cross to bear

right now i’m sitting on my bed with my mac on my lap. it’s been a long day and not really a pleasant one, which bums me a bit because it was gorgeous outside and while traveling to and fro, i’ve been listening to jenna lamia read the secret life of bees by sue monk kidd to me (which i’m loving, by the way. this is one of the best narrated books i’ve heard). i’ve had good company today.

but certain events in the day have caused me to think of the mild case of cerebral palsy doctors diagnosed at my birth, of how that’s affected me. of how my thoughts rush out of my mouth too quickly, of how clumsy with my thoughts and actions i can be, of how i’m too quick to anger, too easily wounded. of how my body aches. all the time.

i was seeing a chiropractor once a week to try to alleviate the pain in my back, but you know what that did? you lessen the pain in one place, and you’re too aware of the pain you have in others, of how great that pain is. i don’t want to know what hurts and where. i’d rather go through my days thinking it’s just my neck and shoulders, or just my knees and ankles. or just the right side of my face. because if you lessen the pain in those places, if you give them some relief, it somehow calls attention to pain in other places, pain i hadn’t realized was there. like the middle of my back. granted i only saw him a half a dozen times, but in those times, he could never crack the middle of my back. my neck? i’d hear that thing pop seven different ways. my lower back, too. my muscles are so tense in my body, so contracted, so bent out of shape that the middle of my back, my spine can’t be put back to normal.

but you know what? that pain’s the easiest with which to cope. i’ve gotten so used to it i don’t even feel it anymore. at least not unless you make that shift, bring that relief. so i stopped going.  i’d rather not think of how the pain in my knees and ankles is making my legs and thighs hurt, too. or how the pain in my back’s probably the reason why there’s pain in my neck. it doesn’t do me any good to think about that, anyway. it’s probably better that i don’t, actually.

i’ve gotten used to it.

just like i’ve gotten used to people being unkind to me. it pisses me off when it happens, yes. but that’s the normal for me. i’m not like the others, and so i don’t expect to be treated like them. i’ve gotten so tired of being too sensitive that i do my damnedest to ignore it, to carry on despite it. we are all equally incapable of kindness and unkindness. i’ve resigned myself to the notion that i’ll see more unkindness than not. so be it. i don’t look like my body is broken, but my limitations make my behavior odd, and the words that come out of my mouth sometimes are so bizarre that… people have treated me like i’m a freak since i was in grade school. i’ve come to expect it. so. be. it.

i try to be respectful of others. but i fall short. all the time.

i’ve had to suck up so much in my life that it bothers me when others can’t.

people get so upset by so many things these days. i can’t help but think that if sue monk kidd tried to get that beautiful story published today, she’d have a hard time. if harper lee tried to get to kill a mockingbird published she wouldn’t be able to do so because so many would be up in arms over the language, the story. same with twain’s the adventures of tom sawyer and huckleberry finn.

maybe it’s just that people are getting so fed up with having to suck this shit up that they can’t stomach it anymore. and some of these people who are crying out, they’re not in pain themselves. they’re bitching because they’re incensed by what they see on tv, by the stories others have told them. sometimes, sometimes i just want to scream because all this seems so stupid to me.

i’m in pain right now. i’ll be in pain an hour from now, a day, a week, a month, a year… but that’s my life. this is never gonna go away. ever. in fact, even though cerebral palsy’s not a degenerative disability, i think my body will just become more and more tired and in more and more pain because of it.

we all have our crosses to bear. this is mine. it’s not in my nature to bitch to my friends when i’m hurting. in fact, i hardly ever do it. i’ll tell my parents when my head hurts, but even that’s infrequent because they can’t understand the pain. their answer is to ask whether i took some pain reliever for it. sometimes i don’t want to have to take the stuff. sometimes having to take the stuff makes me angry. sometimes i just want to be normal. and i’ve been living with this shit for four decades and then some. i have to remind myself that this is normal. it’s my normal.

i’m in a bible study on the gospel of john, and one of the things we keep marveling at is how jesus acted with such grace. that he suffered in silence, and how we should strive to do the same.

i wrote that post this morning, and part of the reason i think i did so is because i’m tired of people calling attention to other people’s crosses. that’s what body shaming is to me. i’m tired of people preaching to others that they should be more respectful; my asking that people stop wasn’t the intent of that post. i just want people to worry about themselves, their own lives. i want them to be the best possible versions of themselves. you’re not gonna get someone to behave more graciously by belittling or berating them. but if you set an example, if you lead rather than lecture, then maybe you can make that change. you don’t have to be a crusader for those who don’t have a voice or are unwilling to use theirs. it took me decades to raise my voice. i don’t think i really used mine until about ten years ago; it wasn’t because people said i should but because i saw what could happen if i didn’t. you don’t have to get on twitter and facebook and preach to the public about the good you’ve done or that others should do. words can be meaningless and forgettable. it’s true that people don’t remember what you tell them, but they remember how you make them feel. when i encounter those from my childhood who were incredibly cruel to me, showing kindness is a great challenge for me, one i cannot always meet. when i can’t, i almost always regret it later. that goes with the cross i bear. be an encouragement, not an adversary. the best way to encourage someone to be better is to show them how, not tell.

i’m in pain right now. but we all are. we all have something that hurts. and crying out about it, calling attention to it, telling someone to basically take a pain reliever isn’t necessarily going to make the pain go away. i want us to be stronger. i want us to be able to take the hits, to live with the pain. i’ve been doing it my whole life. and my disability? god knows there are people who have it a hundred times worse, whose pain is a thousandfold mine. god knows their crosses damned near break them. i knew a boy who had cerebral palsy. he went to my church. his case crippled him so much he couldn’t walk or talk. the muscles in his hands and fingers were so spastic, so bent that he could not straighten them. the pain he was in must’ve been horrid. but oh my god, his smile was miraculous. i always marveled at its brightness and beauty. always. and his eyes… they had such light. as he got older, that light diminished and the smile all but disappeared. he’s gone now. the good lord finally gave him peace. but the memory of that smile he bestowed upon us in his youth, it lives in my heart, and there it will stay. i know another man who’s confined to a wheelchair. i’ve never once heard him complain. and his smile’s gorgeous, too. he shares it so frequently, so easily. he’s a wonder to me.

that’s how we should be.

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2 comments

  1. That last paragraph brought tears to my eye.
    Today, I was standing at the grocery check-out, bought our groceries, and was in a funk about how depleted my bank account was now. Then, we walked out of the store and there is a café with a courtyard and picnic tables. A man, about our age, was feeding his son ice cream with a spoon. His seemingly teenaged, wheelchair bound son, and that kid had the smile on his face, so happy to get the ice cream from his dad. I teared up and thought to myself to snap out of that funk. I know I just saw a snippet of their lives, but what a witnessed was a dad lovingly giving his son a sweet treat, and the son appreciating it. It was so lovely.

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