In Honor of World Cerebral Palsy Day
Yesterday was picture day for my two teenage daughters. The photography company asked that we fill out a form. Did I want the pictures done with photo editing for a higher premium or did I want them done without? Easy choice. I checked off without photo editing.
Those so called imperfections are what make my daughters who they are. Years from now when I look back at their high school days, I want to remember them as they were and always will be: perfectly imperfect.
There’s only one problem. We live in a society that thrives on the pursuit of perfection. As a young college graduate, I went for an interview with an advertising agency. I was offered the job only to later have the offer retracted when it was discovered that I was hearing impaired. In fact, I was told by the advertising manager to get out of my chosen field because I was never going to make it.
A few months later, I interviewed with an association and was not offered the position. I found out later it was because the executive director “did not like my speech impediment.”
Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that I expected to be hired for a job that I was not qualified for. What I am saying is that I expected to be judged on my ability rather than my disability. I expected to be accepted despite my so called imperfections. I was more than capable and willing but I soon found out that society was not quite ready for me.
Just turn on the television or look at ads in magazines or newspapers. What do you see? Beautiful faces. Slim bodies. Picture-perfect homes. The perfect life. There’s only one problem; there is no such thing. Our obsession with perfection in fact makes us imperfect.
When I got married, I wanted to be the perfect wife. When my daughter Erica was born I wanted to be the perfect mother. I strived to be the perfect friend, daughter, sister, etc. But I lost myself somewhere on that road to perfection and I became someone other than me. The real me was born with cerebral palsy, suffers from hearing loss, walks with a limp, has a speech impediment, makes mistakes, and, oh yes, even has an ugly birthmark on her right hand.
I couldn’t wait until the day I had a full-time job with health coverage so I could go and have that ugly birthmark removed. I went to one of the best plastic surgeons in the area only to be told that he would have to be remove skin from my buttocks to replace the skin removed from my hand. So either way, he told me, I would have a scar on my hand.
I opted to keep my birthmark and looking back, I’m so glad I did. As I’ve grown older and wiser over the years, I’ve come to realize that all of my imperfections make me who I am. If we were meant to be perfect, God would have created us that way. He didn’t because our imperfections are our fingerprints. They are what make us all unique.
Take a moment to think about how your perfect world would be. Perhaps your perfect world would be filled with love and no judgement. Everyone is born gorgeous with no bodily “flaws.” Everyone is always happy. We all have wonderful families and adoring friends. There is no sickness, everyone is smart, and there is only one social class. There’s no drama, no fighting, no hurt feelings, nada.
This so-called perfect world utopia is not only impossible but extremely boring. Our imperfections and the challenges that come along with them are what allow us to learn and grow. The pain that we feel when someone we love hurts us is supposed to hurt. That pain helps us to appreciate that very love and not take anything for granted. Our flaws are what make us interesting and unique. They shape our personality and set us apart. Without them, everything would be ordinary and mundane.
Today, October 7, is recognized as World Cerebral Palsy Day. I propose a Perfectly Imperfect Day. It would be a day for all of us to recognize and celebrate the very uniqueness that makes us who we are.
I’ve long discovered that my many weaknesses in life, including my disability, are in fact my strengths. If I had a choice, I would not change the fact that I was born with a disability. If I did, I wouldn’t be me.
In the words of Canadian singer and songwriter Leonard Cohen:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.