It was hard going.
I was pushing uphill, on carpet, and was working very hard. I could feel my muscles burning, I could feel forward motion. "This is what it's all for," I thought, as I crept slowly towards the top of the long ramp. The hours in the gym, the hours with dumbbells at home, the aerobic exercises I follow along with on-line, all of it, it's for this. I don't mind that I'm struggling. I don't mind the challenge, As long as I'm moving forward.
She was wearing blue. A nice cobalt blue sweater. That's what I remember seeing first. She had been standing near the top of the ramp speaking to a friend. I know they noticed me. I could see them react to the sight of me coming slowly up the ramp, I could see them pause and decide what to do, I could see them relax into the idea that doing nothing was probably the best option. I also knew that if I had asked them, they would have been there in a shot. But I didn't. I didn't want their help. I appreciated their decision to simply let me do what I was doing. Being disabled means gratitude when people don't take an interest in you.
The ramp was long. It was carpeted. The carpet was plush. My shoulders were burning, my breath was coming short, I was tiring. I was only a few feet away from the top. I don't know why but with every long ramp I've ever gone up, it seems like the last few feet are at a steeper grade. I stop for a second to catch my breath. I look at how much of the ramp is left and I begin to feel defeated. Will I need to ask for help.
In my pause, the woman in the blue sweater finished her conversation with her friend and started towards me. "No!" I thought, but did not say, but my hands tightened around my wheels. I would not be pushed. I would not have this taken from me. I wanted to finish. I prepared for the confrontation between interference and independence.
But, in the end, I took her help.
In the end, I was grateful for it.
Because what she did, for me in that moment, mattered.
She got close to me, leaned down and whispered, "You got this!" Then she turned and left.
And I realized that I did, I did have it in me to finish.
I began pushing again, harder, like my muscles had fed on the encouragement. And I made it to the top.
Yes, the hours in the gym paid off. Yes, the hours of time at home on the wheelchair treadmill paid off. Yes, my dedication to making myself stronger paid off.
But a word of encouragement.
That's the kind of help I really need from time to time.
I have learned from this. Sometimes the only help people need is our belief in their ability to do it on their own. Sometimes the only help people need is room to succeed. Sometimes, not always, but sometimes. In our busy lives we can forget to give what's needed and simply take other's victories from them as if they were unnecessary bother.
"You got this," she said.
And I did get it, in every possible way.