A Close Encounter of the Ridiculous Kind

Long, sleek hair hung like raven’s wings shielding her round, copper-toned face. A sweeping hand across her cheek revealed large emerald eyes, shining brightly after catching the sun’s reflection off the towering atrium windows, just before turning a secretive gaze at me.

There I was, unsuspecting of the curiosity I had evoked in a stranger, and hovering near an iron rod railing, safety barricading me from the possibility of an accidental three-stories-up swan dive into the office’s decorative fountain below.

I was silently reveling in the soft warmth of a puddle of sunshine, soaking head-to-toe in the syrupy golden rays seeping in through skylights and unbroken by clouds, and daydreaming of the easy-breezy, lazy life of sunbathing cats when I felt a light tap on my shoulder. Unexpected or otherwise, no touch is ever light enough to avoid startling a jumpy gal like me — always on defense, I guess.

Jarring away from a feline fantasy, I removed a single earbud and turned to meet the presence that had snuck up behind me.

“Are you on your break,” she asked, a half-smile forming a lazy question mark across her face.

“I’m just stepping away from the screen for a few minutes,” I reported. Her kind eyes sparkled while she said she had something important to share with me. Her words were laced with prideful energy, like after some practice, she had finally hit a target.

I’ve become used to this scene — different players and places, but still the same plot — it’s about as predictable a spectacle as Groundhogs Day, but instead of betting on the likelihood of an appearance by a mangy ground squirrel with power to control the seasons, I wonder the probability of a chance encounter with someone with self-appointed Divine status, filled with Godly powers to effect my health and physicality, my level of human-wholeness.

richness

I sat in my small pool of liquid sunshine, unwilling to share and unable to react — I’m jumpy with a slow reaction-time, a great combo for thwarting unwanted intrusions of my time and space — before a plum-colored business card was thrust in my direction. Her manicured fingers matched the hue of the laminated card and covered a portion of the curvy calligraphy scrawled across the top, but I had no trouble deciphering the words. She called herself a Healer.

“I’ve been healing all kinds for years, she said proudly. “It’s my spiritual gifting.”

I stared through the impeccably-designed business card down to the black Mary Jane ballet flats covering my feet, resting comfortably on the black metal footrests of my power wheelchair.

I took a slow, steady breath while I caught up with my speeding thoughts; the circling theories and judgements around why a curious woman claiming miraculous, life-changing powers singled me out of the crowd of bustling business men and women.

This spontaneous interaction, with a stranger’s specific intention, isn’t the first of its kind. My colorful life as a wheelchair-user is splattered with equally garish people who have made it their purpose to create an audience for themselves by calling negative attention to people living differently, albeit authentically.

Imagine these impulsive interactions were like novelty buttons with a memorializing tag line stamped in the center — something unintentionally demeaning, but so it is, like: All differences must be made the same before all people are accepted.”

If these imaginary buttons were actually a collector’s item, I’d have unopened boxes stacked higher than the ceiling. The boxes filled with negative energy from ignorant comments remain in the corner of my mind collecting dust. I refuse to associate with people who — intent aside — pin to their vests ideals that perpetuate a message of one of these things is not like the others; it must be fixed before it can truly belong and feel good and whole.

“I once healed a young boy, he was deaf and dumb, poor thing,” she said.

cavemen

Opening my mouth to interrupt her story was pointless for a couple of reasons: my words would have been colorfully unkind and certainly not workplace appropriate, and considering how tightly my jaw was clenched from frustration, a few chompers surely would have fallen to the floor. All of my pearly whites intact, I let the self-titled Healer continue her sales pitch.

“A few moments with me, now he is a happy, healthy — regular boy.”

Regular. I cringed, assuming this eclectic stranger’s understanding of the word matches closely with the textbook definition:

  1. Not changing; constant, unvarying.
  2. Uniform; fixed.

Here is my biased take. All words need some meaning attributed to them, otherwise writers like me would be out of a job and penniless. More importantly, what every person says falls apart; without meaning, our words cannot carry the weight of intention, opinion or expression. However, using language as a tool for self-expression implies free-will. Humans, in all of their uniqueness, have the ability, and the absolute right, to interpret any thought, idea or concept any way that feels right to them.

The key here is that no interpretation or assumption of a person, place or thing is entirely correct all of the time. Read that five times, slowly.

So, while this woman has the right to assume that a young boy with a disability — by the way: deaf and dumb, really? 1950 called and they want their institutionalized language back  — is neither happy, healthy or regular, that doesn’t mean that he is not already all three of those things, simply because: he’s a living, breathing kid.

I’m onboard the bandwagon whose banner says that all children and adults should be as happy and healthy as possible. But I choose not to ride the wagon whose banner and buttons have fine print assuming that someone is neither happy nor healthy based on how they look or present to other people.

I’ve gotten some flack for villainizing people who “just want to help or pray for my wellbeing.” I think it’s great when people want to pray for each other’s wellness, as they already are. I don’t like when people pray for healing because it implies the need to be fixed, made regular (referencing the textbook definition).

Generally, when people, like this woman who cornered me on a break at work, seek out humans who need healing — because they have a disability that requires they meet their needs differently, a body that is less than socially-conventional, or a lifestyle that spills over the socially-conservative and acceptable mold — want to fix something about someone, the intentional intrusion into a life is not for that person’s benefit. These unintentionally harmful moments happen because the healer wants to fix how a person living differently, inadvertently, makes them feel.

assumptions

When we are faced with people, places, or things we’ve rarely encountered and do not understand, our innate response is to become uncomfortable or fearful. This natural state of fear is our primal, prehistoric wiring. Our need to fix, change or separate from all of the creatures who do not look like us, act like us, speak like us, think, love or feel like us — live like us — is a basic survival instinct inherited from our Neanderthal cousins.

Friends, it is not 8,000 BC and most of us no longer resemble cavemen in those Geico commercials. We’ve evolved and so should our thoughts and actions around acceptance and inclusion.

Nine times out of 10, people who appear different than ourselves are not a threat to our survival, but a reason to enrich our lives. Go back to the definition of regular for a minute: constant; unvarying; uniform.

Those words sound like synonyms for boredom, monotony and dissatisfaction. Would we really be satisfied living in a world where opinions, actions and attitudes was a one-way highway? I’m going to guess the answer is a resounding “No.”

Every twist and turn of our journeys is patchwork of the humans we encounter each day. The unique traits, the tiny tweaks, making us who we are, help to color the experiences and teach the lessons that, ultimately, make our lives even better.

A richness is added to our lives when we approach people with the intent to learn and understand instead of to judge or to fix.

“I have a disability and I use a wheelchair, but those two facts don’t equal the assumption that I need healing or to be changed,” I said. “I appreciate your concern, but the next time  you to enter into conversations with other people, I encourage you to start with something more than ‘I am a healer.’

I left her there in my pool of sunshine and went back to my regular nine-to-five job.

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Sweet Girl (A Letter to My Younger Self)

waiting wisdom

Sweet girl, it all makes sense now, why you prefer control; you are most content breathing in the clean and clear air of certainty. Life is easier that way, when you can take strong, steady and sure breaths.

Sweet girl, in time, you will learn this important truth: life doesn’t run on power of confident promises or calm, comfortable assurances; always move forward with anticipation, expectations of the unexpected; grow comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Sweet girl, release your need for some control and a few of your tensions will fall away, too. Relax; even when your breath is shaky and your strength is shallow, you’re still breathing, living.

Sweet girl, life will test your resolve and resilience; life will exhaust your spirit and your mind; life will inflate your pressures and your pains. But you, sweet girl, are strong and you are smart. When experiences are tough and treacherous and when expectations are low or unmet, remember that you have all the skillfulness, adaptedness and emotional and mental intelligence to keep going, at your own pace.

be discering with your heart

Sweet girl, your path will be slow all around and bumpy in some places; you were designed to move at lower speed, allowing more time for you to learn yourself — your values, goals, desires, dreams and most importantly, your truth: you deserve every happiness and success you wish to achieve. Waiting is frustrating, but patience is a blessing. In waiting, your wisdom grows; identifying relationships, situations and opportunities, each with energies that do or don’t vibe with your own spiritedness, becomes simpler practice. In the slowness, you will be able to surround yourself with only that which serves you well.

Sweet girl, you crave validation and acceptance, you believe your credibility as an impactful person comes from the opinions of other people. The fact is, the depth of your worth is endless and unreachable, but only if you believe in your power. Sweet girl, decide your worth and expect to give and receive your value in return.

Sweet girl, don’t rush today or worry about tomorrow. Questions about your future will only create chaos in your present. The future hasn’t arrived yet, there’s nothing to do except to be here, in the now.

Sweet girl, have patience with yourself, too. You will face hard choices and even more difficult challenges. Some choices you make might feel like mistakes, some challenges you may assume are insurmountable, but no, they are exercises in building your character and assignments in sewing your moral and emotional and physical fibers.

Sweet girl, you have a full heart, open and ready to love anyone pledging its protection. Be discerning with who gets small pieces or your whole heart; make sure that their commitment to you is more than passive declaration, but active intention to love you back, equally and deliberately, the way you deserve.

Sweet girl, your heart will bend, it will surely break, but your heart will always have a strong beat — you will always be strong.

relax

Poe(Tree)

Autumn; caramel syrup sunsets — sweet golden glows cascading slowly overtop a lush canopy of red rubies and yellow sapphires, jeweled leaves, swaying to the music of the wind, a melody deliciously fresh, crisp.

Winter; whitewashed skies — bitter stings of cold defeat hang in the hollowed eyes of trees, once tall and abundantly dressed in rich greenery, now stripped down to bare bones; skeletons shivering under the harsh touch of snow flying aimlessly, unyielding.

tree

Spring; peekaboo blue sky — honeyed slivers of sunbeams, poured over salted-rock tar and iced lakes, melting down, thawing out. Naked, the trees appear unready for the songbirds returning to perch, but though their bark is raw from winter’s heavy wrath, the thin branches, like twists of wanting fingers, reach high up in the sky, waiting to take a sip of sunshine. Fading snow, steady streams circle and weave around the tree; the massive trunk’s vessels expand and constrict with fresh water traveling from its tiny roots to its pointed crown, where the leaves will grow once more, free-flowing.

Summer; thick, heavy heat — warm wind gusts painting the sky a gentle blue haze. Down below, the tree welcomes the flow; a balmy breeze climbing its branches and tickling its deep emerald leaves, saying hello. Rustling, the sleeping tree wakes, washed by sweet drops of morning dew. Its foliage fresh now, leaves tilted to the sun, the tree whispers, “thank you for bringing me back to life, anew.”

Cotton Candy Skies and What Lies Within

cotton candy

Rise up to each new morning’s cotton candy skies, no matter how many tries, with colorful energy and vivacity swirling around your waiting eyes.

Waiting, with patient expectation, to see what the day could be — hours full of productive motivation; decisions to fly, flee or flourish; chances to raise the steady bar and your quiet voice.

The choice, it’s yours, make it carefully; don’t let this day, a sweet treat from above, melt away so carelessly.

Messy, the sticky stains of regret; missed opportunity, colored patches or ruddy marks of what could’ve or should’ve been, settled deep within your head and heart.

Don’t forget, with each new cotton candy sky comes added sweetness of fresh breaths, yours to pull and drag from great heights.

Set your sights on taking chances, making choices and embracing changes to make each day delicious, in its own way, but never quite the same as yesterday.

you got this

Within your expanding mind and swelling heart lies untapped, limitless supplies of earned knowledge, collected feelings and gained abilities.

Unless cut-off by damaging insecurities, innumerable fears or passive indecisiveness, you are full of mental and physical energies propelling you forward.

Choose progress and decide fearless action. You are innately equipped with all the tools and trades you need to intentionally and intelligently guide your own path through the ever-changing terrain of life.

No matter the landscape, rocky or smooth, you can plot and plan your way through each new phase or stage of your unique journey.

Even in weak, broken spots, own your spirit’s renewable power to keep moving. Take a break, recharge; when you’re ready, take each new step with confident assurance: you got this.

It’s Okay: A Reflective Poem (of sorts)

its okay

It’s okay to feel weak, mentally and physically; your capacity or capabilities to function at top form adjust down or advance up, depending on situation or circumstance. Making the choice to get up and show up — no matter the state you’re in, the size or scope of your whole-body energy — is the ultimate show of physical and emotional strength.

It’s okay to stumble carelessly around a slippery tongue, not quite catching the wrong words or inappropriate tones before unlikely criticism or pessimism, directed inwards or outwards, falls recklessly from your mouth onto waiting ears. It’s even more okay to not speak at all and to let unspoken words fall away. No matter how you use it, casually or carefully, wisely or otherwise — your voice is important, your voice is valued and your voice is heard, moments of misspeaking included.

It’s okay to cry, to shower your soul; we bathe our bodies to rid ourselves of toxins and impurities, the grit and grime accumulated over the course of a difficult or demanding day. Same as the warm water falls from the faucet to cleanse our bodies, warm tears fall from tired eyes, releasing messy, dirty stress and worry, clearing our minds and rinsing clean our souls. Let it out.

It’s okay to feel thick, heavy sorrows — strong emotions holding you down deep in the muddy waters of confusion, hurt and despair. Sorrow is often felt most profoundly by soulful people who are keenly in-tune with what matters most: time well spent in connection with others or ourselves.

Special, life-giving connections happen through work or service to community, platonic or romantic relationships with friends, family or that “one” person, great health and wellness from a priority on whole-self care and opportunities for learning and exploring your world. It’s more than normal for feelings of discomfort or discontent to settle like rocks in the pits of empty souls, held down, if just one connection — a purposefully placed life preserver — is out of reach.

wings and anchors

It’s okay; sorrow, sadness in its purist form, is the visceral reaction to appreciating, especially in absence, people, places or purposes that provides the most motivation and gratitude for living. In search of personal fulfillment, sorrow is either a pair of wings to rise higher or a set of anchors to stay in place. Choose wisely.

It’s okay to feel the fist-clenching frustrations of inability or ambiguity; lack of immediate clarity, innate skill or proficient understanding of certain tasks or topics can be one of the most colossal roadblocks preventing growth and forward-progress. It’s okay; in moments of sticky, stagnant duress, the strongest catapult forward is bravely and humbly calling-out questions and learning the lessons from those who were stopped first – but then kept momentum going strong.

anxious energies

It’s okay to fear the future, time felt but not seen, imagined but not yet experienced. It’s okay to fear the breath-stealing monster of overwhelm, feasting on souls, shaken, without certain confidence in what will or won’t happen in life. It’s okay to forfeit the guessing game, no one ever wins; trying, and failing, to figure out a story’s end before it’s been written is the universal curse of humanity.

The blessing is this: no matter the form anxiety takes — emotion as strong and unpredictable as howling winds, misguided speech or palpable silence, sinking fear or heart-slowing sadness — you can use all anxieties as powerful energies to keep moving blindly, yet boldly ahead.

It’s going to be okay.

Embrace Failure Before Celebrating Success

The many, singular mistakes – like branded marks burned into the deepest layers of our sensitive spirits – making up the moments defining the times we floundered rather than flourished, remain ingrained into our merciless minds; reminding ourselves, time and again, of the embarrassing missteps we’ve taken.

When the heat of its fire forcibly hits us, failure often feels like an external emergency; we sweat our miscalculations or our actions, fraught with errors and oversights, convinced our faults will completely transform our public perception, scorching our reputation beyond recognition. The truth is, fireworks from the fuck-ups eventually fizzle.

lessons in the messes

The frantic frenzy, the rising floodwaters of futile action, is really an internal emergency; the wildness brought on by exploding self-doubts and judgements, fueled by insecurities, ignited.

Before hitting the floor, it’s important to remember, people rarely recall the mistakes you made and the fires you started, but people are aware of how quickly you pull the pin in the extinguisher and clean up debris.

When you can find the lessons in the messes, when you can accept missteps as a natural part of course correction, those are the uncomfortable spaces wherein the invaluable gifts of failure are found; success does not exist without failure and failure does not reflect the likeliest of successes.

catapult to success

Hitting a target you’ve been aiming towards or reaching your highest pinnacle of purpose, in other words, the light-headed rush of achieving long-awaited success, of finally filling multiple spaces of your life’s Bingo board, can feel even more nauseating than the debilitating fear of failure.

That’s because success is carried by weighted strings of expectation and influence. Reaching the sky’s limit usually means there’s a lot of people down below, waiting and counting on you to continue flying with the same momentum. Success builds a following and a following means people listen to you with open, trusting ears. Success is a responsibility to show up and show out as your best self, every day.

Success can be exhaustingly scary, but with expectation comes motivation. Motivation can lead change and stir actionable impact.

Failure is not to be feared, but expected. Mistakes are a necessary means to newness; a strong catapult to success.

Make way for the equally powerful flames of failure and success; light your soul and watch it explode, into a rare and beautiful display of energy and intention.

success and failure

Color Your World, Brightly

Pride and proof. A sloppy skim of a page would assume these two words have little to nothing in common. But a fixed stare and a clean, meticulous read reveals more than just two, tiny words starting with the same letter in sixteenth alphabetical position.

Pride and proof; without one or the other, the language of life, the artwork of humanity, would cease to exist.

Pride reveals itself in all of us through many different shades and patterns, some wildly loud, others subtly soft; no matter its point of soul saturation, pride is one of the richest, most deeply absorbed emotions coloring the tapestry of humanity.

pride

We may try to water-down and dilute our individual brightness with a double dose of humility from time to time. Often our humility gives way to our humanity; the strong sense of satisfaction in our unique achievements and accomplishments or the growing gratification from particular qualities setting ourselves apart from our peers, these natural feelings are hard to tone down. Pride, in its most positive form, are the ways we reflect and emit our powerful light onto other people.

Pride is a challenging art form; its mastery takes years of life experience. If layered on too thick, people can be put-off by the grandiosity of self-acknowledgement and appreciation. On the other side of a self portrait, pride too thinly applied lacks a certain depth and dimension. Layers of complexity, balances of red-hot fire and milk-and-water – that is how to color your world.

Without pride in who we are, our souls can dim; sharing our light is harder, then. We know this, as artists of our lives, and we spend exorbitant amounts of energy trying to prove that the pride we strongly feel – and fear losing – in ourselves is not without merit.

The social media seesaw of one-upping followers is the largest indicator of the Pride-Proof teeter-totter we all try to balance on. We are human; we take incredible pride in knowing that we are doing better than well at designing our lives. We force ourselves to stage the ease of perfection and prove that we don’t make irreversible mistakes; that we don’t accidentally mix colors and spread them far outside the lines of our neat lives.

I spend a lot of energy, in my virtual social media existence, and in real life, proving to myself and other people that my physical disability doesn’t deter me from anything I want out of life nor does it define me as anything, other than a living, breathing person. I take great pride in my independence and in coloring my life in a way that makes it look shiny and easy, despite the occasional dullness of physical challenges, secondary to just living.

coloryourworld

Proving our right to self-pride, or having pride in our proof of a life that is great – these emotions can become wasted energy, I know. But we emotionally exhaust ourselves because we are afraid of not being seen and praised – or worse, being seen and criticized.

Critics never matter. The audience that matters – people who love us most authentically and unconditionally – they see us clearly, even when our lights have dimmed, our colors are washed-out and our brightness has faded. Those are the people, the rarest of colors, who don’t need proof of our own valued beauty.

Our loved ones pour color back into our cheeks, reminding us that a life of beauty is not pridefully proved; life is authenticity felt and experienced. That’s the masterpiece.

Fire

We’ll always find our rhythm in the special duet of love and laughter.

I love making him laugh.  Resonating from deep within the chambers of his body, the sound is rich, coating his throat with thick, syrupy euphoria.

The many layers of his laughter are powerful;  passion and pleasure incarnate. His elated laughter my favorite song; I could play it repeatedly, memorizing every rise and fall of breath pulled into his lungs and then released, a joyful chorus playing in the wind.

Fire

I commit to my memory the look of his eyes flickering and flashing brightly; happiness lighting his soul on fire.

I want to be his fire. The one fanning the flames of his curiosity with my mind and igniting the white-hot blaze of intrigue with my heart, every beat a passionate duet with his heart’s song.

A Peaceful Mind Needs a Patient Heart

My mind starts racing, grainy sands of worry stirring up trouble in my anxiously energized body.

A howling, emotional wind storm of this size rocks my unsteady mind from its centered peace.

When I am trying, in earnest, to control the harsh, biting winds of change or the calm, easy breeze of routine – living conditions mostly far outside of my realm of rule and understanding – is also when my expectant spirit feels most jarringly out of control.

I have learned, through an expanding collection of life experiences – the keepsake jars labeled Positive and Negative, nearly equalized – that the fastest pathway to peace is a road far less traveled than most.

Patient Heart

The highway to happiness is scarcely marked, with only a few directional guideposts highlighting the way. This relaxing roadway, free of dirt and debris kicked up by life’s wild lightning storms, is best traveled with blind faith, the freedom felt in reckless abandon.

The Universe is in business with mysterious miracles. Even when the wind is whipping you all around, and grasping at air does nothing to help settle you back down to solid ground, don’t fear the unsteady feelings. You’re being redirected towards experiences and moments you’ve never considered.

You will reach your destination not by your relentless planning and preparation, but by your patience. Trust that The Universe has placed the wind at your back, carrying you along at just the right pace.

Relax, enjoy the journey; it’s not up to you to keep time.

Snowflakes and Fireworks

Sitting near a window, I’m watching snowflakes gently cascade down to the ground below. Translucent, white diamonds from the sky, clinging to the window panes, hoping to survive a minute more, before they melt away, like a single tear disappears into a warm cheek.

Not my rosy cheeks, no, not tonight. Though, it’s never been above or beyond me to become agitated and cry at the sight of tall, unscalable mountains of powder-white snow.

Instead of becoming weighted down with worry about tomorrow’s slushy and slow commute, I am choosing to think about  a much more warm and relaxing truth. Only a few months from now I will be sitting at this same window watching an entirely different, yet still physically-arresting phenomenon. I will witness a spectacular show of what happens when heat, color and power mix together to create an equally transfixing experience.

firework

Firework displays don’t make me cry, but I can feel some nervous energy over the booms and bangs that wake the night’s sky. Even though Explosions of color and fire can sometimes give me anxiety, fireworks are  beautiful, captivating masterpieces.

Anxiety and nerves aren’t always a negative experience. In fact, most  natural or man-made circumstances that may cause us to feel slightly or severely unnerved are independent from us.

That means, the nerve-inducing, everyday nuisances like backed-up traffic from plowable snow, noisy or nosey neighbors, a work meeting gone sideways or a burnt dinner in the oven – these are circumstances happening around us, not to us, and these agitations we feel are not unique to anyone.

The red-hot explosion of nervous energy throughout our bodies , probably more colorful than a spray of fireworks across the sky, is an often jarring but also awakening side affect of being human.

Another perk of being human is the power of  independent thought.  No matter what comes at us – piles and piles of packed snow and ice-lined streets or one after the other bang-boom of surprise fireworks – we can choose not to be controlled by circumstances and instead control our reactions to our experiences.

We can either curse the snow or celebrate the fireworks.