With a flip of the calendar the New Year no longer seems so new and your New Year resolutions probably lost a little oomph. Heck, Tim Wambach’s News Years Day post 9 Ways to Make 2013 Outstanding may feel like a distant memory too. Hoping to rejuvenate any fading enthusiasm I reached out to Handicap This and inquired about providing another guest post. You might recall my first published last summer, Striving for Greater Inclusion.
One tip Tim shared January 1st I specifically want to reiterate. Tip nine, “Be grateful for everything you have in your life.” Tim noted “this is an easy one to overlook.” I completely agree. Reflecting on my 25 plus years on this earth, man I can ramble off experience after experience to demonstrate the point. Many examples you can find documented in my teenage memoir Off Balanced. The more recent ones will quite possibly receive the literary treatment in the eventual sequel, a sequel asked for in reviews from Living with Cerebral Palsy and Making My Mark bloggers.
Enough about the future though. To start delving into the core of today’s post, I want to discuss recent occurrences. I volunteer every Friday down at Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ (CCBDD) Euclid Adult Activities Center. In fact as you read this I’m probably there. Volunteering with the CCBDD and interacting with their mentally challenged cliental remains rewarding in many ways.
In particular my time there provides a weekly reminder to be grateful. After all, according to NINDS (National Institute of Neurological Disabilities and Stroke), 67% of people with cerebral palsy are mentally challenged. The thought “This could’ve easily been me” stands out, helping me to put life into perspective. So rather than letting problems burden me, I appreciate them. Sounds weird right? Let me illustrate what I mean.
Money concerns linger in my thoughts daily. Hey, I graduated college three-and-a-half years ago but still rely on my parents for financial support. Certainly pursuing an entrepreneurial endeavor (freelance writing) brings upon untraditional career challenges. Yet I’m not one to use those as excuses. My inability to maintain the independence I desire at 25 years old bothers me. Dollar wise I’m an adult living a teenager’s life, not a too glorious lifestyle.
Enter Tim’s advice. “Be grateful for everything you have in your life.” Volunteering at CCBDD’s Euclid Adult Activities Center reminds me to be grateful for my intellect and the possibilities which lay ahead in my life. I appreciate my ability to possess concern over where I’m at. The mentally challenged individuals I work with while they live happy lives, will most likely go their entire lifespans without knowing joys such as owning your own home or raising a family you can call your own. I on the other hand will get there. Analyzing my current not ideal situation, I can problem solve my way out.
Now honestly I highly doubt I would be taking such an appreciative approach towards my life if not for my volunteer experience. Essentially this exemplifies why gratefulness remains easy to overlook. Gratefulness requires acknowledging skills and abilities almost always taken for granted. Recognizing these requires a push beyond comfort zones. Sometimes your decisions will lead you there, like volunteering did for me. Other times life shoves you out. Take my first significant journey outside my comfort zone for example.
Off Balanced recollects the occurrence in detail. Here though I’ll provide the Spark Notes version. At 14 years old I needed back surgery to straighten my spine. When the anesthesia wore off and I woke up, I couldn’t move my right leg. I ended up temporarily paralyzed. Prior to this my mobility didn’t present any severe issues. I could walk unassisted albeit with an awkward gate, get ready for the day in the morning independently, ascend and descend stairs with a railing. Judging by my attitude however, you might think I had severe cerebral palsy.
Concentrating greatly on wanting to fit in with everyone else I cursed
my differences. I didn’t realize how thankful I should’ve been. Had Mike Berkson and I attended the same school, he might’ve called me spoiled. Only after embarking on my road to recovery from surgery did I learn how much I took for granted. Suddenly I gained an incredible sense of appreciation. Simply waking up in the morning, getting dressed, and using the bathroom independently left me smiling. Gratitude, talk about a powerful entity!
To end this post I want to throw out a challenge. Use what I shared here to reflect on your own life. Step outside your comfort zone and identify the abilities and skills you take for granted. Then be grateful for them. Ultimately gratitude will lead you to a positive mindset which in return will keep you enthused and pursuing your 2013 New Year resolutions. Yes, even in February. J
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Zachary Fenell writes on a freelance basis. You can read his work at The Mobility Resource. His book Off Balanced (available on the Kindle and Nook) explores how mild cerebral palsy affected him socially as an adolescent. For more on Zachary or his teen memoir, visit www.zacharyfenell.com.