The Ability In disAbility


Oil Painting by Rose Wolfe

Toiling with the earth and fighting a year-long battle against nature, farmers hope for high yields from the perfect crop.  Even though the farmer knows that nature will always win (for she has an arsenal at her disposal), the farmer seeks to control that which cannot be contained.  Untameable, nature arbitrarily sends drought, flood, ice, and weeds.  One such challenge is the feral stinging nettle plant.

Carried by the wind, the seed settles in the farmer’s fields.  The misery of the plant is hidden on the underside of its heart-shaped leaf where there are tiny hairs that will bite you with an irritating sting.  Even so, arms at the ready, workers set out to eradicate the plant from their fields.

However, the nettle is more than an unruly nuisance to be yanked out by its roots and tossed into the fire.  Surprisingly, the leafy green herbaceous contains a whopping 25% protein and a slew of nutritional vitamins and minerals.

Just like the farmers, we toil for perfection;  although, our crop is the perfect life.  Convinced of our omnipotence, we make plans as if we are the masters of our lives.  Oblivious to the reality that nature cannot be controlled, life is not perfect, and troubles will come into our lives, our plans are ill-conceived.  Therefore, it is not surprising that we are dismayed when stinging nettles blow into our neat schemes.  And, with the strategy of a general, we raise our banner of war against the unwelcome intruder.

Most Americans strive to live a life free from all difficulties.  We dream of attaining the perfect life — which is nothing more than a life of ease.  How many of us want to be the occupants of an Adirondack chair nestled at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea?  Or, maybe, we prefer a cabin in the woods overlooking a calm lake with no one else in sight.

Whatever form our perfect life takes, it does not include tribulations.  When they come, we are quick to beg God to remove them.  Maybe we become angry and lament, “Why me?”   Most often, we are slaves to our delusion that bad things only happen to other people.  But, they don’t.  Stinging nettles settle into our lives and illness, disease, accidents, and pain disrupt our lives.

Chronic illness cannot be eradicated.  There is no miracle cure.  We, who suffer from chronic heart-stinging nettles, learn that we cannot wage a war against that which cannot be controlled.  Eventually, we take a different approach:  we consume the plant before it consumes us.  Having fought the war for years, we evolve into warriors with the ability to be nourished by the nettles.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I am not saying that suffering is good.  What I am saying is that we can turn our lives around when they have been turned upside down.  As much as we want our chronic illness, our pain, our depression, or our anxiety to disappear, we are not masters of nature.

By devouring our chronic illness, we develop patience.  From our patience springs wisdom.  We see differently, feel differently, and understand differently.  Living with a chronic disease teaches us hard lessons.  Every day is a new challenge, and we continue to learn how to live with our disability.  We may not be able to do much (if any) physical exercise, but we strengthen our minds by taking our thoughts captive.

Fueled by our decision to devour the weeds in our life, the stinging nettle provides us with insight, sensitivity, and tenderness. Our ability to comfort others is intensified.  Our purity of heart shines through our words and deeds.

Our disAbility has given us the ability to live beyond our disability.

Published by

Rose Wolfe (Living Free with disAbilities)

Let's get to the elephant first: I have myotonic dystrophy which defines my physical limitations, but it does not define me. Without the distraction of physical activities, I have found my passions: (1) Encouraging others to live more fully with fun, faith, and hope; (2) finding freedom in oil painting; (3) writing about my experiences; and (4) encouraging others to live more passionately. It is my belief that every person lives with at least one disability - for impairments are not limited to those with chronic illnesses. Many neurotypical people are psychological architects who have constructed enclosures in which they trap themselves. Mindsets, attitudes, and perceptions are fluid realities. Many of us have forgotten that it is possible how to live beyond our disabilities. Life may have challenges but faith and hope are within reach. I have made my choice: I am LivingFreeWithdisAbilities.

29 thoughts on “The Ability In disAbility”

  1. As was said , resistance is futile, and not really a correct example, somehow it resonates. I still get angry but have since learned to try and use the energy positively. Enjoyed the article, Rose.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. It is far from flippant. The seed must be in the dark with all these questions, struggles, confinements, as you say here… before breaking open to a glorious and expansive sky 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

  2. I just saw your BEAUTIFUL painting and have to comment on it first… The farm radiates sunshine, it makes me think of the farmland around here at sunset (although not quite as bright), and of the pictures I have seen of Toscany. What lovely ‘sunny’ colours!

    Is this the large piece you were working on? 🙂

    (Now I’m going to read your post about the nettles and such…)

    HUGS my dear friend xox

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “Our disAbility has given us the ability to live beyond our disability.” …such is (real) human strength. Didn’t somebody once say that our hardships ‘make us’?

    On the other hand, I feel even more distanced from able bodied/chronic-pain-free and serious-worry-free people because I have largely come to terms with my health status and the interbound problems, I, as you put it “[I] see differently, feel differently, and understand differently.” Though I am a highly sensitive person and spiritual person I could never be the ‘me’ from before, in mind and spirit. As you put it, I am enlightened. I care even more about others, am more compassionate of others, and realise more of what is actually going on. (Is it perhaps, also because we have had to SLOW DOWN which has enabled the time to properly ‘breathe’? I feel as Carl Jung stated, that Modern Life – even then! from the beginning of the industrial age – has severe drawbacks for humanity). It’s strange, but very true. And so, I find it hard to properly connect with people who have their (ego) walls up in defence. I don’t want to do the mind games and wish to live authentically as is possible. I suppose, this is a truer way of living?

    Thank you for your post, Rose. It has made me think.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When it’s written from the heart… and you’re seeing life from a different perspective, you’ve affirmed for me the need for acceptance. We make plans but we can not micro-manage our own life. The farming metaphor works on several levels. As a gardener I will let certain “spontaneous’ plant continue to grow. I don’t presume to judge each plant to decide which should grow and which should be uprooted.
    I experienced ABI just six months before my planned retirement. I am now on full disabilty rather than experiencing early retirement. That has given me a totally unplanned life. I’m living life as a different person. It has taken me time to accept it and am still working on accepting it more fully.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. While I did a blog entry titled, “I’m a Different Person” in reflecting on your comment I have to say that at heart, you or I are still the same person. Our longings, our hopes and dreams at a very basic level do not change. You are still the same caring and empathetic person. What does change is our realization of these hopes, dreams and longings. What we are able to do and how others see us changes because it’s influenced by how others see us living day to day.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This is absolutely accurate and written distinctively well. Not only have you done exceptionally well at targeting the restraints of chronic illness, but you have written in a way that has the ability to speak to people, which is what counts the most.

    “Chronic illness cannot be eradicated. There is no miracle cure. We, who suffer from chronic heart-stinging nettles, learn that we cannot wage a war against that which cannot be controlled. Eventually, we take a different approach: we consume the plant before it consumes us. Having fought the war for years, we evolve into warriors with the ability to be nourished by the nettles”

    Not only does this paragraph resonate as it is a summary of a harsh reality, but i believe you have written this with a wonderful target. Thos with a disability do have the ability to create change. Whether this is adapting to new ways of thinking, or new styles of living. I really like this post!

    Liked by 1 person

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