Thursday, March 29, 2012

Names Do Hurt

I missed something important on March 7th that I wanted to mention before the month is over; an observance day that is so important, I don't believe it should be limited to just one day.  It involves a campaign designed to make people more aware of certain words they use when addressing that things have calmed down on my end, I can focus on this topic and give it the attention it deserves.

The campaign I am speaking of is called the 'Not Acceptable R-Word' and you can also see the clip posted above on youtube at:  The 'R' word this campaign is referring to is the word 'Retard' which is often used as a bad name, and has been spoken with negative connotations for years.  Now I admit; words in general tend to impress me as a writer...just a slight change of phrase or an omission of one simple word can change the entire meaning of a sentence in many ways.  Though what continues to amaze me is how our society often ignores the true meaning of words by using them in derogatory ways, in order to insult each other and hurt one another's feelings.  In fact, SO much time is spent trying to invent new ways to insult each other, it often makes me want to crawl under the covers and stay there!  My point is if you actually looked up the definition of the word retard in the dictionary, you would find the following definitions:  To cause to move or proceed slowly; delay or impede...A slowing down or hindering of progress.  It is a word originally created to describe a mental and/or cognitive was not created to imply that someone is dumb, or worthless, or less of a person.  However, this is how many people in our society use this word, which does NOT impress me...not in the slightest.  Using this word as an insult to others is a HUGE insult to people who live with these types of delays, because it implies that they are somehow worthless, and dumb.  When quite frankly, I think it's the opposite.  Because these people know better than to use the R-word against others...they know how much it hurts. 

I'm disturbed these days by what passes for news in this country, when headlines are wasted on one actress's latest stint in rehab, the verbal arguments of another's divorce or the "Proof" of a famous star's plastic surgery.  Does it all really matter??  We are wasting so much of our time concerning ourselves with the UNimportant...and in the process many of us have become callous and self absorbed.  In turn, words are being used inappropriately, with the useless purpose of insulting a group of people who's daily struggles ARE important.  If everyone had to live a week in someone else's shoes, they might just learn what it's like to face that person's struggles...and I think this holds true for everything.  If more people understood what it was like to live with a drug addiction, they might not be so quick to absorb the gossip of someone else's struggle with one--it just wouldn't be as exciting.  If more people attempted to heal from extensive plastic surgery, they might not be in such a hurry to discuss the surgery of others.  And if more of us could understand what it was like to face life with mental and cognitive delays, perhaps the derogatory insult of 'Retard' would no longer hold any weight.

If you've read my blog in the past, you'll know that I live with delays of my own...which was one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place.  I wanted to raise awareness of what it's like to live with such physical delays--the frustrations you face, the things you do to adapt, even the goals you set for yourself.  I am no stranger to name calling...I've been called names that would make your nose hairs curl; I still face such discrimination and hurtfulness to this day, and assume it will continue as long as I dwell on this earth.  Because one thing you can count on is when someone happens to be different, there will be someone else who sees this as a negative.  I'm not sure if this is because they cannot understand the differences and are therefore afraid of them, and they choose to face this fear with anger and hate...or if it represents their own self esteem issues which they deal with by verbally knocking others down.  It's probably a little of both...all I know is that understanding the reasons behind someone else's negative behavior might explain things to a point, but it doesn't necessarily make the names hurt any less.  If you are one of the lucky ones and persevere, you learn to hold your head up even higher when you hear them.

And if you do hear the R-word directed towards another, don't's just not funny.  Lead by example, please, and rise above this immaturity...instead, try to think of whose feelings are being hurt in the process.  And if you have spoken this word as an insult, then take a moment...and think about what the word truly means, and what it means to you.  Most of all, think about what it might mean to others who hear you speak it.  I think the best way our society can eradicate all the insults, the negativity and the hate, is to take a second look at the force behind the words we use...and to make a point of speaking kindly whenever possible.  Maybe when the kindness grows larger, there just won't be anymore room for the rest of it.  And that would be amazing!

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are endless.
                                                                                          Mother Theresa

Saturday, March 24, 2012

After Accomplishment Comes Rest

The past few weeks have been a blur of activity, as I attempted to finish six paintings, line up artists and volunteers for our new ADC gallery installation at the CPO (149 S. Lake Ave, Albany) and achieve world peace.  Okay...I'm only kidding on that last one, but wouldn't that have been awesome??  I would have fit world peace on my list had I known how to accomplish it, but I'm still working on that!  Oh, and in that time St. Patrick's Day came, along with our most recent CMT support group meeting, which was extremely informative.  So, needless to say there has been A LOT going on!

I've felt neglectful of this blog as the weeks went by, and I did attempt to write a post here or there...but unfortunately I just didn't have the resources left within me.  One thing I've learned in having CMT, is that your energy only stretches so far before something I had to set some priorities for myself, and put certain activities on hold.  But now that the paintings are done, the gallery is installed and my head didn't explode in the process, I figured it was time to fill you in on what has kept me so busy!

First of all, let me tell you more about the CPO gallery, which raises money for CMT research...a very worthy cause!  Yesterday we installed our new gallery called 'Pieces of Me', which meant weeks of contacting artists to be in the new show, a lot of paperwork to sign in new pieces of art, and disassembling last year's gallery 'Starry Night' in order to hang new artwork in its place.  As you can imagine, I'm exhausted.  I'm actually typing this post from bed as sitting up in a chair right now is not an option (thank goodness for laptops...isn't technology great?)  And as I have always liked a challenge, I decided to paint butterflies in both my paintings to represent all of the change I have been experiencing.  Wonderfully symbolic, I'm sure you'll agree,  yet something a little less detailed might have made the past few weeks easier!  Ah, I said, I like a challenge.  And since my first painting Breaking Free from Life's Chrysalis came out so well (seen above in its finished state,) I decided to paint my second and much LARGER painting with seven butterflies.  Yes, I said seven.  And as I struggled to finish that one on time, I started wondering if I didn't need therapy...but I digress!  I did like the end result despite how long it took to finish, and I titled it The Gathering

Though nothing could have been accomplished in the end without the help of my wonderful friends and volunteers (you know who you are!) who stuck it out all day, and helped 'Pieces of Me' become a went better than I could have ever expected!  We have some new and wonderful artwork to enjoy, and even more wonderful is that we already sold our first piece of art.  That means we have started the ball rolling once again, and raised our first amount of money for the CMTA!  If that doesn't tell me that all of these changes I have gone through were meant to be, I don't know what does.  To all of you who helped yesterday and to all of the artists who joined our gallery, thank you again!

And after all my butterflies were painted, I wanted to complete four small paintings for the Broadway Art Center's new gallery, which was installed today (corner of Broadway and Maiden.)  That meant on top of all the last minute details to prepare for the CPO installation, I still had to concentrate on painting...but I'm glad I did!  The BAC is such a great space...many talented local artists show their work there, and I am very proud to be a part of all that.  And so I painted some more...and as this gallery is called 'Honoring our Heritage' I let my Irish roots lead the way.  The two paintings shown on the left are titled Love and Friendship Reign Forever, and Eternity.  The paintings at the end of this post are titled  Forever One, and A Reason to Dance.  I think it's fitting that I began my first Irish painting on St. Patrick's Day.

Which brings me back to the other important happening, which was the CMT support group meeting.  I have to say, it was one of the best ones we've had!  Group leader M outdid herself this time, and lined up some great guest speakers:  Laurie Lasky, District Manager from Allard USA (a bracing company,) and Orthotists David Misener from CPO and Ken Cornell from Cornell Prosthetics/Orthotics.  Ken gave a great presentation involving different types of CMT and their symptoms, and the bracing options that exist today to help people with CMT succeed.  Not only that, but group members were given opportunities to try on new types of braces, ask questions and share experiences.  Ken gave me things to look for in the future, when I take the next steps to finding out what type of CMT I actually have.  Now I feel a little more confident in moving forward!

But for now I am resting, because rest is what's needed.  Though as tired and sore as I am, I wouldn't have changed the past few weeks for they involved all important milestones along my new path, leading the way toward new and exciting goals.  It's always good to work toward our goals, even if we need to lay down from time to time...for that is what gives us the strength and the courage to accomplish each one!