"Embodied Composing in 'Crip Time': An Exploration"




[video of Caitlin sitting at kitchen table, working at laptop]

My composing process is forcibly embodied. Because I live my life with chronic illness and pain, I have to find ways to work around my body, around the pain I live with in order to create.

In disability studies, there is a notion of crip time. Alison Kafer writes that "crip time is flex time--not just expanded, but exploded."  Margaret Price writes that crip time is explained as the time for flexibility and the acknowledgement of unpredictability with regards to time.

The term crip time challenges time in a way that is recognizable to those with disabilities.

For me, sometimes, it seems like time moves just as it did before I became sick. At other times, it moves simultaneously fast and slow. Or just exceedingly fast when my fatigue takes over and I have to lay down. And excruciatingly slow when pain becomes to interfere with my consciousness and renders me unable to think about anything else.

[video of Caitlin sitting at kitchen table, working at laptop; video runs slowly, then speeds up]

It doesn't matter whether I have class in ten minutes or a paper due the next morning. I am not in charge of this time. It controls me.

My time started in 2010. I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis, a neuromuscular disorder that causes inflammation in the skin and muscles. This results in rashes--mine went away in the summer of 2011. And weakness, pain, and atrophy in the proximal muscle groups, specifically the deltoids and quads.

That pain still lingers.

I take somewhere between ten and fifteen pills per day, not including pain medications. Those are every six hours.

In 2011, I went back to school. I started teaching. I would help my students navigate all sorts of tricky terrains as they learned how to be in college. But I would not ask the same for myself. I did not ask for help. I had only learned how to be in school as an able-bodied student. So, what do I do now?

Now, my work is informed by my disabled, embodied identity, even if that identity doesn't relate to every project I do, because my work, no matter what it is, is continually shaped by that disabled identity because it comes from me, a disabled body.