Journal of an Insomniac

An array of thoughts and ideas that keep me awake at night.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Learning to See (my essay)

"We must simply allow the scales to be removed from our eyes, and learn to see."

I wanted to post an essay I wrote earlier this year that I am actually proud of. To me, a truly great work is made when you look at the page and realize you are staring your soul in the face, and this essay is the closest I've come to accomplishing that so far. It actually won a contest at my school, which is pretty exciting! So here it is:

How many of us have tried to slap a price tag on ourselves, to determine our own worth? If you did, what did that price tag say? Did it read worthless, or priceless? For too long, I went through life with the word worthless branded into my mind and my heart, and I learned just how big a difference those 5 letters can make.

When I was younger, the world was a sweet and wonderful place; a golden globe of opportunity. I was myself, and I loved myself. I learned that D-I-F-F-E-R-E-N-T spelled different, that I was unique, even special, and that there was no one else on earth quite like me. I learned that different was good. Some people were tall and some were short, some had blue eyes and some had brown, and that was good. Everyone was special, and everyone loved who they were. But suddenly a shadow fell on my perfect little world, a frightening intruder called reality. There was something different about me, very different, and suddenly it didn’t seem like such a good thing. I had cerebral palsy. Somehow my naïve little eyes had managed to pass over that fact, to regard it as just another blissful little difference, no more serious than a freckle. Reality hit me like a wall when I realized that I could not run, that my friends often let me fall far behind them as they played, too absorbed in their childhood paradise to realize that I could not keep up, and probably never would. I became acutely aware of the training wheels on my bike that I would never be rid of, the metal canes I needed in order to stand, and how my wheelchair was beginning to be associated with my identity. The long white scar down my spine and deep ugly pink scars on my hips haunted me like phantoms, memories of surgeries and pain; they made me feel like even more of a freak. It dawned on me that some people who looked at me did not see a girl, but a wheelchair or canes. Some even saw something frightening – a difference. And from the looks on their faces, I learned that not all differences are good; in fact, some of them were downright bad. Soon that was all I saw in myself – the things that were different, and I craved to be normal.

As I grew a little closer to adulthood I grew painfully aware that the world was far from perfect, it was not all smiles and sunshine. It was flawed – and so was I. Cerebral palsy wasn’t my only fault. Standing in front of the mirror, other problems seemed magnified in my reflection: dark, bushy eyebrows, stringy hair, and a long nose. It was strange that my blind eyes could even point out such faults at all. Sure, I was an avid reader and could tell you how many fingers you were holding up if you asked me. I could see beauty in the sunrise and sunset, in a snow covered hilltop, and in the faces of friends and loved ones, but I was completely blind to any beauty in myself.

I had spent years circulating the same worn old thoughts through my head. “I’m a freak, a failure, a monstrosity.” Thoughts like these created a steady rhythm in my head. In my mind, I magnified my faults and failures while I made my successes and attributes miniscule. I’d often cry out to God “Why did you make me this way? Why did you even make me at all?” I stubbornly refused to see good in myself, only bad things stuck out. I chose to stay blind.
When I think of the events which slowly pulled me from my rut of self hatred, it was sounds, not sights which surface in my memory. I recall when my best friend got a new silver scooter, and I wanted to ride it so badly. I tried, but I could not balance for all my hardest effort, and I fell and cried more out of frustration and self-pity than pain. But my friend was determined. She wanted me to ride that scooter somehow, and she wasn’t giving up until she found a way. As I sat there crying, she tied an old wagon to the back of her scooter with a skipping rope, and grinning, told me to hop on; we were going for a ride. She pulled me all through town until she was out of breath. I’ll never forget the whir of the wheels on the cracked cement. In my memory I can still hear them. The sound reminds me that with the help of family and friends, I can do things I could never do alone.

Another sound that rings in my ears is the cold metal slam of the locking doors to the suicidal ward of the hospital. I watched a dear friend disappear behind them. I felt so confused and frightened then, and I couldn’t understand how such a beautiful person could have such intense hatred for herself. Cuts laced her forearms, scars she had given herself. She was so sweet, kind, beautiful, talented, and she could walk and run. Why couldn’t she see it? Then I realized she was blind, just like me. She saw only failures, faults and letdowns in the mirror. The reverberating thud of those doors drove into my heart how close I was to disappearing into that ward, too. While I helped my friend learn to get over her blindness, I vowed to accept my differences and not hate myself, before I ended up suffering as much as she did.

In the end, it was three little words which truly shattered my hatred of myself, “I love you”. When my boyfriend says those words to me, I’m reminded that there is good in me. He looks at me and manages to see enough good to easily overlook bushy eyebrows, and even canes and a wheelchair, to see a girl he loves. I was loved very much all my life by my parents, but there is something so much more different about someone choosing to love you over everyone else in the world. His love makes me delighted about who I am. Yet another “I love you” is evident everywhere I go, whispered in the wind, read in the starry sky, and engraved in the hands of One who loved me enough to give up His life. God made me, loves me, and even died for me, and because of this I have a worth beyond anything I could imagine. He shed His blood, and used it to write “priceless” rather than worthless on that price tag I bear.

The same is true for all of us. We are not mistakes, freaks, or failures. We are beyond price. We must simply allow the scales to be removed from our eyes, and learn to see.


Blogger Island Girl said...

Congratulations on winning the contest Leanne, my aunt had sent this to all of us when you won, you are a great writer, not only is your soul staring you in the face, but it brings out a lot of emotion in the reader, and that is an amazing thing to be able to do! Keep it up!! :)

6:47 a.m.  
Blogger Joanne (True Blue) said...

Awesome, Leanne. You have a way of writing that touches that vulnerable place in all of us. Keep it up!

2:46 p.m.  
Anonymous kelly said...

This is such a well written and personal essay! You did a fabulous job expressing your feelings and how God feels about us.

10:02 p.m.  
Blogger Leanne said...

Thanks so much for your encouragement, it really thrills me to hear that! Better than the contest prize was knowing that people's hearts could be touched by reading it. Thanks again, your encouragement means a lot!

11:06 a.m.  

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