Thursday, January 17, 2013

Paradoxical Birthday Commandments

Hello, my cyberfriends!

Today is a special day. It's Thursday. I have the day off of work.

It's also my birthday. I'm 29.

I'm sad. I should be planning all kinds of shenanigans to celebrate another year in my life. The things I have done, will do and want to do. There are many things to celebrate and many reasons to be very happy. I know how blessed I truly am, and I am happy for that.

I am happy to live in a country where I can do what I want and be who I want to be. I am proud that our home is a place where everyone is welcome to come, and be whomever they want to be. We have worked hard to foster that.

But today I am sad.

Today is my birthday. It is true. It's my Mom's birthday, too, really. Your first baby's birth is what made you a Mama, and my Dad. Happy birthday to my parents.

It's also a death day. Today is the day that my Mom and Dad mourned the loss of the baby I should have been. The healthy, able-bodied baby that was born exactly on time, maybe a little late. Because she likes to sleep in.

My birthday makes me sad. Sad to think about what I could have been and the things that I could have done without any chains. My chair is my chain: the very thing that gives me the freedom to move and be independent is seen by others as something to be embarrassed or ashamed of.

I talked to my Mom today. I talk to my mother every day...but today I cried. And I told her how sad my birthday makes me, of all the things I could have done, or the kind of person I might have been, had I not been sentenced.

It's a crime no one committed, but I am serving time. I got a life sentence, and this is my jail. It was an accident. Something that happens; there is nothing I can do but live my life the best way I can and hope that at the end, it was worth all of the things my very young mother gave up to make sure I grew to be healthy and happy.

I know what little of what she gave up. She would never tell me that it was a sacrifice for her to raise me. She wants me to know that she did it because she wanted to, no sense of obligation or requirement. She has tried so hard to help me learn to love myself - as myself. She tells me all the time (as do many others) that she would 'never trade up', and that I am the person I am supposed to be: "Little Miss Sunshine", she said, "you still haven't learned to accept yourself".

My father's approach to life is simple. He says "fuck them. Live your life for you. People are assholes." It is a cleaner, Dad-like way of saying, "I love you. So who cares? Jimmy crack corn and we don't care". My dad and I would never have the "my birthday makes me sad" conversation. He doesn't know how to live his life based on what other people care about or think of him.

Isn't that amazing? I wish I knew how to do that. To say that I really don't care what you think of me, and to live my life that way.

Everywhere I turn, there are messages (silent and spoken) barriers (real and attitudinal) and general disdain for the lives of people who are different - not just disabled.

How do I tell my mother that I have learned to accept everything and everyone else because I want so badly to be accepted by everything and everyone else? You can give unconditional love, but you are never guaranteed that the love you receive in return comes without conditions. Mother Theresa's paradoxical commandments say, "love them anyway".

So...I love anyway. Because I have great examples of love.

I have spent most of my life defying what everyone said I couldn't do. I will freely admit that some of the things I have done, were just a "so there! Just because you said I couldn't...give me one good reason and I will do it anyway!"

Maybe that's a bit of my Dad in me.

To everyone celebrating a day of birth today, you are loved. I love you, even if I have no idea who you are. You have no reason to want to be anything more than the wonder you are. You are accepted and loved by me, a perfect stranger..because we're given "faith hope and love. The greatest of these is love".

I hope to find love this year. For myself.

Happy birthday.

Love. xo


  1. Made me think. Great strength to write that!

    You are ten times the woman I will ever be :) And I have 2 legs that work.

    Love you xxoo

  2. I love you too! And, you know, as a mother myself, I can GUARENTEE that your mother never once thought about things, as you said, she gave up for you. Mothers don't think that way. Mothers feel happiness when their babies are happy. Feel sadness when their children are sad. Never once does a mother begrudge a child that they carried/adopted/loved or live in the what-ifs. They see their child, no matter what age they are currently, as that little baby that they fell in love with the moment they heard them cry, saw them open their eyes or just snuggled with on that first day. If anything, no matter how you are, who you become or what you aspire to be, we are happy that we get to grow together with you, see you become who you choose to be and above all LIVE. And that is something that I KNOW you do. Heck, you live more of a full life than most people that I know. Never view your wheelchair as a chain. What you lack in momentum, you have in brains (and personally, I remember finding it hard enough to keep up with you). Everyone has something about themselves that they don't like. Everyone has something they are "ashamed" of. Maybe you're ashamed of your wheelchair (which is nothing to be ashamed of, let me tell you). It's really all in your head. Ask anyone if they could change something about themselves and everyone always has an answer. And ask people about flaws on themselves or to be specific about what they would change and you'll hear everything from webbed toes, being born with a tail, strange nipples or extra nipples to something more along the lines of obsessive compulsive disorder, asperger's, depression or a number of other things. No one is "perfect". And these differences make us who we are and develop our characters. Embrace the differences you find in yourself from others. Be proud of them. I think we all are proud of you, happy your another year older and couldn't imagine a life without you in it. You're a joy to be around and to know! We love you, Ashley! Now, go and have a great birthday! And may this be your best year yet! :)

  3. And I apologize for spelling mistakes. It's late and I'm on my way to bed...but I couldn't sleep until I read your blog. Love your blogs! Keep them coming on the daily! :)

  4. Ok odd my first comment didn't post so here I, jasmine try again.. I love you hun and so does Ian and all your friends and family. You are an inspiration to us all for doing so much you do in our community for everyone you are so selfless that this post brought some tears, you are amazing girl and I hope this year brings you lots of health and happiness

  5. Happy Birthday To Us Ashley
    I loved your blog, they are always so insightful. I told you before you are not the one with the disability, ignorance, is a disability. because we all have something about us that we feels controlls our lives in some way, I think you are perfect in everyway, I can never be more proud of you, than I am right now. because your Ashley, when you were born I was so happy, we had a chat and I told you you were my little porcelin doll, I couldnt take the smile off my face, I was a mother, your journey here was rough, but then wow you were here, and you just stared at me while I talked and told you it would be ok, you just stared at me as if to say I know, and look at you now, you have done more with your life than most capable people, be proud, be proud. I am not surprized I always knew you were ago getter! and an inspiration to others as well I love you and I love who you are Happy Birthday my girl