Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Saying "I Can" to my Paralysis

At birth, I weighed eleven pounds, the size of a Thanksgiving turkey or a bowling ball. My size led to complications during my birth that partially paralyzed my left arm.

Twenty-nine years later I cannot raise my arm above my head to put my hair in a ponytail. I lack the strength and ability to straighten it completely to do a push up,  and I am not able turn my forearm downward to type with two hands. My left arm and shoulder measure two inches shorter than my right.

In spite of all this, I telemark ski with one pole (and I love bumps!). I play banjo. I perform on stage. I milk goats, build, dig, and drive a stick shift. Last year, I started swimming laps at the pool. I've rock climbed with one arm, kayaked, played lacrosse, and fallen over a lot trying to do headstands in yoga.

When I talk about things I can't do, my chest tightens and my throat constricts. Inside, I am not limited. My body is not disfigured. Inside, I feel fully capable and perfect. When my internal world crashes against words like I can't  or pictures of me that prominently display my injury, my insides get jumbled. Defeat wraps itself around me like a coiling snake.

I feel best when I say yes to life and go for it in every moment, even if my going for it looks different than others.  In the next three months I'll be undertaking a challenge with my left arm.  I want to consciously experiment with saying I can.

I've set a few goals for myself. With all the compassion and patience I can muster, I am going to:
-learn to juggle
-go climbing with my bad-ass climbing friends
-choreograph and perform a dance that pays homage to my paralyzed arm
-spend time everyday loving on my arm

Most importantly, I am going to address the strangling feeling that comes up when I talk about it because I want to be free, and light, and at peace. I am going to own this injury more than I already do, so that my internal world and my physical reality are one.

(PS: I caught and KILLED that pack rat all by myself!!!!! Boooya!)


  1. I remember when you had surgery on your arm as a teenager, you didn't let that stop you from joining in the silly fun of our school semi-formal, post-surgical brace and all, and damn you looked beautiful! said "I Can" then too...

    1. Why thank you. I should dig up a picture from that event--between the braces, the arm brace, and two months of my mom bathing me, that was a...memorable chapter!

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  3. Wonderful words & beautiful pictures. You are quite something, Marian!