The Pain of Dwarfism Becomes a Catapult to Joy
Running circles around my childhood were words like midget, shrimpy, freak. The doctors threw in a few more: deformed, abnormal, birth DEFECT. Born under the microscope of spondyloepiphyseal dysplasia (dwarfism,) I quickly found myself feeling lost and broken. There were bullies, medical studies and surgeries. But my cursed little body, an unforgiving enemy, would one day become my most loving teacher. Adversity is hilarious that way.
For years I was terrified I’d never get the good things in life, never be taken seriously, never find my place in the world. At the age of thirty-four, when the arthritis in my right shoulder forced me to set aside my art business, an old familiar tantrum kicked right in. What did I do wrong now?! Life is so unfair! My body ruins everything! I’ll never be good enough, I’m a defect! There were hefty mantras around my heart trying to keep any further pain out. I just didn’t know I was keeping the love out too. Thankfully, my soul did have a cool game plan -- an inner make-over was on the way.
Feeling forsaken, I begrudgingly set out to learn computer graphics, using my left hand in a half-hearted hunt and peck mode. Instead of graphics though, I ended up in a wild tsunami of writing -- venting my rage and devastation out onto paper. As I unloaded my old sob-stories, they began to look suspiciously recycled. They cried out the same word over and over -- defect! Defect! Hm. Maybe the self-help books had been right. Life was offering a neutral reflection of my beliefs and expectations. Was I really the one flipping the switch? I typed faster.
More patterns emerged as I saw that I was not the lowly victim but a creative director who’d been wielding the power all along. No way. A book began to develop out of the darkness as I found purpose and meaning where I had never looked before. I longed to tell everyone that a change in focus would change everything. My life became bigger than my separate little self and I found a universal connection that would never let me down.
As the freedom settled into my bones, one more surgery loomed on the horizon: brain decompression for a condition called Hemifacial Nerve Spasm. Several arteries, pressing on a nerve at my brain stem, were causing an uncontrolled jitterbug in my head and face 24/7. My facial nerves were short-circuited and on constant high alert. The way I had led my life had become imprinted on my physiology. Reject, victim, DEFECT. I saw the inner pattern now, and I was ready to get off the mesmerizing merry-go-round. The surgeon would be padding the offended nerves with bits of soft teflon, therefore decompressing the brain. Put that way, it actually sounded kind of good.
A few months after two successful neural surgeries, as I read through a hospital bill, I stopped at an interesting sentence: “Suboccipital craniectomy with C1-2 laminectomy and duraplasty . . . repair skull defect.”
There it was. That tyrannical word. I waited for the pain; there was none. I read the word again. DEFECT. But the sad story was really over. Gone. It now rested in the book, not in my flesh. A huge smile flew across my life. My body hadn’t been in my way; it had shown me the way. Well what do you know.