Last week, my family and I were reflecting on how wonderful of a year it’s been, and we were right. 2015 had been good to us. 2015 was a year of important growth, change, and most importantly, ease. 2015 felt good, like the world had our backs. We would sail into 2016 on these wings of safety and joy, ready for a year of even more delight.
Until life challenges us, as it often does.
One of the highlights of my 2015 has been getting to know Stephanie. Steph and her family have been visiting Long Beach Island (where my parents have a home) for years and most recently bought a home on the same street as us. From Summer to Summer, our families have gotten to know one another and relationships have been formed. What makes Stephanie’s family unique upon first glance is that Stephanie has severe cerebral palsy. Steph can’t speak in sentences, can’t control her limbs, can’t walk… there are a litany of cant’s tied to her condition. But in place of limits, she has grown beautiful, overflowing amounts of love and kindness. Hers is the kind of love that spreads to everyone she meets.
I am ashamed to admit that it took me a bit of time to get over myself and befriend Steph. My mom was always first to run to Steph, to talk with her, to hold her hand, to tease her. Her relationship with Stephanie has always been a beautiful thing to behold, something that in a few instances I’ve found myself feeling envious of. I was so AFRAID to say the wrong thing, to not know how to just be with Steph, that I couldn’t bring myself to open up to her. I worried that there would be silences, that I would make her feel like I was under-valuing her. I feared that I didn’t have enough goodness in me.
As I mentioned, this year has been one of tremendous growth and self-understanding for me. I’ve done a lot to get over the “not good enough” syndrome that has held me back in a wide variety of situations. It’s odd to think that feeling not good enough can actually hold you back from DOING GOOD and giving your love, rather than something much less valuable like worrying about if a boy likes you. Worse- when you use “not good enough” as an excuse to not do something good, you’re only reinforcing the idea that you’re not good enough by piling on the guilt and shame of not just GOING FOR IT. For not doing the right thing. For not being the person you know in your heart you want to be, that the world is calling you to be. In my case, it was time to get vulnerable and put myself out there, and in doing so overcome this idea that I wasn’t equipped to be a friend to Steph.
From the day I decided to do more than just say “hi” to Steph, my heart began to immediately open up. Stephanie does that to you- she’s warm, funny, and kind. She likes a good laugh more than most, she absolutely is in on any and all jokes, and she appreciates a kind-hearted teasing. She has so much love to give, and while she cannot do so verbally, she finds many other ways. She loves to hold hands and hug and kiss. She creates beautiful art, she writes beautiful letters with the help of incredible technology. She is full of surprises and often spends days making beautiful gifts for those she loves. Where Stephanie’s body fails her, her mind and her heart more than pick up the pieces.
Stephanie is a gift and a teacher to anyone who gets to know her. She has so much more in her mind than appearances may dictate. She loves to dance. At our family friend Emily’s wedding, we danced together all night long. We taught her moves and by the end she was doing the hand motion to Can’t Feel My Face by The Weeknd. She loves sneaking Pina Coladas at Kubels. She likes sneaking off from her parents for the occasional hour. She loves going for walks on the beach, and I love pushing her beach chair super fast backwards down the hill. She laughs without reserve. She loves the color purple. She hates when people treat her like she’s not a person. She’s a regular thirty year old like you and I, except stronger. Kinder. And more loving. She’s taught me the importance of loving people deeply, openly, fully and wildly. She’s a good luck charm- everywhere she goes, people do things for her. How could you not? She’s infectious.
Steph is in the hospital this week with pneumonia. She’s struggling, and worse, she’s lost her memory. She cannot remember her parents or her large tribe of friends and family who love her dearly. I’m asking you to please keep her in your prayers, intentions, thoughts of love, or whatever goodness you send out into the world. She’s a beautiful soul who deserves everything good in life. She deserves her memories, her mind, and her FULL life.
Please send her love and good vibes and juju and prayers for healing.
Stephanie, I love you to the moon and back. I’m pulling for you. Love, Katie