I’m handicapped and roll around in a motorized wheelchair, but I would not say that I am confined to a wheelchair. To be stuck in bed would be a confinement. Wheelchairs are wonderful, useful, and necessary inventions.

I often think that I would be a totally different person if it were not for my own personal struggle. Perhaps I’ve been sculpted by adversity into a better writer, a better partner, and a stronger spirit due to being handicapped.

Being different is a gift

It is through being set apart, being different and, in some ways, marginalized that I have received a new perspective. As a disabled person, I am often more of an observer than a participant.

Sure, this means that I don’t get to take part in all things in the same way that an able-bodied person does, but it also means that I get to take everything in. It means that I can sit back and take the time to appreciate the finer details. It means that I have more time to reflect and interpret the behavior of others.

Drawing on pain can connect us to others

As a partner, I feel like I am more empathetic because I have felt great pain whether it be through discomfort or horrible disappointment. My own pain can easily be related to the pain of others because ultimately we are all the same.

I don’t try to compete or rank pain because I realize that no one will share my exact experience, but we can all share in the idea of emotional and physical pain itself.

Being in a wheelchair has also given me a great deal of time to contemplate and I think this has made me more introverted. That introversion is a blessing in that it has made me more appreciative of listening to other perspectives and respecting other viewpoints. And patience is a byproduct of that.

Overcoming adversity is a well of strength to draw from

A great deal of my mental and emotional fortitude could also be attributed to growing up with a disability. Learning to deal with disappointments and little tragedies while growing up probably prepared me for deaths in my family that occurred as a young adult.

It is only by being knocked off center repeatedly that you learn to return to your center better and better each time.

None of this is to suggest that people who are not disabled are not able to excel at writing, romantic relationships, or dealing with life in general. For me, though, dealing with being different early on was an impetus for personal growth. It was my acid test, it was my forge.

There was a part of me that did not know if I would survive it. But I did survive, and that made me who I am.

Reframing and gaining a new perspective

As the tree is fertilized by its own broken branches and fallen leaves and grows out of its own decay, so men and nations are bettered and improved by trial, and refined out of broken hopes and blighted expectations. -F. W. Robertson

When I thought about problems for better or worse, the problems depressed me, or at least they did before I read a passage in a book of quotes and poetry. Robertson’s quote made me think. It made me realize that everything good or bad is just another swipe in the daily carving on the bark of destiny.

I believe that if I look at things in that way, it is the true meaning of life and living: reaching for goals and sometimes failing to reach them. Maybe a storm uproots my footing. That doesn’t mean I do not continue to grow. I just shed myself and start life anew.

Branches may be bent or broken, but somehow they find a way to keep reaching for the sun. 

So in times of need, I just think about how I can learn from this or grow from what I’ve experienced. How can I shed my leaves of trouble in the wintry frost? I await the warmth of spring— the dawn of a new day where I will grow taller and stronger and quicker than ever before.

Much like a tree the dead branches and leaves and struggles of the past are part of me. My branches are pruned, my growth manipulated in a unique direction.

My experiences shape my personality, my existence, my destiny, and help me grow. @JHinek (Click to Tweet!)

Even tears are comforting to me like rain to a sapling in the storm. I may be blown about and lose a few leaves, but the rain brings life and revitalization and strength of character.

And so… I examine the growth rings of a freshly cut tree and learn from its past. I pick the fruit of a young apple tree and savor the taste. Then I plant the seed and wait for it to sprout and grow upward into the future.

Jonathan Hinek will encourage you to live and love life no matter its obstacles. If you want to implement real, lasting changes toward a happier you, download his free report Happier Now: 21 Proven Techniques to Improve Your Outlook Instantly.

Image courtesy of Ornella Binni.