Special Needs in Strange Worlds | Sarah Chorn

(This is posted exactly one week after my surgery)

I usually don’t like the idea of writing things for my Special Needs in Strange Worlds events, but I woke up this morning staring down the barrel of surgery number ten and I guess it’s making me a bit nostalgic.

I don’t think Special Needs in Strange Worlds is about disabilities – at least, not to me. To me, Special Needs in Strange Worlds is about heroes. The real heroes. The heroes that get overlooked in daily life and literature. Special Needs in Strange Worlds is about honoring our trials, and the strengths those trials bring us.

As I just mentioned, I’m having surgery number ten this morning. In fact, if I don’t write this out soon, it won’t get written before I get sliced and diced. Why might I be having another surgery, you may be asking? Because my daughter is twenty-one months old, and she likes to run and I’m sick of telling her, “No, baby, don’t do that. Mommy can’t move like that.” Maybe that’s a small thing to the rest of you, but to me every time I say that, it makes me feel like less of a mother.

I’m thirty years old, and this surgery is my last ditch effort to ever feel my right leg again. It’s my last try to ever be able to walk at a normal pace, or without a cane or some form of assistance. It’s my last chance to live a pain free life. Maybe that’s not a big deal, but to me it’s huge. I’m thirty, and I’ve already beat cancer, I can beat this, too.

At least I hope.

The thing is, it’s not our abilities that make us heroes, and it’s not the abilities of characters in books that make them heroes. I don’t relate to the urban fantasy woman who can leap over buildings in single bounds and attract every man in a ten mile radius by her ravishing good looks. In fact, at this point in my life, after cancer, after signing up for my tenth surgery and saying, “I just beat cancer, haven’t I been through enough?” for about a day complete with tears streaming down my cheeks, characters like that make my stomach churn.

They are fun. They are common, but they aren’t real.

We all have our own stories. We go through what we go through for love. Whether it’s love of your family, kids, friends or life itself, we go through our trials and adversaries because of love and it’s love that defines us. It’s love that pulls us through, supports us, wipes our tears, gives us the will to try again so I can run with my twenty-one month old like a mother should. It’s love that makes a five day hospital stay worth it and love that fills those cancer hospitals all over the nation with patients that have nothing but hope and families to cling to. It’s love that makes people heroes, not looks or abilities, or special qualities.

It’s the trials, the errors, the mistakes and pitfalls, the things that are quirky and wrong that make us interesting. It’s love, and the strength love gives us to pull through the hard times, no matter how changed they make us, that creates heroes.

Maybe I’ll be able to run with my daughter after this surgery. Maybe I’ll walk with a cane for the rest of my life, but no matter how it ends up, it’s love that’s pulled me through. Now that I’m staring the possibility of a “legally disabled” life in the face, I’m realizing that I might not be disabled at all. In fact, the things that limit me are the things that make me interesting and it’s the same way with books.

The things that limit characters are the things I love about them. Those are the very things that make the book memorable,  the story unique, the settings, world building and trials so easy to relate to. I don’t know if any author actually sits down and thinks, “I’m going to write a special needs character into this chapter,” or not. I know that in my various forays into writing, I’ve never done so, it’s just happened. Why? Because no one is perfect. No one. We are all so incredibly unique and we’ve all learned to work with, and despite our unique qualities.

We do that because of love. We love living, loving, laughing and learning. We read because our passion for literature can only be satiated by that next book we run across. Characters in books aren’t limited, but they are driven and enflamed. They can get things done just as well as anyone else which means they aren’t “special needs” at all, but passionate and realistic. That’s life and it’s love that stokes that fire.

Along with physical discomforts come emotional ones, and those are often overlooked, for whatever reason. We tend to live in a society where it’s easier to talk about someone losing an arm rather than all the emotional upheaval that lost arm will cost that person. For example, I spent over two years fighting cancer, and learning that it has spread (twice) before I was clear. Cancer, while not physically disabling, mentally is so. I have some deep scars that and emotional wounds that haven’t healed, and I wonder if they ever truly will. This doesn’t make me a special case. In fact, anyone who has to work around what is perceived as a “limitation” has emotional backlash from said limitation. It’s this emotional backlash which seems to define us, or ruin us. Is can be disabling  but the scars I wear on my soul are hard won and just add to my ever present drive to continue on. No matter what I face. I’m not physically or emotionally limited. All this says is to say that, should someone tell my story, it would probably be an interesting one and what got me through was what this post is all about: love.

My life has certainly been filled with its ups and downs, but I’ve learned to deal with more than I ever thought I’ve needed to. I always tell myself, “If I beat cancer by thirty, I can do damn near anything.” I might have to do it a little differently than you, but I can do it. Why? Because I love my life and my family too much not to.

And that’s what makes the characters I love in the books I never forget so memorable. They have a love, drive and passion to push through those hard times, to make it through to the end despite whatever has waylaid them. They have the love and ambition to define their lives the way they choose, no matter their “limitations” and their inner scars are just as interesting and hard won as their outer ones.

This isn’t about Special Needs in Strange Worlds.

It’s about love.

9 Responses

  • I tried to come up with a response after reading this, but I think the only appropriate response is applause. This is incredibly inspiring, and brought a few actual tears to my eyes. Those who have that passion and drive, be they fictional or very much in the flesh, they’re the ones who stick with us, who make their places in our hearts and refuse to leave. Thank you, Sarah, for sharing this, and for putting words to such a profound and complex feeling.

    • I’m glad this touched you so deeply. It was very hard for me to write. It’s hard for me to put deep thoughts into words, but if it touched you so deeply, I’m glad I managed to do so with this post.

  • Thanks, Sarah. 🙂

  • Mark Lawrence

    I hope to hear reports of you running that child ragged before too long.

    • I hope so, too. I’ve had a lot of surgeries before but the recovery from this one is, by far, the hardest. I guess you can expect that when you get your spine fuzed. They say it could take up to a year for my nerves to start working again, so it might be a while before I can run around with Fiona, but hopefully (fingers crossed) my body heals in a way that I can do that within the year.

  • Sarah, your story is amazing, you are an inspiration, and you have readers who love you and are rooting for you.

    • I appreciate that. This was a hard piece for me to write, so I’m glad it resonated with someone!

  • I truly feel for you and am inspired by your strength. My husband has had medical issues that has nearly taken him from me three times, and left him completely incapacitated more times than I can count. It takes a strong person to go through what you’ve gone through and still retain your spirit and love of life. I’m in awe of you and I’m grateful that you willing to share your experiences to uplift those around you. I hope that the surgery brings you all you hope for, and I’ll be praying for you.

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