “them” privileging some and excluding or not even seeing others. Sadly that kind of division is ultimately what makes it hard for one group of people to see the humanity in another. I could probably write an article on this so will stop now. 🙂 What struck me yesterday was that in the middle of feeling rejected and unwanted because I didn’t have equal access to something, I flashed on something Ailbhe said last year, that when you no longer have a body, most people don’t think you exist and though the reasons are understandable, no one transcends the desire and need to be seen for who they are. When you have a disability and people talk about you in third person while you’re standing right there, in what way in that moment do you really exist? I realized sometimes there is little difference between Ailbhe’s experience and mine, beyond the circumstances and details of course. Ostracism and prejudice are forms of social separation. They render their targets invisible, just as death does for the living. We can’t change the fact that we die. But we can and have an obligation to build connection and create inclusion. Difference? Normal? These labels shouldn’t be given the power they now have, to change a person’s value, determine their worth and extent of social regard, and solidify status, who is “in” and who is “out.” Being a human, a human being, should be enough reason for our birthright of worth and belonging…as long as we’re confining the discussion to human animals, of course.

    1. Thanks, Helen! I’m trying to learn how to not have such things upset me so much and respond rather than react. That takes time, I am finding out. I’m not personally upset anymore. 🙂 But I still think exclusion is a huge social problem particularly when it comes to people with disabilities, that’s one reason I decided to share my experience.

      1. I think, sadly, that it’s something a lot of people don’t consider unless they are personally affected. Sharing your experience will spread the word, definitely. Humans make me sad, sometimes xx

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