Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Secret

Sometimes I feel like everyone else is in on some secret that I never got to hear. I watch small children jump and run with blissful ease, their limber bodies receiving perfect instructions from their brains, tiny whispers that never even register in their ears.

I remember telling a small boy once that I have trouble walking because my legs don't receive the right instructions.
"Well, can I teach you?" he asked with gentle innocence. "I know how."

Sometimes I wish it was that easy. Sometimes I wish I could just learn, that someone would just let me in on this secret.

And I've tried. I've tried to "just learn." One time I came from school and stood in front of a mirror. I figured that if I could teach my brain how to spell words and add numbers and find places on a map, then I could teach my legs how to walk normally. But the image I had in my head didn't match the reflection in the mirror. I knew exactly how my legs were supposed to move...I could visualize the steps and replicate them perfectly in my mind, but my legs failed me.

When I look down at my legs as I walk, they don't look different to me. This is my normal.

But when I look in the mirror, I see the clumsiness. I see knees that bend and knock together, and uneven, awkward steps. I look away.


"Stop knocking your knees together when you walk," my mom said.
I can't, I said. I can't. 
"Yes you can. It's easy. Just turn your knees out and don't let them touch."
I can't. I'm trying, but I can't.
"Like this," she said.
 I'm trying. 
"It's not hard! Just push your knees out!"
 When I try, nothing happens.

Frustration. Tears. She didn't understand what I was saying, didn't understand why my knees wouldn't cooperate. I didn't understand either, didn't understand why it was all supposed to be easy but it wasn't easy, wasn't easy at all.

That's the most frustrating feeling in the world, when I'm trying to do something and I hate my legs for not being able to do it, hate that willpower isn't always enough.

And yet there is also something so poetic, so beautiful about having a disability...shortly before I was due to head off to college, I was working in the gym with a personal trainer. We'd been working together for years, and she is amazing. For months and months I had been trying to push my knees outward...she would press her hand against my leg and hold it out, but as soon as she'd let go, my leg would collapse right back to the center no matter how hard I concentrated.

And then one day when she let go, my leg stayed in place. It didn't collapse.

The two of us stared in shocked silence for a moment before she spoke, wiping tears from her eyes.  

"You did it."

As I've developed this blog, I've come to realize that much of my life is about finding beauty in the brokenness...and there is so much beauty to be found, so much grace that comes from my ungraceful legs. I will never have a flawless gait, will never have perfect steps, but not knowing this "secret" has taught me so much...cerebral palsy can be frustrating and demoralizing and crushing, but it is also an amazing source of inspiration that I can draw upon, something that has shown me that, above all, my abilities far outnumber my disabilities.


  1. Mhmm :) I have a second blog where I just write about my own personal journey, not disability. And it is called "A crooked path: Finding beauty in broken places" :) beauty in brokenness is my life motto! I can so relate to this- everyone used to tell me the same thing, just push out your legs, like this! And they'd show me. I would try, to no avail. But the work is worth it- just today I "graduated" from physio and was sent home with stretches to continue on my own! I'm really excited. We should have our own secret, what do you say? :) I'd love to meet you someday, truly! I showed my Mom your blog and she swears we must be twins :) Keep your chin up, you're amazing!!!

  2. While there is beauty in brokenness YOU are not broken, my friend. You are just unique and different and are an individual. As a mom, I can totally see me pushing my girls to "try harder" and forgetting sometimes they are doing the best they can.

    Abby, for example, struggles with math (not the same as CP or what Boo goes through) but still, for her, she feels stupid and inept and it is so difficult. Added my telling her just learn your facts doesn't help.

    We mom's screw up sometimes. When we think we are giving support and our children hear it as judgment.

    Two quick things: One I am super proud that your knee stayed firm. But more importantly: I would be proud of your dedication even if it never did.

  3. Jacquelyn: I love, love, love how we seem to lead parallel lives sometimes! Congratulations on "graduating" from PT...that is so awesome! xoxo

    Kerri: Thank you times a million for your support. And I think that's a really important point that you bring up...when I was writing my post, I was trying to find a way to convey that idea -- though it is frustrating sometimes, in the end I really and truly appreciate that my mom pushes me to reach my full potential, and I think Abby probably feels the same way when you push her to work on her math skills! Everyone makes mistakes, yes...but I am so, so grateful for my mom's support. I know I wouldn't be who I am today (physically, spiritually, emotionally, everything!) without her.

    Thank you, Kerri! I can't put into words how much I appreciate your wisdom.

    1. Wait, you can graduate from PT!! Holy crap that is Boo's favorite therapy. Can she graduate from OT instead? :)

    2. hahaha yes! I have progressed to the point that my PT says I can just continue on my own at home. PT was my least favourite, OT was my favourite! I'd go back to OT if I was allowed :)

    3. They tell you to do it one your own because they think there is nothing else they can do. Look into feldenkrais or biofeedback...you'll never graduate from those because they use the unlimited potential of your brain. No working on a knee - its the brain that matters.

    4. Anonymous ~ Thank you for your input! I agree that those techniques are important as well...I worked on some of that stuff with my physical therapist and personal trainer, and it was really helpful!

  4. I have read enough about your mom to know that in this case her "pushing" was only the best intentioned (and I know that's how you wanted to convey it, so don't second guess how you wrote that part) - but also makes me realize that as a mom I need to be careful of how that comes across to my boys.

    I am so proud of you for your perseverance and well done on the knee staying out!!

  5. *punches the air*


    And you will keep doing it. In this, and every other scenario.

    This reminds me of a religious (sorry if you're not into that) story I heard once, with a very powerful message.

    God told a man to push against a huge, massive boulder, and keep pushing it until He came back. The man did so, and hours turned into days, turned into weeks, and still he got up each morning and pushed against that boulder as he'd been told.

    The devil came by to watch. He laughed at the man and said "Look at you! You're pathetic! You're never going to move that boulder. God's set you up with an impossible task - He doesn't care about you - he's making you look like a fool, for everyone to see. Just give up - stop pushing - stop making a prat of yourself and go home."

    The man carried on pushing, disheartened, but still with a shred of faith that there must be a reason he was trying to move the boulder.

    One day, God returned to the man, who was in tears of frustration and rage, still pushing the boulder, and cursing God's name for requiring it of him. He yelled his anger and hurt at God, who listened quietly.

    Then God said to the man "I didn't ask you to move the boulder. I didn't even ask you to TRY to move the boulder. I asked you to push against it. And look how strong you've become - you are ready for anything, and can DO the next important task I ask of you now you've been properly prepared for it."

  6. KERRY!!!! YAYYYY YOU! While on one hand, I say **** you to the people even trying to hold your leg in place, on the other I say "YAAYYYY YOU!!!" For my son, it's his mouth. His mouth betrays him all of the time. He hears the words. He understands them. He gets the therapists saying DO THIS, just hold your tongue here! And he understands, and yet, his tongue and jaws and mouth and brain are still frozen in the locked-knee place. He knows what he wants...and I thank you so much for telling me that he CAN get there. One day, my son's tongue will *maybe and it's okay if it is forever* NOT be frozen and knocking...<3 so much...thank you.

  7. Oh, your writing is just beautiful! I can't tell you how glad I am that you happened upon my blog, because it gave me a chance to read yours. You have a fan in me, for sure. And I can truly relate to the feelings that something people say should be so easy is so difficult. But you're right - there is beauty in the brokenness. We just have to keep holding on to that.

  8. Oh Kerry you are brilliant! Beautifully expressed and written xx

  9. Tracey~ Thank you!! xoxo

    Lizzi~ I love that story! Thank you for sharing! The message behind it is amazing.

    Kristi~ You're right -- Tucker will get there someday...and even if he doesn't, that's okay! He is amazing, and the two of you have changed my perspective on life in so many ways. Thank you.

    Emily~ Thank you for stopping by, and I am so glad that we found each other as well! I can't wait to read more of your writing!

    Bron~ Thank you!! :-)

  10. What an inspiring post, and how you are able to see a glass half full, cracks and all. When my son is able to do something for the first time after it took him a 1000 tries, the reward is so much greater!

  11. "When I try, nothing happens," is everything. It speaks to my soul.


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