We were sitting on my living room couch reminiscing about the past year. After a while, though, the feelings changed from nostalgia to bitterness and regret. We both felt that we were still carrying a lot of our past hurts and fears around with us. And that would NOT do. So we decided to write all the bad things on small strips of paper. We jotted down everything that was bothering us. I bought a candle and found some matches and, together, we burned all the memories of everything that had ever hurt us.
Of course, I thought a lot about my arm. It wasn't that being one-handed is so awful. But a lot of bad experiences related to my disability have taken a toll on my confidence.
There was the time in middle school when I had just lost a race at a swimming meet and was pretty upset about it. My mother, trying to comfort me, told me that it was okay because I was the "inspiration" of the team. That stung. I wanted to win, not inspire. And it was my own mother throwing me the surprise pity party.
There was also the time when my dad ranted about how I should just stop trying to be athletic because I would never be good at sports due to my lack of an arm. As if my slow running speed was somehow the direct result of my missing hand.
Oh, and the time when my fourth grade crush freaked out when he saw my short arm. That was fun. (Not.)
Anyway, the point is that human beings often carry the hurts of the past in their back pockets and allow them to ruin their futures. I refuse to let that happen to me. I'm done toting along ugly memories and insecurities that just weigh me down. I want to be able to walk around in public without the fake arm and still feel okay. I want to be comfortable with my accomplishments and not feel like I always need to prove myself to everyone. I want to enjoy all the good things in my life.
So, with Chris, I watched the flames destroy the burdens we'd been holding onto. And it was such a relief to see those little pieces of paper, the symbols of all our past hurts, disappear. We almost burned down my house with our little bonfire (the smoke alarms did not take well to what we were doing), but the feeling that we are not defined by the past and are more than what has happened to us was worth it.
I'm not saying that every issue I've ever had faded with that night; life's a process and I'm not perfect. But I did learn to separate myself from the labels other people have given me. I am not "Inspirational" Caitlin or "Bad at Sports" Caitlin. I'm Caitlin, the girl who has a wonderful life and a beautiful future ahead of her. And no one is going to take that away from me.
(image found on weheartit.com)