Today I am going to talk about the other side of my last post….when the love just isn’t there. This was a hard topic for me to bring into Firewalk: Embracing Different Abilities. For those who know me well, I inherited my mother’s eternal optimism and joy. It’s so easy to be happy, focus on the good, and think about all the love. However, as we all know, in order to feel all that good stuff, the depth of our pain has to also be felt. It took me years to understand this lesson. I thought if I looked at the pain of all the little things CP brought me – how darn long it took me to do things, how much harder I had to work in school and life to keep up, or how often people judge me base on how I walk and my speech – it would overwhelm me and take over my joy and determination to strive for my dreams.
So I resisted the pain, buried it, and pretended I didn’t have it. How could I have pain in my life? I was loved and accepted, had opportunities, was encouraged, etc. Any pain I felt I could easily tell myself there were others much “worse off” (I hate that phrase) than me. Well, you can imagine how well that worked. It hasn’t been until the last 10-15 years that I began to really get that our personal pain and sorrows are not to be held up on a continuum of who has it worst. Whatever we go through in this life, whether your struggle is with a disability or something else, your pain is significant in the path to embracing all that life has to offer. We do not know the depth of other’s love or the sweetness of joy until we are experience the difficulty of being valued by others and the sorrow in our tears.
As we grow in wisdom, we begin to realize the pain we feel from perhaps not feeling loved by others or even ourselves, is there as an important lesson and even a transformational tool. We do not have pain simply to suffer or be victimize; we have pain to teach us how encompassing our abilities and gifts are. Here’s an example of this from my life. People stare at me all the time. If I am out somewhere and a stranger hears my voice, they usually try to steal glances at me, trying to figure me out. As a child and young adult, I was hurt by this, especially when other kids laughed. I have come to accept though, that this is part of living life with an obvious difference – people will stare! Through feeling the pain of being looked at in this way, I have been able to build my confidence to understand how people look at me does not define me in anyway. They may assume because of the way my speech is, I may not be intelligent. However, the assumption does not take away from the intelligence I do have or the fact that I hold two master’s degrees. Without the pain of those stares and judgments, I would never have the confidence I do to boldly go out in the world. When the love isn’t there, the lesson still is.
I’ll end with a quick story related to this. I was on vacation one time with my friend Sally and her family at a beach town resort. Sally and I went to professional school together so we spent most of our time together in an isolated environment until vacation. On about our third day of vacation, we went out for ice cream. As we sat in the parlor licking our cones, she asked me, “Do you have any idea how many people walk by you and then turn their heads to stare at you?” I laughed and explained that it happens so much, I had begun to not notice it so much. After a moment, Sally smiled and said, “I kind of like it. It’s like being with a movie star.” It’s all in our perspective…