Good evening folks! I thought I’d share a piece of writing more like what will be in the Sickybeat book!
My 2014 rock climbing adventure follows. Longish post, so you have been warned
When people see me pass by in the mall or grocery store, I can nearly guarantee they don’t think, “I’ll bet she likes rock climbing!” the boxy walker I stand inside virtually assures my guarantee to be accurate. But, I DO love rock climbing, and I’ve climbed more than one wall. I had the assistance of two friends, and my heart was pounding in a way I’d never felt before or replicated in the years since, but the exhaustion was liberating.
Co-dependence has been much of the story of my life, Cerebral Palsy can do that. Day-to-day life is enough work that caregivers don’t have energy left for their own self-care let alone the adventures I dream of undertaking. However, I’m a dreamer, a planner, a problem-solver, and a doer; there is nothing I have wanted to accomplish that I have left undone. When a hospital employee I walked the halls with talked about her rock-climbing hobby I knew I wanted to try it.
When my hall walking buddy suggested that we could go to a local rock gym together and that she would help me try out climbing, I had my doubts. Nonetheless, I threatened to hold her to her word. over the next few days this friend was my nurse’s CNA, and I was eager to solidify details of our plan. My surgeon confirmed that it should be safe for me to go climbing if I waited six weeks after release so that my stomach was fully healed from the surgery I’d undergone.
Afraid my friend would forget about me, I convinced her to send me an email with the covert intention of saving her email address in order to remind her of our agreement after I’d healed. One by one I counted the days as they rolled on back home. My surgery had failed before the requisite six weeks passed but rock climbing couldn’t make the pain any worse, it wasn’t possible. Thus, I began a persistent game of email-tag to pin down a date for climbing.
The fact that my friend had a life, and a job really got in the way of my desire for an immediate climb. I am not a patience person, that’s why I was born at twenty-four weeks, the point in my life at which I wanted to rock-climb was a particularly patience-restricted time. I had no life to speak of; everything fell into one of three groups, food restriction, calorie burning, and burning calories as I paced around whatever hospital I was in at that moment. This would be the first time in a year that I’d happily participated in anything with friends. Sure, it would take a hell of a lot of energy, but the activity was done for fun, not any of my punitive ritualistic marches et al.
I was awaiting the letdown. She would put off and put off until we lost contact, that was my base expectation of the large majority of people. When she agreed to meet me at a rock gym the week after I’d emailed her about it my anxiety didn’t subside. As was my M.O. I began to worry anew; something would happen to stop our plans. I could get immobilized by a puking bug; she could get in a car crash! Anything would stop my word from spinning.
My sense of panic only lowered when I was at the rock gym, with momma and not just one friend from the hospital, but another gentleman I knew as a CNA. Getting into the gear, I felt alive, happy, and playful, it was almost foreign. One person climbed up behind me as I tackled the first wall, he had to lift my leg from one “Rock” to the next, most of the way up, and he did it so that most of the work was still mine. I pushed and pulled my body and lifted my foot as far as I could get it to go, before he pushed it the last inch. Or two, maaaybe. I hadn’t climbed half way up one wall before I felt compelled to turn my head and look down at Artemis. “I hate admitting you’re right mom. But, with as hard as my heart is thundering right now, I probably didn’t need to take that forty-five-minute walk before we got here. This is definitely a workout.”
My tiny heart’s pounding didn’t stop me from forcing my seventy-five-pound body up two full walls before calling it a wrap. I needed to have one victory during the year. I was twenty-four and adults are supposed to accomplish things. While I was getting help to de-strap I had a sense that it was possible to conquer all things, even the demons that drove my illogical and unhealthy behaviors. For that day I was human again.
The song in my soul would not claim freedom for six more years, but those rare shocks of “Happy-Dance-Enthuisiasm” were enough to energize me to continue climbing back into myself.