You're Amazing. Show It!

I see you, my peers. I read your blogs, your comments, your emails. I know from my own experience how you suffer at the nervous stares and cruel words uttered by others. Worse yet, I know how you agonize over not being "normal", over being labeled and judged and dismissed by the masses.

You're worried about the same thing everybody else is worried about. Everybody get labeled and judged; everybody. Everybody wants to be better, prettier, smarter, thinner, fill-in-the-blank.

I wish that I could make people instantly look past your handicap and see who you are inside. But, since that isn't ever going to happen, I want to wave my magic wand and help you look past your own handicap long enough to realize what an amazing person you are. If you have CP you are coping with challenging circumstances on a daily basis that no one but your peers can appreciate. And that's really the point. Nobody can tell anything about who you are by just looking at you. They can't know what your favorite food is, or how much you love your dog, or how scared you are during thunderstorms. They have no idea how hard it is for you to stop moving, or unclench your hand, or get your facial tics under control.

You live with the constant reminder of your limitations everyday yet you expect others to ignore them the instant they lay eyes on you. It's just not fair to expect that much from others. You will  encounter countless disappointment if you do.

Instead, think of yourself in these terms.  "Although we all know not to judge a book by it’s cover, most will have a quick glance at the cover to see if it’s a book they may be interested in reading." I'd love to take credit for this sage phrase but it is, in fact, a comment left on my About page by astimegoesbuy (you really should check out her blog. She has impeccable taste).  More importantly, she's absolutely right. You are an amazing book, a page-turner, a best-seller. Why not work on your cover and see how many people want to have a read?

The Palsy

This could take a while. It won't be pretty. It won't be politically correct, either.

Cerebral Palsy is one of the most difficult disabilities to explain, categorize, or physically overcome by just talking about it. There are several types of CP and each runs the gamut in terms of severity. In a nutshell, what you need to know is that we're talking about a neurological condition caused by brain damage that results in limitations and/or spasticity in motor skills. It can also affect sight, speech and intellect. Although it's a condition, not a disease, it can exacerbate other issues as you age. If you really want to know more the Mayo Clinic website has a good overview.

To be honest with you I only got a tap from the Palsy Faerie's Wand O' Spaz. My intellect is intact (yup, there's the setup. Insert joke here). and I only have a slight speech impediment. My vision is so poor without my glasses I would need a guide dog. Movement is where it gets interesting. I can walk but my gait is very unsteady. Think two year old with a drinking problem.

Wobble hobble

As a result of my superior sense of equilibrium I hobble around the house, use crutches when I'm out in my yard, and a wheelchair to maneuver the rest of the world. My feet also turn inward involuntarily - as opposed to with my consent.

Pigeon Toed

I have trouble with what they call "fine motor skills". Things like fastening buttons, writing, opening childproof packages. My left hand is much worse than my right. In fact, it's practically useless and it usually sits in "Cher" position when I'm stumbling through the house.

You get the idea

Then there are the facial ticks. I look like I'm lip-synching a kung-fu movie.

Looks about right

The cherry on this sundae is the choreoathetosis, which is the involuntary random twisting and muscle contractions that make me twitch. Put it all together and you get...moi.

Moi

This is the package I have to wrap in such a way that it distracts from the distraction that is my disability. Not an easy trick. But I am so lucky that I can put my best foot forward...er, best face forward...best cleavage forward? What I want to convey clearly to you, esteemed Spashionistas, is this. When I leave my house and interact with other people I am doing so in the name of all of those with CP who can't speak for themselves. Whether I like it or not I am a representation of my disability first and foremost. If I can get people to see past the Palsy with me then they are more likely to do so with the next disabled person they meet. I can also get them to admire my overwhelming fabulousness and join me on my quest to look as good on the outside as we know we are on the inside.

And to those that look away, that look past me, that see this as a joke? In the words of Jeannie Bueller, "Screw 'em".

Step One: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

You're the fairest of them all.

It's true, you know. There isn't a person alive that doesn't possess some quality, whether apparent or obscured, that makes them beautiful. Of course the only meaningful, lasting beauty is inner beauty. Who you are on the inside, your character and heart, are what people around you eventually bond with. But what good is inner beauty if nobody gets to see it because you look like a train wreck on the outside?

What do other people see when they look at you? There's only one way to find out. You have to look at yourself. You have to really see yourself as others see you. You have to look in the mirror. You have to face your Outer Spaz. Whether you're disabled or not you have an Outer Spaz. If you're Palsied your Outer Spaz includes the physical manifestations that make up your disability, any additional hardware you require because of it, and anything you don't like about your body. Do you jerk when you move like a mime on crack, twist in your wheelchair, grimace when you talk? Do you have an ass so wide it has it's own zip code, cottage cheese thighs,  and a double chin below your double chin? Are you so flat-chested and scrawny that the local food bank keeps leaving care packages - and padded bras - on your doorstep? All of these things are your Outer Spaz. The trick is to transform your Outer Spaz into a vision that people will look at because it is poised, put together, confident and charismatic.

It can be done. It can start today. Step One is to make a list of everything you see that you think you can improve upon or need to divert attention from.  Be honest and critical in a realistic sense without seeing yourself so flawed that you quit before you start. Meet your own gaze in the mirror with head held high, examine the things about your Outer Spaz that need work, and commit to the changes that will change the way people see you.

Hang on to your list. You'll need it as we move forward. I'll share mine with you next time.