Thursday, February 26, 2009

Respect by bullying?

An odd thought, right? Maybe even repulsive?

Christopher Nolan, a renowned Irish author, died last week. Christopher wasn't just any author...he had to write because, he said, "my mind is like a spin-dryer at full speed; my thoughts fly around my skull while millions of beautiful words cascade down into my lap."

Christopher wrote his books with his head...literally. He had a band around his head that had a pointer coming out of it, like a mosquito's stinger, and his mother held his chin while he would enter letters on a typewriter. Painstaking work. He had severe cerebral palsy from oxygen deprivation at birth...unable to move or speak, except for some limited neck movement. Oh...and apparently, incredibly expressive eyes.

He was brilliant, and won major awards for authors.

What engaged me about Christopher was the attitude he and his family had about his disability..."My folk are grand, when it comes to helping a fellow in a fix. They stood by me, never pushed me, never asked anything of me, never became too protective of me and, most of all, they accepted me just as though I was able-bodied."

And then the line I loved the best, "I was wanted dearly, loved dearly, bullied fairly, and treated normally". His sister can recount amusing childhood squabbles that details the normal sibling rivalry, which apparently, his mother dealt with as any mother does. Christy, as his family called him, loved being treated as a normal kid.

While his parents accomodated his disability--his parents read to him of the great writers for hours on end as a child, they didn't pity him.

It reminds me of times when I have heard clients express relief that their boss yelled at them again after a death in the family, rather than tip toeing around mediocre work--life was back to normal. Or a husband snaps at his wife when she is late, after months of over accomodating her because of guilt for her finding pornographic pictures in his computer--and they both smile with relief...that their relationship has reached a level of healing that can support honest reactions.

Usually, getting bullied, hit, or criticized hurts. Once in a while, it is celebrated because it means you are one of the gang, accepted, normal, and respected as being able to hack it.

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