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5 Ways to Love Someone With Cerebral Palsy

Many people in my life question my relationship with my boyfriend Bill. Why did I decide to stick with him when life together has so many WTF moments? Why don’t I chose to leave the world of disability behind and join Tinder or something in search of a soulmate closer to my abilities?

Bill and Mandy.
Bill and Mandy.

It’s simple really. It’s a matter of acceptance, and taking that extra minute or two to reflect on a situation. I’ve always seen the good in people, and judged a person beyond their disability. It’s not that hard, actually. Here are 5 ways to love someone with cerebral palsy — or any disability.

1. Patience is a virtue. Simple tasks we take for granted like dressing can seem like a Herculean task. Life can’t always be go, go, go, and that is perfectly OK. Sometimes those can be the moments where great lessons are learned and the simple joys in life can be celebrated.

2. Take time to listen. Bill likes to tell stories that resemble the wild tall tales my Grampy tells, only with Power Rangers in place of the Bigfoot Gramps shot in Canada. Some might dismiss them as childish stories, but I hear more than imagination gone wild. Sometimes he shares an old memory or a great moment that reflects in the real world, along with great lessons in acceptance and self-advocacy. Listen up: he has a lot to say.

3. Accept the good, the bad, and the ugly side of disability. The world as a disabled person is far from the sunshine and lollipops some stories that float around the internet portray. For every “Autistic Waterboy Becomes Varsity Football Star” there is someone who has lost his ability to walk on crutches as well as the simple ability to get out of bed without help. For every great place to go on a date, a majority don’t have ample wheelchair accessibility, resulting in a stretched-out adventure and potential injury.

Disability can appear to be an ugly thing, but only those with eyes wide open can see the beauty in it all. We can take difficult moments and somehow make them good, whether it be a special bonding moment, like the time we got lost in the back parts of the mall in search of an elevator to the movie theater and found ourselves on the roof instead. Or times when lessons in love and acceptance are learned, like a little boy asking questions about his wheelchair in the Lego Store. There is always a good side to even the most uncomfortable moments.

4. Take time to find the beauty in someone’s body, however “broken” the world may see it.  Contrary to popular belief, that metallic thing with wheels isn’t part of his anatomy; there really is a person in there. A person who has enough upper arm strength to put the Hulk to shame, or at least enough to pick me up, even though I’m a fairly fluffy person. His spine may curve, his legs are thin, and his features may not be ideal in this world where beauty is defined by the Kardashians and Johnny Depp, but he is a great-looking man who takes pride in himself anyway. That’s true beauty enough. To see yourself in the mirror each day and smile back is a task many don’t do each day, but he does. And that attitude is what makes me love him more and more each day.

5. Love with no regrets. Don’t worry about the small trivial stuff people will throw at you. Love is about celebrating one another, no matter what the world says. He may not be that CEO Momma always wanted you to have, nor will be be able to physically sweep you off your feet. But he sure will take your breath away with his generosity, love, and ultimate respect for you. A body and a brain doesn’t make a person who they are. It’s their soul, spirit, and strength that conquers all who challenge it. It’s the way they inspire others to love and embrace themselves. It’s that smile that can break the walls of doubt down and open minds. It’s taking a chance when others wouldn’t. It’s loving each other for who we are, no strings attached.

Love doesn’t discriminate. And neither should you. Embrace one another, you never know where the journey will take you. Have an open heart as well as an open mind. Find the beauty within, for every person is a treasure waiting to be discovered.