There are only a few really difficult hills at the river where I walk Belle. One of these hills, the most treacherous, is avoidable. Most days, instead of choosing the alternate path, I accept its challenge. I like to live through and tackle the hard stuff and this hill is no exception. During this kind of hill climb, I feel each push of my chair, the burn rushing through my arms, and the jaws of defeat clenching tighter and tighter. And just as my shoulders feel disconnected from my body, I turn my wheels one last time, using any power I have left, and I am over the top and, once again, on flat land. The toughness eases over time, but that last push is always the hardest.
I don’t really think about much as I push up this hill, other than keep going, almost there, and I wish Belle would stop pulling to the side to sniff. But, today was a bit different. I think the cold air helped drive my pace up the hill and as I pushed my last push, looked back in disbelief that I was finished with my climb so soon, I had a visual memory of a warm day last spring.
My friend, Austin, was with me on this day when a t-shirt was enough and sunglasses were mandatory. The first big hill we climbed, Austin was behind me and I checked to make sure he wasn’t pushing me with a bossy, “Hey, don’t push me.” And he responded, “I am not touching you!”
We finished the rest of the walk and towards the end we came to the hill. The really big hill. As we were about two thirds of the way up, Austin said, “This hill is tough. I really want to push you now.” And before I could utter the beginning of no, don’t, he continued, “But I get it. I wouldn’t want anyone to push me either.”
Austin is tall and extremely athletic. I am not so tall and not very athletic. Austin is able-bodied and I use a wheelchair. On the outside, we are not the same, at all. But on the inside, the thing he taught me that day, without any hesitation on his part, is that on the inside we are all the same. Exactly the same. Our determination, our grit, our independence, our perseverance to get to the top of our own hills, it’s all the same. Our hills come in different forms, one might be a harder climb for some than for others, but the will to get to the top is the same.
My pace may be slower and I may dread this hill and desperately want to give up mid-climb, but I am determined to get to the top. I hope I remember this story more often because it teaches me, though I may look different or have different abilities, I am the same as everyone else. I’m just trying to get to the top of my hill.
This memory today was a moment of joy and gratitude, all mixed up in one. Sometimes the hardest climbs are the most rewarding. I go beyond my limitations and the real me, the one that lives inside this body, takes control and tells this body, yes you can make it to the top and you will make it to the top.
The Singing Hens
It’s Friday night and with the anticipated end of the snow on the horizon, I chose House of Cards and a cozy night of rest. I want to be ready to meet spring with much enthusiasm. As I settled in for the evening, I sent a text message to the hens and asked a quick question about Instagram. The hens are my go-to social media gurus. Bridget, the youngest, responded to my question. Accompanying her response, was a short note . She shared she listened to the Dixie Chicks this week and it brought back a flood of memories for her. And then her message initiated a flood of tears from me. Earlier this week, Shania Twain was on The Chew. And just as Shania was introduced the tear ducts opened, the corners of my mouth turned upwards, and the happiest of tears poured out of my eyes, like a baptism of happy.
You see, years ago, so many years that I still walked and Bridget still sat in a booster seat. The hens and I used to just drive around with the sunroof open, blaring Dixie Chicks and Shania Twain, and singing the lyrics of their songs like we were the back up singers to their bands. We drove through drive-thrus and ordered Vanilla Diet Cokes, pressed pause, collected our Diet Cokes, pressed play, and drove away, singing. I can’t even remember if we had a destination other than a drive-thru to get a drink.
A lot of the work I do with mindfulness and awareness and stillness suggests the past is like the wake left behind a boat. The wake stays behind and the boat moves forward. But, every once in a while, there is a bit of the past I want to scoop out of the water and pull onto the boat. This kind of memory isn’t just the past, it is a chapter that contributes to the story that is my life.
There are smiles on our faces and then there are the smiles only the heart can birth. Driving around with these girls, sunroof open, and loudly singing is a part of my past I don’t ever want to leave behind. I think its perfectly okay to collect the good stuff and carry it along the ride. It’s what gets us through the hard stuff. And when I feel stuck and confined, I pull out this chapter and remember the days when we didn’t have to be anywhere but with each other, singing our song.
Life moves along and there are always more memories to create and live and breathe. But, I’m taking this moment with me and not letting it go for anything. A moment in time like this teaches me the power of letting go, feeling the sunshine on my face, and the importance of, simply, spending time with the people I love.
I had no idea these singing, dimple faced girls would lift me up so highly when I needed it most, so many years later. They are the most beautiful adults now and I can’t help but think of the loving and brilliant mark they left on my past, leave on my present, and will leave on my future.
So, my message is this...take from your past what is good and warm and feeds you. Take it and water it and let it grow.