“An ‘Outsider’ Writer” by Laury A. Egan
I became aware of Sandra Gail Lambert through a fine article in Poets & Writers about “Outsider” writers—in her case, a writer crippled by polio since her early days. Immediately, I ordered the book of memoirs, and as I began reading, I kept thinking that most readers would consider Lambert brave: for kayaking when she is disabled (in waters frequented by alligators) and for often living alone when she is wheelchair-bound and dealing with constant pain and fatigue. Yes, she is brave—as an author—to write honestly about her life, but I suspect Lambert would deny that she’s personally brave. Instead, her life is about conquering logistics, deciding how much physical strength she will have each day, how long her wheelchair battery will last, and how she will negotiate tricky terrain, all doing as much as possible by herself, without help. A number of times in the book she allows strangers to lend a hand, but if she is able to calculate ways to get from Point A to Point B and succeed alone, that’s her first choice.
As a semi-disabled woman and a writer, A Certain Loneliness made me aware of how strongly I felt about being independent, in part because there are times and places where no one will come to the rescue or others (including friends) will disappear and avoid a disabled person. Independence becomes a primary aspiration, because if you don’t develop and hone this trait, you’ll fail to live the fullest version of your life. I completely get this attitude and applaud Lambert for becoming expert at independence and for rejecting self pity. The latter is really hard because it’s so easy to compare one’s limited existence with those who never think twice about walking on uneven pavement, bumpy ground, or thick snow and sand, or to deal with the terrors of stairs; who never have to pace themselves and marshal their energy; who never have to deal with the deleterious effects of chronic pain. Each reader—particularly those who are disabled—will find valuable lessons in coping and adapting to adversity and loss in this book. Others will have their consciousness raised and, hopefully, will become more sensitized to the ongoing struggles of women and men who must live with impairments. All will admire Lambert’s deeply passionate writing about Florida’s birds and wildlife. She is also refreshingly open about her lesbianism, presenting it smoothly in mentions of ex-lovers and the community of women who surround her.
For me, I heard Lambert’s quiet message about giving myself permission to be tired, to not be ashamed that I can’t do as much as others or what I once was able to do. She teaches us to live to the maximum—to our individual maximum—on our terms, regardless of restrictions. A Certain Loneliness is an inspiring and uncompromising book, written with candor, directness, and humanity.
2018, University of Nebraska Press Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Certain-Loneliness-Memoir-American-Lives/dp/149620719X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1537545968&sr=8-1&keywords=a+certain+loneliness&dpID=41QBnuOj-BL&preST=_SY344_BO1,204,203,200_QL70_&dpSrc=srch