Inherent in the human experience is a desire to establish connection. To meet others who have walked the road we currently travel, gleaning insight as to the ways in which their survival was achieved. We long to meet others who have faced great adversity, and triumphed in the process, possessing scars as evidence of the ways in which victory was achieved.
If you met Cindy Quick, you would never know she has scars. A realtor with Keller Williams, she spends her days guiding clients from all walks of life towards securing the home of their dreams. She serves the community in her role as Chair of the Loudoun County Disability Services Board, advocating for a community often without a voice in the culture at large.
I first met Quick through service on the DSB. She struck me as a kind and caring woman, possessing a depth not often encountered in everyday life. With more than five years of service on the board, she possesses a wealth of experience from which she can draw upon when carrying out her duties as Chair.
We met to discuss how disability has touched her life and the life of her family, culminating in a story recently published in the Blue Ridge Leader. Yet there was more I learned, more words of hope to be shared from the beautiful life Cindy has built with her husband, Sonny.
Cindy Quick and her husband, Sonny
“I never looked back,” she says as she describes the beginnings of their relationship. They spent a decade and a half assembling precious memories, his spirit and love for both music and animals continuing to endear him to her. “He was like a breath of fresh air,” she says. Little did she know that after nearly fifteen years of marriage, the life they had built together would abruptly change course.
During a shift in the mailroom at George Mason University, Sonny suffered an unexpected stroke. “He had over 150 staples in his head,” she discovered upon entering his hospital room for the first time, leaving him with scars of his own. Sonny, now unable to walk, spent years regaining his strength by living in a rehabilitation center. When it was time to come home, she said many told her she should consider having Sonny reside in assisted living. “There were a lot of people who said…you know you don’t have to bring Sonny home…” The thought never crossed her mind. “I had almost lost him, and to have him back was such a blessing.”
While the urgency felt in those early days has subsided, a sense of loss remains. When asked if Sonny misses having the ability to walk, Quick says, “He tells me all the time he dreams that he is walking…I think it is really tough…” Yet she details the ways in which this experience has changed her for the better. “I strive to be a better person…but if anything, it’s brought out the fact that I can always be more sensitive to other people’s troubles…”
She tells of the looks she and her husband receive, the attitudes espoused by people they encounter. “People assume since Sonny is in a chair, he can’t talk,” she says. “Or people talk to me about him, as if it’s not ok to talk to him.” She combats this reality by redirecting the conversation towards Sonny, allowing him to speak for himself. “I think people sell him short,” she says, before quickly pointing out that the majority of people do not exhibit this kind of behavior.
What can we do to change? “Keep chipping away at the obvious,” she says with confidence. She highlights how important sharing can be when attempting to broaden awareness. “Conversation has definitely increased,” she says. Although much work remains. “Has the conversation increased to the level I would like it to? No.”
Part of raising awareness is having candid conversations such as these, allowing others to peek inside the lives of those affected by adversity. Having the courage to share, even when recounting details evokes a sense of pain. To show your scars - both invisible and visible – for all the world to see.
“One last thing,” she says in a thoughtful tone. “Even I related to what you said, ‘We all have scars, some of them are physical and some of them are hidden…” She reveals that she possesses abdominal scars. She details her struggles during young adulthood, articulating her desire to hide the physical marks she carried. “You don’t want to be seen.” She talks about how that affected romantic relationships, dates who failed to accept her, scars and all. “When they didn’t call me back,” she says, she knew the reason behind the rejection.
I pondered the implications of her statement, silently wondering whether women had rejected me because of the way I looked. Perhaps. Although recent exploration has led to a realization regarding the ways in which past significant others used my scars - whether intentionally or not - to their advantage. As tools of manipulation, evoking an emotion that would cause me to behave in the manner in which they desired. Or, in hastily establishing a connection over trauma, utilizing my scars as an attempt to gain access to my heart.
“Now I don’t care,” Quick says, saying she is willing to share her story with others. “…Let me show you what I have been through…” A sense of wisdom may be bestowed with age, playing a part in the ability to accept who you are. “As you get older, you get more comfortable in your own skin…it helps if you have that significant other, but if you are confident and comfortable in yourself it doesn’t matter…”
An important concept. Healing from scars – both visible and invisible – is not predicated upon finding someone to love us for who we are. Choosing to love ourselves - while accepting the pieces of ourselves that put us outside of the mainstream - leads to healing that no other person can provide on our behalf.
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