The Only Disability In Life Is a Bad Attitude

Today is the 6-year anniversary of my mom‘s death. It’s really heavy to think that 6 years ago I was a Junior in High School, having no clue where the world would take me and today I’m a working man in the big city. That’s hard to wrap my head around. In those six years, many people have told me how impressed they are with how strong and resilient I was and still am in response to her passing. Those are kind words and I appreciate them, but I’d like to say, I’m just doing as I was taught.

I believe that optimistic thinking and a positive attitude can get you past any hurdle or battle you’re faced with in life. I don’t know if I’m proud, but I have experience in that department.

After losing a parent, I often think of how special it must be to have the people who raised you, celebrating all of your early life milestones. College, jobs, girlfriends, then the big one, marriage and family. Even better, would be to take care of your parents at an old age. To repay them for a fraction of all they did for you, that should be a right of passage. This is something that would make anyone happy.

Life doesn’t work like that. Unfortunately, it’s not always blue skies and happiness.

There will no doubt be times you are heartbroken, get stuck or feel alone. Each of these is a pattern that everyone goes through in life. These are factors that you cannot control and cannot predict. That scares a lot of people and hits a lot of people by surprise. Luckily I have something that you can control, something that can bring you agency over the sadness and pain. There is one major key to overcoming the hurdles and winning the battles you go through in your life. Your attitude.


Abraham_Lincoln_O-118_by_Gardner,_1865

I often think of Abraham Lincoln when I’m sad, missing my mom.

Abe is one of my favorite leaders of all time. Just as popular a US President as Washington or Roosevelt, many don’t know the pain and suffering that Lincoln braved.

Abraham Lincoln’s Family History:

  • Brother Thomas died in infancy (Lincoln was 3).
  • Mother Nancy died when he was 9. I was 17 when I lost mine. 
  • Sister Sarah died while giving birth at the age of 20 (Lincoln was 19).
  • Father-in-law Robert Todd died (Lincoln was 40).
  • Lincoln’s son Edward died at the age of 3.
  • Father Todd dies at the age of 73.
  • The death of his second son, William at the age of 11 (1962).

“Fuck you, Abe, give up bro.” – Life

What a horrible pain he must have felt. He didn’t have a chance, he should have given up and allowed the pain to take control of his life. Not so with Abe. Even with all of this death in his family, he endured. The man was heartbroken, depressed and tired. He had every excuse to drop his head and give up. But still, he woke up every day with a purpose and trudged on. His values kept him moving, his mindset did not change. You won’t go changing the world become one of the best US Presidents along the way by feeling sorry for yourself. Honest Abe was one mentally tough motherfucker.

He knew,

The only disability in life is a bad attitude.


By early 2010, I knew my mom was sick. This was worse than what I had grown up knowing. She had lived a life in pain and discomfort all my life, side effects of having cancer for the first time at the age of 20. She was among the first generation of cancer patients to receive Chemotherapy. A brand-new radical cancer treatment, doctors knew Chemo would be effective and destroy her cancer, they lacked the knowledge of its long-term effects.

Doctors told her, “This can rid your body of cancer today, but we think this treatment could break down your body and might allow cancer to grow again later in life.”

I always think of what a crazy moment that must have been. I grew up knowing cancer and therefore, Chemo. My grandpa Marvin had cancer and probably died because of Chemotherapy. Today, everyone’s lives have been affected by cancer in some way. Just, imagine a new drug that totally replaced Chemo, kills your cancer instantly, but doctors don’t know what the treatment will do the body later in life. Not necessarily a decision you thought you’d have to make at 20 years  old.

My ma chose the Chemo in order to save her life and add some extra years. This was the first major battle in her life, and she came through on the other side. Battles like this test the will, and in order to survive, your attitude is absolutely key. No feeling sorry for yourself if you’re going to kick cancer’s ass.

Shout out to Brian L. for proving this right.


My mom saved her life at 20 and lived 29 more years on this beautiful earth. In those years, she was a wonderful: daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend. As a teacher, she changed the trajectory of hundreds of young children with her positive energy and a passion that was absolute. She also raised 3 badass young men, I might add.

For most of her adult life, she was a Special Education teacher. She devoted herself to helping kids develop skills that would allow them to exist and thrive in a world that would otherwise count them out. Growing up in her house meant, we were not allowed to use the “R” word, and she hated the idea of labeling these kids as disabled. She knew those children had love and energy to give to the world, all they needed was someone to believe in them and connect.

4Every time she was near, the children would smile. They loved and adored her. Tears would stream down parents faces when their son or daughter would show what they learned that day with Mrs. Stern. She broke through because of her attitude. She saw no disability with these kids and they trusted her.

The only disability in life is a bad attitude.


When she passed away, I found I wasn’t responding with the same emotion that my family and friends were. Part of that was me holding it in. The other part was trying to have the same attitude she would have had in my situation. I believe the major key to understanding her attitude was how close I had gotten to her. I’m a proud momma’s boy for sure. In a sad way, becoming so close to her meant I felt a connection to her pain. The  Chemotherapy (the first time) really fucked her up and I hated that. Her passing meant all that pain was gone. That was the optimism that kept me going strong. My attitude was the only thing that differed at that hard time and it pushed me harder than I ever thought I could be pushed.

ryan
My mom and me.

Unless you were very close to her, odds are you would never know anything was wrong or different. Stomach pains controlled her life and could not be explained by the hundreds of doctors she saw, (I’m exaggerating, but it was a lot of doctors). Migraines and headaches would take over her whole body. Tough son of a bitch, these pain points would not keep her from going to work the next day. Early memories of her always involved a heating pad on her stomach and ginger ale or coke in hand. She was always uncomfortable or in pain. But never a single complaint. This stuck with me. Her attitude was rock solid.

My brother Dustin likes to point to when she had to stop eating lettuce and other greens, which meant no more salads. By the way, salads were her favorite food. Acting on the recommendation of one doctor who said cutting out all leafy greens might help her stomach pains, she did just that. Adios favorite food.

No more greens and no more salads, how frustrated she must have been. As if she was pleading the fifth, not a single word. No bitching, no complaining. She took it in stride. Rock solid. Once again she proved,

The only disability in life is a bad attitude.


She was human like all of us and still had her bad days. It’s impossible and not healthy to put a smile on every day and act like nothing can get to you. She’d get upset, she’d get angry and she wasn’t perfect, but she did have the will power to put those bad days quickly behind her and look onward and upward. She had the determination to win her fights and make other people’s lives better and more enjoyable. Because of her amazing attitude, she was a champ.

At the age of 17, it may not have been easy, but I was able to let her go. She made the most out of her 29 extra years. I was absolutely lucky to be a part of her life for as long as I was and my attitude is a direct reflection of her.

My mom is my inspiration. I challenge you to find your own. No one is going to change your outlook for you, it has to be you. Only you determine your attitude and will power. There are so many people in the world fighting battles every day and the ones with the right attitude are proving how they can triumph in any situation. I lost my mom, but won her best trait. I got her attitude.

Face your battles head on and remember, the only disability in life is a bad attitude.

——

“The only disability in life is a bad attitude,” was said by the great and inspiring American Athlete Scott Hamilton.
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