I was all set to write post about finally embracing, “I can’t.” I have tried to remind myself that of course I can. It might take me 4 times as long, and it might wreck me for the rest of the day. It might leave me grunting like a Wimbledon tennis player when I “walk” down the hall, it might find me half way into an activity thinking I’ve made a terrible mistake. But in the end, I’ve told myself, I always can – in one way or another. This morning, as I wrestled with an enormous All-Clad skillet in the sink, one of the angels on my shoulder (not sure which one) whispered “It’s OK to say you can’t.”
“Yeah,” I replied.”My body has limitations, and it’s OK for me to say I can’t. Right on.” I’ve been posting – ad nauseam – on Facebook about the Paralympics (I hope you’ll be watching along with me!), so turned on by watching these athletes who trained for their particular event just as hard as the Olympians who performed two weeks ago, but who had to train through blindness or traumatic injury or some other disability.
Then this morning, scrolling Facebook, I watched a little video about the Paralympic soccer team. One player prefaced his story with the phrase, “When I woke up from the coma…” I watch them train, while listening to them talk matter-of-factly about their brain injury, or cerebral palsy, and I ask myself, what’s my excuse?
So it reposted the little video about the soccer team with my comment that,”Each time I arrive at “I can’t,” I am encouraged to take one more step.” It would be so easy – too easy – to just say I can’t. But I’d know that it’s not true. And even if no one ever accused me of being a quitter, I’d know.
So I’m ging to watch as much of the Paralympics as I can, and remind myself that I can always take one more step.
Three Moments of an Explosion: Stories by China Miéville
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
His novels are hard to classify – part steampunk, part fantasy, a little science fiction. He creates wonderfully detailed and complete cities, continents and worlds, with fully drawn populations and languages and cultures. All of which are so finely drawn as to seem historical and familiar.
This book of 21 stories of varying length and style – screenplays, novellas and short stories – is a smorgasbord. He displays the depth and breadth of his imagination and his command of language and narrative. These stories can serve as an introduction, an “amuse bouche” if you will.
Bonus points: how many of these can you identify by sight?
I ‘ve been out and about with my bad motor scooter – taking the short bus to Freeport (home to Maine’s #2 tourist destination, L.L. Bean, and a very accessible little downtown), and to Falmouth, and yesterday into Portland for a spin around the Museum of Fine Arts (to be dazzled by Georgia O’Keeffe, Marguerite Thompson Zorach, Florine Stettheimer, and Helen Torr) – and I was immensely pleased with the SmartDrive‘s performance at every location – brick concourse, concrete sidewalk, museum floor. The only hesitations were from my inexperience and lack of trust. Even when it popped off the chair, it was doing what it was supposed to do. It was easy to reattach, and each time I learned a little something new. Brilliantly simple.
There is always a “but…”. I wonder why there isn’t some sort of geared wheel hub that would offer a transmission brake to slow the chair when going down hill. Relying on my grip on the handrims is both difficult (was that smoke rising from the palms of my gloves?) and dangerous if my hand strength should give out – look out below! Bike mechanics, engineers, makers and tinkerers – can this be done?
Allow me one more ranty rave – the SmartDrive is a life changer. My solo outings I would never have even attempted under my own power, knowing how limited my strength can be. One of the things I used to love to do, and one of the dearest things I lost to disability, was wandering the streets with my camera. Thanks to the SmartDrive, I have that back again. Now I look at the bus map and realize that, theoretically at least, I can go from Yarmouth to destinations on my local route, including the Downeaster train in Portland, which offers me essentially…everywhere. That might not seem like much to most people, but as someone for whom those horizons previously came with enormous obstacles, being able to look at the map and see such possibilities is, pardon the expression, huge. A simple hunk of technology like the SmartDrive is empowering and liberating.
Discuss: “It’s exciting that a woman who is transgender can go to the bathroom that she identifies with, bizarre that the disabled community can’t.” (I cannot find the attribution for this.)
It’s cruise control for your wheelchair.
After waiting a few months for Medicare approval and delivery, a week or so of weather delays and a few false starts (due to user error – d’oh!), I finally got to venture out with my new SmartDrive. I didn’t go far from home, in case those user errors turned out to be SmartDrive fails. My DW unfolded the chair, popped the Drive onto the frame, and I set off for a parking lot to see if I had actually figured the dang thing out.
It turns out I had, and I took off down the sidewalk on my shakedown cruise. The SmartDrive is simple – it’s the size of a big dust buster that snaps onto the undercarriage of your wheelchair, and, well, drives the chair. All you do is give the hand rim a push, and the drive kicks in, powering the chair at the same speed as your initial push. The Bluetooth wristband communicates with the drive to control the speed – push a little harder and the drive goes a little faster. Push on either hand rim to steer, and tap on the wheel to turn the drive off. That’s it.
The little thing has the power to push the chair over bumps and cracks and discontinuities in the pavement. If you are able to wheelie over a curb, the drive will power you through it. I even took it into a gravel parking area and had no problem. Up a long hill? No problem. I took it into the town hall to use the bathroom, and into a cafe for a smoothy, places a scooter or larger powerchair would not have so easily fit. No problem. I wore a bit of a smug grin as I powered up the hill hands free – save for a few steering touches to the wheels. It’ll essentially keep driving over anything until you turn it off.
Is it hyperbole to call the SmartDrive a game changer? I don’t think so. The terrain I cruised over that day in Yarmouth I’d never have even attempted before. Now I’m feeling confident that I can deal with anything the Big City can put in front of me. I’ll let you know.
I saw a t-shirt once that said, “I do the MS walk every day,” sarcastically referring to the well-known MS Society fund raiser. For my MS walk – or more precisely my MS shuffle – there are distinct steps. (Follow along if you’d like!)
The MS Shuffle: Standing at your walker –
- Shift weight from center to the left leg.
- Engage left leg.
- Lift right foot, either at the knee if possible, or at the hip.
- Move right foot forward one pace, either above the floor or shuffled along.
- Shift weight to right leg.
- Engage right leg.
- Lift left foot, either at the knee or the hip.
- Shuffle left foot forward even with right foot, or, for bonus points, one pace ahead.
- Repeat until exhausted.
- Demerits for falling down.
- Demerits for forgetting to breathe.
This is the same pattern for normal walking, the MS Shuffle just requires conscious attention to each part. It can actually be a very mindful, almost meditative way to walk, breaking down each step into it’s component parts and paying careful attention to each part. It becomes a sort of mantra, “Shift weight, engage leg, lift foot, step. Breathe.”
Maybe I should lay some of those Arthur Murray dance instruction foot prints on my floor to guide me around the living room. And find a very slow box step to play. Before long, all the hep cats will be doing the MS Shuffle. Remember you heard it here first!