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4 Lessons for Life With a Disability in 2019

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A picture speaks a thousand words, but what you see might not be the complete truth. Last year brought me many highlights and many reasons to be excited for what this year will bring, but it also brought lessons, lots of lessons. Some hard, all worthwhile. I learned:

1. Do not let this New Year put pressure on you, unless you want it to.

I recently heard the saying, “may your troubles be as temporary as your New Year’s resolutions” and it made me smile. If you are a goal-oriented person, resolutions might work for you, but this has not been the case for me. Instead, I think any small step forward in the right direction is an accomplishment in itself. The time it took you to “get there” is redundant.

In 2019 I’m going to try to only fear fear itself. Avoiding things that scare us only feeds into our belief that we can’t — a false belief which sometimes feels extra prominent in my life, as a person who uses wheels instead of heels. However, the only way to challenge this is to do the very thing that scares us, so that we learn we most certainly can. Our brains may have a natural bias towards negativity, meaning we need to actively train ourselves to look for our successes and what we did right. So maybe we all need to train, train and train some more? Furthermore, if you have a tendency to listen to that critical voice in your head, stop for a moment and ask yourself: has this approach been successful? Has it helped you? My guess is no.

Absolutely no one fails if you keep going and try again. Yet, results can’t come from luck alone — luck is preceded by preparation, action and opportunity. So, this year, put your faith in you, give yourself the chances you deserve, prepare and do. Keep putting one foot in front of the other (or keep your wheels in motion) despite whatever – or how many – speed bumps you encounter. Remember new starts happen every single day, not just on January 1st.

2. Everything is temporary.

Highs, lows, feelings, thoughts and even moments shared — nothing is forever, except diamonds of course. I live a brilliant, fulfilling life, but that does not stop me struggling some days. This year I lost a relationship that mattered to me because the other person did not feel as I did. Rejection is excruciating. The fact a person you cared for did not choose you can just seem to validate and prove your insecurities. I blamed myself and questioned if I was unlovable. Then, it clicked. No matter what I said, no matter how I acted, no matter who I was, we just weren’t the right fit. Nobody can be everybody’s cup of tea.

Our desire for connection stems from evolution and our quest for survival, but someone not choosing you does not mean you no longer exist. His decision did not automatically relate to my disability, my looks nor did it mean there was something “wrong” with me as my mind wanted me to believe. So my advice to you is to embrace exactly how you feel. You are not being dramatic for caring, but when’s that’s over and you’ve given yourself time to take stock, look forward. Try not to let your past experiences carry forward into your future.

I read this saying once and it stuck with me, “If you don’t heal what hurt you, you’ll bleed on people who didn’t cut you.” (Unknown). If you are in a similar situation, try not to use this one experience as a reason to avoid stepping out of your comfort zone in the future. Otherwise, your feelings of rejection could turn into something else too — regret. Regret for missed opportunities.

I deserve someone who looks at me like I look at chocolate when I’m on a diet. I’m grateful for the laughs we shared and trust there is someone “right” for all of us – someone who will love, appreciate and cherish us exactly as we are. The uniqueness and fragility of life means everyone has their tough days — all 7.53 billion of us! The most important thing we can do is help one another through those days as best we possibly can.

On an entirely different note, does anyone know if Ed Sheeran has a single brother? Asking for a friend.

3. Cherish those who add to your life.

For me, nothing matters more than my loved ones. I’m so lucky that anytime I need support, it’s there. I’m surrounded by the best, most kind people imaginable who I know would move heaven and earth for me, even if I’m moaning repeatedly about the same thing. I will never not be grateful for this. So I plan to fill my 2019 with the people who make my life better, and I encourage you to consider the same.

If you do not have people to lean on at the moment, you never know who you are going to meet in the very near future. It just takes one person to appreciate you for you. Seek people who without asking add hope, dreams and love to your life and let those who only offer doubt, fear and darkness pass you by.

4. Stop comparing yourself to others.

It’s like comparing chalk and cheese. No two people have the exactly the same set of circumstances. I love social media, but it can be the biggest culprit if you don’t see it for what it is, “a highlight reel.” I love to see the daily memories these sites offer, and I love that they keep me in touch with people further afield whom I hope to visit again. However, I also know that what I post is not the true picture of everything going on in my life.

My posts neglect to cover the long work hours, the hospital appointments or the times when no matter what I do, it just does not cut it. Instead, social media illustrates the “good stuff,” and that is OK because I know aside from everything I choose to post, there are wonderful, magic moments I have lived just as they happened and very often, those moments matter all the more.

Don’t compare yourself with what others chose to reveal. You are enough. Make the best of your circumstances and the time available to you, so you can be your best version of yourself while helping others along the way. For in the end, people will remember your character and how you made them feel rather than how many clicks you got from a computer mouse or keyboard. Or at least that’s what I hope. As you navigate the days ahead, know it’s normal if you have days when you don’t know what you are doing. Everyone is winging it; nobody has all the answers. Everyone is figuring this life out together.

Having written the above, I realize learning something and practicing it are two very different things – so therein lies my own personal task for 2019. I wish everyone who contributes to The Mighty all the best for 2019. Well done for all your successes of 2018 and I hope these next 365 days are everything you wish them to be.

Getty image by Melpomenem.

Originally published: January 9, 2019
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