Top Gun

I cannot tell you how excited I am for May 27th to get here! In case you aren’t counting down the days like I am and are asking yourself “What is happening on May 27th?” Well my friends, that is the day that TOP GUN 2 is finally being released in the theaters!

It is no secret that I am huge Tom Cruise fan, and always have been. I’m pretty sure Top Gun was the first movie I ever saw him in, and it’s been a love affair ever since. Well, ok, not a love affair, but a grand appreciation for him – especially as Maverick.

You Can Be My Wingman Anytime

My obsession with all things Top Gun was taken to new heights when I actually got to meet Maverick himself! In the photo you can tell that I am completely star struck because my body is frozen in the position and I remember that all I was able to say to him was “Thank you for doing this.”.. Oh my goodness, so embarrassing!

A treasured keepsake!

We all have our celebrity obsessions/crushes/idols from time to time, and for me Tom Cruise was it for so many years. If you had asked me back when I saw Top Gun for the first time if I could ever see myself becoming a pilot, I would have said “no Way!” But isn’t it funny how our dreams can change when we get exposed to something new? In my senior year in high school my dad paid for a short little flight around our local airport with an instructor, and as soon as we took off, I was hooked. I didn’t know much about aviation then, but I knew I wanted to fly more. So with the encouragement of my parents, I did my research, found a flight school, and started my training.

You Gotta See It To Be It

I never even considered flying as something I could do because I had never seen someone like me do it. Sometimes you don’t even realize what you can do because you haven’t seen it done before by someone like you. I wrote a blog a while ago about a technique they teach in flying called “Chair Flying”. You can click here to read about the power of visualization and how it not only works for learning a new skill, but for seeing ourselves in a more positive light too.

By my dad taking the initiative and exposing me to something new (and that he was afraid to do himself, by the way) he opened up my world in a way neither one of us could have imagined.

Letting Go

Learning the skills and procedures it took to be a pilot wasn’t the only thing I got out of my time as an aviator. I also gained self confidence and a sense of capability that I desperately needed. Having grown up with a cleft, I suffered from low self esteem at times due to my experiences. I often felt that my cleft defined me. So being able to put all of that away and leave it on the ground for a little while gave me a much needed confidence boost. It allowed me to feel good about something that I had complete control over. At my flight school I identified as competent pilot, and not simply as that girl with a cleft. It was so freeing.

Me and my good friend Nicci.

Progressing through my training, I received my private pilot certificate, then my commercial/instrument certificate, and finally became a certified instructor. I lived and worked in both Eugene, Oregon and Southern California , building up my hours. It was so much fun doing what I loved to do. I made wonderful friends that I still have to this day.

I have flown all over the pacific northwest and even the Hawaiian islands. All of these experiences made possible by my father purchasing that one 30 minute flight when I was 17.

On my way to Molokai
Over the clouds in Oregon

Bring Back Those Lovin’ Feelings

So when I hear the soundtrack to Top Gun, or see the trailer for Top Gun 2, it’s not just about the films themselves. It’s because they bring back all of those feelings and emotions I had when I was doing my own flying. I can feel the confidence, the pride, and the capability I displayed back then and it helps me remember during challenging times that all of that confidence and capability is still within me.

Can you think of a time in your life you felt really good? A time where you felt confidence and capable? When you find yourself in times of challenge, harness those memories. Put on a song that reminds you of those times. Watch a movie that always makes you feel good. Cook yourself a meal that you love. Do something that gets you into that positive headspace. It will help remind you of where you have been, and where you can go again.

~Vickie

When Words Hurt: Picking Your Battles With Bullies

I love award shows. I enjoy every aspect: the red-carpet interviews, the fashion, the spectacle of the award show itself, I love it all. So, like many I was parked on the couch this past Sunday getting my fill of all things Oscars and rooting for Benedict Cumberbatch because he is fantastic! And along with millions of viewers, I watched Will Smith slap Chris Rock. My first reaction was that it was part of the show. I quickly learned that it wasn’t a staged bit, but a raw and visceral reaction to a cruel “joke” made by a bully at the expense of Will’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

Words Do Hurt


I am not going to get into the whole right versus wrong part of the discussion here. Clearly everyone understands that what Will Smith did was wrong. What I do want to say is..I get it. I get why Will Smith reacted the way he did. As someone who has had many a verbal insult flung my way over the years because of my bilateral cleft lip and palate, I completely understand the impulse to lash out, even physically, when you’ve had as much as you can take.

For those that have had the experience of being bullied, you know that kind of pain cuts deep. And I don’t care who says otherwise, words do hurt. I can still remember the exact situation and cruel words said to me by a bully I had when I was in middle school. So, I don’t buy the whole “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” mantra. Words can cut deep, hit hard, and linger in our minds for years.

Being A Bully Is Not Comedy


Making fun of someone’s appearance is not comedy. It’s petty, uninteresting, and shows the true nature of the person making the insult. That’s why when Chris Rock made his “joke”, I rolled my eyes just like Jada Pinkett Smith did. If nothing further happened, Chris Rock would have been made to look petty and uninteresting through his own words. However, by Will Smith reacting the way he did, he gave away his power the moment he struck Chris Rock.

Now, instead of talking about how out of line Chris Rock was by making fun of someone’s appearance -and let me just clear up the idea that just because he may have not known Jada has alopecia somehow how makes his “joke” ok..it does not. Whether or not he knew does not excuse his crassness and pettiness for using someone’s appearance as a punchline – we are now talking about how out of line Will Smith was for his reaction because it was “just a joke”.  The power has shifted from the victim back to the bully.

Lessons To Be Learned


As I think about how all of this played out on Sunday, I realize that it is the perfect teaching opportunity for ourselves and our children. The lesson: We must learn how to pick our battles. Does Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith really care what Chris Rock thinks of them? I’m guessing not. We must consider the messenger when it comes to how we react to hurtful words or rude comments.

Now, of course, as soon we start school and become part of social groups, we care A LOT about what others think. It’s part of the growing up experience – learning how and where we want to fit in. Did I care what my bully thought of me when she hurled those hurtful words my way all those years ago in middle school? Yeah, most likely because they stayed with me for a very long time. Do I care now? Of course not.  We must ask ourselves – do I really care what this person thinks of me? If the answer is no, then that person’s opinion on anything we do will have zero impact. They are not worth the time or energy it would take to respond.

Not Every Bully Is Worth Your Time


I’ve learned that not every bully deserves my response when it comes to reacting to a rude or hurtful comment. I have learned how to pick my battles. And now, as a parent myself, I am teaching my daughter to do the same. I encourage you to have conversations with your children about how they view the people who have said mean things. When it comes down to it, do they really care about what that person thinks of them? Use this particular incident with Will Smith and Chris Rock as your jumping off point. There are complicated feelings and emotions locked up inside this singular incident that can spark wonderful and helpful conversations. By using this as a learning opportunity, you and your children can strengthen the skill of learning to pick the battles that truly deserve their time and energy.

~Vickie


Mask Removed: It’s Never As Bad As I Imagine

A few months ago I shared in a blog that at the beginning of the school year, I met another mom at the bus drop off. Of course, because of all things pandemic related, we were wearing our masks. Over the next few weeks of hanging out together, we exchanged numbers and decided it would be fun to get together for coffee and chat.

That day, as soon as I left the bus stop, the thoughts started snowballing through my brain. I thought “I met this mom while I was wearing a mask. She has no idea that I have a cleft. What is her reaction going to be? What will I say? Will I have to endure the inevitable look to my nose and mouth and then the quick look away?”.

It’s Always Worse In My Head

Fast forward a few months, and we finally were able to make our coffee date plan. Admittedly, I was still having all those initial anxious thoughts of what her reaction would be when we removed our masks and she saw my full face for the first time.

I can tell you, that the thoughts I have about removing my mask around people I have never met before is always worse than what really ends up happening.

Fear Can Mask Our Minds

If we let it, our minds can come up with some pretty crazy scenarios of how people may react to our facial difference. But if we let our fears take control, we rob ourselves of truly wonderful experiences. And with mask requirements lessening in many places around our country, the idea of people seeing our facial difference, for the first time in some cases, can be quite nerve racking for many of us.

But do you want to know what my new friend did when I took off my mask? ABSOLUTLEY NOTHING! We had a lovely chat and talked about all kinds of things and found several commonalities between us.

If I had let my initial hesitation stop me from going to the coffee date, I would have missed out on this new friendship. What a tragedy that would have been!

Make A Thought Correction

So, when you feel those thoughts of insecurity start to creep in, make a thought correction. Tell yourself that you know what you are thinking isn’t true or accurate. That nothing about your outward appearance needs to be explained away. You are made up of a million little things and if someone doesn’t take the time to get to know you just because of what they see on the outside, it is their loss, not yours.

~Vickie

A Million Little Things

I’m a sucker for the emotional television dramas -( hello This Is Us and Downton Abbey!) Do any of you watch the show A Million Little Things? I do, and in episode 7 of season 4 there was one scene that felt like it was written just for me.


Can’t Take the Insecurities Out of the Girl

In this scene two characters are discussing how one of them recently met a woman he would like to ask on a date, but she did not know he uses a wheelchair because they met when they were both in a parking lot and sitting in their cars. The guy is nervous because he doesn’t know how to tell this woman that he is in a chair. He feels he must explain it to her so she can be prepared.

Let me tell you, I feel like I lived this scene in real life. Let me explain: At the beginning of the school year, I met another mom at the bus drop off. Of course, because of all things pandemic related, we were wearing our masks. Over the next few weeks of hanging out together every morning watching our kids get on the bus, we exchanged numbers and decided it would be fun to get together for coffee and chat elsewhere besides the cold of the bus stop.

That day, as soon as I left the bus stop, the thoughts started pinballing through my brain like well..a pinball. I thought “I met this mom while I was wearing a mask. She has no idea that I have a cleft. What is her reaction going to be? What will I say? Will I have to endure the inevitable look to my nose and mouth and then further endure the quick look away?”.


A Million Miles an Hour

My brain was going a million miles per hour thinking out all the awful situations that could occur, and I was paralyzed. I couldn’t think any further than my immediate reaction – which was..can you guess? Fear. I was feeling afraid of being rejected by this nice woman who I genuinely liked chatting with every morning. I was feeling anxious because before this woman, I haven’t met anyone new that couldn’t at least see what I looked like when they met me. Just the thought of “unveiling” myself was almost too much.

I may be 44 now, but all those insecurities that were there as a young girl born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate never really go away. They came roaring back with a vengeance. So much so that I contemplated trying to cancel our yet to be scheduled coffee hang out before it even was on the books.


A Million Little Anxieties

Fast forward to me watching this particular episode of A Million Little Things, and this scene comes on. It was just the wake up call I needed. As the main character is talking out his thoughts of should I call her and tell her that I am in a wheelchair”, the other character in the scene dropped some knowledge. He said “Sure, you can do that. While you’re at it do you want to tell her others things like your credit score?” It made me laugh out loud, not just because the actor’s delivery of that line was perfectly dead-pan, but because of how silly it would be if the guy really did that! The actor continued… “She liked you for you. And if the chair changes that, then it is her loss, not yours.”

The point that this scene so perfectly makes is that nothing other than who you are on the inside should determine whether or not someone likes you.


You Are More Than What Is On The Outside

So the next time you are feeling nervous, fearful, or anxious about meeting someone new, or going into a new situation, remember this –  nothing about your physical appearance needs to be explained away. Who you are is more than your physical appearance.  Who you are is a combination of a million little things. And if someone doesn’t take the time to get to know you just because of what they see on the outside, it is their loss, not yours.

~Vickie


What’s In A Name

Have you ever wondered, what’s with the name Dragonfly Paradigm, anyway?

I’ve explained it a handful of times via my blog and social media posts, but I thought I would elaborate a bit more since there are many of you who have only recently joined the community, and may not know what the symbolism is all about.


Run For Your Life

The dragonfly part is an homage to my father. It sounds silly and you’ll probably think it sounds ridiculous, but when I was young and would see a dragonfly flying about in the back yard, my dad would say “Watch out! They’ll sew your lips shut!”. Anyone else’s parents use this saying?!

Eventually he told me that his parents used to say that to him too, so it was really just a big joke, but it would still send me screaming and running for my life. All in good fun of course, and clearly I’m not traumatized by it (not like chickens, which I may tell you about at some point), and so it became one of the endearing things he and I shared.

Once I started looking for a name for my business, I kept thinking about the Dragonfly and started doing research into what the animal symbolizes.


The Name Represents the Vision

The dragonfly has long been a symbol of transformation, self-realization, and change. I mean, talk about a perfect representation of what I was envisioning this community to be for.


Change the Way You Look at Things

Now, onto the Paradigm part. In addition to the Dragonfly, I wanted the name of my business to represent what I was trying to do at the core. I wanted to change the way we in the cleft community think about and view ourselves. So, while I was knee deep in thesaurus searches (I LOVE a good thesaurus search), Paradigm kept coming up.

A Paradigm is a model, framework, or way of thinking. It was a perfect word to describe what I wanted to do. I wanted to help others find a new way of thinking in regard to the handling of obstacles and struggles that those of us on the cleft journey go through. It was a perfect fit.


Choose to Own Your Power

So there you have it. The back story on the name Dragonfly Paradigm. And truly, it is also a backstory on why I’m here doing this work. I am passionate about helping all of us within the cleft community realize that they are born with all the strength and power they need to live a full and emotionally supported life.

It is my hope that you continue on this shared journey with me. I know it will be amazing!

~Vickie


It’s Ok to Ask “Why Me”.

Hello friends. It’s been a rough couple of weeks in my household. You may have noticed a lack of social media posts, YouTube videos, and a delay in everything Dragonfly Paradigm. While we weathered the weeklong return to remote learning for my daughter, we did not fair so well since then, because our household was hit hard by COVID-19. Not only did I and my husband test positive, but our daughter did as well. Luckily, we are moving through with relatively mild symptoms, except for fatigue. The COVID fatigue is no joke.

We know our symptoms could have been much worse and are thankful that both my husband and I were vaccinated so we did not have severe reactions. It nevertheless didn’t stop me from asking “why me” after I initially got my positive test result.


Asking Why..

It’s completely normal to have feelings like this and ask questions like this when unfortunate events befall us. I know from my involvement in various parent groups of cleft children that once receiving a cleft diagnosis for their child, they often ask these kinds of questions. “Why did this happen”, “What did I do wrong”, “How could this happen”. There were times in my youth that I also asked “why me”. All these feelings are completely NORMAL.


It’s Normal to Wonder Why..

My family knew that by putting our daughter back in public school we could most likely all contract COVID. It was a risk we discussed and worked through as a family – weighing all the pros and cons. But that didn’t stop the feelings of trying to figure out why this would happen to us.


What is the “Why”..

In contrast to the known ways one can come down with COVID, there is still no clear reason as to why babies are born with a cleft. Although 1 in 700 babies worldwide are born with a cleft, the cause has yet to be definitively identified. There was no case of a cleft at all in my family – either on my mother or fathers’ side – prior to my birth. My mother’s doctor told her that a cleft can be both biologically passed on or can be caused through environmental issues. My daughter was not born with a cleft but has the chance of having a child of her own that will, since I do. There are many families that have clefts prominently in their families and could have 2 out of 3 children born with a cleft.

This “no rhyme nor reason” is the cause of much frustration when it comes to trying to answer the “why me” questions. For both parents, and cleft affected individuals themselves, we always want to know the “why”. But no matter if we find out the “why” or not, it doesn’t change the result. And constantly beating our heads against the wall trying to find out the “why”, will only drive us crazy and distract us form dealing with the situation at hand.


The Sage Advice Never Fails..

If you saw my last blog post where I talked about the sage advice my mom gave me long ago, I put it good use again during these past two weeks. I took my day (more like two) and had a good mope and wallow. Then I slowly began to work on shifting my perspective form “why me”, to “what can I do about it.” This small shift in perspective made all the difference, not just for my recent COVID situation, but for my journey through accepting my cleft and learning the lessons I have been taught me because of it.

So, when you feel yourself asking “why me”, go ahead and give yourself permission to feel your emotions, because it is ok. But then shift that question from “why me”, to “what can I do about it”. Shift your perspective. Start working with what you have around you to better your situation, instead of railing against the injustice and unfairness of it all.


I Love a List..

Not sure where to start? Do what I do. Make a list. (I love a list). What do you have available right now that you can use to help you move forward? Even the smallest thing can make a huge difference in how you view your situation. And putting that one small thing into action will pay huge dividends in the long run.

~Vickie



PIVOT!

Be honest, when you saw the title of this article, you immediately heard Ross’ voice screaming it out, right?! Whenever I hear or see the word PIVOT, I cannot help but smile and remember one of the funniest moments from Friends.


Not What We Were Hoping For..

However, when thinking of pivot this week, my smile was a dimmer than usual because the pivot my family had to do was return (albeit for a much shorter time – fingers crossed) to remote learning. Ugh.

Talk about a wrench thrown in the works. Of course I knew in the back of my mind it was always a possibility due to all things COVID, but geez, when we received the word from the school I was so mad. I mean, really mad. Anger rose up from the depths and took over my entire mind and body.


Boiling Up From The Deep..

My strong reaction to this news, I realized, was rooted deeper than in just the immediate inconvenience, frustration, and disruption to my daughter’s schedule. It was coming from a place where all the former frustration, inconvenience, and disruption I felt from my daughter’s entire year of second grade had been hiding – just waiting to rear it’s ugly head.


Bringing Up Old Issues..

From my own experience growing up, I can remember many times when what I thought was going to happen regarding an upcoming surgery or dental procedure, was changed due to varying circumstances, and I would feel anger, confusion, and fear.

As parents of a cleft child, or a cleft individual yourself, I’m sure you too can relate. A small change to an upcoming procedure schedule, or a big adjustment to an overall treatment plan, can bring up BIG reaction, that can cause you to feel even BIGGER emotions.


Pivot Power..

So, what can we do when these events happen that bring up these BIG reactions and BIGGER emotions?

For me, I always fall back to a great piece of advice my mom gave me when I was younger. Whenever I was feeling down, she would tell me “Go ahead, take today and mope. Feel down. Feel the feelings you are having. But tomorrow, pick yourself up, put one foot in front of the other, and start doing something about it.”

So that is what I did. I took that day and felt all my feelings. I commiserated with my friends and family about what I was feeling and let all that anger and frustration out. Then, the next day, I picked myself up, put one foot in front of the other, and started making a plan for my daughter’s change in schedule.

I may not feel good about what is going on, but I am feeling capable and ready to tackle this challenge.


Take The Day and Then Rise Up..

So, if you find yourself dealing with an unexpected challenge or change right now – give yourself some grace to feel your feelings, but remember my mom’s sage advice: Take the day, but then pick yourself up and do something to get you moving forward.

~Vickie




Pageant Dream: The Spirit of Miss Teen

Would you believe me if I told you that a young girl who was born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate entered herself into a pageant and actually won an award? Well, back in August of 1993 at the age of 15, that’s exactly what I did!

Pageant Photo Flashback..

My mother found some old photos recently and sent them my way. This one not only surprised me, but brought back so many emotions and thoughts about that time. The main thought being “how did I ever feel so confident to do this at such a young age?”

From The Outside In..

Looking back, I can pinpoint one major factor in how I became confident enough to not only enter this pageant, but to try so many other things throughout my life that I may have otherwise been too afraid to because of feeling fearful of how others may look at me, react to me, or what they may say to me.

I found activities that I enjoyed and could hone and become proficient in. Being able to develop skills and talents that had absolutely nothing to do with how I looked gave me the boost of confidence that I needed. The first and foremost being piano. I started playing piano at age 6. From that age, all the way through high school, I took lessons. I performed at recitals, talent shows, and even at the Miss Teen of Oregon pageant where this picture was taken.

They Can’t Take That Away..

Learning piano and becoming proficient left no room for anyone’s opinion on my ability. Whereas beauty is subjective and as they say “in the eye of the beholder”, my musical ability was not up for debate. I didn’t have to try to explain it away or justify that I could play. The fact was that I could.

I had something that I could do and that I was proud of. I could receive praise for my ability, which had nothing to do with my outward appearance. It was liberating.

Aristotle Was Right..

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. Aristotle was on to something with these words.   It is so easy to look at someone as separate parts. How they look, how they sound, how they dress, etc. However, they can become so much more because of how those parts of put together. Although my talent for piano is a part of who I am, the effect it had on my ability to see my worth was life changing. I knew from the inside out that I was more than my parts, because when put all together I am a person worthy of love, respect, and have value and gifts to share just like anyone else. And so are you.

It’s Your Turn..

So now it’s your turn. Look back and reminisce on all that you are. Celebrate not only the fact that you have overcome challenges, but celebrate what you enjoy and have a talent for. You are worthy of this adoration. The gifts you have are unique to you because there is no one else like you on this Earth.

~Vickie



I’ve Come a Long Way, Baby! Reflecting on the Journey.

“In moments of quiet reflection our minds embrace the sea that we have crossed.”

~ Holmes

Big news my friends!

October is my birthday month! Yep, I’m one of those people that likes to celebrate all month long! Packing in as much fun and opportunity for shenanigans to be had as is possible! How do you like to celebrate? All month long like me, or pack all the festivities into the exact special day? One of the ways I love to celebrate is through music – and I’ve created a special birthday playlist to accompany my celebration. Click here to check it out!

Taking the opportunity..

I have always enjoyed every aspect of my birthday! When I was younger it was all about how much fun I could cram into the month. As I have gotten older, and especially as I have begun the journey that is Dragonfly Paradigm, I find myself reflecting often on where I have been, and just how far I’ve come.

Nobody said it would be easy..

Growing up as I did, with a bilateral cleft lip and palate, the struggles were real. There were many surgeries and many emotional hard times. They populate my memories as I look back on my soon to be 44 years on this beautiful Earth. Life in and of itself is hard. Living with a facial deformity makes it even more so. Those of you in the cleft community know what I’m talking about. In those times of great challenge, it felt completely overwhelming and isolating for me, and at times I thought it would never get better. Oh, how I was wrong.

One step at a time..

With the encouragement of my parents, I took one step at a time into the big world that was waiting for me. I found activities that I enjoyed such as piano and dance. Through those activities I grew more confident in myself. With each piano recital or dance performance, I faced my fears of being in front of a crowd. I proved to myself that I could indeed stand on my own two feet. The confidence gained from these early experiences helped to carry me through my young adulthood years. Although my fears of what people may say about my face remained, I didn’t let the fear get so ingrained that it stopped me from living my life and to try the things I wanted to try.

Older and Wiser..

As I look back now with much older eyes, and as a parent, I can see that it wasn’t in the big moments that I became the strong and capable person that I am today. It was through the small, less significant events that my resilience was shaped. The close bond I had with my parents. The friendships I formed when I was young, with several still lasting to this day. The courage I felt in knowing that if I stepped out of my comfort zone and failed, I had a safe place to return to and receive the support, encouragement, and acknowledgment I needed. Resilience is formed through the experience of adversity, and living with a cleft lip and palate definitely gave me the opportunities to experience quite a bit of adversity.

Paying it forward..

Now, as I embark on yet another year, and another “out of my comfort zone” journey, I am hopeful and excited. As I share my stories and experiences of living with a cleft I hope that it will resonate. I aim to instill in my own daughter the skills of self awareness and empathy that will serve her well as she continues on her own path in this big bold world.

Looking back and moving forward..

So I am going to take this month of October to not only celebrate another trip around the sun for me, but also take the time to recognize and appreciate just how much I have overcome. No one said life would be easy, and I certainly agree with that. But life is also wonderful and beautiful. It is full of rich experiences that we have to be courageous enough to try. So let’s be brave! Celebrate all that we are! All that we have overcome! And all that we can do with this one precious life we have.

~Vickie



I’m Just a Soul Whose Intentions are Good

Did you ever play the game “telephone” when you were a kid? I remember playing that game so many times in school. All the kids would line up, and the first kid would whisper to the kid next to them a simple sentence like..”My dog has brown fur”. Then that kid would have to repeat what they heard to the next kid, and so on and so on, until the very last kid would say out loud what they heard. The results were always so funny because “my dog has brown fur” would turn into something like “my mom wears gowns to work”.  I started thinking about this game because recently I had an experience where what I said to someone was received not at all as I meant it. My intention was lost in translation.

Oh Lord, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

Intention can be a tricky thing. Often times we say “That wasn’t my intention”, when something we have said is received by another person the wrong way.  Communication in general is hard these days. Even in the most comfortable of relationships, words can often be received in the opposite way from how they were meant. Add in the faceless anonymity of social media, the cold and inflectionless reading of words via email and text, and we are setting ourselves up for loads of “that wasn’t my intention” experiences.

That Wasn’t My Intention

Growing up I had many “that wasn’t my intention” experiences. When someone would ask in a cold, sometimes cruel way, “What happened to your face?”, I would often react with aggression. I’d say “It’s none of your business!”, or I’d say “What’s wrong with your face?!” I reacted from a place of defensiveness, and both myself and the questioner would be left with feelings of embarrassment.

If you are part of the cleft community, you know what I’m talking about. I’m sure you’ve had experiences already where a well-meaning person asks a question in an extremely insensitive manner. Much like the usual “What happened to your face?”, there are others like “Did you get into an accident?”, “Were you bit by a dog?”. The list is endless.

What is Their Intention?

Over the years I have relaxed A LOT when I get asked these questions. What I have come to realize is that most people are genuinely curious, not malicious. They want to ask in a kind and sensitive way, but they don’t know how to go about it.

No matter what question is asked of me, I can usually tell if the person asking is sincere or simply voyeuristic. If I’m unsure of their intentions, one of my tried-and-true responses has always been, “If you are genuinely interested, I’m happy to talk to you about it another time.” This way it helps me feel more in control, and that I do not owe this person an explanation about myself. 99 out of 100 times, if the person is asking for nefarious reasons, they simply walk away.

My Story is Owed to No One

There were many times growing up that I felt I had to explain myself, no matter what. That as someone being born with a cleft made it mandatory that I had to share everything. Nothing could have been further from the truth, and honestly, I wish I had learned this lesson a little sooner. No one is owed our story unless we want to share it, no matter how nicely they ask. So, if you are not comfortable sharing something about yourself, you know what? You don’t have to. You can simply say, “No.”. “No, I’m not comfortable talking about that with you.” Or “I don’t know you well enough to share that part of my story with you.” Keep it short and sweet and with no room for further explanation.

Same Goes For Me

The same goes for when I want to know more about someone, or a particular aspect of their story. As someone who never saw another person with a cleft in my small town I grew up in, I would always get excited when I would see another adult with a cleft, and it would take all my power to not run up to them and say “Hi! I have a cleft, you have a cleft, I want to know everything about you and let’s be best friends!”

You’re Just Like Me!

I’m sure you can relate. We tend to get super excited when we see others that have similarities to ourselves. But we must remember to slow our roll. Let the excitement die down and if we are interested in knowing more about this person, put the ball in their court and ask respectfully if they would be open to talking to you sometime. But remember, they, just like you, do not owe anyone their story if they don’t want to share it. Be prepared for them to say no.

The Best Intention

Communication will always be a tricky thing. Just like in the game of telephone, words and meanings get quickly muddled these days. But by seeing others with an empathetic eye, asking questions in a respectful manner and without expectation of what the outcome should be, we can engage in meaningful and heartfelt conversations around shared experiences.

~Vickie


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