I’m officially half-way through my challenge with True North Strength and Fitness and Westcoast Nutrition and the first six weeks has disappeared incredibly quickly. I’d love to say time flies when you’re having fun but I think the more accurate representation would be time flies when you’re busy taking care of a family while attempting to eat well and get to the gym three times a week. The time-management struggle is real. However, taking this time for myself has absolutely been worth all the extra scheduling and calendar confusion. At the mid-way point in this challenge I have had good weeks and bad weeks and wanted to share a little update.
Lying in bed the other night, after a day that wasn’t unlike any other, I found myself suddenly apologizing. “I’m sorry I’m paralyzed”. My husband looked at me in that way he looks at me when I’ve said something completely unreasonable (I’m unreasonable fairly often so I know the look well). He jokingly told me to shut-up and we moved on. But as he drifted off to sleep I started to think about the kind of attention I bring to my injury. In many cases it is a joke or a comment to employ a sort of pre-emptive form of damage control. As though if I mention what I feel is the elephant in the room, I then take control over any obstacles that may arise because of said elephant. But I often also find myself apologizing for things that probably don’t require an apology. These are things that stem from the fact that I’m paralyzed. And paralysis, to be clear, is beyond my control (I triple-checked). So instead of falling asleep that night, I contemplated my approach. Why do I bring attention to my differences and apologize for my limitations? And should I stop?
What is strength? In the midst of this women’s empowerment wave we are riding, how do we define what it means to be a strong woman? We strive to be them, we strive to raise them and we strive to surround ourselves with them. But what is it that makes them? The definitions are evasive and become skewed by perception and tainted by experience. Strength is a very personal battle. It is having the persistence to go after the things in life that you deem important. It is about knowing yourself and your boundaries. It is about prioritizing your life so that it feels authentic to you. And because everyone has their own idea of what life is all about and what comes easily to one person may require a lot of effort from another, we end up with personal beliefs on what it means to have strength.
Raising our children to be accepting of all types of people has always been a top priority for me and my husband but it was never a personal battle until after my injury. As two young, Caucasian, able-bodied, straight people we were never in an obvious minority. We never felt singled out for attributes we had no control over and we blended in to our community without effort. Then, all of a sudden, I found myself in a wheelchair and we didn’t blend in as easily as we had in the past. With stares coming from numerous directions, our determination to raise accepting children only increased. But how? How do you integrate something into their little lives if it isn’t something you see very often? How do you teach something without pointing it out and bringing attention to it? Then my children – and every child I’ve met since my accident -taught me a thing or two about acceptance.
Have you ever been unable to get to your car because the elevator that brought you up from the parkade is now out of service? Have you ever gone out with your friends or family just to be left at the bottom of a staircase while they figure out how to get you into the building? Have you ever missed out on an event because there wasn’t a bathroom you could use? These are just a few of the too-many-to-count scenarios that come up when you use a wheelchair. Being able to move freely around this world with minimal planning or forethought was something I most definitely took for granted before my injury. I had a very limited understanding of what wheelchair accessibility was all about. I have since been given a crash course on the topic and it is not just about the absence of stairs. No, it is most definitely so much more than stairs.
Confession. I don’t know how to put my wheelchair together. I mean, I understand the general placement of everything (big wheels in the back, small wheels in the front) but that’s about as far as my wheelchair maintenance knowledge takes me. When my legs were my main form of mobility I didn’t need to worry about nuts, bolts, lubricant and flat tires. Now, maintaining my mobility equipment requires a little bit more effort and know-how. At least that’s what my husband keeps telling me.