Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Lesson About Beauty

"The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched; they must be felt with the heart."
Helen Keller

It's not often when I think of myself as 'beautiful.'  If someone asks me to describe myself, I have many answers...I am an artist and a writer.  I have a great sense of humor, and I love to laugh!  I'm a former teacher...and a lover of animals.  And of course, I'm Irish!  It may come as a surprise that the word disabled is further down on the list, despite the fact that I discuss it a lot in this blog (it is after all, a blog to help raise awareness!)  But beautiful? I think I have a lot of beauty on the inside, and a lot of grace (hence the name of my blog--Grace Lines.)  Sometimes it's hard to think of myself as having an outer beauty, because living a life with physical challenges isn't always beautiful.  Putting on hard, carbon-fiber braces--no, wait...let me rephrase that.  Putting on hard black, carbon-fiber braces is for functionality...NOT beauty.  And their color doesn't always match what I'm wearing!  Despite the fact that I own a couple pairs of  Capri pants, I still have not found the bravery and courage to wear them, even in the summerI know that sounds silly, but it's true.  I guess I'm not as used to being stared at as I would like to believe, and it would never occur to me to think I'm being stared at for my 'beauty.'  I usually chalk it up to the fact that I walk differently...I actually meet a lot of people who ask me if I hurt my ankle, because I have a slight limp.  So while wearing those Capris in public would take care of that problem, I've been reluctant to give people another reason to stare!

So the other day my friend (who was also the inspiration for the name of my blog--thanks, K!!) sent me a video I knew I had to share.  This is a very inspiring talk given by athlete Aimee Mullins, who wears prosthetic legs below the knee.  Why is her talk so inspirational?  It focuses on the beauty and poetry that she has explored within her life, and within her disability.  (Though it seems silly to even use that term to describe this woman, who's abilities just shine through the screen when you watch her speak!)  Now, if you've read earlier posts I've written, you've probably heard me talk about that word: disability.  That is a word that has become very misunderstood!  Unfortunately when that label is used, it often has a negative connotation to becomes the way to describe people's inabilities, without allowing for their abilities and strengths.  If the term was used properly, it would be used to describe everyone...because EVERYBODY has an inability in some way.  So do I consider myself disabled?  Yes.  Does that mean I am UNable to do anything??  NO.  I am a disabled, ABLE adult.  I have many abilities, strengths and talents!  Granted, my talents do not lie within the physical, and you won't see me running races anytime soon.  I couldn't relate to this woman's athletic abilities as much as I was able to relate to the artistic and poetic side of her life.  Here is a person, faced with challenges that many of us may not understand, yet it has not slowed her down one bit.  And using prosthetic 'cheeta' carbon-fiber legs to run, you probably could never catch her!  Though she did not stop there...she started thinking about the BEAUTY of her legs.  How else could they look?  How could these prosthetics become more than function?  How could she change those stares from "Look at her--she has fake legs..." to "Wow!!  Look at her!"  I won't describe the different 'legs' she showcased during her talk, because that would give too much away.  Just let me warn you...your viewpoint of a person with prosthetic limbs may change.  And you may want to grab some tissues before watching!  So check out Aimee Mullins at
You won't be disappointed!

Watching her speak got me to thinking about the beauty in my own differences.  I spoke last week about wanting a magazine to showcase people's physical differences and individualities as the 'in' something beautiful.  But after watching this video, I realize it's more than that...I need to see it in myself before I can expect others to see it.  I need to look beyond the functionality of my braces, and see that they are truly BEAUTIFUL.  They have opened up doors for me that would remain closed otherwise, and literally allowed me to step out into the world.  But let me be honest...I'm still working on it.  I may not always feel it when I strap on those braces in the morning, but I'm going to start trying to find the beauty, and the poetry that lies within the function...because I know it's there.  As a society we are taught that we should try our best to "look like this famous movie star" in order to be beautiful, and it just isn't true.  And even though I know this, every so often I still let vanity and embarrassment take over...and I fold those Capris and place them back in the drawer.  If we EVER get past this horrendous winter, and see the spring blossom in New York(please, God!) I promise I will pull them back out and try them on again...and do my best to step outside, saying "Hey, world--it's me!"  And if I get stared at??  Well, so be's just because I'm drop dead gorgeous, right?  I will tell myself that's what lies behind those looks, before going on my merry way.  And I'll be sure to hold my head up high!


  1. First of all I must state as a casual observer, that the writer of this blog is indeed not only full of beautiy on the inside, but is most deffinately a woman of great beauty on the outside . It is but for her great sense of caring of others , doing all she can to right a wrong , and forever forwarding her attempt to help educate the rest of use ..... that she does not take the time to look and see the beauty that radiates from her being !" Look not away from the looking glass, rather believe what it shows you " .
    You had sent be the video on Aimie Mullin earlier, and I'm in awe of this young woman . I've played the tape several times . What an inspiration to all of us , "disabled " or not !
    To be able to embrace her disability , and put it out there as a " functional " talked about piece of hardware viewed by many as a new type of " Art " . Seems to me someone as artistic as our Christine could surely do someting with the bottem of those " black heavy braces " that would show when wearing her new caprie pants !
    After all .... your art work hangs all through my house .... I challenge you to knit , or sew something colorfull to match your capries to cover the part of the brace that shows ,as I expect to see them on you this summer !

  2. Girl - you are GOOD! One of your best.

  3. After the CMTA visited, asking us if we felt disabled, and no one raised their hand, I wrote a story about how, yes, I do feel disabled. When I'm lying on the floor after falling and I can't get up, when I hold up my friends, because I can't walk fast enough to keep up, when I can't open anything; I do feel a bit disabled. But I guess I have to change my attitude. Embrace my disability. See my braces as "functional art." I'm working on it.