Reverb 10, Day 8: Beautifully Different

Over the month of December, I am taking part in Reverb 10, and the daily prompt for today from Karen Walrond is this:
Beautifully different.
Think about what makes you different and what you do that lights people up. Reflect on all the things that make you different - you'll find they're what make you beautiful.

I pushed myself to come up with ten things that make me different:
  1. My sense of style
  2. My ability to confront cancer, poverty, addiction, and myriad other slings and arrows with a certain amount of fortitude
  3. The relative fluidity with which I experience sexuality and gender
  4. My aptitude for problem-solving
  5. My willingness to jump in and create that which I see lacking
  6. My emotional depth
  7. The acid burn scars on my cheeks from a childhood accident
  8. My slightly unusual ethnic/religious Mennonite background
  9. My near death experience
  10. My natural and ongoing flow of creativity
I have spent the better part of the day struggling with this prompt, and it is suddenly clear to me why. What I found during the writing of this list is that I was not looking for what made me different, necessarily. We are all different. Every last thing about us contains a measure of difference. What I was really looking for were exceptions to my perceived norm, things that put me outside a group that I perceive as being in. I was looking for what made me an outsider.

I have been very much the outsider for the majority of my life, and not always by choice. I have some painful memories associated with people's responses to my difference that date back to my earliest memories.

I was told to conform by friends and family. I was told that no one liked a girl who wasn't smiling. I was told that I had to wear makeup or people would think that I didn't like boys. I was told that my behaviour intimidated men. I was told that I was lucky I was smart, because I was not a raving beauty. I was told that my creative pursuits made for nice hobbies. I was told that I was courting the devil. I was told that I was an idealist. I was told that I was crazy.

It is hard to take a look at difference for me, because it was impressed upon me that what made me different also made me less likable, that the things that made me stand apart were imperfections that required correction. I know now that this isn't true, but it is taking a while to unpack my emotions around the concept of difference. Old attachments die hard.

I really have come to love my difference, though. For the most part, I embrace them now and share them with whomever will have me, but I obviously still bear the yoke of my history, and sometimes it feels as though I am walking backwards into the future.

Still, though, I am slowly learning to let go of the past so that I can be fully here in a present in which my difference is not only accepted but is also an active and valued part of my skill set. My difference is a large part of what has taught me generosity, thoughtfulness, love, and kindness, and it has fed my creativity, demanded ingenuity, and instilled strength in me where I thought I had none.

It is our differences, the exceptions to the rule in each of us, the parts of ourselves that we might tend to overlook or even dismiss, that often lie at the root of our best abilities.

Reverb 10, Day 9: Party

This Is What 6:24 p.m. Looks Like In Saskatchewan At This Time of Year