Discussion Questions for Heather Lanier: Whole and Holy
1. Writer Heather Lanier grew up with a mom and a step-dad who subscribed to the belief that “your thoughts make things.” Did you believe similarly growing up? What did your family put its faith in?
2.Heather’s daughter Fiona was born outside the bell curve of “normal.” The message discerned from doctors and nurses was “This baby is wrong.” When have you or someone you’ve loved been made to feel bad for not fitting the mold? How are you reclaiming what’s right about y/our humanity?
3. There’s a long history of the medical establishment blaming mothers for their children’s “deficits.” Do you see evidence of this kind of magical thinking in your life and community? What do you think is the remedy?
4. Fiona was eventually diagnosed with a rare syndrome caused by the deletion of genetic material. It’s a process, Heather says, that actually happens to all of us. Meiosis has to be this messy to create human diversity. How does this celebration of diversity allow you to see disability differently?
5. Using the book of Genesis as her inspiration, Heather understands our work as learning to see every creature as good. What do you see differently through this divine lens? Describe or draw the scene.
6. “The problem is not the disabled body. The problem is the way normalcy is constructed to make a problem of the disabled body.” These words from a beautiful essay by Leonard J. Davis called Constructing Normalcy helped Heather acknowledge the limits of growth charts to measure a human life. Where do you need to be freed from the “supposed to’s” so you can celebrate the “can do’s” in your own life?
7. Eventually, Fiona learned to walk and talk, neither of which were guarantees. However, Heather is careful not to frame this reality as a victory narrative. Instead, she uses the phrase, “It happens to be…” as a way of holding her daughter’s progress lightly. How might you play with the phrase “It happens to be…” in your own story?
8. We want to give our kids mobility and communication, Heather admits, but how exactly they claim those tools for themselves is less important to her. What do you know about the space between infinite possibility and human agency that Heather and Kate want to live in?
9. “No one’s achieving amazing things here” isn’t just a great would-be bumper sticker. It’s also an acknowledgement of the spiritual truth that being awesome may not be the point. What do you need permission not to be awesome at today?
10. Kate’s closing hope is that everyone could feel the wholeness of what they’ve been given. “We are not inherently and cellularly a problem,” she says. Where are you feeling the hope of wholeness in your own body?
Bonus: After listening to this week’s podcast, what part of Kate and Heather’s conversation resonated with you most? What insight will you carry with you?
Discussion Questions written by author, editor, and facilitator Erin S. Lane.