Yesterday I took a giant step towards being 'the guy' that I want to be ... in my mind. I'm not talking about 'THE guy' ... that nice, thoughtful and caring one that escapes my grasp so often, but the one who can physically push himself outdoors. I see wheelchair users sailing on their own steam up and down streets looking relaxed and fit and totally in control. Well, I'm no where near relaxed and fit and in control, I struggle and pant and sweat and occasionally curse. But ...
We were going out for dinner to a restaurant in Market Square in Victoria and I really wanted to push myself there and back. It wasn't a great distance from the hotel but it required pushing up a fairly steep incline, going over a walkway spanning Johnson Street and then over the bridge to the square. I'd looked at it several times over the day and decided that I was going to give it a go.
I suggested to Joe that we leave an hour early because I figured that it would take me a long while to make the push. The steep bits are, for me, quite steep. I wanted time to pause, push my lungs back into place and start again. So, we set off.
The first few feet were fine, but it was flat. Then started the climb. It got steeper and steeper and I went slower and slower. I didn't use my safety breaks, which allow the chair to go forward but not backwards, because I don't want to start relying on them. So I was pushing hard and grunting loudly and absolutely not caring what people might have thought. Joe stood guard to ensure that no one helped me. It wasn't much of a struggle as, it turned out, most people seemed to respect what I was doing and left me alone to do it.
Once over the walkway it was downhill until the bridge and the climb up the bridge once again slowed me down. But, again, I used every bit of power I had to make it up and crest that little hill and then it was easy to the restaurant. We were there in about 15 minutes. That was a shock.
With the extra time I pushed up Johnson Street to the first crosswalk and then headed back. I felt victorious but remembered that going back had the longer incline, though not the steepest. After a fun dinner we headed back and again, with one notable exception, people left me alone. I can't say how much I appreciated that. I knew I was going to make it and I didn't want someone to steal that from me but shoving me a foot or two.
On arrival back at the hotel, I was winded but not exhausted, I was sore but not really hurting. I silently thanked the gym back home where I work out and practice ramps. It was marvelous.
I know that I'm a long way, really long way, from where I want to be.
But I'm a little closer.
And that's worth something.