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Suicide Still Sucks

September 10, 2019 — Leave a comment

My youngest brother had his first baby a couple weeks ago. Little Madison Jo. She couldn’t be cuter! I was able to take my family to visit last week and we had a nice time filled with baby snuggles and smiles.

Maddie Jo

And while it wasn’t something that cast a shadow on the visit, per se, I have to admit that I thought about my dad missing out on it. We knew this day was coming. The day his first grandbaby would be born who he didn’t get to hold. Maddie Jo won’t ever get to feel his hugs, bounce on his knee, hear his laugh, see his smile. At least not in-person.

That sucks.

It sucks for my brother and his wife. It sucks for Maddie Jo.

And yet, here we are. And we’ll deal with it. MJ will be loved and supported incredibly by everyone around her. As will Joey and Megan. And while people mean well when they say things like, “He’s still here in spirit!” and “Don’t worry, he sees! And he’s smiling!” the truth is, it’s not the same. At all. It just isn’t.

It’s World Suicide Prevention Day today and I’ve been thinking about my dad more than usual lately. My birthday is tomorrow, which I forget every year, too. Well, I don’t forget that it’s my birthday, just that it’s always so close to WSPD.

And honestly, I’m not sure I have any words of wisdom this year. I’m tired. I’m exhausted. In every way. The last year has been really challenging. Ultimately good, but really hard, and it doesn’t look to be letting up anytime soon. Which is ok. My wife, my kids, my family, my friends… I know they’re with me. And I know even better things are on the horizon.

If you asked me right now, I’d tell you I’m not mad at my dad. I’m sad that he’s gone, absolutely. He’s missing Sam as a high schooler and my girls as beautiful middle schoolers. I love hanging out with them and I know he would, too. They’re smart and funny. They’re so damn funny. And they get that from him.

That’s where I go every time I think about losing my dad to suicide. It’s not about me. It’s about my kids losing their Papa. That’s what tears me up. Of course I wish I had more time with him, but they’re the ones I ache for.

But, it isn’t constant. I doubt I even think about him every day. Which is normal, but it doesn’t sound very good. There are a lot of people in my life I love, but don’t think about every day. That doesn’t mean I don’t love them. It just means I’m living my life and I think about them when something reminds me of them. It’s the same with my dad.

Sometimes people ask me if it gets easier. I usually say it just gets different, but if I’m honest, I think it has gotten easier for me. It’s gotten easier for me to handle my feelings over time. They typically aren’t as strong and when I do feel intense sadness, it’s usually for a shorter amount of time. At least that’s where I’m at right now, nearly five years later. Hard to believe it’s been that long.

So, today you’re going be bombarded with messages about how you’re needed. About how you’re important. About how this world needs your voice. About how you make it a better place.

And all of those things are true.

You’re going to be told to reach out if you’re struggling. That you’re not alone. That we’re in this together.

And all of those things are true.

You’re going to be told to check on your friends. To look for signs. That you can make a difference in the lives of your friends who are struggling.

And all of those things are true.

Do your best to believe them.

You really do make today better.

If you or someone you love is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, please get help immediately. Call 911, contact a counselor, contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline, call a friend…I know you might not believe it, but people love you and are there to help. There are other options.

If you’ve experienced loss, you probably already know this, but the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is a wonderful resource to help us heal. My friend Jamie’s organization, TWLOHA, is amazing, too.

So… This is one of my favorite songs. Andrew Peterson’s “You’ll Find Your Way.” This was my third try. It’s not perfect. Far from it. I tried to sing, but started to choke-up. The angle isn’t very good. I need to shave. There are all kinds of reasons not to share this. But I’m doing it anyway.

Why?

Because I’m a perfectionist. So much so that I usually don’t start things that I don’t think I’ll be good at right away. WHICH IS BASICALLY EVERYTHING. Like, I just got some paints on Sunday and haven’t done anything with them yet because I know I’m going to be terrible at first. I’m learning to love the process of acquiring new skills, but it’s still really hard for me. That’s why I posted this. I wanted to play this song, so I friggin did it and here it is, warts and all.

I’ll get better. But where I am is perfectly fine. And maybe it’ll inspire you to begin that thing you’ve been afraid of starting. For whatever reason. You’ll probably suck at first. Do it anyway. That’s the only way you’ll get better.

I believe in you.

April 9th, 2019.

That’s the day I stepped on the scale and saw the highest number I’ve seen in my life. That number isn’t everything, and I’ll get into that more later, but for me it was indicative of the poor decision-making I’d been employing for a long time. The hurtful habits I’d created for myself.

It took me a long time to get to the point of actually doing something about it. In fact, several months earlier I had grabbed a journal and scribbled my weight from that morning in the upper right-hand corner, fully intending to start my journey back to a healthier me that day. Instead, I gained another 17 pounds. SEVENTEEN POUNDS. It’s embarrassing. It’s pathetic. It’s shameful. Those are the thoughts that were constantly banging around in my head, so why couldn’t I get it together? That’s the first thing I learned.

Be kind to yourself. My eating was a coping mechanism and, as harmful as it was to my health, it served it’s purpose for that time, otherwise why would I have done it? With that in mind, I’ve chosen to shake off the shame and have instead accepted that I was hurting and that was what helped me not hurt as much. Again, it makes me sad, but I’m choosing to be gracious and understanding to myself, just like I would do for a friend. I know I tend to be much harder on myself than on those I love. Maybe you find that you are, too. Resist that temptation. Dig deep to find out why you think you are where you are, but do so with a tender heart. You deserve that. And then…

Start where you are. That’s all you can do. I know that sounds really simple, but it’s true. And the fact is, starting where you are can be completely overwhelming. 60 days ago honestly feels like an eternity now, but I vividly remember trying to do 8-minute abs on my living room floor and maybe making it 30 seconds before I started feeling the dread and shame of the truth of where I was physically. And it friggin’ hurt! I couldn’t touch my elbows to my knees. Not even close. I was tired and breathing heavily just from walking around. In fact, let me tell you what happened less than two weeks into all of this.

Easter Sunday. April 21st. Day 13. I went to church early to help setup and I agreed to man the camera for our live stream that morning. I had worked out the day before and apparently not had enough water, so towards the end of the service, as I was filming worship, I could feel my abs start to lock-up. Then my back. I tried to stretch out, but it wasn’t working. I fell out of the room and crawled on my hand and knees up to the balcony where I writhed around in the worst pain I’d experienced that I could remember. My back and abs had locked up and I couldn’t breathe. I was terrified, honestly. I texted my wife and kids for help, to bring me water, but I knew everyone was going out to the Easter egg hunt and probably wouldn’t see my messages. And I didn’t want to bother anyone. I was embarrassed. And scared. Eventually they brought me water and as I hydrated, things slowly went back to normal, but I’ll never forget that feeling. That feeling of helplessness and fear.

That experience showed me that I must approach this journey carefully. That I need to wake-up every morning and say, “Ok, where am I today?” I need to start where I am, every day. Which is the leads me to what I have found to be the most important part so far…

Be mindful. One of the first things I did was download the Lose It! app on my phone. At its core, it’s simply an app wherein you log what you eat during the day to track your calories. You input your height, current weight, what weight you want to get to, how many pounds you want to lose per week, and it gives you a target to hit for every day. I’ve used it 60 days in a row. It works for me. It isn’t perfect and before you lecture me about how it’s not all about a number on a scale or a certain number of calories you ingest a day, let me say that I agree with you. But here’s why it’s been helpful for me.

Before I started using it regularly, I was eating fast food nearly every day. And not just a cheeseburger and fries. I bet I’d eat 1,500-2,000 calories per meal. Easily. I mean, think about it. Go to McDonald’s and grab a cheeseburger, a McChicken, a medium fries, a couple apple pies for a buck and a large soda. That’s 1820 calories. 71g of fat, which is more than you should eat in an entire day. And that was a common meal for me! What the Lose It! app did for me was help me see the truth about my eating habits.

And you guys, I’m ruthless with it. I’ve literally tracked every single thing I’ve eaten and imbibed (I hate the word “drank”) for 60 days. There have been two nights I went out and totally regretted my decisions…and logged every calorie. It’d be foolish not to, right? I mean, it’s not like they disappear just because I don’t log them! So, I’m honest about it. And if I don’t know the exact amount, I guess higher than it probably is. Again, I realize there’s more to it than counting calories, but for me it’s been really helpful in establishing a healthy mindfulness around my eating habits. Find something that works similarly for you and I think you’ll find that it will help tremendously.

Ok, here’s a bonus thing I’ve learned…

Establish healthy habits. All the research says that diets don’t work. I think we all know that. And goal-setting hardly works for most people, either. New Year’s Resolutions anyone? That’s why it’s so important to establish healthy habits and what has helped me the most in this area has been James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits. Just a brilliant, incredibly practical and helpful book about how to establish healthy habits and eradicate harmful ones.

Now, I have health goals. I have a target weight. But, what happens when I get there? And what happens if I don’t meet that goal when I intended to? What happens if I don’t meet it at all? Healthy habits will last past your goals. They’ll serve you when things get hard. Because they will. I’ve been working out more in the last month than I have in the last three years. And it feels amazing. But, there are days I’d rather sit on the couch and watch TV and eat a Snickers. But, the habits I’ve developed help me to workout anyway because that’s just what I do now. I’m a person who works out. I’m a person who eats healthy food. I’m a person who buys two Snickers bars because they were buy-one-get-one-free and then leaves them on the counter so long his kids ask him if he’s ever going to eat them. That happened this morning.

I can’t tell you exactly why April 9th was the day where it clicked-in for me. But, it did. And I’m grateful. And I’m excited. And I’m confident. If you know me at all, this won’t come as a surprise, but when I stepped on the scale this morning, which I do once a week on Fridays, and saw the number that popped up, I got really emotional. I’m down 26.7 pounds in 60 days. But like I said before, it’s not just the number. It’s what it represents. It represents good decision-making. Something that had been lacking in my life for a long time. It means I’m going the right direction. It means I’m getting healthier, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally and spiritually.

And I’m not going to lie.

That feels really good.

Sometimes I share pictures of little kids with my book and caption it, “This is why I do what I do!”

Friggin’ heart-warming!

I love those posts. They make me really happy.

This is not one of those posts.

But, it IS a post about another reason why I do what I do.

Oftentimes when people learn that I’m a speaker, they say something like, “Oh, you must be a great anti-bullying speaker!” They assume I was bullied when I was a kid because I was born without my left hand. I get it. The truth is, though, I don’t remember ever being bullied.

Well…except once.

What’s funny is that I don’t even remember what the kid said. I ran track my freshman year of high school and while out on a warm-up run, this one kid said something disparaging about my arm. Before I knew what happened, a senior threw the kid up against the back of a car and told him to knock it off. That’s literally as much of the only story I can remember when people ask if I was bullied as a kid.

Tonight…that kid, who is now 42 or 43 years old…tried to bully me again.

I’m not telling you this to get your sympathy or to cause outrage. I’m really not. I’m sharing it because it was a stark reminder for me, a person who has never really experienced bullying in his life, that bullying is real and it needs to be talked about.

This person was known for being a jerk in middle school and high school. That’s all I really remember about him. So, tonight as he trolled me and a friend of mine on Facebook, I told him the story about what he did and how it’s disappointing, yet not surprising, to see that he hasn’t changed.

“Call me a d*ck in person and see what happens. (I said that he was “a d*ck about my arm” when we were younger) I’ll be back this summer. Give it a try. Didn’t think so. Stop obsessing over a story from high school you loser,” he responded. He then insulted me and my wife again and apparently blocked me.

Clearly this was not a “My bully and I are best friends now!” situation.

I honestly can’t think of a more cliche response from a bully. Accusing me of “obsessing” over the story, challenging me to a fight, twisting my words, name-calling, body-shaming, etc etc. It made me mad, sure, but even more than that, it made me sad.

It made me sad because I know there are kids who deal with WAY worse than I ever have. I’m a grown man. I’m able to process this and learn from it and let it roll off my back. But, I’ve learned this over time.

Here’s a hard truth: bullies will always exist. They just will. I truly believe we’ll never “eliminate” bullies or bullying.

That said, I think there are a couple things we can do.

First, I know the right thing to say is that bullies are just people who are hurting. Hurt people, hurt people. And I know that’s true. I also believe, though, that some people are just plain mean to their core. They’re selfish and rude and mean and don’t care that anyone knows it. You probably know adults like this. And while that’s kind of scary, it actually helps me. It helps me prepare. Haters gon’ hate, etc. So yes, let’s not ignore bullies as a rule, but understand that some will never change no matter what we do or say. And with that knowledge, let’s teach our kids how to deal with them if they encounter them. Give them strategies for what to do in those situations and how to handle it mentally and emotionally going forward.

On the other hand – so to speak – when I go into schools, I spend the bulk of my energy teaching the kids to accept themselves and others just the way they are. I help them see that the things that make them unique also make them awesome. It’s why I challenge them to tell ONE friend something they think is awesome about them before they leave school the day of my visit. I’ve heard my message described as a subversive anti-bullying message and I’m ok with that.

Tonight was difficult, but I can’t tell you how glad I am to have a platform on which to share my experience in hopes to help you in yours. Let’s be aware, alert and available to help however and whenever we can.

We have to.

It’s been a while since I reviewed some Tom Bihn products, so I’m super excited to share these ones with you! I’ve been using these for a few months now (thanks, Darcy!), so hopefully you find the reviews to be helpful! I do my best to be honest about how things work with one hand, so keep that in mind when you watch them. Let me know if you have any questions!

This duffel bag is AWESOME!
If you’re into minimalist wallets, these will be right up your alley!

Knork Holiday Giveaway 2018

December 16, 2018 — 2 Comments

It’s time!

It’s been a while, but I’ve partnered with my friends at Knork to do a FANTASTIC giveaway, just in time for Christmas! If you’re not familiar, the staple of the Knork family of products is the Knork fork. The reason it’s so great, especially for those of us with one hand, is because the edge is sharp (not sharp enough to hurt you), which enables you to cut through foods you’d normally also need a knife for.

They also have TONS of other products that are equally as awesome, some of which I reviewed for you here:

This is ridiculous, but here you go.

Let’s get to the good stuff!

First, and this is absurd, but if you go to www.knork.net and use code ONEHAND, you’ll get 60% off your purchase. SIXTY. PERCENT. OFF. Go now.

AAAAAAND now it’s time for the giveaway! TWO winners will receive BOTH a 20-piece Flatware Set AND the new 8+1 Piece TOGO Plasticware Set! These prize packages are worth over $100 EACH.

Gorgeous 20-piece Set
Super adorable new plasticware set!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Alright, good luck! So excited for two of you to get these awesome packages!

And thank you so much to my friends at Knork!

(This giveaway is open to those living in the continental US only. Thanks for understanding!)

A couple days ago I saw a tweet in my timeline by someone named Bryan Behar. He paid tribute to the passing of President Bush and people subsequently lost their minds and unfollowed him because they took it as an endorsement of some of Bush’s more troubling policies. I started reading through his other tweets and…well…

Now we’re best friends.

He just doesn’t know it.

We haven’t really interacted or anything, but let me explain.

I first read his most recent piece wherein he explains that he spent the first 50 years of his life avoiding criticism. Trying to keep his voice hidden so that his “limited reservoir of self-esteem” wouldn’t crumble if people came at him. Which was somewhat challenging since he’s a writer in Hollywood, having written for 23 sitcoms in the last 20 years. Since turning 50, though, he’s turned over a new leaf and is finding and sharing his voice, regardless of what the world has to say in response.

Then I saw that he lost his father to suicide, too.

The piece he wrote that I linked to in the previous sentence is amazing. And I don’t mean just that it’s well-written, though it is. It’s amazing because of all the parallels to my own story; my own experience. His dad was confident, a strong provider. Nobody had any idea he’d even consider suicide. Even Bryan’s description of the feeling of disbelief until he arrived to the “crime scene” (suicide is not a crime, but the scene is reminiscent of one) was exactly how I experienced it. Bryan was 43 when his dad died by suicide, I was 37.

Bryan also wrote a piece about triggers for survivors of suicide and why he writes about it so often. I’m not joking when I say that I could have written these. What I mean is that my thoughts about these things so closely mirror his, it’s almost eerie. In a good way. If that’s a thing.

Bryan’s a sports guy, as am I. Our politics are similar. He’s hilarious.

And here’s the cherry on top…

He’s a crier.

No joke, on my way home from work yesterday I started sobbing thinking about all of this. Hear me out.

I truly believe there’s nothing more important in this world than connection. Of knowing – not just FEELING – but, KNOWING that you’re not alone. We all need that. We all want that. Even people who “hate everyone” desire connection. So, when I thought about the connections Bryan and I share, it overwhelmed me. In a good way. It reminded me, too, of all the amazing people in my life that I’m connected to. I just started to type out some names, but I’m already at 447 words.

The point is this: connection is everything.

Take some time today to think about the people in your life that you’re connected to and maybe reach out to a couple of them and just tell them thanks.

And Bryan, if you’re reading this…maybe some day we can talk and become actual friends.

That would actually make me feel less stalker-ish, which would be good.

Ok, bye.

I’m sitting here thinking, “I don’t really even know what to write.”

My wife would tell me, “Then just write that. Be honest. Other thoughts will come.”

She’s wise.

Today is the fourth anniversary of my dad’s death. I’m not a big fan of using the word anniversary for it, but it is what it is, right?

It also happens to be International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.

So, there’s that.

Right now I’m feeling kind of like, “Why are you continuing to write? This is NOT helpful. You should be giving information about the ISOSLD thing and how things are better now than they were and all that…”

Here’s the deal, though: That’s not how I’m feeling. I’m listening to Julien Baker and feeling melancholic. And you know what? That’s fine.

I’ve found, without fail, that when I write what I’m actually feeling…it resonates. Even if I’m embarrassed or scared or whatever.

So, here’s what I’m feeling right now. Today. On International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day. On the fourth anniversary of my dad’s death.

I’m feeling like it’s been a tough week, but it’s been bearable.

Thursday would have been my grandpa’s 99th birthday. He died about a year and a half before my dad. I always forget how close after his birthday my dad killed himself. Every year I forget. You’d think I’d remember that.

I remember sitting with my dad while grandpa was in hospice and noticing a little spiral notebook in his hand. My dad wasn’t a writer. I asked him what it was and he said he’d been writing down the things he loved about his dad. He wrote words like loyal and hard-working and strong and brave and helpful…I’ll never forget that.

How are things for me now, four years later? I don’t think about him every day. I don’t feel as devastated as I used to. I miss him just as much and I wish like hell he was here, but it isn’t a constant undercurrent or anything. Certain things still remind me of him. Like, the other day I got a bunch of stuff at the grocery store that I had at his house when I’d visit every other weekend growing-up. That was kind of fun, actually.

Whenever my kids have concerts or Claire has a basketball game, I wish he was there. Not only to see and support them, but those were moments I loved being with him. Laughing together, trying to stifle it so people wouldn’t get mad at us. Talking about the Badgers and Packers and this year especially, the Brewers. Those are the times I’m reminded that he’s gone and wish he wasn’t.

If I’m really honest, it’s just been a tough year overall. So, it’s kind of one of those things where I’m like, “Hey, dad. I love you. I miss you. But, I have a lot of shit to do. And it’s all really good. I’m really excited about it. I wish you were here to watch what happens. Julie is amazing, but you already know that. The thing is, though, she’s more amazing than you ever knew. Sam is taller than me now, but he usually doesn’t rub it in. He’s doing No Shave November and has a pretty good ‘stache going. Julie keeps teasing him about it, which doesn’t go over real well, as you might imagine. Anna is growing up fast and I’m not sure I like it. She’s amazing, though. She has these two great friends from gymnastics, Denise and Joclyn, and they make these cool little videos on Instagram of them doing gymnastics things and TONS of people watch and like them. It’s pretty neat. She also does this thing at bedtime where she kisses Julie on the cheek, but she just lightly presses her lips to her cheek and Julie HATES it and Anna and I laugh so hard we almost pee our pants. I’m pretty sure Julie gets legitimately mad about it. It’s the best. And Claire…oh, Claire Bear. Dad, she’s SO funny. And she never stops talking. The other day she was explaining what dating is like in 5th grade and I almost had to pull over on the way home from gymnastics. She’s playing basketball and is a starter. You know I’m competitive, so when I watch her grab a rebound and then stand there and look at the girl she knocked over to get it, feeling bad instead of clearing it and running up the court, I’m like, “CLAIRE! GO!” Julie, on the other hand, is like, “Oh, my sweet sweet Claire.” Drives me nuts. But it is pretty damn cute. Anyway…things here are good. And getting better. Every day. Ok, I’ll check in again with you later. Love you.”

Well, apparently I needed to do that.

*grabs tissues*

Felt really good, actually. It’s been a while since I connected with him like that.

And maybe that’s the best way to describe how things are with me in relation to my dad’s suicide four years later.

It’s been a while, but it still feels good to connect.

Love and miss you, Dad.

That won’t ever change.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the Helping Hands Foundation’s Winter Outing for the SIXTH year in a row. It always feels like family. I love that, especially since I’m a Midwestern boy from Wisconsin and all my East Coast friends treat me like one of their own.

One of my favorite moments every year is reuniting with my little buddy, Ella. It’s been so fun to watch her grow and this year she’s missing teeth! As I walked towards her she saw me and threw her hands over her mouth in surprise. I got to her and she threw her arms around me and said, “Hi, Ryan! I missed you so much!” Good grief!

Another highlight for me was getting to meet Mike Alt. Mike lives in Reno, NV, which is nowhere near Las Vegas, it turns out. He founded “Can’t Is Not An Excuse” and I loved hearing him share his story with the teens and the whole group. Mike is a good dude with a great message.

Then there’s Jen Reeves. We don’t get to see each other nearly as often as we’d like, so when we both found out we were going to be in Boston, we kind of freaked out. No exaggeration, Jen is one of my favorite people on Earth. The work she does with Jordan and Born Just Right is incredible and it was so fun to hear them share their story and watch them interact with everyone.

I also got to meet Meghan Rose and hear her share her story with the group this year. Meghan is an actress in NYC and I loved seeing her share her confidence with everyone, especially the teenage girls. They LOVED her and righty so! Love that they had her as a role model and she was so open with them. (Meghan is in the middle and Kristy, another AMAZING roll model is on the right)

And of course it’s always a blast to hangout with my biological son (not really), Nick Newell, and his new bride, Danielle! Nick is also one of my favorite people on Earth and I love watching him interact with all the kids over the weekend. They think he’s so cool (he is) and he loves them. It’s fantastic.

I’m also grateful for the adult mentors. Every one of them brings something unique to the group and the fact that they give of their time to speak into the lives of kids who are still learning about themselves and life is so impressive. I spent time with the high school kids this year and it was SO great to hear them having deep discussions about issues that affect them and sharing common experiences. I’ve watched some of these kids grow for the past six years and the maturity, the ability to see beyond themselves was amazing.

Of course, the weekend doesn’t happen without all the amazing volunteers and especially Patti and Dayna. Two of the coolest, kindest, most selfless people I know. I think most people would be shocked if they really knew what these two do behind the scenes to make everything work. Thank you for everything you do to make sure all of us have an amazing weekend together!

What was also great about this weekend was that for the first time I came a day early so I could give a couple presentations at a school. I stayed with the Rovedos on Thursday night and spoke at their little guy Cam’s school on Friday morning. Everyone at JFK Elementary was amazing and I loved meeting Mrs. Reilly and Mr. T! I very rarely speak at schools where someone else has one hand, so this was a blast to see the kids already kind of know what’s up, but still be excited about my visit.

Had an amazing time out east and already can’t wait until next year!

*SPOILERS…PROBABLY*

I didn’t really know anything about Dr. Strange when my son and I went to see it in IMAX 3-D the other day.

I’m not into comic books or Marvel, so it was really just to have a good time with Sam. In fact, most of the time I was sitting there thinking, “I wonder when he turns bad?” I thought he was a bad guy. By the end of the movie I was like, “Huh, they must really be playing the long game here. Guess he turns bad in the second one!”

I’ve heard that people have had issues with the movie on a number of fronts, but we enjoyed it. Cumberbatch was great and I loved Tilda Swinton. But, if you’ve seen it…you know who made me cry.

For the unfamiliar (like I was), Dr. Strange is this incredible surgeon whose steady hands have lead to fame and fortune. His hands are his livelihood. So, when he crashes his sports car and destroys both of his hands, it’s all over. His identity is lost, no matter what those around him say. He goes to great lengths to try and repair his hands, all to no avail. Finally, he is told he needs to go see “the Ancient One” who will show him how to harness his spirit/energy to repair his physical body.

Basically.

Once he starts, part of his training consists of a lot of hand movements to create portals to other dimensions, as well as shields and weapons.

He’s self-conscious of his hands and blames his struggles with these tasks on them because they are in such disrepair. He’s told, though, in no uncertain terms that the issue isn’t with his hands. And to prove her point, the Ancient One asks a gentleman near her to perform the task. He pushes his robe aside to reveal his arms and…

He’s missing one of his hands.

He performs the task perfectly and I start to cry instantly. Not sob, but an immediate welling of the eyes. Why? Over the past couple of years I’ve come to understand the importance of seeing someone who looks like you on the big screen. In this case, the message was powerful, too. Your physical condition does not have to limit you. Dr. Strange reminds me of so many kids and adults I’ve come across. He was more focused on his physical difference than was anyone else around him. It was a process for him to get to that point where he accepted his hands for what they were and realized he was strong regardless.

I’m not sure I’d say that was the main theme of the movie, but it was the one that most resonated with me.

I’m hopeful it will resonate with others, too.

Especially those finding their strength despite their physical difference.