The word has been attached to my thoughts. The thoughts going through my mind daily. Being different has always carried a negative connotation in my cognitive stream. If something was out of the norm, it often seemed to be wrong. Though being different can also be something positive. A person might be exceptionally skilled in an area. They could be thought of as different from the norm in that particular area. Excelling at something, making them different from other people. Having cerebral palsy hasn’t been felt with that kind of positivity. Making the idea of being different reflected on as negative. Many things during any given day require extra effort. Cerebral palsy adding challenge to even the simplest of physical tasks. When removing something from my pocket or putting on a pair of socks demands extra attention. Requiring the increased effort has mostly left me feeling bad. Experiencing bouts of frustration over the challenges cerebral palsy presents. Life will always be different for me, as compared to someone typically developed. Recently, the word different has been taking on new meaning. Having been suggested as an idea without carrying any kind of label. Looking at being different as neither good nor bad. Rather, thinking about being different as simply a fact of life. Cerebral palsy has made me a different person from many others. This difference impacts everything happening in my world. But, maybe it doesn’t have to be one way or the other.

If we hesitate to provide labels, maybe we find more freedom. Absent the consequence of projection. Taking away the idea of something being bad. While remaining focused on improvement. There can be planted the concept of getting better, simply for the challenge. Instead of improving out of feeling something negative. Desiring the achievement of something viewed positivity. Spending life inside this dichotomy has proven tortuous. The world of black and white, good and bad, negative and positive. It seems enough to cause most people emotional tumult. But, when we are presented with circumstances already placing us behind. The impact of this thinking feels like attempting to surf without any concept to begin. Being tossed around in the powerful sea without bearing. Lacking the understanding to remove oneself from the situation. Not every day feels as though I’m being tossed about by powerful waves. Sometimes the experience can be calm. After having cerebral palsy for forty years. The disability has taught me to adjust. Making things around me as straight forward as possible with the challenges presented. But, most everything new can find me feeling like that beginning surfer being tossed around by the ocean. In these situations, the negative thoughts can flood like an unexpected wave. The feeling of people watching can provide even greater anxiety. Distracting from the clear mind that may be needed to accomplish a task. 

These negative thoughts getting inside my head can become destructive. Attempting to perform a task challenging to my disability. Which, might be many little tasks throughout the day. Anytime there are multiple objects to handle things become challenging. Or, being required to maintain balance of something. The challenges become even more pressure packed with a time crunch. Even trying to communicate when there seems to be a short amount of time to talk. It can lead me into a flustering position. Becoming concerned about my ability to execute. Wondering what the thoughts are of the people within my general area. With the wondering being attached far more to negative thoughts than positive outlooks. It leads to the downward spiral of being self-conscious. As my attention wavers from finding ways to accomplish the task, onto badgering myself for things I can’t control. Turning itself into the overall point of being different. The injury causing cerebral palsy was not my fault. Not something I would have chosen to inflict onto myself. So, giving it the connotation of being negative or positive, doesn’t seem particularly correct or useful. Having cerebral palsy has simply been a fact of my life. The trouble has been steering myself away from making the disability something negative. I’ve even attempted to move in the polar opposite direction. Looking onto cerebral palsy in my life as something positive.

There can be many ways in which to look upon cerebral palsy positively. Thinking of the lessons derived from having the disability. Perseverance required from the youngest of ages. Taking on all kinds of different forms of therapy. Depending on when cerebral palsy shows in a child. The therapy may begin just after birth, which occurred in my case. However, it can take months to notice the delay in meeting milestones. Once cerebral palsy was diagnosed in my life, therapy began. Physical, occupational, and speech therapies all went on for the first years of life. Teaching me to fight from an early age. Putting in extra effort to walk, talk, and feed myself. Having to battle with a drooling habit, because the muscles in my face were weak. It all teaches us how to work hard. After having not been given much of a choice. Along with the absence of choices, I learn to adapt to the world around. Attempting to make physical tasks work for me, sometimes in different ways from the typical functionality. Requiring me to develop an attitude that has me not giving up on things easily. The only way to make things work could have been tinkering until a way forward was found. Much of these processes increase the strength and mental fortitude. Not only of me as the individual with cerebral palsy, but also those helping me creatively mange the disability. Cerebral palsy places us in a place to not only inspire ourselves, but also others. My disability can be turned into something with positive influence. But, maybe that ads unneeded pressure. 

I have always heard the saying that if God gives you lemons, make lemonade. The concept often striking me about this age old saying has been how it was supposed to be interpreted. Does the meaning carry a positive or negative meaning? Maybe it all boils down to how one feels about lemonade. I have always been a fan of lemonade, making the saying feel good. But, maybe this saying has little to do with being negative or positive. What if the idea represents simple productivity? Like one thing I could do with some lemons would be to make lemonade. I’m sure there are still other options open to me with a group of lemons. As I bring this idea into the realm of having cerebral palsy, the idea seems to apply. Being different doesn’t need to be determined as good or bad. Having cerebral palsy might be looked upon as the simple fact of my life. There are many feelings that could be attached to my disability. But, maybe the idea would be to take it as fact. There might not be a whole lot I can do about being disabled. I can however, use the skills I have been given to create something productive. Similar to creating lemonade from a group of lemons. Choosing to take my cerebral palsy and make something with it. Letting someone else decide whether good, bad, or indifferent. Without letting those decisions impact my actions. 

Being different has just been an unavoidable part of my life. For years, I have struggled with attaching meaning to that fact. More often, looking on my differences as something negative. With those thoughts of negativity infiltrating other ideas. Turning almost each perception of myself into something not desired. As this year of the pandemic wore on, the thinking began experiencing challenges. The time of solitude bringing about reflection. Providing opportunities to make changes to my behaviors. I took on challenges that had previously caused me to falter and quit. But, during this past year, tasks were being seen through to completion. Altering the thinking surrounding myself and my abilities. Even with cerebral palsy, things could get better in my life. I didn’t have to continue my negative schema until it found me giving up. Slowly ideas about my disability didn’t force themselves into a positive light, similar to prior years of thinking. My disability started feeling like an unavoidable reality. Nothing good nor bad, simply the reality of adding challenge to my world. While I learned the reality of cerebral palsy didn’t require an emotional attachment. The disability could just be looked upon as real. Sometimes hindering me more than others. And sometimes bringing positivity into my life. But, always understanding, being different will forever be the reality of my human experience. 

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