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  • Erin Clark

Disabled Guide to Life


An Astronaut’s Guide to Life by Chris Hadfield was on the highest shelf of biographies at Chapters so I flagged a passing staff person to help me reach it.


“With pleasure!” He said, obviously enamoured with the book. “Is there anything else you’re looking for?” He asked.


“More space books, please.” I replied and he practically skipped through the store. “I’m working on this piece inspired by how the things people say about my accomplishments as a disabled woman are the same words and phrases used to describe astronauts,” I explained to clarify that I was looking more for space exploration than cosmology (though I do love to abuse a good physics metaphor).


He tilted his head with a little surprise, it wasn’t the intersection he was expecting. “What I love about Chris Hadfield is how he talks about the psychology of space exploration,” I said.


“Managing fear,” he said. “And problem solving!” he finished.


"Exactly.” I winked.


He asked if I had seen the movie ‘First Man’ about Neil Armstrong that was based on a book they had in store. “It really covered a lot of the training they go through and the sheer improbability of what they were trying to do. Thousands of things had to go right for the mission to be possible.” He said passionately. “ And they don’t just practice for things going right. They practice for all imaginable contingencies of things that could go wrong,” he said.


”And even with all that practice, there are unknowns, things they can’t prepare for, and they still catapult themselves into space.” I added.


We both buzzed with space fever. I told him of a tweet by a female Astronaut responding to the belief that women could not go into space because, how would they pee? Male astronauts wear diapers, she pointed out. Even in space exploration, when the nature of the entire thing is defying very real limits, some minds were still restricted by limits that weren’t so real. I follow two female astronauts who recently completed the first all female space walk. There are as many notable first in space as there are for the disability community.


“What about books on female astronauts?” I asked, and off he went, exploring.

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