It’s Okay Not to Be Okay

In Nancy Mairs’ “On Being A Cripple”, Mairs writes of her past, present, and potential future experiences of living with Multiple Scleriosis, an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its central nervous system. From the very beginning of the piece, the reader is immediately introduced to Mairs’ true feelings towards living with Multiple Sclerosis. Mairs frames “On Being a Cripple” as a memoir, a way of looking back on her experiences before and after Multiple Sclerosis. The “situation” Mairs describes is that journey; yet, she doesn’t necessarily write her journey in chronological order. Instead, Mairs chooses to organize her essay in a way that allows the reader to feel “gradually let in” to her life. For example, rather than begin the essay with introducing herself and her disease, Mairs instead begins with a humorous anecdote. Mairs writes of a time she fell back onto the toilet seat due to an inability to be in full control of her movements. In turn, the story, or deeper meaning, becomes apparent to the reader. Mairs makes clear from the beginning that she has not and will not allow Multiple Sclerosis to define her. To illustrate her situation, Mairs alternates between informing the reader of certain experiences related to her Multiple Sclerosis (i.e. not being able to “fit in” with other parents, feeling as if she cannot be simply unhappy), and her present responses to those experiences. By doing so, Mairs implicated the overarching theme of the story she is trying to tell, that she has had to learn to come to terms with her condition as she moves through life. By remaining blunt and straightforward with the reader throughout her entire piece, Mairs allows readers to understand why the essay is constructed the way it is. It appears that Mairs intentionally framed “On Being A Cripple” to be a “back and forth”, so that the reader can properly understand the realities of living with a disability, that it is simply okay not to be fully okay.

Helen Atwan, “Remembering Nancy Mairs”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *