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People with disabilities are often professors to the world regarding coming to terms with broken places in life. We all experience broken places in our lives–some less obvious than others, some less socially judged than others. Yet brokenness and limitation are universal challenges all humanity must face. When we don’t, we contribute to life imbalance. At this point, addicts can be triggered by addictive demands and take up too much space in relationships by wanting what they want when they want it. Life imbalance can become extraordinary in terms of how people contribute to global warming in its many forms of polluting our world and becoming insensitive and ignoring other people’s needs for survival. The COVID-19 pandemic became worse when people ignored limits, choosing to not practice responsible living, and endangering more vulnerable and susceptible people around them because they too, want what they want when they want it.
People with observable disabilities often learn how to incorporate limitations within life because they have no choice but to come to terms with their restraint and challenge. When you don’t come to terms with your limitations in life you will succumb to becoming bitter which becomes an obstacle to learning how to become better. Today many addicts are stuck and unwilling to surrender to the acceptance of their limitations. They resent not being able to have whatever it is they cannot. Addicts are not alone. Many non-addict people are stuck in the same place.
One of life’s challenges is to figure out how to live meaningfully in the broken places of life. When you embrace your limitations, immediately you will feel lonely and obscure. Within there is an urge to do or be what you cannot. When you face your limitation there can be panic, fear, frustration, and resentment. These feelings are threatening, painful, and will stir much discomfort. Reactively, we want to escape or numb the feelings through distraction or minimization. Yet, the key to living with restraint is to learn to embrace your broken places in life. We all have them. Here are a few suggestions.
1: Accept what is. This doesn’t mean roll over and let the powers that be have their way. It means what Fritz Perls said, “Nothing changes until it is real”. You must face the reality of what is before you can change inside in such a way that changes the outside. Eldridge Cleaver once spoke of a “territorial imperative,” suggesting that when people know their surroundings, they know how to survive their environment. You have to know and accept your environment to thrive within it. This means that you must come to terms with your own limitations. To do this, you will need to grieve by leaning into the sadness and loss of what otherwise might have been. To accept certain deep losses of privilege, people, and position, it will be necessary for you to create a supportive group of people to help you through these very painful experiences.
2: Dare to Struggle. Struggle is a common-thread experience that holds within the capacity of human brilliance. The reason people with observable disabilities can teach so much about broken places is that many who have dared to struggle have discovered meaningfulness and the seed of brilliance within the limitation. Many people choose to curse their restraints or limitations all their life. Nelson Mandela wrote that by embracing the struggle of solitary confinement, he could emerge from prison undiminished. He was able to conserve and even replenish his own beliefs. Malcolm X taught that it doesn’t matter where you start out but where you end up. George Jackson taught that if you are not willing to die for what you believe in, then you what you fundamentally believe in is not deep enough.
To the world, these people are considered radicals. To people who face their disabilities, they represent words that they have chosen to embrace and have uncovered brilliant meaningfulness through their personal struggles. Many in the world scoff at broken places. Many would like to bury and forget the reality of those who suffer from disability–which in truth is everybody. The Zapatistas have a wonderful proverb: “They tried to bury us but they forgot we were seeds”. There is a fear of being buried by the limitations manifested in broken places of living. Transform your “curse” of brokenness into a blessing by daring to embrace the struggle.
3: Find meaningfulness in the broken place. Not one of us would sign up for the broken situation we face. I have never known an addict who said they would have signed up for their addiction. People joke about “if sex is an addiction I’ll sign up for that”, until they experience the heartache and excruciating pain that results from sexual out-of-control behavior. The reason many therapists treat addiction is that they are recovering addicts themselves. It’s a way of making meaningfulness from all the madness that exists in the broken place of addiction. Addiction stunts self-realization. People can starve from a lack of self-realization as much as they can from a lack of bread. Frederick Douglass wrote, “If there is no struggle there is no progress. The power that dominates in your personal life will concede nothing without a demand. It never did and never will.” Finding meaningfulness in the broken place of life will require your willingness to struggle. Every struggle with defeat, heartbreak, and loss contains its own seed and lesson about how to make life better and not bitter. Tom Van Arsdale, a friend of mine, wrote, “Peace doesn’t come when everything goes right. Peace comes when you’re right with how everything goes.” The only way to replace bitterness with peace in the presence of limitation is to find meaningfulness in the broken places of life.