Naked or Vulnerable
It is a strange fact of having a disability that independence and privacy are two extremely relative terms. For one to have an independent life, one must be in control of who takes care of daily tasks which are usually considered private such as bathing, dressing and, in some cases, even more intimate tasks. But these physical activities, “private” though they may seem, are far from private compared to the thoughts, emotions, and desires that go on inside of one’s mind. It is these elements, not the dressing or showers which dictates our actions in life. These are the elements which, when shared, establishes intimacy.
People often assume that I have a much more intimate relationship with them then I actually do. Old assistants smell out new ones with the possessive skepticism of a German Shepard. The thought process is usually I’ve helped this woman with everything, who are you to walk in here and make her depend on you now? Of course, the new help didn’t make me dependent on anyone, I was always in need of physical help.
But this physical help does not give the person helping me permission to assume intimacy, or even worse, authority over my life. This is a lesson that I was suddenly forced to learn last winter when a friend I was dependent on suddenly insisted that I should take her moral advice as well as her physical aide. We live in a world where we assume seeing each other’s physical nakedness make us presume intimacy on every level. But service is no longer an act of servitude if it comes with any sort of expectation or desire for moral endowment.
Too often people go into service with the desire not to willingly serve, but to convert. It doesn’t matter if the service has religious, political, or even simple goodwill overtones, there is usually an agenda which is very well concealed, even from the servant. It can be as simple as waiting to appear to be a good person, but there is still an agenda. When this occurs servant hood becomes propaganda.
I have always been suspicious of the people who instantly want to help me whenever I walk into a room. The more enthusiastic they are about being a servant, the more skeptical I become. Maybe this is my own self righteousness speaking but after decades of living in constant dependency I have learned that the best servants are the ones which are least likely to realize they are serving at all.
As I get undressed in the evening, its hard not to talk about the days events. Such conversations are what lovers and partners discuss when they are getting ready for bed. But the person undressing me, my chosen assistant for the time, is not my spiritual advisor, my teacher, or my mother (except in the rare occurrences where that person is indeed my mother). The perceived intimacy between us is really no more than skin deep, proving that although I am naked, I do not have to be vulnerable.