When you assemble a puzzle, when you take all those tiny colour coded pieces out of their protective wrappings, spread them on the floor, create space in your life for this new adventure of your choosing... what is your first thought? Do you prop your box up in clear view so you can check in with the picture you were provided with? Do you take apart all the accidental non-separated pieces, to prevent cheating? Do you premeasure cardboard to lay down underneath to ensure the reality of this task is going to fit in your predesgined life? Do you find all the edge pieces first, create a box within which you know your new chaos will stay? Or do you attack all the uncertainties and just start to piece things together with no regret and only a smile and sense of adventure?
My pre warning to this blog entry is this: please stop reading if you take offense easily. Please please scroll your mouse around to another wonderful snippet from someone else that tells you your goals are near at hand and never give up. Do not read further if you don't wish to hear several harsh truths you may in fact embody.... One thing I'm good at is ranting, but this particular rant is very specifically geared to enlightening your sense of how it is to be training for something as a disabled athlete... How it is to feel as though you actually have very little wiggle room from predestination boxes that are given by the able bodies world around you.
All of this comes to me while on the journey to meet my summer goal to swim 13km in open water tethered to another, tandem bike 500km with another for five days, and run 100miles with a guide runner..
Myths of disabled athletes - 1. We just appear on the course
Not true! We have lives, take up space. Feel the world on many levels. Go to the grocery store and get in your rushed selfs way. Go to the bus stop and stand too near the door just to be noticed. Miss pieces of guide dog poo on the sidewalk in which your kid might step. Bump our wheelchairs into displays too narrow and knock things down. Not wave or say hello in the school yard at drop off time. Might dress the youngest in purple on blue day. Stand in a bank teller line just to have our bill read out loud. In general if you missed us out there, it's because your perception passed us over... Not because we are not there.
Myth of disabled athletes : 2. Everything is harder for us
Ok, truth in parts on this one. Imagine brevity that the event your wish to enter has set a bar and rules for participating that are just beyond your normal limits. If these events are actually harder for us it is only because we are most often competing in an able bodied competition. Which for the most part is what attracts us. However making adjustments to our accessible issues doesn't make it harder, it just makes it different. Whether it's a guide runner volunteer or a handcycle .... It's just different. Oh and we love it by the way.
Myth of disabled athletes : 3. We have super powers
This one bugs me... Everyone has superpowers. Everyone! But whether or not you decide to wake up trying to change the world or run around the block or just pour another cup of coffee and move slowly.... Is completely and totally... Your choice. Oh sure, seeing us on the race course might be inspiring, might seem like the coolest thing you'd seen recently. It might even be the driving force that gets you up off the couch.... But I promise you, when we are out there giving our best, trying our hardest, we have no more superpowers than the runner beside us that trained just as hard. Our stories may be different, our reasons may be different, but we are both still here. And that is most important.
Random facts about being a vision impaired athlete:
I separated these, because my sensory difference is not the same as that from another category. And furthermore doesn't speak for every vision impaired athlete...
- I will bug you
Whether this happens because you've read my twitter and see the amount of chaos I cope with, or because I took the disabled space when I was dropped at the gym... I promise you I will bug you. I will get in your way in the pool, not see you coming, look like I'm making faces at you when really I'm just squinting to figure out who to apology to. I won't follow spin class instructions (because I can't see them) and may stand when you're sitting. I will trip on the weight machines looking for the box jumps (especially if you didn't put your dumb bells away dummy!!!) I will ask you to read the ladies room scale so I can know I'm on track, not so I can share my most intimate detail with strangers. Whatever it is, I promise, I will bug you. And frankly, I'm ok with that. This is me, disabled me, trying to negotiate my way through your world. If you lived in mine I'd curse you for not ensuring my knives went in the drawer all the same direction, and for switching the shampoo and conditioner bottles around. Lets just do our best ok?
- i worry a lot
Sure I do! I worry about making cut offs that were made for able bodied people. I worry about losing my lane in the pool if I get out to go pee after two hours of swimming. I worry about getting in one end of the pool and not seeing someone on the other end. I worry about running across a new road into the sun, when all I have are my mobility training from high school to figure out whether or not there's an advanced green. Only at higher speeds because we're supposed to be running here! I worry my bike shorts make my butt fat. I worry my run skirt looks dumb with that colour top. Or that the caliber of my awesome equipment doesn't belong on such a slow girl. (Thank you Salomon Toronto!!!!) I worry about where to put my phone since my outfits are pocket free. I worry that while I'm running up this hill and you're driving slow to see if I'll make it that I won't. I worry you'll still be around when I start dancing at the top after having accomplished it. I worry about peeing on the trail and being seen... Since I'd likely miss you coming up behind me. I worry about the sun preventing me from following the longer route. I worry about a hell of a lot of things you worry about. Can I do this? Why do I think I can't? What am I proving? And to whom?
- I rely on the world
I rely on volunteers who are so patient and kind. Who give of themselves and their time. Who know when entering into an agreement to help that this race is not theirs but mine. That they will have to slow down. Way down. And tolerate my wall. Tolerating your own wall is hard enough... Imagine taking on a stubborn sentimental blind girls wall. I rely on race directors to have me, to maybe let my tandem bike stand alone. To allow my guide on course. To welcome us and help to share the day. I rely on my family and friends to know and support all that I am trying to do. I rely on patience and kindness. I rely on the furniture in the change room to be in the same place it was last week. I rely on the drivers in my small calm town to know hey it's that blind girl out at 4am again... Lets drive slow. I rely on hope, peace and on myself to see dreams through. And recently, I rely on trust. Trust in others. Trust that what I'm out to accomplish is no where near as important as the message it carries or the person I am inside.
Back to our puzzle, as you piece it together, or a week later throw it frustratedly into the box again for another day another time etc... Remember.... Some of us have no picture to follow, have no bigger plan, no road map, no colour coded clues, no pre measured space... All we have are the same pieces every day and the need to put them together.
After all it does not matter how you go about it, just that you do. Regardless of fear or obstacle.... Just go about it. And wait to see what happens next.
Yours in running....