By the time most of you read this, I will have landed in San Fransisco. That means we will have made it to the airport, made it to the plane and made it to the rental car. From there, we're good to go. We're looking forward to the weekend there, we'll head up the coast on Sunday. We've got Friday and Saturday to really get into the city. Joe's already been making jokes about how I'd best be good. Apparently long, steep hills and a manual chair are a temptation in the making.
The nice thing about visiting a city for a second time is that you've made most of the mistakes the first time. We'd visited many times before the wheelchair, but a city, like many people, shows a different face to wheelchair users. I was shocked on my first visit to the city on wheels, it wasn' t the experience I'd looked forward to, it wasn't the one I'd planned. I was, only then, coming to realize that the wheelchair didn't change me as much as it changed how I interacted with the world around me. I was, only then, coming to understand that I had to meet and, hopefully, fall in love with a different San Fransisco, Vancouver, Edmonton, Manchester, Liverpool, New York. I had to stop trying to relive old experiences and learn to appreciate new ones. This means, of course, that I'm less disappointed than I used to be as I no longer expect the next time to be the same as this time, or this time as the same as last time. I am now comfortable with each next experience being new.
So, this time, I know there will be challenges. Hills I'm not willing to go up. Hills I'm not willing to go down. I know that there will be barriers where I don't expect them to be. I know that there will be sudden access where there hadn't been before. I remind myself to stay flexible. I need my mind and attitude to be nimble. I need my temper and my temperament to stretch a lot farther before snapping. I need to be the person that life demands me to be. I don't have the luxury of 'reinvention' as an artifice, disability is 'reinvention' for real. If we, as disabled people, didn't reinvent moments, we'd cave in under the weight of aggravation and exclusion.
By the time you read this, I will have, through 'sleight of mind' gotten through what I needed to get through to get where I was going. And, by the time you read this, I'm hoping I will have already sat by the ocean overlooking the Golden Gate bridge and thanked God for the opportunity that life gave me to see, one more time, what it is to have managed fear and anxiety and barriers to simply be there and to simply be grateful.