You aren’t supposed to look like a pretzel when you are born.
But I did.
I was born with Arthrogryposis, a physical disability. I lack muscle mass in all four limbs. This means I don’t have the same strength as the average person, and need a lot of assistance for day to day activities. This has always been my normal, and I never see it as a limitation.
This life has led me to get used to asking for help in the smallest of ways. From getting up in the morning to going to bed at night, someone is helping me with the tasks of daily living.
Wherever I go, I take a companion. Family, friends, caregivers — they are an extension of me.
Because of my physical disability, independence is not an option. But I’ve accepted this fact for years. I don’t let limitations stop me from chasing any dream.
Several years ago, I started writing. I wasn’t planning to be a writer. Yet there was power in sharing stories with each other.
I uncovered the desire to tell my story. Though confidence in my writing came much later, I began the journey. And I learned many lessons along the way.
1. Embrace the story you’re living
For five years, I delayed writing. Until my thirtieth birthday was fast approaching.
I thought, My life doesn’t look like so-and-so’s. And I haven’t reached the next milestone. I compared. And I waited.
With time, I let go of years of self-imposed expectations, and a new perspective revealed itself — the beauty of telling the story of now.
This is my life. This is my story. And it is so good. So is yours.
2. Writing requires a different type of endurance
I know how to push through all kinds of physical challenges. If standing gets to be too much, it doesn’t bother me to ask for help.
But writing requires a stronger, deeper endurance. I wasn’t used to confessing fears, revealing dreams, and sharing specifics of life with a disability to a broader audience.
Writing comes from the depths of your heart. It is hard work. It forced me to face my limitations.
3. No one else can write for you
This is one area I don’t need active help from someone else. I just need a little assistance getting setup in my space… standing at a lowered desk with all my papers, notes, books, pens, and pencils within reach.
And someone to keep the water cup full or coffee warm.
Then I can work. I can type. I can fight for the words to come to the screen. Again and again.
At the beginning of 2015, I committed to writing in a journal every day. Along the way, I discovered that I could no longer not write. I craved the daily practice. It was healing and preparing me to write out in the open.
4. Find strength for the day
You can endure.
You can make it through another day and do the tasks in front of you.
5. Focus on one
One day. One task.
Break the larger goal, the bigger project, into smaller pieces removes the stress and brings clarity.
Don’t jump straight into writing a book. I tried that in my early days of writing, and quickly got overwhelmed. The ability to blog consistently suffered because I focused on the wrong thing.
We don’t have to rush the journey we are on. Take time to figure things out.
6. Community is necessary
Whether we are actively writing or actively living, we need others to come along beside us. We need to join the stories of those around us and invite them into our own stories.
Before I was ready to say, “I’m a writer,” I found Tribe Writers — an encouraging community of people ready to grow and pursue writing together. After that, I could confidently share a new-found passion with family and friends.
7. Freedom comes in living in the present
When we stop worrying about how we expect our stories to look, we start living more deeply. Deeper living leads to deeper writing.
Until I turned 30, embracing my story was difficult. I focused on the future rather than admitting a tension existed — my physical limits were clashing with my unlimited dreams.
Part of the struggle is examining a disability I can’t erase, to really “see” it. Working through this tension, I needed to accept my place, see the gifts that were already in my life, and love my right now.
I didn’t learn any of these things overnight. I didn’t learn them on my own, either. At some point, I knew I needed help.
Not the kind of assistance I’d grown accustomed to since birth. No, this help required bravery and courage to ask others to walk me through what I didn’t know.
These days writing is a big part of what I do.
It’s simply another piece of my story, another layer of my normal.
How have you allowed limitations to stand in your way? What do you hope to achieve in spite of them? Share in the comments.