Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Girl with the Hobble

What if my right leg were two inches shorter than my left leg? 

(Where did this thought come from? I have no idea. I don't ask my brain questions, I just go with it.)

I was walking downtown yesterday, when I considered this question:
Would I be basically the same person? 
Would it change me? 
Would I be married to Jeremy or someone else?
Would I be in Korea? 
Would everything change because of two little inches? 

I imagine, from a young age, when the difference became clear, I would've gotten a lot of pity, "Oh, what a shame, she's such a cute little girl." We'd spend a fair amount of time at the doctor and physical therapy.

I imagine that it would've been the thing people saw first, and so I probably would have too. It would've been harder to be anything else. To be smart. To be talented. To be kind. As soon as the first drop step and hobble was seen by another, I would've just been that girl with the wobble.

I imagine I wouldn't have been the confident, fun-loving kid that I was. I would've wanted to hide. I would've felt less than. I would've made different friends. Friends who also like to hide, go unnoticed, blend in. I'd hang out with the "different" kids and, frankly, as a result I probably would've been better at math.

I imagine I wouldn't have felt as capable of physical activity. Of stretching and moving and feeling my body. I wouldn't have been so eager to start up football games at recess or organize relay races with my friends. I probably would've just sat and watched. Not wanting to draw attention to the way in which I fell short.

I imagine that those two inches would've kept me from playing competitive volleyball, basketball, and soccer from the age of ten. I wouldn't have known the struggle of running until your lungs burn. Of winning as a team. Of losing as a team. Of learning how to walk into an opposing team's gym with confidence and how to talk out of the losing team's gym with grace.

I imagine I wouldn't have been popular. I wouldn't have made the friends that I did. I would've fell in with a different crowd. People who weren't so outspoken. People who didn't care about sports. I probably would've gotten into computer gaming. Or maybe marijuana.

I imagine I wouldn't have pursued the same passions in high school and college. I would've had a different college roommate. I would've pursued a different degree. Maybe sciences. Maybe something that would require less time in front of people. Less time on a stage. Less time being the focus.

I imagine I would've have had the courage to go to Cambodia. To travel and be stared at for even more things: white skin, blonde hair, and a hobble. And then, I wouldn't have gotten that curious e-mail from Jeremy that led us into a relationship. I wouldn't have written a book. I wouldn't have spoken at different schools. And I definitely wouldn't be in Korea right now. Maybe later. Who knows? Just maybe.

It's only two inches.
Two little inches.

There are people in the world whose skin can't handle the sun.
People who are allergic to water.
People with such sensitive immune systems, they can't be touched. Ever.
People with one less chromosome.
People who cannot taste.
People who live with unbearable, chronic pain.

There are people with special needs and health concerns who live bright, vibrant, active lives. They compete. They perform. They thrive. And I'm ever more impressed by people who take a limitation and make it beautiful.

But yesterday, I wondered if I would have been one of them. Would I have had the courage to write a different story or would I have settled into the popular narrative about what it means to be "abnormal"?

I'm really, truly not sure.

But I do know that gratitude matters.

Recognition that, "Yes, it's raining today, but it didn't rain yesterday" is important.
Awareness that, "Yes, this sucks and it could be so much worse" matters.
And appreciation that, "Yes, I live an abundant life" changes everything.