Do you remember when you were little, and everything you saw was amazing and new? You’d excitedly show your parents the rainbow? Or a sunset? And you’d wonder how the sky could change color like that?
I was an explorer!
I don’t ever remember being in the house when my mom would call for dinner. I was usually outside wandering down by the river, out in the fields, or checking out the horses. I remember one time hearing my mom faintly calling for me. I don’t know what she wanted. I just remember that I was at the bottom of the horses feeding trough. I was climbing the corral fence and had fallen in! I had a short panic, wondering how I was going to get out of there! I didn’t want the horses to eat me! I was about 4 at the time. Finally, I stopped struggling and was able to get my legs under me and pull myself up and back over the fence. It was scary, but I’ll never forget the feeling of victory I gained from that experience. I knew, from that point on, I could get out of tricky situations.
My mom and dad got me a little electric motor-tricycle for Christmas. When I wasn’t using my braces and crutches, I would ride that thing all over the neighborhood! I loved it! I felt so free to roam and explore my neighborhood! It felt so good to be able to see and discover new things!
One day my brother and I rode it allll the way through the neighborhood to the other side and down a giant hill! I LOVED that hill! I mean, we were flying! It was exhilarating! Again, I felt so free! The wind rushed past us so fast it made our eyes water. Something broke in the tricycles little motor when we went down that steep hill, and it wouldn’t start again. So my brother had to push me all the way home.
Just because I became paralyzed didn’t stop me in the slightest. If I wasn’t wearing my braces and crutches, I was crawling all over the countryside. I crawled through our friends' sheep pastures, horse fields, getting covered in shit, and loving every minute of it! I thought I was a genuine horse! I would swing my head back and nay, pawing the ground with my little five-year-old hand, just like the horses did.
I think that’s what childhood is all about! Exploring! As a child, you might wonder about things that every adult already knows, but as a child, it doesn’t matter! Everything is brand new to you, and your own personal discovery is the most significant experience of your short life!
That childlike wonder and exploration, at some point in my life, began to dwindle and be replaced with embarrassment, shame, and fear. I stopped asking questions out of fear of seeming dumb or wrong. And exploration was limited by my ability to hide my body or look desirable.
Here’s the thing, as a child I didn’t feel or think I was disabled. I tried carrying that same confidence as a teenager, but I had a reliable indicator that I was strange and disabled. You see, what separated me from the rest of the world was my bladder. Because of my paralysis, I had a tough time controlling my bladder muscles. So, you guessed it, I wet my pants... often! To say it sucked would be an understatement.
How could I ever forget the time in High School algebra class, sitting right up front so I could see the board, I drenched myself in urine! I lied like crazy telling everyone I must have sat on a spilled drink in my seat. Seriously? Who would buy that?
I had to go to the nurse, and even she allowed me this one curtesy and let my lie fly, and sent me home. I remember getting in my car and just crying my eyes out all the way home. I was so mortified. All I wanted was to fit in, but instead, I saw myself as "the disabled girl" who wet her pants!
The very worst part though was when I got home and found my little sister there with her friend. I think she thought I was gonna bust her for skipping class. I scared her when I came through the door. She was also a teenager and couldn’t stand me, her older bossy sister. She knew everything about me, she knew exactly what had happened. She taunting me about wetting my pants in high school. I tried my juice seat lie on her. “Yeah right, Lace. You wet your pants, that’s what happened.” I must have turned beat red. I was so humiliated. I remember just wanting her to get out of my way so I could get down the hall and into the bathroom and take a shower. I tried to forget the whole thing as fast as possible.
I dreaded going back to school. I thought for sure everyone would be whispering about me behind my back, and that everyone in my algebra class would be making fun of me. To my total shock, they weren’t! They were actually kind to me. Here’s the trick to being a teenager... Lie like your life depends on it! Cause it does! By lying, I gave everyone else, who was also super concerned about their image, to agree with the lie and therefore, save their own reputations by not being witness to anything so embarrassing as being a high schooler who wets her flipping pants! Sheesh!
I’m sharing this cringe-worthy, and private story for multiple reasons.
First, because I want you to feel you can trust me. This is a source of shame I’ve held close to my heart for a very long time. Revealing it means that I trust you in return, and I am making an attempt at radical honesty. I’m not sharing anything in this blog that I haven’t already been through myself. And by sharing, I hope you will know that whatever you are going through in your life, whatever shame you carry, whatever fear that permeates your mind, I understand. You are not alone. I am with you. I, too, have lied, hid, and carry secrets.
Lastly, I wanted you to have two very visceral examples of both me as a free and playful child and then a terrified pant wetting teenager. One is curious about the world and wonders about everything from the stars to cookies. The other put her life on hold and stopped exploring out of fear and shame.
Isn’t it funny that people say, “I was so afraid I almost peed my pants!” There couldn’t be a more accurate statement.
Here’s the big kicker... My bladder problems are what caused my frequent kidney infections, and eventually, my kidney failure. My fear held me back from getting the help I needed to heal my bladder. From all that shame, I carried a massive chip on my shoulder, and I avoided seeing a doctor. I was so determined to hide and pretend that my problem didn’t exist. I began believing my own lie. That I was FINE. Which really means, F’ed up, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional.
I’m holding that teenage girl in my heart right now. I feel her sadness. She wants to go with her friends' camping, water skiing, and snow skiing! She wants to fall in love! But she can’t. The embarrassment, if the truth were revealed, would be too much for her. Ironically, she holds it allllll in. All her wants, desires, curiosity, and wonder. She stuffs it deep inside. I forgive that sweet girl. It wasn’t her fault. She was doing the best she could with what she understood to be true.
An intricate surgery relieved my bladder spasms, and I stopped having “accidents.” I was 29. It took almost 30 years to be freed of my actual disability, and finally be able to laugh at Adam Sandlers line from Billy Madison, “It’s cool to pee your pants.” Cause, now I am cool with having been through that experience.
It taught me a few things:
1. Fear is the opposite of exploration. Fear forces a person to dig in their heels and stick with the beliefs they’ve formed. All to protect themselves from experiencing the discomfort that comes from letting go.
2. Sometimes fear can shift with one curious question... ‘I wonder what it would be like if...’
3. Chronic fear can cause illness. All that tension has to go somewhere. It usually shows up in the body. Unreleased tension turns into a physically felt experience.
4. Sometimes we are forced to let go when something in our bodies or lives break down. But we don’t have to be forced if we choose to be brave and explore all the possibilities of healing our shame, pain, and fear.
5. Our childhood curiosity, wonder, play, and freedom can unchain us from the shackles of discomfort and fear.
As a middle-aged lady, I’m rediscovering that wonder and childhood exploration again. When I get scared and don’t want to take a step out of my comfort zone to go for the next great adventure, I try to ask a question. For example, what would it be like to try making a podcast? Or, I wonder how it would feel to hold an album of my own songs in my hand?
The other day I couldn’t shake this relentless thought that it was too late for me. My voice sounded old and dry, and my fingers kept falling asleep when I played the guitar. I noticed the perpetual thought machine and knew what to do. I asked that question, “what would it be like to hold an album of my songs in my hand? That question lead to another question, and soon, I was back in action. I went home and played a few songs. Then I recorded them onto my laptop and realized, I’m not so bad. The clarity bought ten more actions I could take to move toward this idea of an album. I was exploring! I was playing! I was curious! There was wonder! It felt good. I was free from my fear reactions.
So, my brave friend, what’s next for you? What do you need right now to heal your shame and fear? To explore that next project? To share your unique gift with the world? What would it be like if...?
Please, if you feel inspired to share the answers to these questions in the comments, that would be beautiful. But please know there is no pressure to share a private story like I did unless you want to. 🥰
With great love, my brave wild friend,