A story not silenced. When I spoke to this radio interviewer, I heard words are slightly slurred and others annunciated with a struggle. Very quickly into the conversation, I got past the struggle and heard the strong vice and smart mind of this man who has a passion to improve the world by being an example himself of overcoming big time limits. Christopher Powell interviewed me for 30 minutes on his Overcome Your Limits radio show about surviving stage IV tongue cancer. I could tell I was speaking with someone who understood the trials and tribulations of turning adversity into opportunity.
Chris was born with cerebral palsy. Despite his limitations, he began working out and left the wheelchair behind. He graduated from the University of Maryland in mathematics and is the director of a mathematical learning institute. He has even become an avid runner! Chris is the beneficiary of a recent technological advancement called Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 which aides him in completing written tasks and allows for more independence in his overall life.
Chris inspires all who know him to move past your limitations and focus on your gifts! He has many….but just look at that smile and you can tell for yourself!
A story not silenced. She was raised by a single mother in upstate NY. She was a ‘good kid’ and stood out as a great dancer. By age 12, she knew she was gay and became outspoken about her discovery, causing unmanageable friction in the house. In this day and age, there are still parents who just can’t figure out how to accept their children for who they are and build on that uniqueness instead of having that nagging unrelenting feeling that they are ‘not what they imagined.’ What does a child do when she knows she isn’t loved and accepted? She breaks rules to prove she has power and worth. In this case, she stole bikes and fought with other teenagers. This single mom working a couple of jobs couldn’t handle any diversion from the well-behaved, grade-passing, obedient child, and moved her to a foster home.
This is a strong-willed child who didn’t accept government and parental demands about where she is to live. So, she ran away, many times. Finally, she asked to be moved to a foster home for gay youth, and this is where the turn in this story begins. Good for Carolyn – ask for what you want and need!
Once she was among young people who understood her and she them, she used this power and emotional stability to build on her unique talents. What a beautiful thing! If only all children had the chance to feel accepted, unconditionally loved, and praised on a regular basis for their unique talents, this world would be a happier, more productive place!
Her success story continues with dancing for people on the subway. My favorite line in the NYTimes article where I read about her, is the sign she displayed while dancing on the subway: ‘I’m all by myself — please show your love, not your anger.’ Once again, she is asking for what she needs and wants.
Within a couple of months, she joins a dancing crew. Then, another. Then, she starts her own dancing crew! She began getting jobs dancing at birthday parties and bar mitzvahs, and now has a roster of about 35 dancers to call upon. She receives Facebook messages from dancers all over the world sending video auditions for entry to her group.
So, what do we learn from this 20 year old success story? Ask for what you want. Accept children for who they are. Build self-esteem through praising the unique talents in a child.
Her name is Carolynn Clarke AKA Boogie. I’m going to look for her when I next visit Dr. Urken whose office is on Union Square right near where she and her crew, ‘The Raiders of Concrete’ dance.
“In my heart of hearts, I wanted to do the right thing, but selling drugs was easy. Everyone was doing it. I mean, I’m not using that as an excuse, I made my own decisions. But I grew up around these Robin Hood figures who would sell drugs, then buy supplies for kids who were going back to school, or pay rent for an old woman who was about to get evicted. All my friends were doing it. It almost seemed fashionable. I never felt proud of it. I always thought I’d transition to a job with the Transit Authority, or a job like this– something I’d feel good about, but instead I transitioned to jail. I did six years. When I got out, it was tempting to go back to the easy money, because everyone around me was still doing it, and I couldn’t get a job. But luckily I found an agency that helps ex-cons, because there aren’t many companies looking to give people a second chance. I’ve had this job for a few years now. You know what product I’m selling now? Myself. Everyone around here is my client. Times Square is a drug to these people. And I’m picking up all the trash so that they can have the full Times Square experience.”
A friend recently walked in memory of a young woman who took her life. I saw this poem and slightly adapted it to remove the religious tone. Those who fight suicidal thoughts may find some comfort in this poem:
A Higher Self
In this moment I choose to recognize that there is within me a perfect Self.
A Self that is not weak, but strong.
Not limited, but unlimited.
Not faithless and scared, but all-knowing, all-loving.
I have been playing with the toys of death and weakness.
I have been playing at sickness and addiction.
I have been playing at violation of myself and others.
But I desire to play the games of death no more.
In this moment, I ask to be released from my destructive thinking.
Turn my pain to peace, my fear to love.
May I feel the abundance of life’s magnificence.
May I feel the powerful love sent to me from the people in my life.
I look up to heaven and ask for light.
I step out of my childhood into my adulthood,
out of my weakness into my strength,
out of my small self into my renewed self.
Adapted slightly from Marianne Williamson, Illuminata
A story not silenced. A silver-haired man in a white t-shirt and jeans was going through Atlanta airport’s TSA in a wheelchair. He had no legs and only one arm. I thought to myself, how does he get into the airplane seat? How does he get over the thin ramp into the plane with the wheelchair? He was traveling alone. Does an airport employee lift him up or would that be too much risk?
While collecting my bags from the belt, I watched as TSA patted him down, feeling around his waist, his leg stump, and drooping sleeve. When they were done with him, I handed him his bag embroidered with the words “Freedom Isn’t Free.”
“Where are you off to?” I asked.
He replied, “Branson, Missouri.”
I had lectured there and knew what kind of town it was; very touristy; a combination of Vegas and Orlando. “Oh, are you going as a tourist?” I asked with some doubt.
“No. I’m speaking at a Vet conference.” OK, now I knew I was speaking to a kindred spirit.
“I’m a speaker too! I speak about surviving stage IV oral cancer. I just spoke in Vegas and I’m off to Anaheim, but I’m taking a detour home to attend the funeral of my father-in-law. How many lectures do you give a year?”
“Wow – that’s a lot. You travel by yourself?”
‘Inspiration Porn’ What a line! …spoken by Stella Young from Australia in her TEDTalk about living with a disability. Her message makes me realize that my survivorship, my attitude and will, isn’t exceptional. There are billions of cancer survivors who have stepped above the changes to their life. Surviving cancer is more a norm than an exception since we ALL know someone who has been touched by cancer. The fact that she can’t use her body the way most people do does not make her exceptional/inspirational, but what does is that she educates the world about her perspective. Thank you Stella for who you are.
We downloaded an app to see how fast we were skiing down Challenger at Solitude Mountain. It’s hard to believe I was skiing as fast as I drive on a highway. The wind whistled through my helmut. I wasn’t afraid to lean into it. Despite the speed, I was in control. So often, we are told to take things slowly. Don’t rush. It’s enthralling to do just the opposite; to cover a long distance in just minutes.
What did I learn from this? It is just like life. Life speeds by. One day you are diapering babies and the next day your are going to a college graduations. We cannot stop life from happening. But the bottom line is that we don’t want it to pass us by without noticing the experience of it.
I noticed that I barely took a breath at that speed, but I edged into the slope, and took the experience by the horns and ran with it. Fun! It’s important to mix fun into your life. What did you do for fun recently?
Recently, Facebook made a brilliant move. Instead of promoting themselves by creating a video about what they do, they created a video promoting their individual users! Facebook users watch the videos created about the people they care about and that inevitably promotes Facebook. How did they do it? Photos and posts were randomly selected by their popularity in ‘likes’ and comments and put to music. They created a template and mass produced unique videos for each user.
I could have paid some big dough to promote my work in a video, but Facebook did it for me. MY FACEBOOK VIDEO tells my story and captures how I use Facebook to raise awareness and save lives through education and information while capturing my personal side. Be sure to follow me on Facebook thru Six Step Screening and Eva Grayzel Motivational Speaker Storyteller
My friend’s husband retired just one year ago.They took a bucket-list trip to Israel. Mostly, they were planning for the next stage of their lives, hoping to be grandparents and moving to be near their children. Then, the unexpected happened. While pushing the snowblower up their steep driveway, her husband had a massive heart attack and died.
My friend had some crazed days ahead: planning the funeral, telling family and friends, coping with the shock to her children, and the sudden loneliness in and around her. I offered to cook a meal in between the two viewings for her out-of-town family. Then, as family and friends receded back into their lives, I felt I needed to say more, do more.
What can I say? How do you find words that let her know you acknowledge and feel her pain. I wrote this letter. In between the innumerable phone calls, emails, and business to take care of, she could read this emailed letter in her own time, and the right time for her.
I thought all night about the emotions you experienced: the moment of terror, followed by hopes unmet, dreams changed, and your life companion/partner/friend/lover, moving to another world, still within feel, but beyond vision. I once read a story about death. It’s like Albert is a boat on the horizon. One moment you see him and then next moment you don’t but he is still there.
Through our friendship, I have learned so much wisdom from you. Last night, I had a big dose of it. I admired the way you found humor through the pain, fond memories through the numbness, poise through the irrational. I’ll never forget how despite the challenges of marriage, you ultimately came to understand and share the value of sticking with it, making it work.
You adapted to the changes that retirement brought, and shared the pros/cons, opening my eyes to the possibilities in the unimaginable!
I’m convinced that I will learn more from you in how to cope with loss with dignity; how to adapt and alter family roles to keep the familial fabric as strong as it was before; how to know when you need to test being alone and when you need to lean on friends; how to continue to grow into the mother and woman are you meant to be.
I wish you many sweet and frequent memories to keep Albert’s spirit alive for you and your boys. As your friend, I vow to remember Albert for you and with you. Albert didn’t get to say goodbye, but he will be trying to reach out to you often to say thanks for the years of love you gave him and he will surely be looking over your safety and happiness. If you keep your heart awake and alive, you will notice his attempts.
With sorrow I write these words but they are laced with the hope that life has many joys in store for you yet to be realized.
What have you said to friends in a similar position that you can share?
Dancing in my kitchen while cooking to my iPod doesn’t come close to how live music rocks my soul and translates into fuller movements. When music is live, it becomes 3D, no… 8D, in that I not only hear a great tune that draws me to my feet as the rhythm vibrates in my soul, but I feel the singers soul in the music, along with the interpretation and energy of the base player, drummer…. The music fills the space, and fills the people in the space with an energy that is catchy!
I read this article about a cancer patient who forced herself to go to a party just to get out despite her worries about how people would treat her since she showed the obvious sings of undergoing cancer treatments. When the live music began, it made the evening worth it!
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