I’m better for having cerebral palsy, being confined to a wheelchair, and needing help with myriad daily tasks (despite the picture I painted in this prior post here: https://www.facebook.com/elupton/posts/10163506583485455)
I’m more patient from having to wait for help to get out of bed, drink a glass of milk, go to the bathroom, cut up food, and so on.
I’m better at handling discomfort. Cooper May has said that she often thinks about how, because I have no other option, I just ignore an itch anywhere I can’t reach, like my legs… forever. In fact, I have gotten so good at enduring discomforts and annoyances that it’s occasionally become detrimental, where I don’t realize I’m putting up with something that really should be addressed.
I’m more empathetic. I know people can’t comprehend what I have to do to get through a day, so I assume that’s true for others, as well.
I have more perseverance. I’m used to failing, used to unforeseen challenges, and used to things being harder than they should be. I’m used to things not being fair and succeeding anyway.
I’m less embarrassed. Countless strangers have seen me naked. I’ve had plenty of occasions where everyone is staring at me – I get it pretty much everywhere I go. I have no problem speaking up, talking in front of a group, or doing something bold that will bring attention if necessary.
And I’m a ridiculously damn good problem solver. I routinely conquer dilemmas no one else has seen, custom-tailored by my unique circumstances. Big problems, little problems, complex problems, simple problems, I’ve had them all. Because I’m lucky enough to have cerebral palsy, my problem-solving muscle is thoroughly developed.
My mom died in 2011. Today, March 8, 2020, is the 3 year anniversary of my dad passing away – my father, my business partner, my mentor, my confidant, a best friend, a physical caretaker, my drive to work companion. I miss them both like crazy, and I’d do anything to have them back, but I know I’m better because they died. I’m more independent. I’m more resourceful. I’m more responsible. Losing their safety net, their advice, their support, their reminders, and everything else they provided has forced me to improve.
When will you start to realize that the worst things that happen TO you are also the best things FOR you? Because once you start to realize that your weaknesses are really your strengths, life changes. Once you decide that growing up poor, being bullied, being abused, being disabled, losing loved ones, being an immigrant, being bad at school, etc., and surviving, has forced you to have capabilities other people simply don’t have. There’s a reason why Navy SEAL training resembles torture. Being able to do the impossible requires enduring the impossible. But you have to realize this reality to fully harness it.
And this doesn’t mean you have to be happy about what happened. I’m not happy that I’m all out of parents. I’d go back in time and change it if I could. I’m not happy I need help using the restroom and bathing. That sucks. But even though I’m not happy about this stuff, I can look at it and see the man it’s turned me into. I can see where pressure has created diamonds. I have more in me than people who have had it easy.
And since these terrible things HAVE happened to me, and since they’ve happened to you, it’s our RESPONSIBILITY to make the most of them. Don’t let your suffering be in vain. Honor the memory of the loved one(s) you have lost. Don’t waste the training you’ve been through. That stuff isn’t what’s holding you back. It’s the reason you can’t be stopped.