Master Coach Liz Venendaal's Winning HBO Journal Entry
I meet up with a friend for drinks. It’s been a long week and we haven’t been out in forever. I have to pee but I hesitate to get up. If I do, they’ll all assume I’m sloppy and drunk. I’m not.
She offers me her hand - she knows the drill. But everyone within eyeshot will assume we’re dancing. Why else would she be grabbing hold of me like that? We’re not. When I reach under the table and grab my crutches, perceptions will quickly shift from thinking I’m a sloppy drunk, swaying as I move. They’ll wonder why I’m limping and broken and assume I need help.
Needy, sloppy or broken? Which is worse? I don’t know.
None are true. I don’t know why I even care what the bar full of strangers thinks of me. On the surface I don’t. But, after a lifetime of getting that look, it still stings.
I really have to pee but I need a minute and a deep breath to brace myself for the looks and comments that will bombard me as I make my way to the stall.
See, I’m not broken. I have cerebral palsy. For some reason society sees CP as a childhood disability. Adults get MS, or Lupus and my neighbors friends grandpa even had polio. CP seems to still hold that shock value because it’s a bit more hush hush than the rest. Little kids have CP. They’re on posters and telethons helping Ed McMann raise a buck for the cause. I was that child.
Now, I’m a grown woman, with children of my own. But, I didn’t outgrow CP. It doesn’t work like that.
Despite what it might look like as I move, I’m not needy. I am very much needed. Like many other women my age, I am the glue that holds my family together. I have an awesome husband and three incredible children. No, my husband isn’t disabled. He’s smart and sexy and the kindest person I know. I hear a lot about how he is, “the best”. And, he is - without question. But, to be clear, it’s not because he married me ‘in spite’ of my disability. He, like I, see that as a single piece that makes me who I am. I have my flaws but so does he. Who doesn’t? We accept each other and are better together. Did I mention he’s really hot?
Together, we have a 7-year-old son and 4-year-old twin daughters. They need me. The need me to guide them through their days with patience, love and security. So, that is what I do, all day, every day. I work hard to raise the 3 tiny humans who need me more than anyone else in the world. All while doing dishes, laundry, cooking meals, paying bills and making sure our world keeps running smoothly. Despite how it may appear, I get along just fine. I’m not needy. I am very much needed. My family sees me as reliable, secure and capable of meeting all their needs not to mention my own. Why don’t you?
Now that I think about it, sloppy is worse.
Like most moms, most days I feel overwhelmed. I feel like a walking tissue catching tears and boogers. I hear my name called in unison and there’s only one of me. I feel gross, spread thin and taking it minute by minute trying to be there for 3 kids who all seem to need me at once. I feel sloppy and like I don’t resemble the me I once was. So, for you to look at me and think I’m sloppy, for any reason, pisses me off. That’s just not the reality of the space I fill in this life. I am not that little girl on the poster anymore. I am just a woman, wife and mother who happens to have a disability. I need a night out, a stiff drink and I really have to pee.