Today (April 5, 2020) is my mom’s birthday. Astonishingly, it is the EIGHTH birthday she has had since she passed away. Eight years sounds like such a long time, and on one hand, it does feel like an eternity since she passed away, but on the other, it seems like I was just sitting in the living room with her making fun of someone deserving.
“Any idiot can walk.”
I don’t know when she first said this to me. I think it was in the late single digits. Maybe I was 10. But I was young. And I don’t remember why she said it. Maybe I was having a moment of weakness, some insecurity about being disabled. But it stuck — clearly; it’s the tag line of this blog.
“You’re never going to be a roofer. You can’t fix cars. You HAVE to be smart. You have to use your brain.”
Starting very early on, she made it inexplicably clear that I would work, I would be successful, that I was infinitely capable of achieving anything I wanted, but I had to use what I had. And I had to completely discard the things I definitely couldn’t do. And a big part of that was cerebral palsy related, but there was and is a ton I can’t do that has nothing to do with CP, as well. She hammered home that, being disabled and in a wheelchair, my success absolutely hinged on me quadrupling down on all the things smart and intellectual in my wheelhouse that I COULD excel at, and forget the rest. If everyone, able bodied and disabled, could adopt this worldview — focusing on what we can do and discarding everything else — I think we’d all be a lot happier and more productive.
“If a girl won’t be with a guy just because he is in a wheelchair, you didn’t want that type of person anyway, and you’re lucky you get to find that out upfront. You weed out everyone shallow (and honestly, that’s probably going to be every girl you meet in high school).”
While I think that making the life choice to not be with a disabled person doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person, there is something to be said about accepting that those who don’t want you also aren’t FOR you, and that rejection is good for everyone involved.
“We keep little feet on solid ground.”
“I want to start a yard maintenance company and call it `Lawn Enforcement’.”
“I want to start a bakery and call it `I Knead Dough’.”
I learned so much about marketing from her, the idea that the look and presentation of a thing matters just as much as what it is. That if you’re going to do something, you should be trying to inject creativity and cleverness everywhere you can. Perception matters.
“Pick your battles.”
“If it won’t matter in five years, it doesn’t matter.”
Arguably the biggest lesson that she drilled home time and time again, through her actions and literally by telling us, was to not sweat the small stuff, to not get stressed out about things that don’t matter, to stay calm while everyone else panics, and so on. It is so easy to get hung up on things that don’t matter, especially since most things don’t matter.
Person A: “The Beatles are so much better than The Rolling Stones.”
Mom: “Absolutely. Way better.”
10 minutes later…
Person B: “ The Rolling Stones are definitely better than the Beatles.“
Mom: “Oh, for sure.”
She didn’t do this about things that she was actually passionate about or things that were actually important, but on topics that really didn’t matter to her, or matter period, she always preferred to maintain what she thought was truly important, the relationship with that person, rather than be correct or convince somebody about something meaningless. I watched her do this over and over again, and I’m still terrible at it. I think I’m getting better, though.
She would simultaneously be enjoying tracking everything going on with this coronavirus, and freaking out about any of us getting it right now. She lived for big events like this. Hurricanes, the O.J. Simpson trial, etc. I think because it brought about the one thing that she valued the most, that brought her the most joy: community, connectedness, and a shared journey. That’s why she loved holidays. That’s why she would agree with you rather than start an argument. That’s why she loved her family. And that’s one of the many reasons why we loved her.