Published on October 25th, 2013 | by Sarah Kovac
Loving the Real Me (The Ugly, Disabled One)
I have spent a good chunk of my years completely out of touch with the “real me.” I didn’t like her. I didn’t like the way she looked, I didn’t like the way she thought, I didn’t like the way she felt when I wore her. I told her she was ugly and unwelcome in my own eyes and everyone else’s. So she hid away.
That self was silent, dormant, angry, and brooding for about 25 years… until I became a mother, and she came raging out of me, insisting to be heard and heeded. The things she had to say changed the course of my life. In fact, she gave me access to a life worth living.
I was born with a disability. An unsightly and obvious one, arthrogryposis (AMC). My arms are short, and my hands are shriveled and turned inward. My fingers are tiny and curve in like claws. In fact, several times I’ve accidentally “clawed” my children when picking them up. In those moments, absolutely, I hate the real me.
All my life I’ve heard, “Your body isn’t the real you, Sarah. It’s what’s inside that counts.” But I’ve come to know that there is no real me without my body. If I deny this skin I occupy, I deny my home. I deny the roots of my experience and the lens through which I see life. No, this body is not me, but there is no me apart from this body. It is my gift and my burden and my muse.
As an inexperienced new parent, I found it impossible to shut her away; she who struggles. She who doesn’t have the answers and needs help. When I was learning to change a diaper without hands, when baby spoons felt so awkward between my toes, I could have melted under the heat of the stares and questions. I hated this struggling, flawed, weak me, but there was no denying her now. She demanded to be seen. She demanded a voice.
She found her voice the day I uploaded an iReport video of my life, as a mother with a disability, to CNN.com. My story was headline news a couple days later, and as people began to respond to that act of vulnerability (emancipation?), I saw myself with new eyes.
I received messages from people who were so glad I let her, the ugly and awkward me, finally speak. In her they found hope that maybe there was redemption in their ugliness, too. She was brave and a help to others. She had the kind of purpose and drive that I’d always wanted.
And, though it took some time and humbling and mental work, I finally saw that she was more me than I’d ever been.
The weak and broken part of me had held my purpose all along. It was in her that my life’s fulfillment and destiny would manifest.
She, the real me, not my façade of perfection, would bring the joy I so desperately sought.
Now, I find myself stuttering during TV interviews and blushing behind microphones. I wonder how I ever got here. But it was she, stuttering and blushing, who makes a place for me in my destiny. It is her voice that commands attention. Let me always be silent and let her speak.