Cerebral palsy is always going to be part of my life. The only possibility for a life without cerebral palsy would be a medical breakthrough. In the unlikely case of a medical breakthrough, a question would arise, would the procedure be worth the risk? It seems most people have things about themselves they would change if given the chance. But, have you ever stopped to think, would I really change that certain something about myself? Whatever we consider a flaw or imperfection probably has an impact on our personality. The impact may be small, but it would seemingly still be there, both positively and negatively affecting our lives. Interestingly, if you had conversations with people I’ve spent my whole life around and asked them, “if you could take away Peter’s CP, would you?” The question might lead to a variety of answers. Some might give a no, citing a positive impact cerebral palsy has on my personality. While others may give a resounding yes. They could feel the pain caused by CP would disappear. The interesting thing is, I don’t know which direction I would go if given the choice. I enjoy many of the challenges cerebral palsy presents and it would require contemplation to give those away.
There have been times I wish my cerebral palsy would disappear. It can feel at times I’m trying to make that happen. Trying to fool myself into thinking some activities I do hide my cerebral palsy. Or, believing getting stronger through training will take away CP. At times, I think skiing, biking, or driving a car, are some activities in which the appearance of the disability goes away. In many situations, I wish the public was unable to notice my challenges. Thinking it would make life better if people didn’t notice. When really it could simply make life different. Since I’ve been challenged with cerebral palsy since birth, there is no way of knowing. Without cerebral palsy, would there be a separate set of challenges equally as hard? It could be easier to hide those challenge from people, but it probably doesn’t mean they would be easier to handle. Maybe it’s the inability to hide cerebral palsy that becomes a blessing.
Acceptance of cerebral palsy continues to be a process. The realization that with everything I do, CP remains noticeable seems to simply be another step. There isn’t an activity or work out program to completely cause my disabilities disappearance. The imperfections are the very thing that make me human. Those imperfections maybe you think about removing if you could also make you human. It would seem advantageous to embrace cerebral palsy to a greater extent. There isn’t any way to understand the thoughts people have when they witness my participation in physical activities. It does strike me as counterproductive to waste energy trying to conceal my flaws. My attempts to physically move similar to others, removes the potential for someone to be inspired or motivated. That ability to inspire or motivate is likely an irreplaceable gift.
It seems we all have the ability to inspire other people. Any perceived imperfection has the potential of morphing into something positive. We all probably deal with some kind of challenge. It might be a fear of heights, water, or confined spaces. We might struggle with the fear of judgement and the lack of acceptance. Like cerebral palsy, fear can be turned into a self-motivator, from there it may inspire others to view challenges as opportunities. These challenges seem to be different because of their availability. Maybe they can be hidden from the interpretation of the on-looker. Still, if they are voiced, those challenges can create commonality and inspiration. As those challenges dissipate with effort, the story of overcoming the internal fear may become motivating to others who are similarly challenged. I don’t have any idea if fears and struggles totally disappear, but I’m beginning to wonder if they should. Things causing us to feel insecure may also help us grow.
Since we are nearing the end of winter, skiing has been on my mind. This post came to mind resulting from a statement. Someone challenged me with the statement, “people probably don’t notice your CP while you are skiing.” I went up to the mountain the following day with the quote bouncing around my head. It caused the unhealthy reaction of attempting to ski like someone able-bodied, ignoring the added challenge of cerebral palsy. The feeling resulted in arrogance and frustration, a wasted opportunity for acceptance. It feels time to bring myself into a new way of thinking about cerebral palsy. There isn’t anything I can do in order to hide my disability. As the symptoms of CP improve, the ability to notice a difference in my movements at first glance may diminish. However, as someone interacts with me or watches my physical movements they notice something is different. Instead of attempting to hide something in plain sight, which causes emotional stress. It seems time to accept cerebral palsy will always be with me.
It leaves me wondering if there’s an overriding reason some of us run from imperfections. Why do I imagine there are physical activities that would void me of my disability? The thought continuing to enter my mind is embarrassment. Somehow CP causes me to feel embarrassed, unworthy or less than, rational thinking could maintain it’s an irrational thought. I would tend to side with its irrationality. Embarrassment is the feeling of self-consciousness, shame, or awkwardness. There doesn’t seem to be much advantage in thinking of cerebral palsy in this manner. It also lends itself to believing if there were an operation to heal CP, I’d be the first in line. I don’t feel that would be the case. On the other side of embarrassment is the ability to embrace cerebral palsy.
The ability to embrace cerebral palsy seems to coincide with the idea of acceptance. To embrace is to hold closely in one’s arms, especially as a sign of affection. It can also be defined as accept or support willingly and enthusiastically. There may be something strange about holding CP close as a sign of affection, but that could be a key component. When I was able to think about cerebral palsy as a constant companion, skiing became more fun. The following week on the slopes brought more patience and success, as I continue to learn. Reminding myself that just attempting to become a better skier while having CP is a pretty great thing. I have no idea how many people who are challenged by cerebral palsy ski, but it might not be many. And that gives me the inspiration to keep learning, with the hope more people with CP will attempt challenging activities.
Writing this blog reminds me all the time of the mixed bag cerebral palsy can be. I still couldn’t tell you if I would choose surgery to correct the disability. Maybe the answer to that question simply isn’t important. Inevitably there are multiple ways of looking at the challenges we face. My faith tells me we are all created perfectly in God’s image. I also believe there is a purpose to each of our lives, if we choose to seek it out and accept the challenge. There is no way to know how it would feel to wake up tomorrow without cerebral palsy. It would probably cause a mixture of uncomfortable emotions. There is little doubt I would miss the challenge of improving my symptoms and accepting the disability. I would also pine for the incredible gift God has given with the opportunity to inspire.