In his most recent novel Born Weird, Andrew Kaufman writes about blursings. He defined his newly created word in an article in the Guardian: ‘When an event, gift, or circumstance presents qualities and consequences that are simultaneously positive and negative: Jenny was made partner but it was a blursing because her hours were so long that her husband left her.’ I could write about my cerebral palsy itself being a blursing, but the most pertinent example of a blursing I have in my life at this moment is my fear of using escalators.
I moved to London this past October and I often struggle with getting around because many tube stations are inaccessible: they only have escalators, not lifts and stairs. The escalators are extremely steep and the stations are often very crowded, so one cannot hesitate when getting on to an escalator (in either direction) because it’s rude and it disrupts other people’s journeys. I can manage the escalator fine when I am going up, but not down. When I first moved to London, I asked people for help with the downward escalators because I could not manage them on my own. Now I completely avoid them. I take the stairs whenever I can and, if a tube station is inaccessible, I walk to another station, get on a bus, or get in a taxi. I find I am embarrassed about asking for help and I am also afraid that if I actually fall while someone is supporting me on the escalator, I will bring him or her down with me and hurt him or her. I grow jealous and cantankerous when I see other commuters running down the escalators with ease. I think, ‘Why can’t I do that?’ I can’t do it because I am too afraid of falling. The problem is that I will never develop the balance, coordination, and strength required to get on the escalator alone if I don’t try (and probably fall).
The blessing that accompanies this fear is that it keeps me safe from falling and injuring myself. The curse element of my unwillingness to overcome my fear is that it will always remain a fear and a problem. I will never be able to get on an escalator safely if I don’t take the risk. As I write this, I realize that getting on the escalator and practicing the movement will help me develop my moving balance, and ultimately having moving balance will make me safer, stronger, and more capable in the world than I presently am.
Kaufman writes that you cannot divide the blursing into blessing and curse because you cannot escape the curse to receive the blessing. If I get on an escalator unassisted tonight, I will trip, fall, and probably severely injure myself, giving me more to overcome than my present mobility struggles. One of the pilates teachers I work with recently told me about a completely able-bodied woman she knows who fell on the escalator in the tube station and broke her foot. Anyone who gets on the escalator in the tube station is at risk of injury, not just those with impairments and other movement conditions. This news makes me disinclined to take the risk, while simultaneously knowing that I will never be fully healed if I don’t. Moving balance is still my biggest problem out in the world, my biggest challenge in everyday life. I will only overcome it if I risk falling down, but I won’t take the risk.
This paradoxical challenge is a blursing.