Aries: “In a victory speech, I’d like to thank the opposition, because without their help I couldn’t have won.” - Jarod Kintz
Taurus: “You can’t win unless you try to win, but you can lose by trying not to lose.” - Jack Campbell
Gemini: “It’s probably my job to tell you life isn’t fair, but I figure you already know that. So instead, I’ll tell you that hope is precious, and you’re right not to give up.” - C.J. Redwine
Cancer: “But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?” - Mark Twain
Leo: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me” - Alice Roosevelt
Virgo: “What doesn’t kill us sharpens us. Hardens us. Schools us. You’re beating plowshares into swords, Vosch. You are remaking us. We are the clay, and you are Michelangelo. And we will be your masterpiece.”- Rick Yancy
Libra: “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt” - Kurt Vonnegut
Scorpio: “I want to scream sometimes, because I hate when people refer to a dead person as the “late” so and so. I’m sorry to break that bad news, but that person isn’t just late—they’re not even coming!” - Jarod Kintz
Sagittarius: “What hope is there?“ I asked. "If even angels fall, what hope is there for the rest of us?” - Richelle Mead
Capricorn: “Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that make those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both.” - Patrick Ness
Aquarius: “Anybody who says they are a good liar obviously is not, because any legitimately savvy liar would always insist they’re honest about everything.” - Chuck Klosterman
Pisces: “Tears shed are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of a pure heart.” - Jose N. Harris
People often say: “C.J. you have such a different look when Alyssia is around.” I always thought it was strange until I saw these two pictures. The top was taken earlier today just before we left for the airport after spending a week together. The bottom was taken a few minutes ago after coming back without her. This week we found out that my application for low-income accessible housing was denied by the Pittsburgh Housing Authority and the waiting lists have been indefinitely closed. Our future just got a bit more uncertain. The end to our long distance season is no longer in sight. The only thing that is for sure is how much we love each other.
1) Taking a cute couple picture. Awwweee 2) Some old guy walked really close to my sister and she made a face 3) CJ is concerned because I am actually crying from laughing so hard at my sister’s reaction
The Problem with Pain: My Struggle with Writing About Disability
Last week it was one of the rare and wonderful weeks where Alyssia and I get to be together. Unfortunately, I took one of the worst falls I have ever taken to date. It left me in a high amount of pain and bedridden for the entire week. It was unfortunate and rather disheartening. Alyssia is very concerned when it comes to me being in pain. She can’t stand it; and often it brings her to tears. I attempt to reassure her by letting her know that pain is just an inevitable part of my life. Pain is a common part of the experience within disability. I deal with a fair amount of physical pain in my life with Cerebral Palsy. I have to try to hide it from others. I find it tends to muddle perceptions of me. If I let people visibly see I am in pain I have experienced a loss of identity outside of being in pain. I stop being a friend or peer and become a focus of sympathy.
I experience this with the emotional pain as well the accompanies aspects of living with disability and the effects of ableism. Watching someone experience pain causes us discomfort; and this isn’t a negative thing. It is how we react to this discomfort that makes our discomfort with pain positive or negative. Pain is a biological reaction that points to something that is not working and needs to be addressed. I have intrinsically through merely living my life, developed a built in place of expertise. I begrudgingly accept this when talking about disability liberation There are many reasons why I write and choose to be open about pain I experience. Yes, I do it because it’s a bit cathartic. Yes, I write because it allows me space to show common threads between myself and others. I also write especially in regards to disability liberation, to give others voice that may not be able to communicate as easily as I can. In all honesty, my primary motivation in sharing my experiences and pain while living within the constraints of the label that is disability is to point towards these things that are broken (i.e, societal constructed mentalities, socioeconomic constructs). I have observed many people’s discomfort when speaking about matters of social justice (and I believe that disability liberation is a grossly overlooked social justice issue) but I have seen an unique manifestation when it comes to the realm of disability liberation. I do understand the nature of this discomfort. It is difficult and disorienting to view life as you know it from a different lens.
In the relatively short amount of time that I have devoted a portion of my life to speaking and writing about disability I have come to a few realizations about how able-bodied brothers and sisters react to what I have to say generally. Some try to encourage me to be more like a motivational speaker and tell me about some other crippled speaker that they have enthusiastically liked. This is rather common, often my words or life get reduced to a very shallow definition of inspiration. They see liberation from the body constraints as the only necessary aspect of disability liberation while the social and cultural constraints remain ignored. There is a preference to “people who don’t let their disability get in their way” type of messengers; those who only speak of the triumph of finding a way to live like everyone else in spite of disability In a sense, those who fall into this category are communicating that they only wish to be left feeling good about their way of life when in contrast, this way of life is one of crippled brothers and sisters biggest opponents to living in the simplest terms Some have sympathy and quickly rush to encourage me in order to shield me from the pain I experience, cheating themselves of the opportunity to sit with their discomfort; and ask the important question of why things are the way they are presently. I meet others who are open and willing to engage these new ideas and perspectives but feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped to do anything and as a result, quickly move on. Finally, there are the rare few that I encounter who hear my words or others who share a similar message, and can no longer remain idle. These brave ones decide to start talking about these issues, educate themselves further, and make the crucial choice to partner along side those of us pressed under the weight of the oppression that is ableism. I have seen this less than a handful of times; but this is what I truly aim for in my work.
I would like to end by saying I deeply love and appreciate when people take the time to read what I write or listen to me speak. If you feel a heartfelt desire to encourage me or give sympathy when I share the raw and vulnerable emotions I feel at times then please do so; I do value it and know it is from a place of good intentions. Just know that it is not what I seek and ultimately its impact is short-lived. If I am to be called an inspiration then I want it to be something earned. To be inspiring, it means I invoke actions towards change in others. If I am not doing that then I am a failure. I am just a nice distraction. Through hard work I may be able to overcome certain struggles I face personally, but change won’t happen for us all unless you, the able-bodied ,move and are idle no more. When the victory bells have rang out in the battles for equality in the past it has always been because those who don’t experience inequality’s sting decide to take on its sting in solidarity of those who don’t have a choice Remain uncomfortable my friends.
I went to an open casting call to audition for an upcoming TV pilot starring Stephen Baldwin (The Usual Suspects, BioDome) being filmed in my city of Rockford, IL, listed 11th most violent and 3rd most miserable city in America. pictured above is me with actor, Stephen Baldwin. You can support this project via kickstarter here and help my city become a community again
I have been having a recurring nightmare for the last five years. I have had this dream since I was 20; and it always plays out the same. It starts out with me having to go back and do over my senior year of high school for a reason that is unclear. At first everything seems to be normal and familiar. I get picked up by the same school bus; driven by the same kind-hearted bus driver. The same route is taken and I am dropped off at the back of the building. Upon entering is when the easy-going feeling flees and anxiousness takes its predestined throne somewhere in my subconscious. I realize that I have forgotten my class schedule. I have no idea where to go. I try to find the guidance office but it has seemed to disappear from the layout of the building. I am rushing around trying to find my way but the environment has changed and I don’t know where to go. The other students that fill the hallways all seem to know where to go, but I don’t. I usually wake up from this dream choking on tears. I have had this dream for years now and I am not quite sure what it all means but I think it has something to do with my father.
For my younger brother and I, our father left our lives when I was 13 and he was 9. My dad hadn’t shown up for a couple of months to take us for his regular bi-weekend visitations. So one weekend my mom became fed up either with having us every weekend or seeing her sons disappointed every two weeks, I am not sure. The sad part was that this wasn’t a fluke thing. My father would often disappear for months like this. He would always come back and give us an excuse and takes us to the video store and order a pizza. We would always forgive him; I am not quite sure why but in my mind I just thought that he wouldn’t do it again if he knew how much pain it caused my brother and I.
When we arrived at our dad’s apartment we saw that no one was there. He had moved, we peeked inside the windows and saw nothing but vacancy. The only sign that my father had ever lived there was a mailbox full of unopened mail. We climbed back into my mom’s car and I didn’t speak for the rest of the car ride. I struggled to not let my tears liberate themselves from my ducts. I wasn’t going to allow myself the freedom to cry over this, not anymore anyway. This was the commencing of my collapsing into myself.
A couple months later the phone rang on Father’s Day. My dad’s voice snuck into my eardrum via the receiver. He began to explain that he had left the state and moved to Florida to avoid jail time due to past due child support. He mentioned how deep my voice had gotten and soon said he had to go. It would be another five years before I would hear his voice. He called me called regularly for a couple weeks during my first year of college and then he disappeared again.
Every time I need to trim my beard I am reminded of what I lost because of the absence of my father. It’s another thing that my dad never helped me through on my journey into becoming a man. When I was 15, I was taught how to shave by an older kid in my youth group who dressed as a cowboy, while we were on a mission trip in Nashville, inside a bathroom of an abandoned church that was once a synagogue. Over the next few years I would experience blunder after embarrassing blunder due to my lack of the masculine knowledge of shaving and beard trimming. When I returned back from Nashville I told my mom I need to start shaving, so she bought me a cheap electric razor. I told her I wanted a manual one but she thought that an electric one would be easier. I only ended up using it for 2 weeks. The first time I used it I accidentally shaved off an entire sideburn without noticing and went out into to public. The second time, I didn’t know you were supposed to clean electric razors and ended up with greasy black marks on my face. After that, the electric razor went into the trash.
To this day, trimming my beard is still such a mystery. I have tried my best to teach myself by reading the directions of each and every beard-trimmer I have purchased. I have even gone to the lows of watching how-to videos on Youtube. I feel so lost and as I blindly try to feel out the proper way in which to guide the buzzing contraption around the contours of my face I, for the life of me, cannot figure out a way to make a straight line to bring an edge to my sideburns. Whenever I look in the mirror I see bits of my father. I see it mostly in the way my facial hair grows. When I have to look in the mirror to begin trimming I first have to forgive my father. I have to choose to let go of the wrongs I feel I’ve experienced in order to move forward, even within the simplest of tasks like trimming my beard.
One of the biggest struggles in my life has been, having at times, to be a parent to myself. The times that I encounter loss and lack of direction I have a choice before me. I can either wither in pity, allow myself to be excused from the problems I face, or seek out help and face responsibility. I understand the hardship of walking with physical struggle. In my life I have come to realize that hearts full of excuses are a much heavier burden to carry than weak legs. So that is why some months ago when I received a phone call from my stepsister asking if I’d be willing to meet her and my father in a few days when they were coming into town I had no choice but to say yes. I thought about the potential of me being a father one day and one of my children asking about the grandfather that I didn’t want to tell them that I had a chance to talk with him when I was in my 20s but I didn’t take it because of my own emotional baggage. I don’t want my potential future children or anyone for that matter to say that they learned that emotional pain is something they can find comfort to hide in by watching my life.
The day that I saw my father, for the first time in 13 years, I was already emotionally drained before our reunion even started. It happened to land on the same day of my great uncle’s wake. On top of that, a few weeks prior, I found out my beloved dog Katie Sue had terminal bone cancer and when I went to go visit her, after the wake, I saw her slow descent had picked up pace. I knew she would be leaving me soon. It didn’t seem fair that on a day where I had to say goodbye and greet new heartache, I also had to reacquaint myself with old heartache. Our stepsister picked up my little brother and I and took us to see our father. It seemed a little too much like déjà vu on the way. The two of us sitting in the backseat not really sure who would be at the end of our car ride; Not unlike the car ride that we shared nearly 13 years earlier.
At the end of our car ride the one who we share common genes greeted us at the door. Although his hair turned silver, it seemed he had been locked away in some sort of time capsule but I still recognized those follicles on his face, the same ones I see when I look in the mirror. I hugged him, and buried my face in his denim shirt that had the familiar smell of Marlboro Reds. There was a part of me deep inside that had been shut away for quite some time, where that embrace felt so good. As uncomfortable as it was, that part of me, that abandoned son, needed that hug.
It would’ve been wise to not have expectations coming in to this awkward reunion. I couldn’t help but have them. There were things I felt needed to happen during this meeting to have closure in my life. I wanted a heart-to-heart, I wanted an apology, I wanted remorse and honesty from my father. I didn’t get any of those things. What I got was small talk, the same cheap beer, in the same tobacco smoke that I got before. My dad got what he wanted, he spoke of the fact that now he could die happy. My brother and I saw him again the next day and then said goodbye before he headed back to Florida. My father has called me once or twice since then. I don’t really have much to say and I don’t know if I ever will. There are things I am sure of however. I am sure that I am capable in the manhood I know. I am sure that fear and insecurity do not dictate my direction. Most of all, the two things I’m most sure of are: One is that I am at peace with forgiving my father and myself for our inadequacies as men. And two, that there will never be any thing, or any battle, my children will ever have to face without their father. For being a father is to know how to artfully and fearlessly live forgiveness
As a speaker and a writer I am in the arts industry. I love making art and being creative. There is something I truly hate though: having to promote myself. It is the worst. It is not something that comes naturally to me. Pushing myself onto people or asking people to support projects causes utter anxiety.
I don’t like the idea of convincing people to like me. Because when you promote yourself that is essentially what you are doing. When people ask me why they should read my upcoming book, The Zen of Beard Trimming: Stories of Punk Rock, Poverty, and the Search For Peace; I never know what to say. I hope people will read it because they find my memoir interesting and worth reading. My hope for people when they read my book is that they will like it, that they will think that it was a book worth writing. I know for me, there have been books that I have read at the right time in my life that have been just what I needed at the time. Books like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Prophet, Walden, Of Mice and Men have stuck with me. They have become my favorites. They were books that allowed me to face myself and look at the world differently. Although I don’t think my book is on the same level as these classics I still hope that my book will be one of your favorites.
So to make that happen I have to get my book into as many hands as possible. I have to push this kickstarter, There is this thing within me that can’t allow 7 years of work to just flounder because I don’t want people to think I am full of myself. So I have to promote myself. I hate it but it’s reality. It is so much better when people promote you so you don’t have to. The other night I was out to dinner with a friend. We were standing outside the restaurant when a young married couple struck up a conversation with us. They were pretty drunk and we wearing Misfits shirts so of course it was an interesting interaction.
“Did you guys know that you are talking to a famous author.” My friend Alicia says to the couple.“ I immediately began to blush and fight the urge to slink away. I answer the questions and give them a short pitch about my work over the last 7 years. The husband takes a long drag off of his cigarette and says:
"Dude that’s so fucking cool! Man, I have been trying to write a book for years. I want to read your book. Maybe I will finish my book finally.” Now this little interaction makes me think promoting this book is worth it. I want more of that. Right now the kickstarter is at a standstill for the last 3 days. We are stuck at just under $2300 backed. Even though we have enough funds to get 100 copies printed. The more backing we get, the more books we can get printed; backing the kickstarter is the only way to secure a copy You can back the kickstarter here
7 years has come down to this. It’s hard believe that it all started with this blog. The Zen of Beard Trimming: Stories of Punk Rock, Poverty, and the Search for Peace is about to be reality. My first book is all thanks to you guys. My story is nothing without all of you.
Don’t forget to leave a comment on the kickstarter page so I know who to thank. Also share it on facebook and twitter. You can send a tweet to kickstarter and get there attention. You wonderful people have always proven that #lovewillnotbedefeated.
A video of me reflecting on my experience being a part of Invisible Children’s 2013 Fourth Estate Leadership Summit. I had the honor of receiving The 2013 Action Award for my work as an activist locally as well as my 8-year journey in seeking a peaceful end to the violence perpetrated by Joseph Kony and The Lord’s Resistance Army.
We are in the car driving down Dixon, IL. We are discussing the stress of having a razor thin budget. We aren’t even sure if we will have enough gas to make it back to IL at the end of this. At this point, I I know that positivity is needed. I am guaranteed nothing in this life. So I just have to make this tour work. I have to get this book in as many hands as possible and try to build a career one worthwhile fan at a time.
We showed up a couple hours early. We are wondering around town. Trying to scope out a place with an accessible bathroom. I spot a coffeeshop that has some stairs leading to the front but I find an ADA compliant oasis once my friends carry my chair up the stairs. If you are curious on how they managed to make an accessible bathroom but not an accessible entrance; so am I. We decide to stop at pizza place to grab food before the show. The budget is so tight that it looks like we are on our own as far as food goes. My tour manager, Mike is coming on this tour as a favor last minute. I feel an obligation to cover his food. Mike and I scour the menu I am looking for cheap and vegetarian friendly food. They have 99 cent tacos and if he orders a couple we can split a plain calzone and be out less than $10. A few minutes later the waitress comes back and says that someone has left us $30 to cover our meal. It was beyond generous. We had done nothing deserve it. It was the little bit of positivity I have needed. This tour has been a stress I have found myself worried because the excitement has been lost over the last few weeks as it has been riddled with one new battle after the other. Now I am ready to do my set. I am ready to share my life through story with reckless abandon because my name is C.J. Campbell and I am a storyteller. Dixon is not going to know what hit them.
We arrive at the venue and we discover that the only entrance is several steep stairs. I am not going to let this drag me down. The only choice is to drag myself up the stairs. I made it. Mike carries the chair and Ashton Blake starts a sound check. We wait, we set up merch and we wait. It is getting close to show time and The Defeated Royals are not here. They are the local act. No is one is here….A few minutes later we hear that The Defeated Royals can’t make it. The show is cancelled. With all of the struggles I have had the last weeks I had people in my life tell me that I should just cancel this tour. I have considered it; but I have to try. I have to swing for the fences because I am not guaranteed that I will have another shot. How I got dinner today was exactly how everything in my career has happened. Kind and generous people have helped me to get by one day at a time. So tomorrow I am getting up and headed to Chicago. I am going to share my life with reckless abandon because my name is C.J. Campbell, and I am a storyteller.