Crip Time

“I live life in slow motion. The world I live in is one where my thoughts are as quick as anyone’s, my movements are weak and erratic, and my talk is slower than a snail in quicksand,” writes Australian author and activist Anne McDonald, reflecting on her perception of time. “I have cerebral palsy, I can’t walk or talk, I use an alphabet board, and I communicate at the rate of 450 words an hour compared to your 150 words in a minute—twenty times as slow. A slow world would be my heaven. I am forced to live in your world, a fast hard one. If slow rays flew from me I would be able to live in this world. I need to speed up, or you need to slow down.”

Participants in “Helping Dances” gather outdoors to enact loving interdependence, offering caring touch and affirmation to other people with disabilities. Credit: Mareva Minerbi

In this way McDonald explains the difference between her time and “normate” time (to use a term coined by disability scholar Rosemarie Garland Thomson, making “normal” a little more strange). Many disabled people will recognize this “crip time,” the traces of temporal shifting, in their own lives. There is the day we lie in bed, the time of pain blooming in our bones, the end of the street impossibly far for limping legs, the meeting and its noise assault set against the reassuring tick of the wall clock at home.

To many disabled writers, writing in crip time becomes a sanctuary. As Gloria Anzaldúa writes in Borderlands, “It is dark and damp and has been raining all day. i love days like this. as i lie in bed i am able to dive inward. perhaps today i will write from the deep core.” Diving inwards. Deep core. Sanctuary. A snail in quicksand.

These moments out of time, out of productive, forward-leaning, exciting time, can become moments of disability culture politics. As McDonald reminds us, these time experiences might be born out of pain and frustration, and these moments shouldn’t be romanticized.
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