Have you had those moments in your life in which EVERYTHING CHANGES and more importantly, YOU CHANGE?
They’re often referred to as DEFINING MOMENTS.
They can be the SCARIEST moments we ever experience and afterwards – and probably for the rest of our lives – we are PROFOUNDLY GRATEFUL that they occurred.
One such moment happened to me ten years ago today. It forever changed who I was as a person who lives with a disability and it was the beginning of life completely changing for me.
I tell you this story because I believe the same can happen to YOU.
And it may not be about finding love or a relationship for you, but it may be about…
Stepping into a whole new way of being in the world with the STRENGTH of your DISABILITY.
I’ll be doing a Facebook Live Video today at 2:00PM (EST) if you’re interested in the personal account of the story and the lesson it contains in living with a disability.
So here goes. For those who have been reading/following me a bit, you know the story. I get into a little more detail about THE MOMENT here.
Spoiler alert: Happy ending, it’s about meeting my husband for the first time.
I always wanted to be married. However, for me, dating with a disability was certainly a challenge. The first hurdle was just getting someone to see me as dating material. More often than not, people I was interested in, looked right beyond me.
Boy, does society resist seeing people with disabilities as potential dating and relationship partners. My theory on this is that it’s because, particularly when you don’t have a disability yourself, the thought of dating someone who does, triggers a level of discomfort with oneself that most cannot explain. A deeper dive into that one will wait for another day.
Back to the story and THE MOMENT I WISH FOR YOU.
If I had a date, it was hard to get to a second date. People were uncomfortable with my disability and for many years, I took that in. I let it affect my confidence and as a result, I felt less attractive.
For a time, I even stopped dating altogether.
I kept working on myself, though. Somehow, I knew there was more for me and that I had much to offer someone. For me, the dream and desire for love pushed me to keep taking risks to be vulnerable and open my heart.
I began to look at how I was allowing other people’s reactions (rejection, lack of acceptance) to me to define who I was, rather than trusting the truth I knew was inside of me.
I learned to focus more and more on how I defined myself. The more I learned to keep returning to my STRENGTHS and ABILITIES, the less affected I was by others being uncomfortable with my disability.
To be blunt, I realized their discomfort was their problem, not mine.
This was crystallized on my first date with Scott – he was so uncomfortable with my disability! He had no idea what to make of me.
Having “met” online first, Scott prepared me by saying he is quiet and shy when first meeting people. When we met at the restaurant, there was certainly that typical first-date awkwardness, but I liked him from the start. I found him attractive from the start and tremendously sweet. I actually liked that he gave me a hug upon meeting me, something that would had normally sent my red flags flaring.
While I mentioned some things about my disability and he asked me a question or two, we were talking around the heart of the matter—his comfort level with me. As we had dessert, I decided to it would be wise to discuss it before the evening ended. I asked something to the effect of “How are you doing with me?”
Big tears began to well up in his eyes and roll down his cheeks as he confessed how uncomfortable he was and how much he was struggling.
My heart sank, and for an instant I thought, I am never going on another date. Then I took a deep breath and let go of that thought.
Now, THE MOMENT…
I choose differently and it changed my life.
I decided not to go into the victimhood of “It’s so unfair,” or “This is hard,” or even “When you have a disability, THIS is impossible.”
Instead, I chose to embrace myself as a person with a disability, because THERE WAS REALLY NO OTHER PLACE TO BE.
I felt my years of working on myself come to fruition. I felt compassion for Scott and his struggle. With this compassion, I could listen more with my heart and not take what he was saying personally.
He recognized right away that his struggle had to do with his issues and not with me. He shared a great deal as we talked, and my heart filled with more compassion. I was thrilled that I felt confident enough to not take anything he said personally AND as hard as it was to hear, I was also delighted that he was being so honest with me. This was much better than the “I’ll call you” line and we all know how that ends up.
I also felt very sad that he might feel too uncomfortable to date me.
NOW, FOR THE OTHER MOMENT…
I decided to take a risk anyway. I breathed deeply again and told him how much I liked him and that I wanted to get to know him more. I stood strong in my love and acceptance of myself in the face of not having my feelings reciprocated. We decided Scott would contact me if he resolved that he wanted to get to know me better.
I drove home that night unsure whether of I would see him again, but feeling incredibly at peace with myself and how I had responded to his discomfort.
The next day I spent in this mixture of agonizing anticipation and excitement with this new found peace within myself.
That night Scott emailed me to say he could not stop thinking about our date and how powerful it had been. He was still unsure, but he told me he thought I was beautiful and that he was drawn to the confidence I had in myself. He wanted to get to know me better.
Our journey began. Very tentatively at first. We had about one date a week for the first couple of months. At the end of most every date, I’d check in with him and ask, “So how are you doing with me and all this?” He would invariably say, “I’m still not sure…”
Followed by, “So what are you doing next week?”
I knew we were heading in the right direction.
I’m here to tell you the simplest of messages for living with a disability. THE MOMENT that happened to me – when I fully stepped into the POWER OF LIVING WITH A DISABILITY is available to YOU at ANY MOMENT.
Confidence, taking risks, and reaching for what YOU want leads to a very happy life, no matter what challenges your disability sends your way. It can get so discouraging at times, but if you can grow that morsel in you that knows YOUR WORTH and VALUE, let that ALWAYS BE YOUR GUIDING FORCE.
To help guide you in creating these moments for you, Dating, Relationships and Disability: How to Have Confidence and Succeed, an online dating course and coaching program that I designed from both my personal experience of working through the barriers to finding love and helping others to work through the specific challenges that come along with dating and developing relationships with a disability, is open for enrollment only through June 14.