What Does Lady Gaga Has To Do With Disabilities?

Yes, I am writing another post on Lady Gaga. I know, I can’t believe it myself! I would not certainly not identify myself as a fan. I’m not sure if I would be able to identify any of her songs on the radio. Let’s also say that she and I definitely have different fashion tastes.

Nevertheless, I knew I had to write about her message again, after I watched this video last week.

From the Anti-Defamation League website, adl.org

From the Anti-Defamation League website, adl.org

Before I share the video link, let me explain why I believe Gaga’s message resonates with people with disabilities. In a nutshell, her message about acceptance of one’s uniqueness and acceptance of others.

Whether you’re gay, overweight, live with a disability, believe you don’t have the “right” looks, use a wheelchair, or have another difference which sets you apart, Gaga is speaking to you.

She’s telling YOU (yes, you!) to embrace yourself, your difference, and live your life! Ummm…sounds a bit familiar?

Lady G is also saying everyone matters and we just need to invoke tolerance and kindness. Very fundamental lessons we first hear from our parents which really do change lives and the world.

Check out Lady Gaga Accepting ADL’s Making a Difference Award for yourself. The video is on the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) website as part of their No Place For Hate campaign.

ADL is historically known for stopping the denigration of Jewish people, but has become a leading advocate of civil rights for all. Their message and mission also fits well for creating a world that is more embracing of all abilities. To watch the video, you’ll have to provide your name and email address. Hearing a message about the inclusion of all people is worth sharing your info.

If you’re new to my blog in the last couple years, or just want a retread, check out Born This Way, my first Gaga post.

Share with me below what you think about Gaga’s message and if you think it’s applicable to people with disabilities in the comments below. Or join the discussion, like some people did last week, on Facebook.

Posted in Believe in Yourself, Confidence Builders, LIVE your life | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Most Damaging Word for Empowerment

Confession time….and this is an embarrassing one.

I sometimes listen to one of those sappy (and I do mean sappy) dedication shows that are on the radio in the evening. There, I said it. I’m not proud of it, but when I’m driving seems to be the rare time these days when I listen to music versus my typical podcasts or the news.

Last week I listened as a guy called in and dedicated a song to his wife. He explained how they met in Columbia, although they’re both from the States. He was there on a work assignment for the State Department. They began to date and then she thought about returning home, but decided to stay and see if the relationship would work out. They have been married five years.

The guy ended the call with, “I’m thankful she has stayed with me despite the fact I am blind.”

image
Ugh! That was a disappointing end to a relatively sweet story. Not the fact that he is blind, of course, but that by using the word despite that conveys that his blindness somehow makes him unloveable.

When we use the word despite in association with disabilities, we are negating all the strengths and assets that having a disability can bring to who we are. Despite by definition is a negating word. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, despite indicates a “detriment and disadvantage.”

A disability definitely makes things more difficult and challenging at times. In order to fully step into empowerment, though, it is important that we stop using language that diminishes personal wealth the difficulty and challenge of living with disability gives to us.

If the guy dedicating the song to his wife wanted to mention his blindness, what’s a more empowering way he could had framed it? See my suggestion below in the comment area.

Posted in Confidence Builders, Empowering Language | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Three Ways to Remember Your Why

Do you ever have times when you’re working hard on a project or goal and lose sight of why you’re doing it?

image
I certainly have! I often admit I get tunnel vision. I have a tendency to get over-focused. In writing, developing, and producing a training video, I can get caught up in the thousand minute details that it takes to bring my idea to a finished piece.

In working on say a video on sexuality and relationships, I’ll spend hours writing content, checking for typos, and if the video will upload in the format it’s in. While this focus is needed, I can lose sight of why I am making the video to begin with – to provide resources and guidance in helping other people with disabilities be successful in dating and enjoy fulfilling relationships.

In our pursuit for professional and personal goals, it’s so helpful to step back and remember YOUR why. Last week while on vacation, I had a great opportunity that reminded me of my why.

image
En route to Virginia Beach, I met a teenager with cerebral palsy who clearly has a great deal of determination. She has participated in 5K runs, is about to attempt a 10K run, and the day before we met, she did a triathlon. She has a specially made bike, which gave me bike envy, to help her participate. To me, that’s brilliant problem solving and that creativity will take her far.

In addition to talking about her athletic feats, we discussed some of the harder issues that come with living with a disability and in a body that’s different. In talking to this spirited young woman, I was reminded of my why: to acknowledge and support people in what is hard about living with a disability while offering encouragement to reach for dreams and get the life you want.

I need to remember my why every day. Here are three strategies I use to remember my why:

1. Stop whatever I am doing for three minutes to consciously breathe, step back and look at the forest through the woods.
2. I literally ask myself why I am doing what I’m doing AND make myself answer the question.
3. As evidenced from last week, get out and meet people. Connecting with others most profoundly connects you with your why.

Your turn now. Take two minutes to comment below on what helps you get connected to your why. You’ll see an additional strategy from me down there.

Posted in Family Support, Parenting Children with Disabilities, Professional Support, Strategies/Techniques | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Three Important Ways to Define Yourself

Let’s face it. We have all tried to define others with our thoughts, judgments, and opinions about them. To some degree, it’s human nature.

It can also be pretty damaging to one’s self-esteem, particularly when one lives with a difference that sets him apart.

Stop Looking For The Magic You Are It Concept

Next week I’ll be rolling out the first personal development training video for people with disabilities, How to Define Yourself: Why It’s So Important When You Have a Disability.

I actually learned to define myself by going to the grocery store. No, it wasn’t the produce or frozen foods that helped define me. Although, if you look at my cart most weeks, you’ll see I generally eat pretty healthy, but have a wicked sweet tooth.

What helped defined me was realizing all the perceptions people had of me as I grocery shopped – “That poor woman…” (pity), “Oh, I really admire her for trying to grocery shop” (misproportioned admiration), and “Someone should really be helping her” (assumption of lack of ability). To defend the general public of Central New York, there were also naturally people who saw me as just a woman with cerebral palsy, doing her grocery shopping.

Every time I encountered these perceptions and definitions of me, I had to say to myself, “Uh, that’s interesting, but it’s not me.” I would highly recommend trying on this phrase when you experience someone trying to define you. It’s a good way of developing a filter for others’ opinions of you, while taking on the role of merely observing how others react to you.

Naturally, it also helps to have a strong definition of yourself to return to as you’re filtering out the misperceptions and false judgements. Here are three very basic, but important ways to do so:

1. What you can do? What are your abilities? These don’t have to be things you necessarily do, but your strengths as a person.
2. What you enjoy? What helps you live and enjoy life?
3. What interests you? What makes you uniquely you?

I would encourage you to begin to make a list from answering these three questions, either on paper, on screen, or in your head. To get you started, answer one of them below in the comment area. You’ll see my answer to #1 down there.

Return often to this list of yours. Let it strengthen YOUR definition of YOURSELF. And remember, no one knows the magic of who you are like yourself!

Posted in Believe in Yourself, Confidence Builders, Strategies/Techniques | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Dating: Put it Out There

Recently a friend told me she could not open the full posts of my blogs at work (a school system) because Radiant Abilities came up as a dating site.

Yes! That’s great news, although not at all true.

My intention is to periodically have dating resources for people, particularly in the areas of having the confidence to date, radiating the Power to Attract, and Healthy Relationships and Sexuality.

However, in keeping with the reputation of being a “dating” site, let’s talk about whether or not you should disclose of your online dating profile if you have a disability. I’ll share my answer through this story.

image

When I was doing online dating, I always put on my profile that I live with cerebral palsy. In the dating world, and pretty much in general, I’m a “cut to the chase” person who likes to put everything on the table. When I was dating, I wanted people to know I live with CP so that if they could not live with it, they could step aside and make room for those who could. Remember, You’re Not for Everyone.

This one time, as I was planning to meet a guy for coffee, I emailed him specifically about my disability. We had been emailing each other for a bit and the subject had not yet come up. I remember writing that I just wanted to mention it so that he wasn’t surprised. No response.

Turns out I was the surprised one. He had cerebral palsy too.

As he approached me in the restaurant with the familiar gait and hand movement, I thought, “You got to be kidding me.” Not that he had cerebral palsy, but that he refused to go there. For me, things were over before he sat down.

His lack of acknowledgement about his disability (let alone mine) spoke volumes to me about how he was coping with his disability, and about his communication and problem solving skills in general. Important factors in dating.

Another reason why I say a resounding yes to disclosing your disability on your profile is because I believe that by not doing so, it reinforces the shame of disability.

Put it out there! Your disability is a wonderful part of what makes you YOU!

To reinforce that, share with me below one aspect of your disability that attributes to your wonderfulness. See mine below.

Posted in Confidence Builders, Dating Resources | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Why is it So Easy to Shock People?

I was told two stories yesterday of people with disabilities going out in life, taking advantage of living life, having fun and others being shocked by their desire to do so.

You have a disability and you're doing THAT?!

You have a disability and you’re doing THAT?!

It begged these questions in me – Why are people still so easily shocked by people with disabilities just living their lives? Why is it that some people think a presence of a disability negates the desire to have fun, take risks, and feel alive, enjoying life?

No disability can quell those very human desires.

The first story was about a man who has paraplegia and uses a wheelchair. He was at a wedding recently. During the dancing at the reception, the guests circled around the bride, taking turns getting in the center with her and dancing. When this man joined in, pulling his out his dance moves with his upper body and tipping his wheelchair back, the dancing crowd was shocked.

So were they astonished because:

A. He wanted to dance and joined in on the fun.
B. That he had the courage to get in the center with the bride. (Because let’s face it, we’ve all had that feeling of wanting to get in the center of attention, but feeling held back by our self-doubt.)
C. That he had better dance moves than the other people.
D. All of the above.

My vote is on D. This story reminds me of the new “frontier” we have in disability education – to teach society that it’s not just about getting accommodations and basic rights, but honoring our desire for FULL participation in ALL aspects of living life.

The second story was shared to me by an employee of Arise, the regional Independent Living Center in Central New York. Arise runs a Ski program every winter. The employee told me about giving a presentation about the ski program and someone from the audience asking, “Why would anyone with a disability want to ski?”

Really? People think that having a disability alone would take away the desire for fun, risk, and adventure?

Then I have to silently thank the person who asked this sincere question and the people at the wedding who stood in shock on the dance floor. They are both reminders and motivators for me to teach more and more about the importance of living life in ALL aspects (dance floor and snowy slopes included!).

As Radiant Abilities emerges into its new online presence as an information and training resource, look for a heavy emphasis on the art of living life fully with a disability.

You’re turn now, regardless of whether you have a disability, what action have you taken in which you have shocked people by your zest for life? Comment below and check out my answer.

Posted in LIVE your life, Taking Risks | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Letting Go of Safety: Great Way of Coping with Disability

Some of you may disagree with me on this.

When we live with a disability, sometimes we really do have to throw caution to the wind and just experience life.

image

Last week as I was writing a section about my family for the About Page for the new Radiant Abilities website (to be unveiled very soon!), I realized a core reason why I am so focused in helping people live fully with a disability is because my family was so committed to having me experience all the fun and joys of being a kid.

Here’s a snapshot of my family’s philosophy of my disability. I have never been able to balance myself on a bike. Some of my earliest memories, though, are precariously sitting on the very front edge of my brother’s bike seat while having my feet resting on the “bar” part his handle bars and holding on to the handles. He would then sit on the seat and ride the bike. By doing so, he would help balance me on the bike. We’d go tooling around the neighborhood like this.

These were of course the days before the helmet law and when we did not have as much safety awareness as we do today. As an adult, I’m amazed my mother let us do this and so grateful that she did!

This was the start of teaching me to strategized (albeit, not always safely) around my disability in order to have the experience of fully living life. My family had the insight early on that sometimes the best way to cope with a disability is to focus on how to take it along for the ride (literally in this case), rather than having it hold you back.

As Radiant Abilities begins offering online resources to people with disabilities and their families, look for strategies and tools for helping you, or your loved one, take healthy risks (don’t worry, I won’t make you ride the handle bars) to lead the life they want. But first, go ahead, be brave, tell me below the experience you want that is worth the risk.

*photo by Solemar Del Sol Pansol via Instagram

Posted in Family Support, LIVE your life, Taking Risks | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Is it Really Hate or a Lack of Self-Love?

Let me begin by saying I hate the word hate. Sure, hate exists and we can see it all over if we look for it, but I personally rather spend my precious time focusing on all the love that’s out there.

Yes, you’re welcome to call me a Pollyanna. I’ll take that any day over a “hater.”

I came across something this week that made me decide to speak about this subject.

image

Maysoon Zayid is a talented actress and comedian, who happens to have cerebral palsy. She has a funny, light-hearted, yet incredibly insight view of living life with a disability. You see this come across in her interview with Marie Forleo. Maysoon’s TED talk, “I got 99 problems, palsy is just one of them,” is also a must watch.

Last week the Huff Post did an article and interview with Maysoon about the hateful comments she received after appearing on national TV.

I have to say it still amazes me that people take the time – their precious life time and energy – to spend on exhibiting hate. My initial reaction and yes, it’s a snarky one, but my honest reaction is, “Really? You don’t have anything better to do with your time??”

Then after this reaction, I pause and try to reflect…and remember the ONLY answer I have found for hate. To me, hate boils down to a lack of self-love. If the “hater” was truly happy with himself, would he ever want to strike out against one’s difference?

Once I remind myself of this, I can then begin to feel compassion for the person struggling so to accept differences, which is ultimately the expression of people with disabilities.

So I’m curious…..what’s your take on cyber-bullying and how do you counter it? Share your wisdom below.

Post Script: After I wrote this post, I watched last week’s TED talk from Monica Lewinsky on “The Price of Shame”. If you watch the entire talk, you’ll find she has great insights and perspectives on the effect of cyber-bullying.

Posted in All We Need is Love, How Others React, Strategies/Techniques | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dating Advice: You’re Not for Everyone

image

During the many years I was single, the best advice I got was “You won’t be for everyone.”

This came as a relief and it still surprises me that it was news to me at the time. Well, of course, I’m not for everyone! Duh!

The person who said this to me actually conveyed it in a very loving way and with the intention of helping me to let go of my arduous efforts to impress all potential partners. And it worked!

I began to breathe more deeply and relax into who I am, rather than what I was putting out there.

I don’t know if other people with disabilities think this way, but in my dating years, I believed in the impossible – that potential dating partners could work through their resistance toward my disability.

I look back now and sigh at my ignorance, as well as my arrogance. “You’re not for everyone” holds true for everyone. How on earth did I think I get a Disability Pass on this? Ugh, arrogance!

After all, I go through life, knowing that certain people in general will just have difficulty accepting my disability…and people who would have a more intimate relationship with me, would not?! Ugh, arrogance!

When I received this gentle slap in the face of “You’re not for everyone,” it was actually welcomed. Ahh, this meant I could focus on those who were for me and let go of my false need for the others.

Relaxing into this knowledge helped to foster my Power to Attract, meaning I put my focus more on what I had to offer to the dating/relationship scene, than trying to draw someone to me.

By focusing on our gifts and abilities,
you draw the right people to you.

On some level when you live with a disability, people will always look at what you don’t “have.” For better or worse, it’s human nature. Our job as people with disabilities, I believe, is to be open to all the gifts and lessons we bring to the many who are open to us.

If you’re out there dating, know you’re not for everyone. It really helps clear the way for those who are drawn to you.

The comment area has been pretty lonely lately. Take a risk, begin a discussion, your choice – tell about a dating or non-dating experience in which you clearly knew when you weren’t for everyone and that was okay. See my story below in the comments.

Like this post? Know someone who could benefit from it? Please share it on your social media sites.

Posted in Believe in Yourself, Confidence Builders, Dating Resources | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Why Embracing Our Imperfections Empowers Us

Can you take a guess as to what this is? The first three guesses posted in the comment area below get a free e-book of Firewalk: Embracing Different Abilities. Honor system applies here, enter your guess and then keep reading.

Followers of me on Twitter or Facebook have an advantage as I posted this a couple weeks ago.

10960143_906510169393765_3252368777528491440_o

Before I explain the picture, let me get to the lesson:

A significant step in feeling fully empowered as a person with a disability is embracing that things won’t look perfect, but the experience is.

This was my attempt to make Valentine’s cut-out cookies with my three-year old son, Jaden. They look nothing like the cute little frosted pink hearts they were intended to be.

To be honest, while I love to bake and I bake a lot, I avoid making cut-out cookies at all costs. They’re just so frustrating to make with my fine motor challenges. I struggle so with keeping the shape of the dough and trying to get it out of that darn cookie cutter and we won’t even get into the challenge of spreading frosting – I know, obvious from the photo!

Nonetheless, I wanted to give Jaden the experience in the “fun” of making them. I try hard not to let my physical limitations put constraints on his life experiences, even if it’s just making cookies.

When the cookies came out of the oven in there amorphous form, my husband and I could only laugh and be inspired to share my creation on Facebook. Surprisingly, my share got the most comments and likes than I have had in a while.

Why? Surely, not because it could have been on the cover of Cook’s Illustrated.

Maybe it had something to do with my ability to accept my imperfections and see that the PROCESS and EFFORT have so much more value than something looking good.

I have learned over the years that actually doing whatever it is I want to do (i.e. having the experience), rather than focusing on perfection, allows me to live life more fully.

I hope I’m passing that along to Jaden!

Posted in Confidence Builders, Lessons Learned, LIVE your life | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments
  • FacebookLinkedInTwitterYouTubeRSS
  • Be notified of new blog posts!

    Fields marked with a * are required.