He Has a Right To Criticize, Who Has a Heart to Help
— Abraham Lincoln
For a very long time, even before I lost control of half of my body’s movements I felt insignificant. Although one would never, ever describe me as someone insignificant in the small crevice of the world I occupied as an able-bodied person. And, that’s because I was a master at hiding those worthless feelings towards myself to the outside world. Each day that I woke up, got dressed to work and looked in the mirror before walking out the door, a piece of me was compromised by that dark hole consuming my insides. No one would ever find out though. Showing my insecurities and vulnerable spots could cost my life, reputation, and even more my attachment to the glorious labels I’d been given: strong, hard-working, together, unstoppable, on top of the world.
When that fichus tree jumped in front of my car, paralyzing me and making me fight hard for my life, it took me a decade to deny, recognize, tolerate, and finally accept all the flaws that were fighting to spill from my insides. They did so in the form of a disabled body.
I still held great regard for labels and I was then the disabled girl — limited, incapable, weighed down by the “I can’t’s”. Still holding everything I had been close to my heart.
Here is the thing about life, though. Life’s most important moments take a long time to manifest themselves to us. These moments are there, waiting in the shadows until WE send off that signal, “hey, you know what? I’m ready for you. Come and reveal yourself.” It’s like an arranged marriage but with circumstances, people, and opportunities that may scare you at first, but ultimately they are exactly what you needed. They are precisely the stuff that catapults your life down the rabbit hole of your innermost dreams — the ones you’re too scared to follow because the slightest possibility of failing at the dreams that bring butterflies to your stomach and makes your heart accelerate is worse than being paralyzed. It means that you have no business trying to be happy. You have no business believing that you, little old paralyzed you, can make a huge difference through one small act. The small acts that ripple into huge tidal waves (please refer to the formation of Tsunamis to understand my analysis).
I felt that way. And I know I’m not alone. But, this blog is not about how I got out of that state of mind. In a nutshell, it was very simple: I hit my head at rock bottom, it hurt like hell, and I knew deep in my heart I needed professional help. I sought it. I found a wonderful therapist and began living again, day by day.
That brings me to today. My child started Kindergarten this year and is having a monumentally difficult time adjusting to the system. I get her. I’m a non-conformist and I kind of think my ways have rubbed off. I decided I needed to watch her classroom from the inside to get a better understanding at what was going on. This is what I learned (and this may not be news to lots of you at all, but it was a huge eye opener for me):
— the system is broken, teachers are overwhelmed running around like chickens without a head, and parent volunteers are desperately needed.
I sat in my daughter’s classroom, bombarded by questions from the curious kindergartners about my tattoo, wheelchair, and former career. They saw me as the cool, wheelchair mom with a big tattoo on her arm. The teacher who had expressed gigantic concern about my daughter’s behavior for the prior three weeks seemed to feel more relaxed with my mere presence in the room.
“How can I help you at home,” I asked her at one point, followed by, “use me!” The amount of pre-preparation that goes on is mind boggling. How does the system expect ONE person to do it all? She has been sending me homework to do at home — cut outs and charts mostly. The teacher seems so relieved and more understanding of my daughter’s slowness to adjust. As far as my daughter’s behavior, the same brat she’s at home, she’s at school; I just never noticed that it had always taken five requests from me before she listened and obliged to my original request. I’m teaching her the difference now between school and home environment. Obviously, her teacher can’t be that lenient with fifteen kids in the classroom who will purposely not listen on the first request.
What does the broken school system of Florida have to do with pushliving.com and disability? If I, the one who was broken on the inside for a substantial part of my life, can make a difference in my child’s school by helping out her teacher once in a while, I’m positive that all of us can find a small act of kindness to perform in our community. The ripple effect works.
No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.
— Charles Dickens
I urge you to find something or someone to lend a hand to. Face the darkness of your deepest fears and shine light on them. By helping others, you’ll be setting yourself free to new horizons and countless opportunities.
Cover Photo of Camile by Photographer Patricia Herbetta