rainbow shoesWhen you live with four other people it can feel a little claustrophobic at times. It’s also somewhat noisy not because there is anything particularly of note going on, it’s just that five people in one house aren’t exactly quiet even if they are not trying to make a lot of noise. When one of those people cannot seem to remember that it is polite to knock on a closed door and ask permission before entering, it’s even more frustrating.Some days I can barely hear myself think. So I appreciate the evenings when, if I’m lucky,  I can sit in the quiet living room with my laptop and write.I have been thinking a lot about the act of running lately. Running has always held a fascination for me, possibly because it is something that my disability keeps me from experiencing, at least as an active participant in the actual mechanics. I think my mom has carried me on her back while running and several people have pushed my chair while they ran,  so I guess I have experienced it in a passive, secondhand fashion.  It’s not the same.

Some people may think that driving my power chair at top speed is an equivalent,  it is a close approximation I guess, but still not the same thing. There isn’t really a whole lot of physical exertion involved. To those who say I am not missing much by skipping over that I say, you don’t know what you have, appreciate everything because tomorrow it could be gone in less than the blink of an eye.Sore muscles are a small price to pay for having your fellow citizens notice your existence. If you think I am overreacting let me tell you a story. When I was 13 years old I met a young man who was a few years older than me. For the first year I knew him I tried my hardest not to like him but he eventually won me over and became my best friend. 10 years later I’m in college and he is working on his Masters degree in teaching, he’s not even 30 and has already achieved two Bachelors degrees. That summer he takes a kayaking trip gets bit by a tick and contracts both Rocky Mountain spotted tick fever and Lyme disease. He misses the antibiotics window because it was originally thought that the rash on his hands was an allergic reaction. The last Christmas time I spent with him he was on forearm crutches had to use a scooter to get around Walmart. This was a guy who would show up at the drop of a hat say, “we are going somewhere”, and toss me and my manual chair in the back of his truck without a second thought. I almost cried before we even went into the store, it was about to get worse. We had gone there so that Nathan can get a few things for some Christmas gifts he was making, the rest of us were mostly window shopping. I had to use the restroom so I only heard about the incident secondhand but I returned from the bathroom to find my friend livid.with anger. Apparently, while I was gone he had carried some cloth up to the counter to have a specific amount he needed for his projects cut from the bolts. A woman who should have been behind him in line stepped around him and said, “oh this will only take a minute, you don’t mind do you,” not even speaking to him but to the associate responsible for the craft area of the store that day. He replied as though she had spoken to him, “yes, I do mind because I was in line before you.” He bought his lengths of fabric, met up with the rest of us, and left. I can tell you from having made several similar trips with him before he got sick this would not have happened if he had been able to walk. I cried for him that day, not because he was sick, but because he was well and truly in my world now. The smartest man I knew, who had already run four of his own businesses by the time I met him when he was 17, was working on his third diploma when most people I knew may have been halfway through their first, was reduced to one thing in the eyes of strangers,  an impediment. A roadblock in their routine, something to be skirted around, avoided, not even given enough humanity to merit the decency of a moment’s worth of eye contact. You think that any means of moving yourself through space is equal to being able to do so on your own two feet, you’re wrong.

The ability to run saves lives. Stand in the emergency room of any hospital for long enough and you’ll see. Soldiers in the US Armed Forces have to be able to run a mile in six minutes if they are ever deployed into a combat zone that six-minute mile will save their life more times than they actually want to think about.  If you run, you are seen. Caitlyn Jenner, Jesse Owens, you know these names.

I bought a new pair of shoes recently, black sneakers with rainbow shoelaces. I bought the laces and discarded the mundane black laces before even leaving the store.My family jokes that my shoes last a ridiculously long time and that this is one of the few “perks” of not being able to walk. They are right, my shoes may end up a little scuffed and the tread may pick up small amounts of dirt now and again from standing during transfers, but I will never wear a hole in them or have to keep them held together with duct tape. Yes, when you live in the South, duct taped shoes are an actual thing.

There is a scene from the movie Practical Magic where are the main character, Sally, runs and jumps into the arms of the man who will become her husband. Funny, the things that stay with you. I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I first saw that movie, maybe 14, but I do remember horrible, gut twisting anger at the fact that I would never be able to do that. Even though I am much older now and concede the fact that there are many ways to express that level of emotion I still feel a little bit cheated every time I watch the movie.

I’ve never been able to run in my dreams. I walked sometimes, albeit unsteadily. I have tripped a lot, fell on my face numerous times, belly crawled,  used my chair, or found myself stranded in bed because I’m unable to get up without assistance. I have never run, not once in my whole life.A  few weeks ago that changed. In my dreams, I panicked when a person I was supposed to meet did not show up in the usual place and without a second thought, I ran to find them.Weeks after the fact there is a voice in my head screaming,”Holy sh*t I RAN,” every time I think about it.

In case you’re wondering, I did not run, or even stand and walk completely under my own power the next morning, that’s not how dreams work, and I am in no way disappointed or upset. What I do find interesting is the fact that my dream self can run now when I have never been able to before. I can still run and it’s not a function of the blind panic that I felt the first time I ran. My best guess is the fact that I can now run in my dreams signifies positive potential that I didn’t have before, or at least couldn’t see or access before now. Change is in the wind and while it may not bear Mary Poppins, come to illuminate all our problems and put us on the path to fixing them, I have a feeling it might just turn out better than we thought.

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One thought on “Day 355: Running, Ableism, Personal Autonomy, and the Search for Space

  1. You may not be able to run but you can write! I could see your dream self running and the images and the feelings were so real. Beautiful blog post, so very expressive.

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