“Now when you’re born into loss, you grow from it. But when you experience loss later in life, you grow toward it.”
Kevin Kling is a well-known, infectiously funny, and deeply touching storyteller, poet, and playwright. He has the distinction of having being born with a disability and also acquiring one later in life. He was born with a small deformed left arm, and after sustaining a traumatic motorcycle injury at 44 years old, his right arm became paralyzed. Being present to life requires us to face the challenges and disabilities that can pull us into the regrets of the past or the anxieties of the future, take us into addiction, or perhaps motivate us to be here now. Many of his stories and speaking engagement discuss the continued challenges and triumphs that he faces with humor and insight. His healing stories tells us of what he has lost and what he has found.
Kevin Kling ends many of his talks with a poem that encapsulates the different ways we face loss. When you are feeling your best, his mother would say, “You’re in the Pink.” Read the poem below or listen to it in the links below.
—by Kevin Kling
At times in our pink innocence, we lie fallow, composting, waiting to grow.
And other times we rush headlong like so many of our ancestors.
But rush headlong or lie fallow, it doesn’t matter.
One day you’ll round a corner, your path is shifted.
In a blink, something is missing.
It’s stolen, misplaced, it’s gone.
Your heart, a memory, a limb, a promise, a person.
An innocence is gone, and now your journey has changed.
Your path, as though channeled through a spectrum, is refracted, and has left you pointed in a new direction.
Some won’t approve. Some will want the other you. And some will cry that you’ve left it all.
But what has happened has happened, and cannot be undone. We pay for our laughter. We pay to weep. Knowledge is not cheap. To survive we must return to our senses, touch, taste, smell, sight, sound.
We must let our spirit guide us, our spirit that lives in breath. With each breath we inhale, we exhale. We inspire, we expire. Every breath has a possibility of a laugh, a cry, a story, a song. Every conversation is an exchange of spirit, the words flowing bitter or sweet over the tongue. Every scar is a monument to a battle survived.
Now when you’re born into loss, you grow from it. But when you experience loss later in life, you grow toward it.
A slow move to an embrace, an embrace that leaves you holding tight the beauty wrapped in the grotesque, an embrace that becomes a dance, a new dance, a dance of pink.
In this 2015 talk at the Mayo Clinic, Kevin Kling explains what his life has taught him on meeting the challenge and the gifts of his disability.
Interview: “The Losses and Laughter We Grow Into”
Listen to his interview with Krista Tippett’s On Being about “The Losses and Laughter We Grow Into.”
More about Kevin Kling
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