I cannot believe how time flies. Another Sins show has come and gone. Yet, it still feels so fresh in my heart and in my memories. Sins Invalid is ALWAYS a transformative experience. As a crip and as an artist I know this is true not only for myself, but also for my fellow performers. I know the Sins experience is powerful and makes us stronger performers, stronger human beings. What we share backstage and behind the scenes of a show of this magnitude, I think, is what all artists dream about – – the energy of backstage nerves, the makeup sessions, the outfit changes, the whispering of our voices as some of us rehearse quietly, or the “Wow” or “Dam it’s real” when the house opens and the first sound of applause shakes us into the reality that we have to be out there doing our thing, sharing ourselves and our stories, our crip stories and our crip truths. When you’re a performer, the behind the scenes stuff is part of the magic of the whole experience. It becomes the dream, the “fifteen minutes of fame” every performer craves and dreams about -the theater experience, green room, catered food, cameras and interviews, your bio on the program, the sound of applause when the light fades and you get that feeling, that rush of inexplicable joy that replaces the nerves that previously devoured you. Then you go back and be nervous all over again as you change for your second piece and on and on until the last show. Yes, every performer dreams of such moments. But Sins Invalid goes beyond that dream. Sins Invalid nurtures and feeds the soul and the spirit of our artistic voices. It does this through a message of outspoken and unapologetic artistic story telling. The stories of our crip bodies, the behind the scenes of our crip lives and our crip experiences all comes onstage and flows magically year after year and show after show. No matter what the theme may be or who is performing, we always come together as family. We become crip family and crip love, crip solidarity, advocacy, the power of each other’s crip wisdom.
This year’s show, Birthing, Dying, Becoming Crip Wisdom was everything it promised to be. It was the power of our ancestors and the voices of our crip lives, all beautifully expressed through all genres of art…art that spoke about our bodies and our existence as crips….art that talked about survival and magic – the magic it takes to survive the ablelism forced upon our lives. This year’s show was intense and emotional. Every performer left it all onstage, made audiences gasp with love, gasp with pain, gasp with the realization that they could see themselves and their lives in our stories. It brought the audience face to face with their own humanity because witnessing our crip humanity, our ways of living and our ways of dying also reminded them that NOBODY is immune to disability or aging, and as crips we’ve already been there. Our crip wisdom is something everybody, crips and noncrips, can learn from. Our crip wisdom was collectively genius thanks to the brilliance of Sins Invalid Director, Patricia Berne. As an artist herself, her vision of what to bring to the show is, I think, art fueled by social justice and social justice fueled by art. Sins Invalid embodies what disability social justice is about. Sins Invalid is more than a show, it’s a crip movement of collective liberation. It is a model of disability empowerment through which performers like myself can bring life to our artistic dreams while creating social change and putting a dent in the politics of disabled sexuality. Outside of the big show which is now a guaranteed sell out, Sins Invalid is an ongoing project of disability social justice. It offers workshops that address crip sexuality, race and gender, social justice and more. It also travels internationally showing their film “Sins Invalid -An Unshamed Claim to Beauty” along with a live performance by a Sins Invalid performer. Yes, Sins Invalid is busy changing the world for the better and empowering crips to recognize and embrace their own sensuality and their own crip wisdom.
As for me, I am savoring the memory of my “fifteen minutes of fame” but I say this in playful mode because being part of Sins is something that, for me, will last a lifetime. Below is one of the pieces I performed for this year’s show. It is always an honor to be part of Sins Invalid.
Midlife Crip Reflections
Maria R. Palacios
Do you fear getting old?
Many of us do
and I include myself knowing
that once upon a younger moon
I couldn’t have imagined
being where I am
or who I have become
even though being young was so painful
and so hard.
I don’t think at twenty-one
I would have had what it takes to understand
Shit…I’m not even sure
I understand it now
because aging as a crip,
sometimes, feels like my body is aging faster
almost with a vengeance
as if claiming revenge
for all the years of forcing my arms
to also be legs and pushing my body
until it ran out of gas,
and even then forced it to keep going.
Yeah, I know we all do that at some point,
but for us crips whose right to own our bodies
is something we had to fight for even in our youth,
aging can trigger familiar fears
along with the unknown.
And I admit I used to not want to think
about getting older,
but can’t avoid to feel it now
that the polio winters get colder
and tend to last a little longer each time.
Life seems to happen
in the blink of an eye .
One day I woke up
with fifty years in my pocket
and suddenly realized
that it’s up to us
to reclaim the youthful aspects of ourselves
because just like sexy,
age is also mainly
a state of mind.
Therefore I don’t mind
the ongoing changes of the body,
but part of me still harbors doubt.
I know some would call me a hypocrite
for claiming to love myself fully
while admitting fear of getting old,
but truth be told,
I am less afraid of the physical change
than I am of the bigotry that comes with it.
To me aging does not equal loss of beauty
and now I understand that
I had been beautiful at every stage of my life.
I think that as I get older,
I become bolder with my truths
refusing to abide by rules
of what I should be at any age,
refusing to not be me when I turn the page
to the next chapter of my life.
That’s why despite any challenges I may face,
I imagine myself sexy as fuck
in my sixties and beyond
and if I could turn around and go back,
I wouldn’t change a damn thing.
I think the lessons of my youth
are fermenting nicely
into this version of me.
I, like a good wine,
can only get better