Why I don’t mind that “I’m (not) in it” for the 2011 New York City Marathon

I wasn’t sure how today was going to go when I woke up and found out that tonight’s spin class was already full before I got the chance to sign up, but things quickly started looking up when I didn’t have to work and got to go to the beach for the day. I’m not the biggest fan of the beach since it’s not quite the most accessible place in the world, but every now and then with my crutches I don’t mind.

I love the moments when I can just sit and stare out at the water and let the answers to my life’s questions float into me with the tide–and today just that happened.

Ha! Don't you wish CT beaches looked like this?? Photo: Carillon-Beach.com

I’ve obviously been doing a lot of thinking (and writing) about the things that make me happy and the things that I do for me, but I never really shared what led me to question that.  So, here’s a bit of the story…a few months back I became a member of Achilles International a group for people with disabilities who run, bike, do all sorts of sports.  I didn’t really know what I was getting into, but it sounded great. At the start, I got in touch with the head of the CT chapter of Achilles who told me about a handcycle (like a regular bike pretty much, but pedaled with your arms). We also talked about how the New York City Marathon has special spots for handcyclists/Achilles athletes. I was already getting my hopes up!

A few months later, I met Tony, an above knee amputee and all around great guy. He brought one of his handcycles for me to try out and it was pretty awesome. But let me tell you, these things are not for the faint of heart! They take some serious arm power.  I left that day feeling like I had made a pretty cool connection in the adaptive athletics world.

Tony and I right before trying out the handcycle

Fast forward to not getting a lottery pick for the 2011 NYCM and I wasn’t all that upset. Why? By the time I got home from that day, I knew the handcycle was awesome and that I liked it, but I had this tiny voice inside of my head and heart that was telling me it just wasn’t quite right for me. It wasn’t involving my legs enough, challenging them, or allowing me to tap into my true motivations.

In true Molly fashion, I ignored the voice and kept plugging along until I reached a point where that voice got so loud I could barely hear myself think. At that point, I removed myself from the 2 races I was scheduled to do with the handcycle, and went back to the drawing board.

What does all of this have to do with the beach? I’m almost there I promise. About 2 weeks ago, a friend (hey Lor! 🙂 ) approached me about helping to create an adaptive category for a 10k race she helps run in September for the Mari Hall Foundation. I jumped at the opportunity and immediately felt like everything was going to fall back into place.

What I’ve come to realize over the past few weeks is this: I don’t do races to win. I don’t even do them to place. Or for the attention, the one girl in the crowd who is overcoming this challenge known as CP. Because every single one of us has challenges; whether they’re visible or not. I do races because of the challenge; because of the mental and physical push it requires me to commit to as soon as I step on the start line and even before when I’m stretching and spinning and doing whatever else to get ready.

For me, the only way I know to tap into that challenge is on foot because, whether this is fair or not, I equate CP with my legs, not my brain. Actually, that’s not fair at all. Sorry legs, my bad!! And that’s why the handcycle didn’t feel quite right to me.

Okay, okay, back to the beach. Water. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately too. Many of you might know, how great water therapy is for people with various disabilities. Well in my own head and heart, I’m finally jumping on that bandwagon. (Sidenote: I can’t believe I even just thought, let alone wrote, this sentence given my previous detest/downright refusal to even try this for years!!) As I was watching my 2-year old niece play down by the water today, I swear I heard that same voice that told me the handcycle wasn’t right, tell me water was.

Here’s what I know:

  • I can’t “get out and train” everyday like many other runners/walkers/I don’t even know what category I consider myself do. It’s not ideal right now given that my streets have no sidewalks and tracks are freaking boring.
  • When you’re in the water, you tend to not feel fatigued as quickly, allowing you to possibly get more out of your exercise time.
  • Water holds you up, meaning that I can practice movements without worrying about falling over. Drowning? Eh, a friend once told me I have 4-5 minutes to be rescued if I drown. I’ll risk it.
  • I can walk in water. I mean really walk, without crutches or walker or anything. Do I really need to explain why this is a plus?! Come on! What are 90% of my post about? Okay, you may argue that I can totally do that on land too. I won’t disagree, it’s just way easier in water.

(Disclaimer: These aren’t facts. I’m just a 20 something blogger on a mission to make a change.)

So it looks like water will be another added method of training and therapy this summer. Thanks for sticking by me, and see you all out on the road.
Oh, and for those of you who are really good at reading between the lines: YES I’m doing a 10k in September; YES on foot; YES I already got the okay; and YES I know at least 3 people reading will try to convince me not to! Did I mention I’m really stubborn? 😉
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Inked.

I got a tattoo 2 days after I turned 18, my freshman year of college. This wasn’t a spontaneous Friday night activity during a trip to New Haven. I’d been planning it for a long time.  My parents came to take me out to dinner on my actual birthday, and I showed them the sketch so they’d be prepared when I came home for Winter break. I’m not sure that they were happy, but I was 18 now after all. 

I went with my best friend, who had come to visit for my birthday, and sat anxiously waiting for the tattoo artist to come talk to me about what, exactly, I wanted, where I wanted it, etc.

I knew I wanted a heart. My mother always told me when I was born, there were hearts everywhere. She saw them in everything. I even had a heart-shaped birth mark on my arm! It’s since faded, but I can still make it out if I look closely enough.  

I knew I wanted whatever words I chose to be in Italian. First, as a nod to part of my heritage. Second, because words in Italian just look so much more beautiful.

I knew where I wanted it. Well, kind of. Originally, I wanted it on my back right over my SDR scar because I have such strong dislike for that scar. That was until I was told my pain would probably be magnified at that site. Then I realized I also wanted to be able to see whatever ink I was permanently etching on my body. I ended up deciding on my left hip, just above my hip bone. Another scar of significance.

The words. This was, by far, the hardest decision. I played with Italian translations of words for months. I wanted words that not only fit me, not only made sense, but also fit with the tattoo. I was going to be looking at it for a lot of years.

In the end, I settled on coraggio=courage and amore=love. Courage has somewhat always been the word I live by. I may not do something well, or even succeed, but I will always do it courageously. And have the courage to try.  Amore was a little more difficult of a story. I didn’t want love just because it was going to be attached to a heart. I wanted real love. Genuine love. The kind of love that starts within yourself. There was no translation for self-love, only love of oneself, and that just sounded conceited. Amore it became.

I don’t pay as much attention to my tattoo now as I used to, or as I should. This is, in part, because it’s winter and I’m always fully covered, but even in the Summer months I don’t pay it any mind. It’s also because I’ve become so used to it now. The morning after getting it done, I screamed getting in the shower when I noticed it. My roommate was hysterical. Apparently she knew that was going to my reaction. Over the years, though, I’ve become so used to not even looking at it.  So, I “forget” it’s there.

A reminder. Every now and then though, like this morning, I look down and am reminded of the importance of those words and that symbol in my life. And when I look at my tattoo, I always take a moment to love who I am and what I’ve become. I take a moment to vow to live the day courageously.

So I wanted to remind each of you, too. There’s always a reason to stop and show yourself some love. Even if it’s just looking in the mirror as you pass by on your way to work or class and saying “you look beautiful today”.  Love is nothing without us.  And we are all cheating the meaning of life if we can show love to others, but we can’t show it to ourselves. Courage is in every one of us. In some of us, it lies in getting up in the morning to face the day. In some of us, it lies in jumping out of our comfort zones and leaving our families for months to go explore all this world has to offer. In some of us, it lies in believing in that dream so much that it is what you live and breathe, so much that you actually dream about it at night. No matter where it lies in you, it is there. And it will never leave you.

This is my challenge to you: live, and love, courageously.

Thankful Thursday

Generally, I really don’t like these themed blog days, but today a Thankful Thursday post seemed appropriate.  Ever have those days where your mind is everywhere and nowhere at the same time? Today was definitely one of those. I’m not really sure why, but I woke up knowing that was going to be the case.

Wrote a paper this morning, couldn’t stop thinking about my desire to go back to bed until the rain stopped. Worked out, couldn’t stop thinking about how much more I really should be doing daily. Went to class, couldn’t stop thinking about Boston in 48 hours. What can’t I stop thinking about now? Thinking.

We all do it without even realizing we do it. We think. About everything we need to get done, plan events in our heads, fix our (and often the world’s) problems. I’m a thinker in the worst way possible. I have to plan. I love to have lists. I can very rarely do something without a concrete goal in mind. I don’t know if it’s because I hate the idea of the unknown, or if it’s just an organizational thing, but I am always thinking. And definitely not always about my own life. I am admittedly one of those world problem solver types. It’s a blessing and a curse I tell you.

I bet you think I’m going to wrap this post up with some neat little sentiment how I’m so thankful for the ability to think, that my cognitive processes are all intact and luckily not something strongly affected by my CP. Don’t get me wrong, and I certainly don’t mean to offend anyone. I am thankful for that, as we all should be. What I am more thankful for tonight though, are those moments when I’m not thinking. Those moments when I don’t have time to think things through fully. Those moments when I listen to my heart instead of my head. Those moments when everything stops, and I just am. I am in this moment, in this space. Living.

I know there has to be something going on in my mind and my heart that sparked this, though that has not been revealed to me yet. The one thing I do know is that the reason I love these moments the most is because they are ignoring the things we (okay, I won’t speak for all of us!) I tend to live my life around far too often: fear and control. When I stop thinking, stop planning, stop “figuring out”–that is when the great adventures start to come into my life; the things I hope for and dream of. The things I fight for.

So, tonight, I suppose you could say I’m thankful for the quiet, the stop lights of life within my mind and my soul that cause me to just go with my heart and go with the light shining on the path.

That was a very random post. Thanks for listening.