by Lewy P.

Others opinions of you should have no effect on your life. Only your interpretation of or focus on their opinion can truly effect you.

If there is anything in life that you will encounter more than people, it is opinions. They are everywhere and work like product placement in a store, there to persuade you at the perfect time to take a little more of your resources. Opinions are too often confused as fact. People allow them to control or direct their lives.  The only opinion that truly matters is the one you hold of yourself! However, for the opinion of self to act as a positive attribute in your life instead of a detriment, it must derive from self-awareness and acceptance of yourself, not others awareness and/or acceptance of you!  Everything that you are and everything you will ever become in this life, depends solely on the center of that perfect circle; you and your opinion of self. Build it on a good solid foundation and not the dirt that anyone throws at you. Only then can you go out and shock the world. Otherwise, the world will only shock you!

Following my birth, a doctor told my parents that they should not have named me, that I probably would not live. They were told that if I did I would never be able to feed myself, sit up, walk or do anything else on my own. The doctor said that it would take a miracle for me to live to 5 and he did not believe it was possible. Long story short..the doctor was full of opinions that did not matter and he was fired!

Thankfully, not all doctors are such quacks. My parents were able to find some good othropedic doctors and I was diagnosed with Diastrophic Dysplasia (referred to as DD within the LP community). It is an autosomal recessive dysplasia that effects cartilage and bone growth. I was born with severe club feet, hip and knee dysplasia, scoliosis, kyphosis, hitch hiker thumbs, fused joints in my fingers, and a cleft palate. I underwent around 30 reconstruction surgeries throughout my childhood and early adolescence. Many of these were experimental and thankfully most of them were successful.The majority of these surgeries were performed by Shriners Hospital in Greenville, SC. I would not be here today if it were not for the great men and women of Shriners hospital and the power of prayer!

When I look back on my childhood, I see two different lives. One was a constant cycle of medical procedures and painful recoveries. The needle pricks out-numbered my days and the surgeries outnumbered my years. At one point I was in a body cast for nearly 24 months. In the other life, I was just a normal boy (or at least I thought I was) that loved adventure and an adrenaline rush. When I was not in the hospital or recovering, I was trying to do anything any other kid was doing and maybe a little more. Perhaps, my way was just a little different. My only opinion that I knew of self at that time was "I can if I try because I always have". I was a shy child, but never to shy to change someone's opinions about what I could or could not do!

See, opinions have tried to have an impact in my life since day one. My parents were wise enough with faith to help me build a firm foundation on self-actualization and self-acceptance. The only opinions I gave any attention to were the ones that would foster my own strengths and independence. That first doctor we saw started throwing dirt and we simply brushed it off and moved on. What we moved on to was hospital staff and a team of international doctors who believed my opinion of self mattered. They held no secrets and talked to me straight about my challenges and my options to overcome them. They recognized the need for me to be assertive because I would know better than anyone how to use the tools I was given. Sure, there were frustrating times trying to adapt to this body. But, I always remembered my previous successes when I felt like giving up or something was too hard. I simply refused to give up because that would be the only failure!

And just to think. someone said I would not live to see 5 or I would never be able to feed myself. I say that if I was dying then I was too busy living to notice! At the age of 5, I learned how to shoot a rifle for the first time. I was taught the right way, I learned to use the iron sights before moving to the scope! At the age of 10, I landed a plane for the first time! My father is a pilot so I was sitting on his lap flying at the age most children are sitting on laps to drive. At the age of 12, I road in my first drag car and the best part is we actually won the race. Did I mention I love an adrenaline rush?  Today, I paint, draw, build things out of wood, metal or plastic. I can weld and sew. I can drive. I work out and can lift 4 times my body weight. I shoot everything from .22 caliber to .44 magnum handguns, as well as shotguns and rifles. There are so many things that I can do that there is no reason to focus on the things that someone thinks I could not. Needless to say, no-ones opinion of me was or is ever going to hold me back! I am still faced with opinions on a daily basis that are as useless to me as a set of skis. See, I'm a self-actualized person, I know my hips and knees are too bad to do much skiing but who needs them to do a tandem skydive? There's too much good in life to focus on negative opinions or ignorant things people may have to say!  Go out and live - shock the world!