My parents didn’t agree on much growing up but they all made sure I was able to do all of the things able-bodied children could do. They paid for countless surgeries and took care of my irrational 4 year old self who was coping with having her finger/bone shaved off, the pain of it all and somehow managed to keep me not only alive but from becoming a toddler with a pain pill drug habit. They sent me to years of physical and occupational therapy, bought special grips and varying contraptions to try to teach me how to write legibly. They’d have all of my children’s clothes altered so that my arm would never be covered so I wouldn’t have the option to hide it and feel ashamed. They taught me to talk openly about it using all of the medical and scientific terms. They empowered me to stand up to bullies -- of which there were many. They’d verbally wrestle with a very strong minded little k (believe it or not, I’m actually far more chilled now than I was as a child) to get me to wear hand splints for years to stretch out the scar tissue while I slept.
As a result, I love my little arm. I mean he has a Facebook page and everything. I make cripple jokes every chance I get and I like to think of it as this special little division of humor that only I get to play with. Most people with disabilities aren’t confident enough to play jokes with their differences and I revel in it. I make cooking jokes about chopping off additional phillanges and use cues during my yoga classes that make everyone unsure if they can laugh at my options to use “all 10 or 8 fingers -- not assuming because I don’t know your life.” I’m the only person I know who can go as both Captain Hook and JLo for Halloween. My disability is the same thing that makes me so passionate about Uphold Global and makes me want to fight for the lives and well-being of the world’s most vulnerable children.
I’ve mentioned before that I got bullied a lot because of my arm, and that I’d be sassy AF and inform them that I couldn’t change my disability but they had no excuse for being an idiot. What up until right now I’ve maybe admitted to two people is that I always wondered if any guy would ever want to be with me. I think it was normal to wonder, right? It’s one thing to come to terms with the fact that anyone who bullies you is a grade A dick but it’s another to imagine someone finding that attractive. In my mind it would make no sense that someone would want to hold my hand, aside from my parents who were probably just trying to get me to cross the street like a normal human and not tap dance everywhere I went (a real thing that happened. The grocery store and parking lots were my most visited dance stage as a child. It’s honestly a miracle I never got turned into an eight fingered pancake because I was such a tiny nugget dancing everywhere I shouldn’t be). Plus, my little brain couldn’t imagine someone putting an engagement ring on someone’s finger like mine wanting to show it off.
In my insecurities defense, there have been some royal assholes who have said some pretty off color things but at the end of the day I just realized that people would find me attractive in spite of the fact that my left arm looks like the love child of a fishing hook and the tiny hands sketch from SNL...until Jon. While the demise of our relationship was horrid, I’ll never forget the second time we hung out, he was holding my hand and rubbed and looked down at my fingers and said “You have the tiniest, daintiest most perfect little hands” and I died inside. I’m a yoga teacher -- guys comment on a lot of features but my hands have never been one of them. Family and friends would compliment me on things that I could do in spite of the fact that I’m a low key gimp. But a real compliment about my hands? I didn’t even know that I wanted to hear that, probably too scared to wish for that. You don’t forget moments like that no matter how awful things were at the end.
I went to teach yoga at my church, The Commons, last night. We meet in an old historic church on the U of M campus and the pastors still give you beer and are seriously the dopest. I went to unlock the building and I couldn’t get it to budge. The door is an old door with one of those huge keys that you have to push with one hand and the handle itself you need to pull down on to the top tab with your thumb and grip with your remaining fingers on the bottom. I tried and tried and knew that I just didn’t have the strength in my fingers to do it.
There’s this horrendously offensive quote out there which states “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” The fuck it is?! I knew exactly what to do, it wasn’t much more strength that I needed, I just didn’t have both the range of motion and the grip to pull this off. I don’t care how great my attitude could have been, it wasn’t going to get me the two additional fingers that I needed in this moment.
And I lost it. I actually lost it. I’ve devoted my entire life to spreading a message of being an overcomer, being brave and helping others. I teach yoga sculpt/burn/barre and can hold 12,000 minutes of plank and do a million trillion bicep curls with my little chicken wing arm. But here I was, being screwed up the butthole by this POS door to my church that I couldn’t open because having a radial clubbed hand IS a disability.
When I got that night I got in my shower last night I just wailed because I was so pissed. I was embarrassed that I wanted 10 fingers for a second. For a moment I just wanted to be normal. I felt defeated and weak and on top of that rejected and unwanted by the only person who ever made me feel beautiful with my disability rather than in spite of it.
This blog post isn’t looking for sympathy, compliments or honestly any feedback whatsoever. In fact, if you come at me with some cliche metaphor about how “there’s another fish in the sea” or how “that door was a symbol for xyz” or especially “you can do anything Kelsey” I will honestly be so furious I’ll maime you and give us matching arms.
Right now I don’t want other fish in the sea. I don’t think that door was a metaphor. I can do most things, but clearly I actually can’t do everything. This blog is just about weakness. It’s about how even when you try to live a big, brave, passionate life for others you sometimes just want to be normal. You want to have a second to just let things be easy. You want your people you love close to you. Or you want all of your fucking fingers. It’s about the real, hard to swallow frustration that we cannot control a LOT of our lives and how hard that is to let go of. It’s about the fact that it’s actually okay to lose the plot and be an emotionally unstable wreck for a second. It’s about how how I felt like I’d let the entire world down by not living up to my character of being “Kelsey Super Disabled Chick” by not being able to open a stupid DOOR, which is a pile of shit larger than someone who just had Taco Bell and laxatives could produce but, but still felt very real.
This blog post is just trying to stay in line with what everything I produce tries to communicate: gross and glorious reality. So that was my real day.
Now I’m eating free Chipotle, so at least there’s that.