Friday, June 27, 2014

Friends & Authors

For me, writing has often been a solitary activity.  I never thought of it as a career or even a hobby.  It was just something I have loved doing since my early teens.  Deep inside I felt that I would one day write a book about my life, not imagining that it would have much of a impact. Just that it woud be interesting.  In another part of the country, 10 years my junior, was another young girl having similar thoughts and probably similar experiences, though only one of us was disabled, so it would appear.  Who really knows?  Many years passed before our paths crossed and we began meeting for lunch and became friends.  While I was writing my memoir, It's  Easier To Dance, Amy Freeman, visited me weekly, asking questions like, "How did you do it?'  One day she looked into my eyes and asked, "Don't you ever get angry?"  "Oh, yes," I replied.  "I get very angry, but if I stay  angry, it would take all my energy so I  don't stay angry. I have learned to use that  energy more productively.

Not  knowing that she was already a writer, I encouraged Amy to write.  I could see the creativity in her eyes, recognizing that desire in my own heart.  We encouraged each other.  The photo is from her recent book launch party, celebrating the release of her book StressLess available on Amazon.

Our friendship has deepened over the last several months as I invited Amy a "privileged" view of what living with cerebral palsy can look like from the inside.
It is always a risk to drop our masks, more so for one disabled who must rely on the help of friends to live in the community.  There have been difficult moments but so much more respect and affection.  I recently told Amy that I once thought her life to be so much easier than mine.  However, appearances may be very deceiving.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


An artist's most intense work is done in silence
When nothing seems to be happening
Waiting, waiting, waiting
For some unknown, unspoken
Voice to have her say, to make her contribution
Sing her song of joy
Giving new life to the creative process

The spontaneity of of writing, whether it be poetry, prose or song lyrics is one of the surprises in life  that makes me smile.  This surprise greeted me again in a text from a fellow artist when I offered him a musical analogy for living with cerebral palsy.  The comparison just "popped" into my head as I remember writing a poem to accompany a grad student's atonal music composition for his final to receive his Master's Degree.  My poem was an insert in the program that  day now lost in my memory.  I'm sure there is a copy of it somewhere among journals on my book shelves.

I am engaged in writing as I haven't been in many  years as I am allowing a friend   to read, comment and suggest changes as I write.  This adds a new dimension to learning more about myself as an author, a woman and a friend.  I am learning that I had absorbed some of the stereotypes society had fed me about cerebral palsy and my race that were never true.  I carried these false self images around as if  they were part of my identity and somehow entitled me to special favors.  Now that those misconceptions have been exposed, I can discard them like old clothing to ragged to even give away.
This is yet another wonderful thing about having a creative way of expression.  A mirror is held up to myself as well as to an audience and  the deceptions we have lived with, if we allow them, can fall away in an instant.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Not the Only One

Click this link
to see a woman comedian with cerebral palsy.  We need more art and entertainment like  this.  Being able to laugh at life's circumstances is one of the healthiest things to do .  Those with disabilities are often portrayed as needy or heroic.  We actually span the range of all humanity.  We are your families, teachers, neighbors, counselors etc.  In my life, children are the best reminders of who I am,  They run into my arms, climb on my lap, and ask ordinary questions unrelated to my disability.  "Aren't you excited to see us, Miss Annie" asked a 6 year old Indian girl  whose family had baked lemon cup cakes for my birthday.
Apparently, I wasn't showing the degree of excitement that she (age 5) and her younger brother, (age 3) anticipated.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fine Minds!

Click this link  to read how this important change in terminology only scratches the surface of identifying those who are of average or superior intelligence despite having a significant neurological impairment.  We are most frequently characterized as being "trapped " in our bodies.  For me, nothing could be further from the truth!  Since childhood, I have been physically active, despite having cerebral palsy.  Sledding, swinging, swimming and horseback riding.  It is my experience that this description of being "trapped" is the able-bodied projection of how he/she imagines one would feel in a similar circumstance.  However, with the status of a professional title and an authoritative position, this idea of feeling trapped is conveniently attached to the person who has a disability.

At age 29, I began to practice hatha yoga and meditation.  I also read Living wth the Himalayan Masters and other articles and books of Eastern philosophy and theology.  Also the autobiographies of Malcolm X, Maya Angelou, and Helen Keller are just a few lives that demonstrate how freedom or confinement can only be obtained through permission of one's mind and spirit.

In my  own tradition of Christianity, I've read the lives of ordinary people who found great freedom  in the strict discipline of prayer, fasting and regular service. Just as one's disability is not  chosen, neither are many of these lifestyles.  They depend on one's culture, history  sex and status in society in the period of history in which they live.  Language and terminology also play a significant role in whether one's feels trapped.

I am grateful for the fine minds that have articulated many paths to freedom that contradict the image of being trapped.