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August 23, 2013


Fig Trees and Crutches

I will Not use my disability as a crutch! I will however, use it to gain more of what the abundant universe has to offer me. Like a heavy noose around my neck, I could let it label me. Weak, incompetent, unable. Instead, I will take that piece of heavy, twisted rope that threatens to define me as something I am not, and securely attach it to something greater, bigger, stronger.

Six months ago my doctor told me the reason the left side of my body goes numb, and some days I can't walk or sit and am in constant pain, is due to Sciatica. Sciatica is simply the symptom of the lack of tissue in the lower two discs in my back, so they are pinching the Sciatic nerve, also causing Arthritis.

I am only 37 years old.

I am usually a very active mother of 3 children so when I heard this diagnosis, my world was turned upside down. It is not something that goes away or gets better; it is something I have to live with for the rest of what I hope is a very long, healthy, satisfying life.

Every day is a struggle to get out of bed, play with my children, work, and do household chores. Some days are better than others. Instead of letting this noose weigh me down though, it has eventually, 6 months later, lifted me up.

As I visited the Santa Barbara, California area recently on a family vacation, one of the highlights on a guided trolley tour was an Australian Moreton Bay fig tree that had been planted by a young girl almost 140 years ago.

Australian Moreton Fig Tree
(Photograph taken by Stephanie Whitfield)

As the captivating young trolley guide came to a stop, so that we could marvel in its grandeur and stateliness, I was in awe of its massive buttress roots standing several feet out of the ground and reaching hundreds of feet in all directions. Despite the nutrient-poor soil, those roots have allowed the fig tree to grow eighty feet tall, the branches to reach out almost two hundred feet, and it still produces succulent fruit for locals and visitors to enjoy.

As I sat there quietly, I realized that I want my life to be a testimony in the same way. Like the fig tree's escaping, winding and supportive roots, I also may be tied to something that holds me down. And like the fig tree, I also want to be constantly growing, reaching beyond the captive boundaries of a diagnosis to offer the fruit of wisdom, guidance, strength, and peace that so many need.

There is no rope, no diagnosis, nor nutrient-lacking soil in my life that will now prevent me from striving to be a better person, thriving in spite of a weakness, with the willingness to help others so that they don't have to use their disability as a crutch either.

--- Copyright © 2013 Stephanie Whitfield
I am a single mother of three children and work in the English Special Education Department for the school district. Previously I owned the Inspiration Place Children's Museum and have been going to college for the last 20 years to obtain my doctorate in Psychology. This past year, several people have mentioned that I should start writing, so I am currently in the process of writing a book called 'Starting Over', a collaboration of inspirational stories from 30 women I interviewed over the last year. They have given me hope, brought me to tears, shown me how to deal with life's setbacks, and move forward.

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