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This one is hard. I’ve been waffling on whether or not to post it, and in what form. That probably means that someone else feels this way and needs it too though, so here we go. Try to keep an open mind…

Yesterday was the Boston Marathon. I know more than one person who successfully ran the race. I am amazed because running this race means that not only have they run marathons before and survived them, but they’ve actually gotten good at it. When I clicked through their pictures, and in general when I click through pictures of friends my age who do incredible things like finish these races or climb great mountains, a few things go through my head: First, I am so happy for them. If I’m particularly close to them, I also feel proud of them. Slowly, though the comparisons start to creep in. I start to think about what I “should” be doing at my age. I can’t help but think about the fact that people I know are running marathons while the idea of running any distance is laughable for me at this point in my life.

I know it’s not atypical to draw comparisons between yourself and others. I know from working in education that it’s human to compare your children or other loved ones to others their age. I’ve seen from personal experience, and from working with families that the urge to draw this kind of comparison becomes especially strong when you or one of your loved ones has a disability. You suddenly feel this need to know what’s “normal.”

Making comparisons can be damaging though. It can hurt. Even making comparisons to others with the same disability can be dangerous. Of course, people with all sorts of disabilities do stunning things like run marathons, climb mountains, and become CEOs. Let me tell you a secret. They do these things because they are people, and people do amazing things. They don’t do them “despite” their disability.

So if, like me, you ever feel the urge to compare yourself or your loved ones to others around you, to think about the things you or they “should” be doing, do yourself a favor and STOP. Remember this: Everyone is running marathons and climbing mountains all of the time. I say this not to take away from the accomplishments of all those who are literally doing these things, but to bring light to those whose obstacles are different.

Just because my mountain is getting through the work day, and my marathon is living with an invisible illness that brings constant pain doesn’t make my victories less valid than those others. It doesn’t make your victories or those of your loved ones (whatever they may be) less valid either. I may not have run in Boston this week, but I too have gotten skilled at doing hard things with grace. I bet you and your loved ones have too. Screw normal, be proud.