Listen to this episode of the Focus With Marlene Podcast
We are defined by many things in life: our relationships, our roles, our handicaps.
What defines you?
My youngest son was an artist. He started drawing as soon as he could hold a pencil. Even the simplest stick figures he drew had character and substance. His creativity seemed to flow out of him like water from a pitcher. He would draw for hours.
He loved to draw faces – faces that so expressed the characteristics of the individual that it never required anything more – you saw the whole person in the face.
Within the expressions, there was passion, confidence, longing, sadness, robust strength, humor, wisdom, and understanding. Even today as I look at his drawings, I marvel at the depth of disclosure in his drawings that revealed so much of the human spirit and soul.
My son was born with a handicap – he didn’t have the muscles to hold up his head.
Although children are born with the absence or lack of specific muscles, his was unique. He grew up in a brace specifically designed for him. Although there was some weakness to other body muscle groups, his fine motor skills were never affected.
But amazing as was his creativity, was how his handicaps never deterred or defined him. He learned to walk, run, swing from a rope, climb and ride a bike. He beat out a rhythm on a set of drums and played trombone in the school band. He joined the cub scouts and acted in school plays.
He wore this brace until he reached puberty and scoliosis threatened to cave in his lungs. After undergoing a lengthy surgery that fused his back and required a rod implant to help hold vertebrae in place, he endured another brace for a short period of time as he entered high school. Less than a year later he went to England with the Drama class.
Don went on to college and continued to make his living as a storyboard artist, concept illustrator, character design and sketch artist in one of the toughest industries – the movie and entertainment world of Los Angeles.
He wrote and produced some films and worked with different mediums within the film, TV and entertainment media. He never considered himself handicapped, and neither did his friends. His life was framed by what he could do – not what he couldn’t.
After pancreatic cancer took his life, and after sharing his art with friends and family, I chose pictures to frame that best represented his creativity. They hang throughout my home, reminding me of his extraordinary talents. But they also remind me of how he defined his life and how we can do the same.
We can frame our lives in such a way that handicaps recede, and talents are developed. Or, we can frame our lives without a belief that we can ever enjoy satisfaction and happiness.
How do you picture yourself within your circumstance?
As I wrote in a previous post, frames can either accent or detract – they can highlight a central theme or object or reduce its importance.
Don’s life was framed with optimism, enthusiasm, an impish sense of humor and quiet determination. He never thought of himself as handicapped and neither did his friends.
I have read and continue to read memoirs of people who have overcome incredible odds to create satisfying and happy lives. They are stories of people who weathered adversity, faced incredible hardships, lost limbs or faced on-going limitations. One such story was of a young man born without arms and legs who created a world-wide ministry of helping people overcome the odds they may have been facing. You witnessed his infectious enthusiasm for life and confidence when you watched him speak.
Reframing puts a different interpretation around your life.
It expands your field of vision to see opportunities and possibilities. It challenges a negative mindset and looks for creative ways to resolve problems. It helps define us with confidence instead of no hope.
When everything seems to be going wrong, it is so easy to start grumbling. We criticize and complain about this and that, finding fault with our past or anybody or anything in the present that we think may be making life difficult for us. Yet, how much do we really have to complain about?
Adopt a mindset of acceptance rather than resistance.
Reframe your circumstances, and then look for options. Sometimes they may be limited. Sometimes our only option is to choose how we respond to something we have no control over. But we are still given that choice.
Choose love – choose life – choose an attitude of optimism.
Whatever you choose to focus on, that is where your energy will go. That energy force can be either positive or negative.
We can choose to find meaning in the middle of conflict and chaos or respond with anger and resentment. We can choose to retreat into fear and anxiety in threatening situations or step out in faith and confidence.
Related posts that feature Don and his artwork
We need validation for the turmoil of thoughts and emotions we experience. But we also need the tools necessary to create a new beginning that is both satisfying and meaningful. My new book, Learning to Live Again in a New World, offers those tools to help work through the problems you might be facing.