Five Affirmations for Living HAPPILY with a Disability

Confidence is key to a happy and successful life.

This is true regardless of ability level. Perhaps even more true if you live with a disability, or any major difference, for that matter.

A disability certainly sets you apart from the crowd – and that’s a good thing! How absolutely boring would the world be if we were all the same. Sometimes though, a disability, a difference in movement, thought, speech, doing tasks, looks, can bring unwanted attention.

Much of my work in recent years has centered on helping people to affirm themselves in the face of going out in life and being “different.” Affirm? What does that mean? To build oneself from within, to recognize one’s strengths and offer the encouragement to bring them forth. Affirming gives our abilities the power to shine.

Affirmations are positive statements we feed our self-esteem that remind us of our strengths, positive qualities, and goodness. Affirmations are most effective when we say them repeatedly and frequently to ourselves and also out loud or on communication devices.

When we say affirmations frequently and regularly (aka daily), our confidence naturally builds. Similar to how a computer gets programmed, we program our minds to focus on the positive within ourselves. Centering your attention on the positive is so crucial when you have a disability because let’s face it, the hardship of having one, can weigh a great deal on our confidence.

Below I have listed five affirmations for living happily and successfully with a disability. Try them on for yourself. See how you feel after saying them several times. Then take the challenge below.

1. My disability allows me the freedom to be different.
2. I have so many strengths within me, such as _____________.
3. By being exactly who I am, there’s so much that I offer.
4. I love who I am, my body, and its uniqueness.
5. There is so much I am able to do and be when I focus on my strengths.

The Challenge
Come up with your own affirmation and share it in the comments below. Some simple rules to effective affirmations are to keep them short and in the present tense. If you use the future tense (I will…) you’re sending your brain a subtle message that you’re not yet what you want to be.

Updates
The Living Fully with Disability Campaign is going strong. Please check out the latest video update – Living Fully with Disability

So much is happening now at Radiant Abilities, a monthly newsletter will be launched in November, along with weekly blog posts!

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Tips for Finding Your Purpose

Every single person, regardless of ability level, has a purpose. In fact, your disability has a purpose in your life. I like to say there are no random occurrences in the world of disability.

As challenging as it may be at times, your disability plays a specific role in your overall purpose in your life. What I am learning in my own life is this role evolves over time.

I used to think I was living with cerebral palsy to teach people about differences. It’s become more specific over time. At this point in my life, I realize what I am teaching is about living life to the fullest when you deal with a significant adversity and finding joy in the journey.

I recently came across an easy five-step process in finding your purpose in Success magazine by Tom Corley. It resonated with me because when I talk to people about finding their purpose. I encourage people to focus on what makes them happy and what they’re interested in.

I’m tossing out a challenge to you to take this five-step process and then leave a comment below about what you discovered about yourself.

1. Make a list of everything you can remember that made you happy.
2. Highlight those items on your list that involve a skill and identify that skill.
3. Rank the top 10 highlighted items in order of joy they bring to you. Whatever makes you happiest of all gets 10 big points.
4. Now rank the top 10 highlighted items in term of their income potential. The most lucrative skill of all is worth 10 points.
5. Total the two rank columns. The highest score represents a potential main purpose in your life.

If you don’t come up with 10 items, don’t worry. Go with whatever you come up with.

LIVING FULLY WITH A DISABILITY CAMPAIGN UPDATE

We’re just over the halfway mark! We’ve hit $1295, thanks to several generous contributions. We so appreciate the people making it possible for people with disabilities and their families to have free personal empowerment videos!

There is a new twist to the perks. You may “donate” your perk to whoever you would like. Just let Kathy know by making a comment.

18 days to go! Please spread the word on social media and in your email networks. You can share the link below:

Living Fully with a Disability Campaign

Thanks so much for your support!

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Why Am I Doing This?

You all need more free stuff, don’t you?

No, I’m not talking about those chia pets we all bought in the 1980s (yes, I’m dating myself) or things collecting dust in the basement.

I am talking about content, information, guidance, and resources to offer tools, strategies, and inspiration for people to step more into their power, embrace their disability, and feel empowered to go out and live the life they want, pursuing dreams and even taking risks. Information like this:

Steps to Integrating Your Disability into Your Self Concept
Step 1: From the embracing process, begin to see your disability as a natural part of yourself.
Step 2: Love your disability, even when you hate it. Remember what we talked about in the embracing process, your disability is with you for the long haul and important teacher for you and everyone else.
Step 3: Focus on how your disability draws out STRENGTHS within yourself. For example, if your disability limits your physical activity, are you more capable in other areas like computer skills or social skills?
Step 4: Become more comfortable with being “different.” No one is completely alike anyway. The fact is your disability will always draw attention, people may be curious, and people may be afraid. It’s all okay. You may not be able to change how your body works or your mind processes, so why not proudly claim the difference that makes you uniquely you?

The above is from Embrace. Integrate. Radiate. LIVE. the first personal development video produced for my video series for people with disabilities. It will be release later this fall along with a free video on Define Yourself: How to Live More Fully with a Disability. Here’s an excerpt from that:

All of us have abilities. There is no one without any ability.
Begin defining yourself by what you can do, what you enjoy, and what interest you. This is how you transform negative perspectives on disabilities, which have been damaging, into a sense of self-acceptance for exactly who you are, the way you are. Develop a filter for others’ opinions of you. Remember, people’s misperceptions do not have to become your definitions of yourself.

Why am I doing this? Taking all this time to create videos and content for people?

After 17 wonderful years of counseling people with disabilities, I feel a strong calling to focus more on helping people live more fully and confidently with a disability and to pursue their dreams. To be honest, in my years of counseling I have seen a lot of heart break and broken spirits by the hardship of living with a disability and by being seen as “different.”

I want to take my message to a new level about uplifting people who feel devalued by their disability and that they have no choices. Life is just too short to let a disability get the best of you.

HOW YOU CAN HELP ME

Please go to the Fully Living With Disability campaign

With limited resources for this and my passion to get my message about living fully and happily with a disability, I have launched campaign to help raise the initial start up funds, mostly for the free content, for this new business.

People can join the Fully Living with Disability campaign at any dollar amount, although there are incentives for particular contributions.

I am also asking you to sharing the link with your network:

http://igg.me/at/FullyLivingWithDisability

I deeply appreciate you taking the time to consider this special request. It means a great deal to me. A heartfelt thank you.

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Going Indie! Join me!

Some of you may know this. Most of you don’t.

I have been quietly working on a major transition for Radiant Abilities. Later this fall, I will begin launching a series of personal and professional development videos. The videos will be targeted to three separate audiences:

People with disabilities
Family members of people with disabilities
Professionals in the disability field

The videos will offer tools, strategies, and inspiration for people to step more into their power, embrace their disability, and feel empowered to go out and live the life they want, pursuing dreams and even taking risks.

Speaking of taking risks…

I am beginning to believe that taking risks are just part of my DNA. This is a significant risk I am taking in my business. While I remain committed to the counseling clients I have, I am no longer taking referrals for new clients. I made this decision a few months ago so that I could have more time to devote to the video development and launch.

The risk I am taking is believing this is the next step in a career that has been dedicated to helping people to not only cope with a disability, but live fully and happily with it.

The other big risk I am taking is a financial one. The videos will all be professionally produced, no videos loaded from my phone. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I just wanted a polished look to the videos. I also now have a team of consultants who are helping me put this project together and letting people know about it.

With limited resources for this and my passion to get my message about living fully and happily with a disability, I am launching a crowd funding campaign to help raise the initial start up funds for this new business.

I am launching the Radiant Abilities – Living Fully with a Disability Campaign on Monday, September 15 on Indiegogo. People can join in at any dollar amount, although there are incentives for particular contributions. Here’s a sneak peek at the launch video for the Living Fully with a Disability Campaign:

http://vimeo.com/104422272

You’ll hear updates about the campaign in the weeks ahead. What I would love for you to do is share this video with just three people you know. I need many, many more people to know about me and what I am doing!

Thanks so much for reading and considering this project that is dear to my heart and soul.

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Radiantly Living Through Art

I was honored last week to speak at the opening reception for the 2014 Unique Art Exhibit. Unique is an annual magazine of visual and literary pieces by artists with disabilities. Unique is the creation of Arise, Inc, the independent living center in Syracuse, NY.

I have admired Unique since its inception in 2000 for the venue it creates for people with disabilities to bring forth their talents and gifts to the our community.

I was honored to be one of this year’s judges. What I was not prepared for, though, was being overwhelmed by the depth and range of the work.

I will never forget walking in the room where all the pieces are collected and stepping into a state of amazement by the breadth of the work.

The volume of moving visuals, along with the touching literary works, tells me we have a goldmine of artistic abilities in Central New York. Abilities that need to be given more opportunities to shine.

As a professional in the disability service field and as someone who has lived all my life with a disability, I see such a need to change our thinking from serving people with disabilities to helping them live fully by encouraging people to radiate their abilities.

Unique does this year after year.

Unique is so much more than art and fine prose. It’s about individuals reaching within and bringing forth strengths and abilities.

The very nature of doing so lends itself living life more deeply and with more meaning.

Some of these artists have produced their work from the painful process of living with a disability. This kind of alchemy is a reflection of living fully with a disability because the artists transform their struggles into gifts that are shared with the community.

When we do this, we tap into our abilities. Take a peek into Unique exhibit and for you locals, check out the exhibit in person at the Everson Museum through September 21.

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The Secret to Change

“The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but building the new.” -Socrates

How true this is! If you’ve been there, done that, why keep going back?

I’m a firm believer in the power of change to help us grow and feel more fully alive and engaged in life. We sometimes need the messiness and challenge to our comfort zone to help us find renewed and usually more purposeful meaning to our lives.

Change often forces us to dig deeper into our well of abilities and discover new skills and talents within. Even when change is unwelcome, this powerful transformation can occur and we become stronger because of it.

The Socrates quote probably especially resonated with me right now because I’m in the midst of making significant changes within my business, Radiant Abilities, LLC. While I still provide individual counseling, it’s on a limited basis these days.

This is to allow me time to “focus on the new.” A primary piece of the new is a series of videos which will be released oMver the next year. The videos, geared toward personal development, empowerment, family support, and professional development, will serve three separate audiences – people with disabilities, their family members, and professionals within the disability field.

The upcoming changes at Radiant Abilities highlighted in the July issue of Syracuse Woman Magazine. You can check out the article, featuring me as the WISE Business Center Entrepreneur.

I am so excited to begin compiling my twenty plus years of professional experience – and of course, my lifetime of living with a disability – into downloadable videos from my website. These videos are intended to help people problem solve and strategize their way to living more fully with a disability.

Topics will include Advocacy from Within, Healthy Sexuality and Relationships (professional version as well), Releasing the Myth of Disability (professional version as well), Empowering Your Child with a Healthy Sense of Self, Defining Oneself, and Taking Risks, to just name a few.

As current subscribers to Radiant Abilities, you’ll be offered a first look at the videos and a gratitude-filled, deep discount on the longer videos.

Know someone who would benefit from all this? Please be to share this post and encourage them to sign up! They’ll get a discount off of Firewalk: Embracing Different Abilities.

Don’t have your own copy yet or need another one? Contact me directly and I’ll give you an even bigger discount.

I’d love to hear your ideas and requests for training or personal development topics for the video, so leave a comment below.

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Are We Really Inspiring?

Or are we just living lives?

That is the question posed and challenged to you in a video that ended up in my inbox last week. The answer is articulated beautifully by comedian and disability activist, Stella Young in a recent TED talk. This nine minute talk may challenge the way you look at people with disabilities and this whole notion about whether we’re inspiring or not. And that is a very good thing!

Stella captured what I have been thinking about for years now. Are people with disabilities viewed as typically inspiring for simply living pretty ordinary lives? Is it somehow inspiring when we grocery shop, pay bills, or go to work? If so, why?

“Because we have been told a lie about disability,” Stella says. “The lie is that disability is a bad thing and to live with one is exceptional.”

I love that statement. It so ties into I give on Releasing the Myth of Disability, which essentially teaches people to develop an awareness of the false societal belief that disability is a horrible fate. Stella claims (rightly so) that many people have a tendency to look at people with disabilities and think, “No matter how bad it is for me, it could be worse.”

There is so much teaching to be done to flip this attitude around and let society know there is joy and peace in living with a disability. Sometimes this serenity comes from the very fact we are different, that we don’t easily “fit in,” and we’re just fine with that. There’s also a lot of education needed about how people with disabilities often just lead ordinary lives and there’s nothing exceptional about that.

As I had the idea for this post rolling around in my head and was taking my evening walk with my son, who is still in a stroller, a man stopped along the trail to say to me, “I see you walking him (my son) here quite a bit and I got to tell you how inspiring you are.”

I thanked the man. I was not necessarily offended because I could tell the compliment was from the heart. He even touched his heart as he spoke to me. My belief is that if I can touch people’s hearts, then that’s the doorway to changing beliefs and attitudes.

After I thanked the man, I said, “Well, I have to get my exercise in somehow.” What I thought was how I was just doing a very ordinary thing – exercise – because heart disease does not discriminate against disability….and that I love this life of mine with a disability and want to keep living it for another 45 years!

Enjoy Stella’s talk, I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much; it’s so worth the nine minutes. Take her up on the challenge to question what you think you know about disability.

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Why Maya Angelou’s Work and Life Speaks Volumes to People with Disabilities

Last Wednesday, I listened to a news segment about the life and death of literary genius and civil rights activist Maya Angelou with tears rolling down my cheeks. I was not surprised by this, despite her books still being on my “To Read” list. I have been familiar with her work for years, though, and she always caught my attention in the media and of course, at Presidential Inaugurations.

Maya always struck me as a woman that radiated beauty and grace. I strive to be like her. It was not until Wednesday, the day of her death, that I realized why she had always struck such a cord with me. Maya’s life story of rising above the abuse, trauma, and pain of her past speaks volumes to beautiful process of finding one’s own sense of empowerment and ability to tap into one’s gifts.

Despite all the abuse and instability in her childhood, she stayed true to herself and believed in herself, perhaps when no one else but her beloved brother did. She then took that belief in herself and her gifts and rose to greatness.

Maua’s story inspires us all to find the greatness within ourselves, despite how daunting it may seem at times. Living with a disability is about acknowledging the challenge, the hardship, and then saying to oneself, “How can I rise above this?”

In these moments, you may also want to check out Maya’s poem that embodies empowerment, And Still I Rise. The entire poem resonates with me as someone who has struggled at times against being judged and excluded for my disability. Here’s the two excerpts that speaks the most to me about rising above the challenges of a disability:

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

And….

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

May YOU rise and shine as gallantly as Maya.

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The Best Dating Advice

Don’t give him your number, he needs to have the “full effect” of you.

I was visiting a friend, describing my latest attempt to try the whole online dating thing, when she gave me this counterintuitive, wise advice. I had just been explaining to her my concern that many men would unfortunately hear my voice on the phone, which is accented by my cerebral palsy, form a judgment about it, and I would probably not hear from them again. Often times, this is the harsh reality in dating with an obvious disability.

I have come to learn through this quote, life (and dating) somehow get easier once we accept the difficulty of it all:

Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.
- M. Scott Peck

So I began to accept and embrace the fact that dating can be really hard and full of rejection. Please keep in mind this is true of people with ALL abilities. Once I did this, I could then problem solve.

I knew exactly what my friend meant by having a guy meet me and getting the full effect of me. He had to see how comfortable I was in my own body and with my disability. My friends often said when they initially met me, that’s what drew them to me – the ease I had in a body that was so different.

I was banking on that being true in the dating world as well. Since I was doing online dating, when a guy emailed and asked me for my number, I would write back and offer to meet him (at a public place, of course) and say something to the effect of meeting me would give them a much better idea of who I was. This would also happen only after several email exchanges, so I could have an idea about them.

My testing of this little Do Not Call experiment did not get far. The first guy who agreed to meeting me before talking to me was a lovely man, but I didn’t feel any spark there. The second, who I met a week later, ignited a spark the moment I walked into the room. That was the beginning of the end of dating experiments. We married two years later.

If you have a disability and are concerned that someone just talking to you on the phone will form a judgment about you without allowing themselves the honor of getting to know you, take a risk. If you want meet them, have them get the full of you. It may pay off big!

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Dating 101? No just some tips!

I want sex.

Knew that would grab you.

I have heard that statement in one way or another from almost ALL of my clients in my nearly 20 years of counseling.

Sure, who doesn’t want it?  Well, maybe  someone who’s eight months pregnant may not care for it. But then there’s the rest of us.

Do I really have to say that people with disabilities are no exception to this?? Yes, they clearly want sex and a lot of it, please. Remember, I work with many men. However, what people want more than that is to DATE!

Many of the people I work with are lonely. They want friendship and companionship. They want to get to know people. They” want people to get to know them. They want to date.

Sometimes people with disabilities (and I’m sure a good share of those without disabilities!)  need some guidance in practice and process of dating. I have a gentleman I am currently working with who has been asking me for conversation topics once he makes an initial connection with the women he “meets” through online dating sites.  Since his brain injury, it’s been harder for him to initiate social conversations. It’s also been challenging for him to think about all the steps involved in getting to know someone as a potential girlfriend. So I created this Questions for dating for him. I hope you or the people you work with also find it a helpful resource!

His request for guidance, along with my desire to make this blog and my website more resourceful, inspired me to create a new category for DATING RESOURCES.  In the months to come,  I will be adding more downloadable PDFs to this category ranging from dating safety tips to sexuality issues to knowing the right person for you.

I would love to hear your comments, questions, or situations you’re dealing with in supporting people in their quest to date and develop relationships in the comment area below.

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