How Opposites work in nature and in life with a disability.

Photo of Cigar tree by Michelle Steiner

Shortly after we moved into our house we found a a cigar tree growing in our back yard. This type of tree produces beautiful white delicate blooms in the late spring or early summer. In the Autumn, the flowers are gone and stringy brown branches that look like cigars fall from the trees. One of the neighbors told my dad that I will probably want to cut down the tree, because of the brown that falls. My personal preference is the flowers, compared to the the dark branches that tumble down. However I can’t have the flowers, without the branches that come with it. I would certainly miss the flowers if I cut the tree down. Having a disability has been much like having a cigar tree. For so long all I could see were the long dark branches that fell to the ground. I wanted to cut the tree down and thought how much better my life would be without it.

No matter how hard I tried though I couldn’t get rid of my Learning Disability. I thought the start of every beginning of every school year or semester would be the year that I would master math, perform well in in gym class, and become popular. I was always disappointed when none of these things happened. I became even more frustrated when I graduated and felt that my disability was holding me back from the job I wanted, or finding a relationship. I wanted to cut the tree down! I was determined that I would find a way to not have one. No matter how hard I tried though, I couldn’t do it. The roots ran too deep and it was forever planted.

It wasn’t until I laid the axe down, that things began to work in my favor. Instead of wasting my energy on trying to get rid of it, I began to learn to live with my disability. I had to learn to find ways that worked for me, through much trial and error. Most importantly I began to advocate for myself.

Advocacy looks different in the various parts of my life. When I was in school I needed to have extended test time, tutoring, and a note taker to be successful. When I moved out on my own I knew that I needed to live in a central location, to be able to take myself places when I couldn’t get a ride. At my job I may need to have clear instructions, extra time to learn new information, and an understanding of my disability. Nobody can know what my needs are unless I tell them.

Once I began to accept it and find ways to work with it I also began to see the benefits of having one. It may have created difficulty but it also produced resilience, strength ,and creative ways to solve a problem. I also found others who had a disability as well.

In the natural world opposites are more common. The cigar tree can’t exist without the flowers and the brown stringy branches. The two opposite forces work together and each has their season to bloom. I’m glad that I didn’t take my neighbors advice and remove the tree. I’m also happy that my disability didn’t go away either. Having a disability is having two opposite sides. One part represents the difficulty and challenges, living with one creates. The other part represents the positives and the richer experiences that made me into the person I am today. If I focus on what I perceive to be ugly, then I miss out on the beauty that is right in front of me.

How I can’t take a vacation from my disability

Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

During the summer months people look forward to going on vacations. People look forward getting away from work or school. I am looking forward to summer break and going to trips with my husband. As much as I love traveling, having a Learning Disability is one thing I don’t get a break from. Many people think that people with them or other neurodivergent disabilities such as Autism outgrow them, or overcome them if they have success. Having a brain based disability effects many areas of my life that I don’t get a break from.

Executive functioning and processing difficulties are issues that I can’t escape from. Problems in these areas, effects how I think, learn and process information. I have trouble understanding and processing what people tell me. Many times people give me directions and I think I understand what they are asking and I may complete the task wrong. People think that when I get something wrong that I’m not paying attention. I am focusing, but listening and understanding are two different things. I often have to teach myself how to learn a new skill, with much practice.

Not being able to drive is another area that I can’t escape from. My difficulties with visual perception prevent me from driving. I’m not able to get in the car and drive myself where I need to go. I need to get a ride from someone who can drive. If I can’t get a ride, I need to walk or take the bus to get where I need to go. Public transportation and places I wish to visit on the bus line are limited. Walking is my preferred mode of transportation, when I can’t get a ride. Living in a central location is essential to my independence.

My difficulties with math is another part of life I can’t take retreat from. I struggle to total items in the store. It’s always a surprise when the cashier totals my items. I truly don’t know how much I am spending. It can also be difficult to create a budget, and to pay bills. I also struggle to figure out a tip when I go out to eat. My struggle with math goes beyond totaling numbers. Having Dyscalculia creates difficulty with telling my left from my right. I am also not able to read the face of an analog clock.

Despite not being able to take a break from my disability, I have found ways to live with it. I have discovered new ways to adapt. Technology has also been particularly helpful. A digital clock or my Fit Bit help me to know what time it is. I am able to type emails and stories on the computer, to be able to share my thoughts with others. Apps on my phone help me to total a tip, at restaurant. I’m also blessed with a wonderful support system who gives me rides and patiently explains how to do the task again.

I can’t transport to a world that is 100% disability friendly. Our society wants to classify people with disabilities or cure them. At times I feel like I am living in a world not meant for me. Having a disability is a journey not a destination. Thankfully there are ways that I can adapt and cope. I have to learn to manage it and make it part of my life.

When you can’t move the mountain

Photo by Simon Berger on Pexels.com

When I was young, I remember a large rock in my front yard. My cousin and I used to climb it and pretend we were She-RA. I also loved to climb up the large driveway that lead to our house on the hill, and imagine that it was a mountain. Another significant part of my life was having a Learning Disability. Learning to live with it was much bigger than the rock in the yard. At times I felt like I was climbing a mountain.

I began the journey on this mountain as a young child. I didn’t come into this adventure with enthusiasm. I approached this kicking and screaming. The mountain seemed so big and steep. Nevertheless it was my mountain to climb. I was amazed that despite the height, my peers were scaling it with such ease. The route that we were on previously worked for other students, but not me. I needed a different approach. The school staff knew that the journey will be difficult and some things wouldn’t be possible.

I was given extra tools that I was going to need to assist me. I needed to have specaility instruction in reading, and math. I began to receive speech therapy, because my ears frequently clogged and I had trouble hearing how words sounded. I also began to receive accomodations such as extended test time, preferintal seating in the front of the room, and having the test read aloud to me.

Many of peers were jealous of me receiving them. I remember them saying that it wasn’t fair that I got easy work or got the answers. What my peers didn’t realize is the work that they thought was easy, was difficult for me and took me longer to accomplish for what came so much easier for them. I also didn’t receive answers but extra support. At times the strategies weren’t always effective in helping me. Using a calculator does little to help with my Dyscalculia. Having one is great for recalling basic math facts, that despite flash cards and drills I still don’t know all of them from memory. I can put the numbers in the calculator, but my brain gets lost in the steps.

I also had peers who wanted to have a disability to receive services. Ironically I wanted to not have a disability and not to be different.

The terrain was rough and rocky. I often stumbled and fell on the hard ground. It was frustrating to put in effort only to struggle again. It felt like I would get back up and then get knocked the ground again. I wanted to give up and not get back up. Thankfully I had a wonderful support system that encouraged me to get back up and try again.

There were also happy moments on the journey. Sometimes taking the slower route gave me the chance to see the beautiful flowers. I also had the chance to meet amazing people who I wouldn’t have had the chance to meet unless I took this route. I also found that everyone faces a mountain at some point in their lives.

Just when I thought I would never reach the mountain top I did! The joy of finally learning, getting good grades, and achieving other accomplishments. The feeling of victory on the mountain was short lived. It wasn’t long before I had another mountain to climb and faced different struggles.

The rock that I used to play on is still in my parents yard. The mountain of my Learning Disability still remains as well. I can’t move the mountain or that rock from my life. I have learned different strategies to climb. The difficulties in my life haven’t weakened me, but rather strengthened me and have given me the encouragement to keep on going.

When spring doesn’t seem to come

Photo by Alena Koval on Pexels.com

As we approach Easter it has finally begun to feel more like spring in my area. The flowers are starting to bloom, the sun is out and the days are getting longer. Hopefully we are finally done with the snow and look to warmer days ahead. This year the winter has gone on forever, and the harsh weather went well into spring. So many of us have wondered if spring weather would ever come. Much like the never ending winter, having a Learning Disability has made me often wonder, if success would ever happen.

I can remember feeling doubtful of my abilities as a young child. Most children have confidence and think that anything is possible. I could feel the freezing cold winter that wouldn’t leave, while others where having their season of spring. I can recall always being frustrated when we had motivational speakers that said we could do whatever we could put our minds to. I would start every year thinking this would be the year that I would be able to get straight A’s and become popular. I would get disappointed when I would put in the effort and wouldn’t be successful. Having dreams and goals is important. What has changed is how I have expanded my view on success and failure.

I was well aware of things that there were certain things that were difficult for me such as math, tying my shoes, and writing my name. I thought that it would always be hard and I was doomed to fail. The winter almost froze my heart and my motivation to try. Thankfully I had a support system who didn’t give up on me. My parents told me I was smart, and that I learned differently. The school worked to provide accommodations and specialty instruction.

Slowly winter began to fade, and I saw signs of spring. My grades improved and I began to find areas that I was good at. The progress may have been slower than I wanted, but it happened. I learned to tie my shoes and write my name. Even though I can write, you may not be able to read my handwriting, and my shoes always seemed to be untied.

Despite it being a new season a slight chill may always be in the air, even if I’m the only one who feels it. Some things I simply can’t do such as math, or driving, reminds me that I have limitations. A common myth is that people with Learning Disabilities out grow them once school is over. My disability didn’t leave when I graduated high school, went to college and got my Bachelor’s Degree. It wasn’t over when I fell in love, got married and a bought a house. My disability didn’t disappear when I got a job, or had articles published.

Even with all of these challenges, I have had success in my life. Much like the weather, I can’t control or change my disability. The only thing I can change is are my actions, and how I handle the situation. I will always have one, but I can chose how I view it. It’s more empowering for me to focus on what I can do rather than what I can’t

Now when I am faced with a challenge, I try to think of a different way to solve the problem. I may have to try and fail, then try again a different way. Sometimes it seems like the winter will never end and the situation will never improve. However slowly the winter turns to spring on it’s own time. A slight touch of winter may always remain, but I know how to handle it. The harsh winter will end and spring will finally come!

The Bouquet of Neurodiversity

Photo by Helen on Pexels.com

Flowers have been used throughout history to commemorate an occasion. They are used to express sympathy at a funeral, love on Valentine’s Day, and celebrations at weddings or birthdays. A flower bouquet is also a beautiful example of how Neurodiversity can work. Neurodiversity is defined how people interact with each other in different ways. There is no right or wrong way to learn. Each flower in the bouquet of neurodiversity is different .

I was handed my bouquet of Neurodiversity as a young child. I didn’t receive this flower arrangement with happiness. I wanted to throw it away and have the blooms that my peers had. The flowers they had seemed to bloom faster, and had more vibrant beautiful petals. I often thought my flowers were weeds, and the flowers that bloomed were not as vibrant.

Each flower may be different but they all are flowers. Flowers all need the same things: air, water, soil, and sunlight to grow. The same concept exists for humans. People with and without disabilities have the same basic needs of food, shelter, water, and air to live. We are more alike than different.

However differences do occur in flowers and with people with disabilities. Some flowers need more sunlight, while others need more shade. Individuals who are neurodivergent need different things to learn, grow and live in school and the community. Accommodations are not an unfair advantage, it’s providing what the individual needs to thrive.

Even if a flower is the same type, it doesn’t mean that it will be the exact same. There are variations in color, shape, and sizes. The same concept applies to people with disabilities. A person who shares the same diagnosis will experience the disability differently. Many people don’t understand why I struggle with math, when most associate Learning Disabilities with Dyslexia and other reading based disabilities. I can’t drive because of my visual perception, but some people with Learning Disabilities can drive, do math, or read well. The diagnosis is the same, but everyone experiences it differently. The judgement and comparison of my disability creates shame.

Flowers also have different seasons that they bloom. The spring is filled with tulips, daffodils, and lilacs. The summer brings Peonies, Hydrangeas and Geraniums. . Fall brings colorful mums and sunflowers. In the winter holly and vivid red Poinsettias brighten the cold gray days of winter. I had to be patient in waiting to bloom. I can remember being so frustrated during the early years of learning. For most people the elementary school years are considered the easiest of academics. School got easier for me as the years progressed. The memory needed for math, and other subjects was difficult for me. When I got to the application of concepts, I did much better, unless it was math or science.

Each flower also has a different smell. Some of the scents are subtle while others have a stronger scent. Certain types of flowers may be too overwhelming for people with allergies. At times having a disability may be too overwhelming for other people too. I have had others tell me that they didn’t want to be in a relationship with me because my disability was too much for them to handle. I have also not been able to meet the expectations that other people wanted. When I don’t measure up to someone, I feel like they are trampling my flower in the dirt. I may not always be everyone’s choice of a bouquet.

Another important part of gardening is pulling the weeds. Setting boundaries and limiting my interactions with difficult people has helped me grow.

Every flower is different but not less. Together each type makes a lovely display. The same concept goes for Neurodiversity. The world needs a variety of minds. I may not be able to do math , but I can read and speak well. I may not be able to drive, but I can get where I need to go. It’s not about being the best, but about using our unique gifts to help each other.

A Lilly can’t turn into a rose. I can’t turn myself into a mathematician. Thankfully, there are a wide variety of flowers to make a beautiful bouquet of neurodiversity.

The Garden of having a Learning Disability

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

One of the biggest passions in my life is flowers. I love to take pictures of flowers, and visit botanical gardens. I also love to grow my own flowers and plants. Another significant part of my life is having a Learning Disability. Living with this type of disability is like living in a garden. Much like the flowers I grow, I had to tend and care for. All flowers and plants go through the same process to grow.

A plant or a flower begins with a seed. How I enjoy picking out seeds to plant! Much care and thought goes into the types of seeds I wish to plant. I think of the vegetables we like to eat and the types of flowers I like. Unlike the packets of seeds, I plant each spring, I didn’t get to chose the seed of having a disability. I was officially diagnosed with a Learning Disability as a young seedling in kindergarten.

Despite my resistance to having this I was planted into the ground. When you plant a flower it is important to plant in the best soil for it grow. My disability made the soil I was planted in rocky and tough. From the very beginning people thought I wouldn’t flourish because of my learning difficulties. I struggled with math, eye hand coordination, and hand writing. I also struggled socially. My peers seemed to have an easier time in the same ground.

Location is also important for a plant or flower to grow. Some blooms need sunlight, while others thrive in the shade. The small town I grew up in was not the ideal location to be different. Differences were feared not celebrated.  My peers knew that I went to the Learning Support room, but knew little of what went on there. Many of my peers thought that I got the answers and did easy work.

Plants and flowers also need water and air to grow. I needed to have specialty instruction and accommodations to learn. I received specially instruction, and had accommodations. I had to have the test read aloud to me and extra time to complete a test. The supports worked in all areas except math and eye hand ordination. To my surprise I began to see the roots and stems began to develop. My grades improved and found things I was good at, such as reading and writing.  School got easier for me academically as I progressed. In high school I was in all general education classes except for math and resource room. 

Socially school got harder for me. The groups became more defined and I felt like I didn’t fit in any group. I had difficulty relating to my learning support peers. Most of them struggled with reading disabilities, not math. Some of them came from rough backgrounds and had behavior issues. The regular education peers lumped me with the other learning support students and didn’t view me as smart.

My improvement continued and I went through the next step of developing leaves. I knew that I wanted to go to college but was hesitant because of learning difficulties. I had a teacher who encouraged me to go to a vocational training program even though none of the programs offered interested me. Thankfully I found a program that interested me with disability accommodations. When I graduated I had a small bud of hope.

College turned out to be more difficult than I imagined. I had a physiatrist who told me I wouldn’t go beyond community college. I also had a professor who warned that my job choices would be limited, because of my math difficulties. I also didn’t utilize accommodations because of the stigma that was attached to them. I was able to graduate with an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. I worked in a child care, and was able to move out on my own. Despite my success I always wanted more.

When I had to move back in with my parents due to financial reasons, I decided to go to the university. I found a program that I was interested in with the least amount of math possible. Losing my job to downsizing gave me the opportunity to concentrate on school. I utilized the accommodations of extended test time and a note taker. I had a much easier time, and my grades improved. I made Deans list one semester. I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree and saw that the flower had finally bloomed.

The final step in the process is for a flower to turn to seeds. The seeds spread and help other flowers to grow. I now get to spread the seeds of my success to help others. I work as a teacher’s aide in a school with students with disabilities. I hope that they will be able to bloom to their full potential.

My disability didn’t end when I graduated, got a job, or any other success. I still have to look for different ways to learn and life. I have learned to appreciate the bloom of my disability. Having one may have a life that doesn’t look like the other flowers in the garden. The variety of flowers makes a beautiful display.  Each variety has a unique purpose.

The bloom didn’t happen without a process. I didn’t get to chose the seed or flower that I received, but I have learned to love it and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

*Here are a few flower pictures, that I took on my walks. I hope to take many more. Happy Spring! Photography by Michelle Steiner

Building the house of success with a disability

Photo by Jeffrey Czum on Pexels.com

From the time I was a small child, I have adored Victorian houses. I love the quirky style and the beauty of a different time. The unique style stands apart with modern houses, but has good bones to last for life. Another major part of my life was having a Learning Disability. Much like eccentric style of the houses, having a brain that isn’t neurotypical has caused me to have a brain that learns differently. Once I began to discover things that work, I was able to build the lasting house of knowledge.

The first step to building knowledge is to have a firm foundation. I was diagnosed in Kindergarten and had to repeat the grade in a new school. Along with repeating the grade I began to receive specialty instruction in math and reading. I always had an easier time reading and expressing my ideas. I can remember having a peer who asked my teacher why I was in Learning Support if I was a good reader. The teacher responded that I just need a little extra help. The reading portion of my disability deals with comprehension and identifying the important details. My difficulties with this are slight, and few people are able to tell. Having the extra help gave me the foundation to be placed in all regular education classes except for math.

After the foundation is laid, the processing of adding layers begins. The layers can only be added if their is a strong base knowledge. I can remember a special education teacher who was on a mission to make each of the students in her math class, performing math on the same level as the regular ed peers in my grade. I had the basic math facts and begin to be able to understand how to do some higher level math. It was all going well until I got stuck on on one part of the process. Rather than go backwards, and see where I needed corrected, she forged ahead. I can remember her proudly saying that we’re on the same level as the students in the regular math class.

The scaffolding on my house was crashing. To make matters more difficult she lied that there was no were no Learning Support Classes in the next grade. I was scheduled to take a basic regular education math course. I had much anxiety about not having a class where I would be supported. Much to no one’s surprise, the basic math class was too difficult for me. The teacher told my resource room teacher that she never saw such a severe case and didn’t know what to do with me. Thankfully there was a Learning Support Math class. The teacher who taught this class also wasn’t the most understanding or caring person, and neither were my peers. Many of them thought it wasn’t fair that they had to work so hard, but I had easy work. Completing simple math worksheets in a regular study hall was humbling. I needed to have a math class that was tailored to my needs to fulfill my math credit.

Due to the stigma of disability accommodations I didn’t utilize them initially. My grades suffered and everyone told me that I needed to try harder. It wasn’t until I used them, that my grades improved. When I went back to university I had a note taker, extended test time, and tutoring. Using these supports helped to level the playing field. I got better grades and was able to get my Bachelors Degree.

The misunderstanding of Learning Disabilities goes beyond the the walls of a school. When I tell people I struggle with math, most people want to help me. I have had people recommend tutoring, and adult education classes. None of these things are necessarily bad, but they won’t cure me. So many people want to fix me yet so little try to understand and accept me.

All throughout my life I will have to create a house of knowledge, that is different from the rest. My residence may not look like your typical house in your neighborhood. My house may have unique features. To some people it may not be their dream home, or ideal life. The house may be under much reconstruction, with taking previous layers off, and having to relearn things. The quirkiness gives it character and I have learned to love it. I simply need to create new ways to do things, to build the house of success with a disability.

What is Dyscalculia?

Photo by Black ice on Pexels.com

Dyscalculia is a math disability that affects how a person performs math skills. People with this disability struggle with basic math skills such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Individuals with dyscalculia take longer to process math and are more prone to calculation errors. Many people also struggle with estimation and recalling math facts. I can remember doing endless flash cards and I I don’t have all of my math facts memorized.

Few people know the term dyscalculia. When they think of learning disabilities they think of dyslexia, the reading based disability, not a math based disability. Most people don’t understand how it effects my every day life.

When you don’t have an understanding on how numbers work, it begins to affect other academic areas as well. A majority of the sciences such as chemistry and physics require a great deal of math. I can remember struggling in even the general science courses as well.

I had teachers and other proffessionals who told me that my job and college choices would be limitied because of my math difficulties. I was also told that I couldn’t go beyond a community college.

The difficulties of dyscalculia go beyond the classroom and affect my every day life. I am unable to read an analog clock. When I see the face of an analog clock I can see the lines, numbers and hands that make little sense. I can tell time to the hour, but am limited to that.

I also struggle with reading a ruler and tape measurer. I can see the numbers and lines but I have little understanding of what they mean. I am unable to measure or draw a straight line.

In the store I struggle to total the items that I am purchasing. I am always surprised when I go to register, because I never know how much I am going to spend. My hand dexterity struggles to handle coins and paper money. I also struggle with putting the debit card in the reader and I often forget my pin. Online shopping makes it easier to see how much I am spending.

Another struggle with Dyscalculia is directions. I am unable to give directions on how to get to my house. I struggle with south, east, north, and west. I usually do better if I have a chance to explore a place myself, rather than have someone explain it to me. Thankfully we can put the destination in our phone and get directions read aloud.

Right and left confusion is another part of having a math disability. I cannot tell me right from my left. I have to hold my hands out to know which way is right or left. I am unable to tell which shoe is for the right or the left foot. I have to see which shoe feels comfortable in the morning.

Often times people want to fix my math difficulties. I have had people recommend adult education classes. Basic math classes or a calculator won’t cure my disability.

I have also had people who tell me that they are terrible at math too or say doesn’t everyone struggle with that? I am not sure if those who tell me they are bad at math have a disability or it’s simply not one of their strengths. I know that my challenges, go beyond being awful at math and it creates more problems for me than the average person.

March 3rd is World Dyscalculia Day, but it is present in my life everyday. Dyscalculia is not being bad at math but a disability. It is just as common as dyslexia affecting 1 out of every 4 people. I simply have to find new ways to do things math related and overcome the difficulties it creates.

Learning to love life with my disability

Photo by Hernan Pauccara on Pexels.com

When many people think about disabilities they think of the challenges that a person with a disability faces. Disclosing my disability evokes a variety of responses from people. Some people are surprised because my disability is hidden or compare it to someone else. The most discouraging remark is when people tell me that they are sorry that I have one. The person who is apologizing didn’t cause my disability and pity does little to help me. Learning to accept my disability has been a long process that didn’t begin with me loving it. I once thought if my disability didn’t exist then my life would be amazing. My disability didn’t go away, but I slowly began to love the lessons it taught me.

One of the biggest things I love about having a disability is empathy. I know what it feels like to be frustrated with learning while it came so easier to others. I remember the feeling of failure and disappointment when I would study for a test and fail. I try to put myself in the place of a struggling student that I help, or when connecting with another person with a disability. I know what it’s like to have one and how I want to be treated.

Another thing that I love about my disability is that it has given me a unique way to view the world. I can remember not wanting this and wanted to be able to do all things neurotypical people could do with ease. Having a brain that is different from others has given me the chance to be a creative problem solver. I often don’t learn in a typical fashion. I have to look for new ways to do things, that many people wouldn’t have thought about. Many people also remark that they wouldn’t have thought of certain tasks to be an issue.

Patience has also been one of the other things that I have slowly learned to love with life with a disability. When I am learning a new task or revisiting something that I previously learned but forget, I need to use patience. I can do the job that I am asked, but it may take longer or may have to work to find another way. I have to ask myself what I already know and what I need to know to get the job done. I also have to think of questions that I need to ask to learn how to complete a task. I know when I am struggling but can’t think of questions to ask that I am really on lost on how to do something. Many people have lost patience with me because I couldn’t pick up on a task quick enough or had to relearn something.

Faith has been another thing that I have learned to love with having a disability. I know that when I face a challenge, that I have learned to accomplish difficult things in the past and I can do it again. I can remember one of my teachers being concerned about me developing learned helplessness. She wrote on my report that I was often suprised when I could complete a task correctly. She also said that they had to encouarge me to do more for myself.

Having faith in God has shown me that my Learning Disability can work for good. For so many years I wondered what good could come out of having one. He has blessed me with so much more than I could imagine. I am able to use my story to help others.

Life with a disability hasn’t turned out the way that I imagined it. Thankfully things have turned out so much better than I could have ever dreamed of. I may not love everything that has happened to me or every aspect of having a disability. I love how it has strengthen me and the person that it has turned me into. Not having one would make certain aspects of my life easier, but not necessarily better. I can truly say that loving your life with a disability is very possible.

Don’t carry the weeds of your past into your present or future garden.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Every Tuesday is trash night in my neighborhood. We gather our trash and recycling and sit them on the curb. The next morning the garbage company comes to take our garbage away. If only it could be that simple in life.

People often say to let go of the past and move into the future. When you have a disability, you take the baggage of your past. Some of the trash is disappointments of things that you tried and failed. Other types of baggage include the rejections of others. I can remember thinking if I could just get rid of my disability my life would be perfect. How I wanted to throw out my disability and all the difficulties it brought.

I wasn’t able to bag my disability and throw it into a landfill. I had to sort what was going to be beneficial to take with me and what was better to leave behind. I also had to make peace with the parts I would take into my future.

The beauty is I got to create the space that I wanted to create. I still had my disability and the issues it created. I had to learn how to develop ways to work with my disability, not against it.

The space I chose was a garden filled with colorful flowers. Tending the garden means pulling up the annoying weeds that pop up. I also have to nourish my plants with food, water, sunshine, and tenderness. I wouldn’t want to bring the smelly garbage and trash into my garden. However I have found ways to use the trash to help my garden grow. Much of the junk from the past has turned into compost. Flowers need to have soil to help them grow. I have seen that my experiences have not all been a waste. I can use them to learn from my mistakes and have the empathy to be able to help others in similar situations.

I didn’t choose all of the garbage from my past and some of it may stay with me. I can’t erase the memories, but I can chose what I do with it. I can ensure that I won’t let it trash the beauty of my present and future garden.