“Mom, do you hate winter?”
“Yes, baby, Mom is not a fan of winter.”
This has become a pretty regular conversation between my son and I as we live in snowy, cold Upstate New York. We recently chatted about my distaste for winter as he helped me walk on the snowy sidewalk on the way into his doctor’s appointment. At 44 pounds and days away from turning seven, his little hand really does help me along.
While the snow, ice and cold seem to become more and more challenging to contend with, the darkness is still the hardest. This time of year, as we approach the winter solstice, the darkest day of the year, you can easily feel engulfed by the blanket of black. You get up in darkness and by the time you get back home in the late afternoon, it’s dark again. I don’t know about you, but it can really get to me.
Then I remember one of my most important life lessons.
When things are darkest, that’s when your light is needed the most.
Life with a disability can get pretty dark at times – the endless judgments, the doors shut to opportunity before they are even opened, the cuts to funding that is so helpful, people still using archaic language while thinking they’re empowering people, the lack of eye contact because people are so uncomfortable with your difference, and I’m sure you have many more examples you could plug in here.
It’s tough and I got to be honest, I think the world has sooooo much further to go before it really gets and celebrates ALL ABILITIES.
I’m certainly not implying that “Shining Your Light” is the all encompassing antidote – or that it’s even easy to do.
It’s the hard road of living with a disability – pulling your attention back to yourself, away from the judgments and doubts, and believing in why you’re here in this body you have – because you know deep down your experience is not in vain. You have a difference to make. Because you do.
So exactly how does this shining brightly work?
Step 1: Stay in your lane. Focus on yourself.
Step 2: Focus on your strengths and abilities. Pick one or two to begin with.
Step 3: Keep giving your energy (focus) to the strengths and abilities with you. When others question, fear and judge, GO BACK TO YOUR STRENGTHS AND ABILITIES.
Step 4: Communicate to anyone and everyone your strengths and abilities, keeping in mind silence and action are some of the most effective ways to communicate.
Step 5: Never forget ONLY YOU control the dimmer (I prefer brightener) for how much your light shines.
And, yep, it’s that time of year, I got to bring it up. As trite as it is. Rudolph was ostracized for his difference and then ultimately he was valued and praised for shining his light.