I live in New York City—the “do it yourself before somebody else does” capital of the world. Everywhere you turn, it seems there is bustle to the hustle with every labored, unison breath of eight million lungs.
I do not have the luxury or the burden of such things. Even when I run, I don’t really run. I jaunt a la ski poles all over the city, and that was always fine by me. What was the rush? I have never been competitive even when I wanted to win. My disability was a tremendous source of confidence, but as a girl becoming a woman, I felt a crippling vulnerability. My overly expressive face and life are essentially an open book to the few who might be looking. I used to think that was a very bad thing. I felt naked, exposed, unworthy.
I also always had a strong desire to make a difference, yet overpowering self-doubt and shame, which could only produce inaction and anxiety. All the while, I despaired that I wasn’t doing my part and worried that I couldn’t handle it when I did.
I worried because I feared I was the one in control, and I knew if that was the case, I was in deep trouble. I had no clue what I was doing; changing the world was a colossal task, and I knew I could not possibly have the strength to do it alone.
Luckily, I learned that I don’t need the strength or to do it alone.
Actually, I learned the long way that, in order for me to be most efficient and effective, I needed to know when I needed help, to acknowledge my weaknesses even more than my strengths.
Why? Because I need to know that I am not so much of a numbers person so that I can hire an adept accountant. I need to know I get lost often, so I surround myself with great navigators.
And knowing that instead of giving up, we can lift it up and give it to the greatest Navigator of all. I’ve got some good news:
Our weaknesses are God’s opportunity area. It is the place that, once acknowledged, can dazzle us, flip, and whip our perceived weaknesses into something shiny and new with untold value.
I learned I do not need or want a poker face.
Owning my vulnerability and struggles has become a strength in my classroom and life. It has become something I can work with, rather than something I’m crippled by. I’m no longer burdened and buried by my imperfections but freed and alive to focus on the work ahead. I can care and act without it weighing me down.
Prayer (not anxiety) flows into the void of all the things I cannot control: a family friend’s cancer, the outcome of a job interview, the weather tomorrow, the stock market, the apocalypse…will I wake up tomorrow? Will I find true love? What should I do next? For the most part, I no longer worry about these things. Not because I don’t care or wish for the best or better, but because that is not my job. It’s not yours either.
I realize now that our job as humans is to listen for our inner call of life, say yes to it, and show up. This is what I call “active surrender.” The more we surrender, the more present and available we can be to what the spirit (our inner, perfect GPS) is saying is right for us. The more I do this (and see its fruit), the less I am panicked, impatient, sleepless. Thanks to active surrender, I’m not what I thought I would be when I was fifteen. I’m greater. I never thought I could perform, teach, or speak. All of these things were wildly outside my comfort zone.
There’s more to come, and I’m still scared, yet excited and open, because I know that fear is there to remind me that I’m human, I’m still growing, and what I’m doing matters.
That I still care and can care without worrying about what will come next or limiting the possibilities.
I have learned to thank God when I’m not in control. It means I don’t have to work SO hard. Call me lazy, but it is the moment I have cast my rod in the water that I relax and trust that a fish will come. After all, I am the granddaughter of a woman who not only survived three wars in China by the time she was thirty, but a woman who caught a fish in the ocean with her bare hands simply because she knew when to wait and when to open her hands and receive the fish.
Too often, when it comes to things we want or think we should be, we chase the fish away from the tide because we want it so badly and fear it will slip away. Often, we deny a fish because we think it’s not big enough or too big to grasp with just two hands. We set bars too high or low: to lose 100 pounds, to become fluent in Chinese by the end of the year, to make a million dollars, to call mom everyday, to sleep more or less. It is OK that there will be days when things outside of your control will happen, days when you just don’t feel like saying yes to the call, and days when the surrender of your plans are not only advisable, but needed or inevitable.
I may be a New Yorker, but I’m a firm believer that we can give our goals our all, not by doing everything all the time but by heeding the ripe moments to act and to surrender—to ask for help from others, to pray, to wait, knowing that everything will be exactly as it meant to be, whether or not everything goes according to our plans.
Who’s with me?
Xian Horn is a joyful half-Asian woman with Cerebral Palsy, serving as writer, mentor, and positivity activist. A member of an international network of extraordinary women, 85 Broads, she was heralded by founder Janet Hanson as an “amazing role model for all women.” With her personal stories and ongoing mentoring work, Xian is invested in contributing positively to self-esteem and the collective self-image, especially for women. To support her True Beauty efforts for people with disabilities, please join her Facebook community and follow her on Twitter.