“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot
This weekend was Race Weekend in Ottawa. Every year, runners from around the world converge on the city for two days of competition in May. Registration always sells out while there’s still snow on the ground, and more than 46,000 people participate in the races that start Saturday morning and wrap up Sunday afternoon with the marathon.
Ottawa is full of runners – the culture is alive and thriving. The Running Room does well here, and across the city, people talk about what run or marathon they’re training for, why they’re running and how much they really need to run. I’ve seen girlfriends shed pounds, find peace of mind in hectic lives, and gain confidence by running, and I know it’s a positive activity for many around me.
Most of the time when I stumble into a conversation with a
convert runner, I smile and nod and compliment their dedication. But every year around this time I feel a twinge of jealousy as the weather gets nice, and the Rideau Canal pathways start to get congested with spandex clad, water bottle carrying, stop watch toting runners. I pass them on my drive to work in the morning, and then again in the afternoon on my commute home. They run in the evening, and there are always a few out late at night. The running talk starts at work, on twitter and Facebook, and at social events. I continue to nod politely in conversation and gently try to change the subject.
I can’t run. Walking is really quite an accomplishment some days. If I could run, would I? I don’t know. But I resent that I can’t.
I wasn’t diagnosed with CIDP until I was 24 years old. Doctors speculate about a missed diagnosis when I was 12, and wonder if my condition went untreated for more than a decade. *More on that another day*
Through my teen and young adult years, I was moody, and skinny and a little melancholy. I was a klutz, kind of awkward and not into sports. I was one of those girls that wanted to work on the yearbook, so I could get out of gym class.
I didn’t exercise apart from walking (as pre-teens/teens do, because they don’t yet drive) and I just wasn’t very physically active. This was always attributed (even by me) to my countenance and not my physical condition. I didn’t do these things, because I didn’t want to.
The question I often ask now is: Is that true? Did I opt out of physical activities because I was moody and sullen, or did I opt out because I was weak, uncoordinated and tired, which contributed to my moody or sullen disposition and in turn caused my “I don’t want to” attitude, instead of coping out with an “I can’t”? The truth is, probably a little bit of both I suspect.
The logical next question for me becomes: Who would I have been if I hadn’t fallen ill? This sort of navel gazing is reserved for platforms such as this blog and I try not to spend too much time in the past. What’s done is done. No mashing of teeth, wringing of hands, or sleepless nights are going to change what is. But to ignore any potential correlation between who I wanted to be, my physical condition, and who I have become doesn’t seem to work for me either.
Because of this, I unpack these questions for a while and toss them around. I try to find something useful out of the pursuit, something I can learn about myself, and then I pack them back up and carry on. Sometimes I find it cathartic, and sometimes I find it depressing.
Maybe I wanted to be a track and field star? An Olympic swimmer? A dance teacher? Maybe I would have been a wood worker, or a mechanic? I’ve often thought that I’m most happy when I’m creating something or fixing something with me hands – such as they are.
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that even fully able bodies aren’t able to will themselves into being sport stars. But baby, maybe “I coulda been a contender”.
More in the realm of possibility, I would have the opportunity now, as my peers do, to “take up” running, or mountain climbing, or knitting, or …welding! More recently, I have become acutely aware of the things that I cannot do. It’s been hard for me to realize that there are things that I would in fact, like to do, but can’t.
I’ve used “I don’t want to” as armour against the disappointment of “I can’t”, or more accurately “I’m scared I won’t be able to”.
It’s been even more difficult for me to either accept that there are things in this category that I will never do, or to work up the courage and energy to advocate for myself and to find ways that I can.
I’ve tried to adopt the position that I should do what I can with what I have. Grow where I’m planted, and any other of those appropriate platitudes. But, I’m afraid that I may have actually adopted the settle for the way things are mentality. The stay alive but maybe not thrive attitude. And that’s not working.
It’s time to again start trying things I want to do, even if I’m afraid that I won’t be able to do them. It’s time to admit that I want to, but don’t know if I can. It’s time to start investigating workarounds for the things I want to do, not just the things I need to do day to day. It’s time to start living and not just existing.
The first step is realizing there’s a problem. On to the next…