Monday, March 21, 2011

There's Nothing Wrong With Me, Why Do You Ask?

I started off this morning thinking about why it's so hard for me to accept a compliment, or even to believe it when someone says anything positive that involves me in any way. It's ridiculous that, at nearly 41, I automatically doubt these things when they come from others. So I spent a lot of time today thinking about why that was, and I think I may have a handle on it.

I have spent my entire life being told, directly or indirectly that there is something wrong with me. I have ektrodactyly, which for me translates as four fingers on each hand, three toes on each foot. Thing is, it's not who I am. There are very few things I want to do that I can't do because of it (okay, I can't get safety caps off prescription bottles, fair enough, but now they don't put them on in the first place -- problem solved). I write, I knit, I screw things into walls on occasion, and I do all sorts of other things that I and others manage to enjoy quite a bit. So do a lot of other people. Thing is, when I do these things, it's somehow a major accomplishment in the eyes of some, and that drives me completely insane!

I love my family and friends, truly, but I love some more than others. The ones I love the most are the ones I've never had to forgive even a little bit for treating me differently. The ones who have never used the words "birth defect" or "disability" or "handicap" in reference to me outside of a very specific conversation about my hands. The ones who haven't done a double-take when meeting me for the first time, haven't paused a beat or two before taking my hand when I've offered it to shake, haven't assumed that other, less-enlightened individuals than themselves may have a problem with my hands (though they don't, of course). Yes, I know it's strange (I look at photos of myself and get some sense of how things must look to you), or at least different, but the moment it's pointed out, it's also implicitly made "wrong."

When I am on my own, doing my own thing, I don't feel like there's anything wrong with me. I can do what I need to do. I've figured out how to live my life with what I've got (what other choice is there?), but it doesn't make me noble or special or any more amazing than anyone else. What it makes me is independent and capable in my own right, just like any of you. Telling me you are amazed that I knit doesn't make me feel good, it makes me feel like a specimen.

The fact that I "manage" as well as I do, that I'm not afraid to use my hands in conversation, that I go out in public in sandals in the summer and live the same damned life as anyone else I know should not be a surprise to anyone. If it is, then something is "wrong" with me, and I'm tired of living under the supposition that there's something for which I and everyone else in my life need to be compensating. Because, for once, I'd like to be able to accept a compliment without question. I don't think that's too much to ask, do you?

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