Positive Is Perspective

I could say SO much about this amazing, wonderful, awesome quotation…but where to begin!?

This was, by the way, posted by someone I’ve met in my pursuit of my passion (to help individuals with disabilities maintain a joyful, active life.) This gentleman has Cerebral Palsy and is one of the most positive people I’ve met. ūüôā

We are all – as human beings – entitled to tough moments and emotions. If we didn’t feel sorry for ourselves, complain, worry, huff and puff…I’d argue that we weren’t human beings at all! Our limbic system is enough of a whirlwind on its own, but paired with the most advanced evolutionary neocortex on the planet, we are susceptible to torrents of push-and-pull internally…including the huff-and-puffery!

What matters at the end of the day, though, is our overall approach to life. That approach is founded in our attitude and behaviors – we can either do our best to focus on the positive and strive ahead as best as we are able with what we are given… OR, we can be miserable, blame the world, and do nothing to better a bad situation. (It’s like someone saying that a given circumstance is unfair when they have invested zero effort in trying to turn the tables.)

I have to say that the majority of individuals with disabilities whom I’ve had the honor to know are among the most enthusiastic, positive, and inspiring people I have met. To be fair, I’d say it is actually 100% of those I have encountered, and this includes friends I have lost to illness (such as ALS.) The overwhelmingly gracious attitude and perseverance in the face of adversity is enough to have altered my life forever – I simply am a changed person because I know these people. My DNA is fundamentally geared towards being empathetic, compassionate, and positive…but like everyone, I have my “ugly moments” too. That said, I’ve made it my business to count blessings every single day, and to see the light in all situations…even if it means I’m squinting with all my might.¬†While I was programmed to do so anyway, I have also made a commitment to live my life this way going forward.

This quotation hit home for me because I see so many people in the world who don’t value gratitude and appreciation…and yet they have so much to be thankful for. And then I see individuals for whom life would seem to be a dark and terrifying place…and they not only thrive, but live joyfully, and to the fullest that they are able.

It shouldn’t have to take a jarring image, nor the suffering of another individual for us to “get with it.” But when human beings are exposed to the courage of those who actually HAVE the right to complain, it tends to strike a chord – for that I am immensely grateful, because it is a reality check some people need.¬†

Gratitude, thankfulness, happiness, positivity…they are founded in one’s perspective. They aren’t handed to us. They aren’t up to anyone BUT us. As such, that also means they aren’t out of our control.

We have a choice in how we view the world and our lives. If we make a decision to shift our lenses in favor of gratitude, that “rose color” some people go on about? It may suddenly blossom into view. . .

 

Bullying, Disabilities, and The Empathetic Heart

I don’t have children, but this would very much be top of mind if I did. To raise a child to be sensitive to others, to have compassion and empathetic view, is one of the most important traits they could have.

I’ve had the fortune to participate in a training on bullying and harassment recently (though this is a long-time hot topic for me, and one I regularly talk about with the kids in our Martial Arts classes. I myself was bullied and harassed growing up, and with the prevalence of cyber methods, it is even more insidious for children these days.) The training focused on bullying as it pertains to all children within a school setting (primarily public in this case), but also with some particular data regarding bullying and children with disabilities.

It might seem alarming to some of you that children with disabilities are bullied approximately 1.3 times more than their neurotypical (non-disabled) peers. (George G. Bear. et al. Differences in Bullying Victimization Between Students With and Without Disabilities, School Psychology Review. March 2015, Vol. 44, Issue 1 cited in Rose and Gage, Exploring the Involvement of Bullying Among Students.)

Bullying in and of itself is horrifying, but the prospect that it is happening even more to children with disabilities is difficult to grasp. My passion lies in not only empowering others by helping them to discover their own inner strengths, talents, and abilities, but to equip them with the tools necessary to manage challenging situations. Martial Arts is my current vehicle – as ¬†one of the instructors under my Sensei, I am able to impart values and knowledge to the children during class. Naturally it isn’t always easy to keep the attention (by the way, not AGE-dependent so much as child-dependent…and time of day!) It is therefore crucial to be both consistent with messages, and to repeat them with frequency. It’s amazing to hear the kids respond to “what is our goal with a bully?” with “TO CONTROL AND NEGOTIATE!” (We encourage the idea that we aren’t learning Martial Arts to injure anyone else – the key purpose is to know how to protect ourselves and others, should we need to, but also to use our skills only as a last resort.)

For children with disabilities, the concept of bullying can be more difficult. Cognitive or physical limitations may result in the child not fully understanding that he or she is IN a bullying situation, let alone how to manage the situation if it is happening. I believe in teaching – I believe in helping individuals to understand how to recognize danger, violence, harassment, and bullying before it happens or, if that window is missed, when it is happening. It is only with the knowledge of what is taking place that we are able to do something about the situation.

I also believe it is vital that each of set the example – whether our own children, our nieces and nephews, kids we see in classes at school or in sports…we are always on the radar. Children are constantly watching and learning from our actions as much as our words (I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of a little one coming out with a mouthful of something hilarious after having picked it up from an adult – you never know what they’ll say next, only that they are ALWAYS absorbing.)

Children will pick up our mannerisms, our prejudices, our attitudes, and our approach to people / places / things. As such, we must keep in mind that what we say / do, and the methods by which we manage situations are likely to be adopted (depending on how much time we spend with them.) Takeaway —> Children are hugely impressionable.

EXAMPLES…

  1. In Martial Arts class, I ensure that I hold EVERYONE to the same standards (including myself)
  2. I am always impeccably dressed (gi, belt, tabi, hair tied up, no jewelry)
  3. I ALWAYS¬†show a “Zanshin” or “ready stance” when I am demonstrating a technique with my Sensei…both before and after the technique, to show it is vital to always be ready for a potential threat (or a threat’s follow-up)
  4. When I see someone acting out or in a bullying manner, I very quickly address it and make sure involved parties understand what happened, and why their actions were not acceptable
  5. I treat everyone equally
  6. I speak in a firm but respectful tone
  7. I reward great behavior with positive, verbal affirmations
  8. Likewise, I don’t tolerate fooling around – a Martial Arts setting is not the place!

My behavior and approach will be modeled, so it is important that I lead by example. I do the same when volunteering – we have a few children with autism who like to get particularly rowdy. I make clear when something is not acceptable in explicit terms, and I encourage and reward positive behaviors.

In daily life I also do my best to lead with an empathetic heart. This doesn’t mean I am necessarily more vulnerable to or unaware of realistic dangers, only that I approach my assessments with some level of compassion. (I am not, let’s be clear, referring to a dangerous situation – during such times, we must act without hesitation. This is its own rabbit-hole conversation!) But. . .in regular, day-to-day activities, I do my best to treat others as I want to be treated, and to have compassion for those in need. I am not raising a child of my own, but that doesn’t mean I don’t impact those around me – I want those children to know the beauty of an empathetic heart, and that it is up to us to champion for those who may be unable to do so for themselves.¬†

There are many bullying situations in which a child may not fully grasp the danger he or she is in (as above.) While there are no definitive statistics, it is clear that many people stand around and do nothing. To me, that is simply unconscionable.

We encourage the children in our classes to – first and foremost – get an adult. That action is doing SOMEthing. If they are in the midst of it, we show them some of the ways they can be involved and stay as safe as possible. But we don’t say “just stand there and stare!” We want them to recognize danger when it occurs, and know that they have safe options to HELP. At the end of the day, those actions can literally save a life.¬†

Empathy and compassion matter.

Having tools to use in dangerous situations matters.

Let’s do our part to help children to understand what they can do, and to help them grow into compassionate adults – they need never, EVER be helpless.

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Perspective – When My Attitude Flares Up, How I Tone It Down, and Why I Should

MOST of the time I *try* to be a decent human being.  I try to reflect on my behaviors Рgood, bad, and ugly Рand to conduct myself in an upstanding way as much as I can.

I ALSO fall short plenty!

As human beings, we are subject to more influences than I think we ever want to admit (hell, even the moon has me all off kilter when it’s full!) We are subject to changes in mood, for so many reasons that it would be nigh impossible to list them all. ¬†But that’s okay.¬† We are allowed to ebb and flow, because that is just the nature of life. ¬†We don’t have to be perfect all the time, and even if we have some grandiose notion that we’d like to be. . .it doesn’t always play out that way.

But the other day a thought came to mind that stopped me right in the middle of my “if-the-car-in-front-of-me-doesn’t-speed-up-I’m-going-to-go-nuts!”¬†rant. ¬†It was such a jarring thought that my attitude shifted. Instantaneously. ¬†

I have the wonderful fortune of volunteering with children with disabilities with two organizations – I’ve never found something that lit my heart quite as much (and that’s saying a LOT, as I am a truly passionate person about my life, my activities, and the careers I have had.) I love the kids, and I love meeting their parents – learning about them, their individualities, and what makes them happy, is an overwhelming joy.

So as I was having this moment of “can’t stand anyone”¬†(and I think it was in reaction to a woman tailgating on the highway and giving me the middle finger, despite that I had no idea what I did to warrant it) I thought to myself. . .

What if the person in that car who I’m getting all flustered because of, or at, was one of the parents of the kids I get to work with? ¬†Would I act the same way?

Resounding NO.

I wasn’t *trying* to give myself a guilt trip, or make myself feel badly. ¬†When my behavior deviates – and I think it’s fair to say, as adults, we generally know when we are being unreasonable and inappropriate with our reactions (should we choose to be honest with ourselves!) – I am aware of it. ¬†I do try to correct myself and in effort to curb poor actions, I have said to myself everything from “you never know who has a weapon!” “you can’t take back what you say,” to¬†“that really doesn’t make me a good person to flip someone off”…!

Doesn’t always seem to calm me down, though! ¬†

But. . .the thought that it *could be* someone in a situation such as the families whose children I work with shut me down pronto.

I would never want to behave that way with one of them. ¬†And when I think about it, I can’t imagine I really want to act that way with ANYone. ¬†What does reacting poorly say about me anyway? Nothing grand, I assure you!

When I think about it, it makes me feel sad that I would allow temporary emotions to overcome me in such a way that I lash out – in any regard. ¬†As a human being, I know it is bound to happen, and that expecting myself to be Miss. Goody Twoshoes is NOT realistic. ¬†But because I don’t know what other people are facing, and because I also know how blessed I am, I appreciated the supernal reminder. . .which stopped me from getting angry, or for the woman who flipped me off to ruin more than the few seconds of my day during which she did so.

I know I’m going to fall short sometimes, but that moment was one I know I will remember. . .

I have the blessing to work with those who have a journey fraught with challenges, and I LOVE the work because I have the opportunity to make lives better. To behave poorly as a result of¬†flared¬†emotions¬†is to contribute in a negative way, and I will suffer personally when I choose that route. ¬†The only thing that would make it worse is to also hurt someone else who didn’t deserve it to begin with…and I’d say I don’t really want to decide that someone deserves any of that.

 

Kindness

Cliche but…truth. And a nice reminder.

Someone very close to me actually can’t¬†see that well anymore – and it isn’t a result of age. ¬†To be robbed of sight before¬†40 – pronounced legally blind as the result of an undefined virus – feels so criminal. He’s vastly more talented than he’ll ever know as an artist, and yet he will never again be able to create as he once did.¬†

In his world, colors have faded, leaving a bleak landscape flanked only by¬†peripherals of deadened black. Values constantly bleed into one another, making objects difficult to define. ¬†Bright lights, even a subtle glare, render an ever greater “blindness” than the already tunneled, spot-like field of view that remains.

So while I’ve seen this quotation hundreds of times, over many years,¬†it has an even more valuable quality now. . . I saw it. ¬†And I paused with a heavy breath.

Womanista.com

Womanista.com

When¬†has to ask for help because he cannot see whether his food is safely prepared, or because he cannot make out a number that he needs on the computer screen…I feel my heart bleeding. ¬†He takes it in good stride, thankful for the blessings he does have…and in that, are we all reminded yet again…

He once crossed paths with an angry man in the street Рone well under the influence.  Having thought he was being stared down Рnot realizing the man looking at him in fact could not see Рthis man became engaged, aggressive, and approached. But Рperhaps from some subconscious knowing Рhe backed away before becoming violent. . .leaving a nearly-blind man, resigned to being beaten, thankfully (unexpectedly) untouched.

The thing is…you wouldn’t know he cannot see. ¬†He doesn’t walk around with a cane, able to see SOMEthing, and reluctant¬†to give up what freedom he has left. ¬†

You wouldn’t know that the center vision is pristine, but so much else is lost that he is, truly, disabled, and fully unable to see the breadth of what is going on around him. ¬†

When kindness is spoken among all, we include those who may in fact be suffering, though we cannot Рourselves Рnecessarily perceive it.  

The¬†world is a sometimes a violent,¬†cruel, and inhospitable place –¬†we have the ability to¬†offer kindness regardless of circumstance. ¬†To do so – difficult it may feel at times – is a gift we are all capable of giving, and one that might go wildly farther than we¬†dream.¬†

It is easy to forget the blessings we do have, and to take life, and health, for granted.  So I Рfor one Рappreciate seeing familiar words from a newer perspective.  

I appreciate being reminded without the severity that some reminders may come with.  

I appreciate the example of perseverance that those in adversity demonstrate.  

And I appreciate the kindness that people offer. . .because you might cross his path one day too. . .and your kindness will not fall on deaf ears, nor blinded eyes – it will be received with gratitude, and far more of it than you’ll know.

screen-shot-2016-12-28-at-4-35-15-pm

‚̧

“This Armless Woman Can Literally Kick Your Ass” by Sophia Rosenbaum

My heart is brimming over with emotion seeing this story

http://nypost.com and Barcroft photo

http://nypost.com and Barcroft photo

Jessica Cox has accomplished feats too challenging for those withOUT physical disabilities, never mind those that she has had since her birth.  She is Рfor lack of a stronger word Рand absolute inspiration, facing her own fears (of which there are few) with a can-demolish kind of attitude.

http://nypost.com and Barcroft photo

http://nypost.com and Barcroft photo

It never ceases to amaze me that those in my Life (or those I have read about)¬†¬†with the greatest “disabilities” – a word they generally do NOT use, by the way – manage the brightest smiles, the bravest attitudes, and the most positive outlooks. ¬†I feel honored just to hear about what she has done in the face of an adversity that seems insurmountable.

Amazing, Jessica. ¬†‚̧