Saturday, June 1, 2019

After Success

I think some of us hit a wall in life out of nowhere.
We have faith, we have love, we have everything we could want. And we serve and work and play. We are blessed beyond belief, and then we wonder, well, what now?
Many Soldiers like me win their battles and flourish. They have accomplishments and esteem and purpose. They are, in fewer words, successful. They made it.
The thing about the world is, many people tell you what to do before success. Few tell you what to do after. The peak gets lonely.
I think what I've realized is success isn't something you just reach. It's not a destination. It's a tool.
See, one of the reasons this blog exists is to be a guide. To say to other people like me, "Hey, yes, I've been there. Let me guide you."
When you reach the peak of success, remember others want to be there too. Use your influence, your contacts, your talent, to help other people succeed.
It took me a long time to realize that life isn't like school or work. Industry is competitive, sure, but even with people of the same occupation, success will often look completely different person to person.
Looking out for others success doesn't jeopardize you. It strengthens you, because everyone's success is different.
Go forth, sherpa. Do your work. Help people up. We all need success, especially Soldiers, who oft feel they're fighting for any scrap of it.
Success is good for everyone. Period.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Changing Change

I am definitely not the same person I was one summer ago. I hated all manner of performance, I had almost no close friends, I was relentlessly taken advantage of and gaslighted, and I had no purpose in life.
And you know what? I won't be the same person next summer either. But that's okay. Normal. Even encouraged.
Change is a natural and innate human fear. I know what it feels like. Schools change, friends change. Looks, boy, do they change.

Even dreams change.
I've always wanted to write, ever since I was a child. With CP (read: terrible fine motor skills) I could barely hold a pencil, but I so badly wanted to write I practically taught myself.
Now, I still want to write, but not what I wanted to write in middle school. Back then I was dead set on YA fiction, fantasy, and anything with a dragon in it. Now? Well, those are still fun, but I also now have different influences. I went from Carolyn Keene to C.S Lewis. Magic Tree House to Hitchhiker's Guide. J.K Rowling and Rick Riordian to...
Okay, those are exceptions.
Now, I want to branch out to biographies and journalism, apologetics and parables. Maybe even historical fiction. I respect different authors and have broader taste.
I wouldn't have even considered any of the above even a year ago. I also would not have considered being a professor, starting a blog, or going into religion or divinity studies. My freshman self would think I'd had a lobotomy.
And yet, here we are.
Soldiers, dreams change. You're allowed to have dreams. Being different doesn't disqualify you from essential parts of the human experience.
And you're allowed to change. All people do. It's not a loss of passion or sudden rut if what you once loved has made way for other opportunities.
Nope. That's life.
That's growing up. That's finding yourself.
No one should be disqualified from that. No one should be afraid of that. It should be celebrated.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Up For Air

If you've ever managed to get to the bottom of a pool, you know you can't stay down there forever. At some point, you have to come up for air.
I think my mind is like my pool some days. I dive down looking for some answer. Usually it's "Why am I so anxious?" or "Why can't I be normal?" or "Why am I so different?"
The thing is, not only are those questions subjective, sometimes with changing answers, but they're not productive. The deeper you dive, the longer it takes to come back up. And I wonder why I sometimes get overwhelmed by pressure until my ears pop.
I know you'd expect for me to say that faith can pull you up, right? I'm a Christian. The answer is always God, Jesus, Bible, or Church, maybe some combination, or all of the above.
Look, I believe those have a divine and repairing quality, but hear me when I say don't underestimate the importance of an earthly, human support system. Not a therapy group in this case, but a group of encouraging friends. I know Christ is a person of peace, the Prince of Peace, but I also know that God said, "It is not good for man to be alone."
Okay, and that woman led Adam away from literal Paradise. Bad example.
"Iron sharpens iron" might be better. Even better, it's completely true.
Find a support system to count on. You need laughter, advice, encouragement, and togetherness. That goes double for believers, triple for Soldiers. You need people going on the same journey and path as you. Suddenly you realize when you have a struggle, you're far from the only one being tempted. You can find those people anywhere — school, work, sports, church, the local Kroger. Just keep an open mind. Not all of your friends will be your twin.
The important thing is to enjoy the company, to build each other up. No one can pretend they're not drowning.
Reach out a hand. Get some air. Be honest with your friends about what you're facing.
Don't walk — or swim — alone.


Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Lens of Suck

I think there are two types of people: Those who ignore, and those who despair. Both approaches to pain are bad. One is naive and the other is depressed. Today, however, is about the latter.

Because oh boy, am I the latter. I despair in my trials with a raincloud over my head. And I sulk, religiously, because what else is there to do?

A lot of my fellow Soldiers are likewise. We look at our wheelchairs, or our walkers, or our medications, and we shake our fists at the sky. We throw our cards off the table, because what a horrible hand we have. We see the entire world through that lens. A lens of "Why is it always like this?" "Why is this worth doing at all?"

In order words, everything is through a lens of suck. You're twelve again.

Want soda?
Fattening.
Want to see a movie?
Boring.
Okay, well... Want to go to DISNEY WORLD?
...Mickey is creepy.

Ugh. Everything sucks. Woe is me and my terrible, horrible, inescapable life.

I look back on it after one of those days, and I laugh at myself, because I tend to look a tiny bit overdramatic. Just a little ridiculous. Despite my knowledge of the insanity, however, I could never seem to escape the cycle. That is, until I drove to the airport.

Okay, that's a jump, but stay with me, I promise. Recently, I was visiting relatives, and that necessitated a long drive to IAH. I'm stuck in a gray Honda, which smells of mostly fast food and anxiety, and I stare at the scenery. Not that there's much. Worn down asphalt and the occasional F-150. I inwardly sigh in defeat.
Thrilling. Settle in, Mere, it's gonna be a long day. The despair cycle begins.
We roll to a stop at a red light, and I look out at the road. It looks a little worn and sad. If it were a person, I'd probably give the road a hug.

Then I look a little closer, and it all evaporates. Because, aw, there's a tiny cluster of squat, purple wildflowers near the curb.
...but that's amazing. Hardly anything grows in The Lone Star State, and yet things still pop up on there own accord. Tiny things, and yet still not withered or dried out in the Texas sun. Which, natives will tell you, is like living in a George Foreman.

And, suddenly, I feel a tiny glimmer of hope.
Why don't I treat life like this more often and look for things like this? After all, despair doesn't just feel terrible, it's also very draining. It's often the little things, all collectively, that make life worth it. Our suffering suddenly becomes bearable in the pinhole of light.

Look for the little things. Get your lens checked. Maybe change them out.

And for goodness sake, drink some water. Because it's only going to get hotter from here.


Sunday, April 14, 2019

Disqualification

"I can't do sports with my scissor gait."
"I'd never join debate with my stutter."
"How could I do X with -X physical or mental difference-?"

I note these thoughts cropping up almost every day, both in myself and fellow Soldier brethren. ADHD, walker, speech impediment. Doesn't matter -- any difference can make you exclude yourself from things you might have tried otherwise.

But it's not the activity so much as it is the people, now is it? Different is judged. C'est la vie. The different compare themselves in light of their limits, and those without them feel elevated for it. "Oh, well, I'm faster than the wheelchair kid, at least."

If anyone without a difference happens to read this, I encourage them to show a spirit of accommodation toward those who I consider fighting a battle, oft completely hidden, or if not, surprisingly internalized since birth. The battle that we're in our own bubble. The battle that we're oh-so-special, be gentle, don't overwhelm them, the poor simpletons (Not true. We're just as smart, often smarter.) The battle that we're a low bar for people to hang on to elitize themselves.
No, elitize is not a word. Yet.
Hey, Shakespeare made new words all the time, right?
Point being, we with our differences, however noticeable to the eye, all fight a battle, which is, sadly, usually bottled up out of shame. Hence my personal collective term for the community of different. Soldiers.

Soldiers, try new things. Don't disqualify yourself. I say from experience if something is worthwhile, SOMEONE will accommodate you.

Finally, to those not in the trenches: Be that person who accommodates. We don't live in a bubble. We're human. Insecure. Always.
Tell us we can. It means the world to us because we don't hear it often, even if it's very, very true.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Power of Pick-Me-Ups

This weekend has been... well, a test of my longsuffering, as I like to call it. An introvert by nature, yesterday I was dragged from here to there and back. People and things everywhere. My brain was about to collapse in on itself.
Today? The opposite. Lots of studying. Being holed up in my room like a hermit or a monk. I usually relish in those times of study. However, it's not as fun when that study is forced upon you. Then again, who realistically expects high school to be the prime of their life anyway? The only group of people for which high school should be the prime of life is bullies in coming of age movies.
I think we all bite off more than we can chew at times. Heck, sometimes we have no choice. My mother, bless her, has been filing taxes at our kitchen table for the past three hours. That being said, I've seen a lot of my ADHD tribe, and those with other conditions, try to unrealistically push past fatigue via their own willpower. Me? Oh, boy, I'm not immune either. I like to pretend sometimes it's an old t-shirt I never wear -- shove it in a dresser and willingly forget it exists. 'I'm not tired,' I say empathetically. Even though I can literally feel the dark circles forming under my eyes. Go figure.
Sometimes, you have that one thing on a hard day that is the single thread you hold on to. The one thing keeping you sane and pushing you forward. For me, that thing is a few things. Writing, my dogs, sparkling water, music, a walk to a lake near to my house. For my dad, it's fixing old cars. For my mom, it's watching Friends and Queer Eye on Netflix. For my brother, trick shot videos. To each his own, but the point remains. We all have a pick-me-up.
Especially for my Different-Abled brethren, but for anyone who happens to read this, I encourage you to find a pick-me-up or lean into the ones you have. You may think yours weird, but they certainly can't be as strange as mine. (Name one person you know who finds personal solace in sparkling water.) Trust me. Those pick-me-ups are vital to your well being. We're all human. Humans need rest. In fact, your work will be better for the rest as well.
Sharpen the saw, or it gets dull.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Superconductivity and The Parable of Power Lines

Superconductivity is my word of the day today. It's the quality of some substances to have zero electrical resistance at temperatures close to absolute zero. In other words, deathly cold.
This got me thinking about some time ago when I saw a parable in power lines.

I see parables and stories everywhere. I can see some sort of truth I'm looking for often right in front of me. I thrive on symbolism and metaphor that seems to be all around me. It's just a gift. Everyone's got one. I figured it might be useful for helping others one day.

I was on my way to a restaurant, and I was enjoying the sprawling pastures and open, vast sky. Running through it all -- always power lines.
Held together by crosses. If you look very closely, you'll see the connectors of the lines are perfect crosses.

Yes, I am a Christian. They can take one central message: Faith should power every, every area of life. It's not a blip on the radar. It's a continuous lifestyle.
 However, even without faith, there are messages to be seen here.
1) All power requires sacrifice. All of it requires faith, in something.
2) What powers you?
I've never understood the phrase "Believe in your power. Believe in yourself" I know people do amazing things, but I've always thought humans are never the sole givers of power. We give power to others, sure. But faith or not, humans are powered by things. We all have an external power source.
3) Inspired by my word of the day today.
Power lines freeze when they get cold.
Some atoms that are superconductive, when very cold but not quite dead and freezing? Electricity courses through them.
For all my talk of power lines, don't be a power line.
Don't freeze when you get cold.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Wait Can Be A Blessing

I have found one of my biggest flaws as a person is my reckless spirit of impatience.
It seems to come out everywhere — airports, checkout number seven, the local dentist. You name a wait, and I guarantee it makes my red hot spirit bang against the walls of my skull.
Maybe it's rooted in my deep-seated desire to get things done. I have a mental checklist every day, items to mentally cross off, and more items to mentally add. Every day. This is a particular problem for the ADHD bracket. I myself am in that bracket, and I can tell you from experience we paradoxically want to get everything finished, yet constantly succumb to procrastination anyhow.
I see a problem in today's society — I'm not the only one with a mental checklist. ADHD and non-ADHD have a checklist. If you're type A, or even type B, you have a mental checklist. You have things to get done. It's part of being a human. Humans work.
So, where am I today? Far from home. I'm in a cozy, window-lit eatery in Colorado. It's like someone took your average British pub and covered it in American decor. And I'm being forced to wait. Wait. Wait. Sit in my chair with the resting yet angry face you wear when you're concentrating on the conjurings of your own head.
But what I have realized this wait is?
Friends, it is an opportunity. Because I'll admit blogging was not on my checklist today, but it's better than being irked.
Sometimes, it's the things you do in moments of wait that are the most important to your growth or restoration.
And sometimes the things not on your checklist matter more than what's on it.
Combining the two, maybe sometimes, in wait or in a lull, it's best to put away the checklist (which sometimes, like me, you're unable to start doing anyway!) and experiment with opportunities.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Life Is Not A Tab


Who am I?
Well, I'm sixteen, I've caught the writing bug, and I have mild Cerebral Palsy and ADHD. I like to speak my mind, and I intend to be a mediator between the physically normal among us and those who have to face disability challenges every day. 
I think a lot in my daily routine, and I hope I can be a voice of insight and inspiration -- maybe I can give language to feelings some aren't even conscious of. 
I hope I inspire you with my writing, today and beyond.

Life Is Not A Tab: A New Spin On Emotional Debt

Debt is something I’ve never had to experience at my age. My family has never been in debt. I have yet to even own a single credit card.
What I can say is that I wholeheartedly know what it feels like to be indebted.
Not indebted fiscally. Emotionally. 
It feels different to everyone. To me, it’s suffocating. It feels like a wave the size of a townhouse crashing down on a tiny canoe. It can feel at times not only overwhelming, however, but also very limiting and threatening. It’s as if my emotional debt has become my master. I am enslaved to my debt.
That may sound hyperbolic. It’s really an attempt to be frank and honest.
I feel the only way to express myself is to do so authentically. That is how I will communicate my message most clearly.
Another honest statement: Everyone has emotional debt, disabled or not.  Maybe they feel they ought to make their parents proud. Maybe they feel they ought to impress their friends.
I see in myself that a debt is a result of an opportunity. Not only do the disabled feel they ought to make up for their shortcomings, but also do something more with them. Something very very big that not only makes up but surpasses.
Me? I feel lucky to be alive. My situation that caused my disability could have also been deadly. I’m sure I’m not the only one. So living here today, sixteen and counting, I feel indebted. It’s as if I must do something extraordinary every day I wake up still breathing, or else, the opportunity of my miraculous life was wasted.
That isn’t meant to be heavy truth. It’s meant to show the absurdity of it all.
Those in debt, and even me, maybe we fail to ask who said a debt existed at all?
It was only recently, in the last few years, I asked myself this. I realized, finally, that life doesn’t put you on a tab. Life isn’t a ritzy country club or a low-lit bar. 
Life gives you a gift. Life is a gift in itself.
That was some time ago I learned that. The problem was, I left the gift unwrapped on a metaphorical counter somewhere gathering dust. I had NO idea what to do with it. I was stuck.
It was only now, this moment when I realized what the real opportunity I had missed was. Perhaps other indebted ones, other disabled that feel they must justify themselves and pay their tab. 
Let me tell you what I am doing right now. I have just come from a warm shower after a long day. I am typing this with a refreshed mood, a purposeful focus. I am lying on my floral pillow, barefoot. Just writing.
You know? I enjoy this, I have thought to myself empathically. 
And in that second -- snap. 
It has all clicked.  
I had missed the opportunity to enjoy.
That is the lesson for today. For disabled and for all. Life is not a tab, especially if you narrowly received it, or almost lost it, physically or in circumstance. 
Life is a gift. And the way one lives life is the thank you note.
Writing a thank you note in life is simple.
Joy. And thanks. This is how one says thank you, every day. You don’t lose anything by not being joyful or thankful all the time. That’s unrealistic. But you add every day. Every day, you have the power to say thank you for your life. You probably do without realizing it. 
Again being honest, this empowers me perhaps more than you. But maybe I can be a messenger and spread this word. 
Life is not a tab. Life is a thank you note. 
Go and start writing!