I have never maneuvered a wheelchair, not permanently anyway. I briefly hung a handicap sticker in my windshield after an auto-pedestrian accident during my high school years. As dramatic as that sounds, I've never known how it feels (mentally or physically) to lose a limb or one of my senses. I've never endured impolite stares at a body that looks and functions a little differently. But I'd like to think that with my own challenges and circumstances, I've adopted some of the same fiery, sauciness that loves to prove naysayers wrong. It manifests itself in the phrase, "Just tell me I can't!"
This last month, I spent my "down time" absorbing some more Olympic spirit, this time in the form of the Paralympic Games in Tokyo. As you know, the Olympics are my creme brûlée, and the Paralympics are the ultimate cherry on top. The athletes possess incredible stories of triumph and overcoming adversity. (Most of it well before training for the games began!) But Paralympic coverage was a little harder to find on TV; the athletes' accomplishments weren't splashed onto the front page of major publications and websites. The interviews seemed few and far between. In fact, you might not have even known that they took place at the end of August.
Athletes from all nations and backgrounds with various levels of disabilities competed to stand (or sit) on top of the podium. Men and women born without limbs, military veterans with traumatic amputations, others with acute and chronic degenerative diseases--all competed for glory. It challenged them. It drove them towards a goal. Like any other Olympian, just to compete on such a stage fulfilled a lifelong dream.
What they did with their bodies was nothing short of amazing.
Swimming without arms or legs? Just tell me I can't!
Sprinting for the finish line alongside a guide because everything in front of you is dark? Just tell me I can't!
Using your toes to shoot or your mouth to hold a paddle? Just tell me I can't!
I watched these incredible athletes pushing past the limitations on their bodies. I witnessed sheer grit and determination to overcome any obstacle, any difficulty. I WANT that. I want to apply that same outlook to my life.
One athlete gave an interview about a challenge she experienced in her training. She fell off of her bike on a trail not far from her home. For anyone, a fall creates a minor setback. For someone with her disability, the healing took a little longer, which meant that rigorous training had to wait. Still, there she was. Only a few months later. When she reached the finish line, she didn't win the gold medal for her country. She didn't even make it to the podium. She celebrated her accomplishments like no one was watching. Her teammates hugged her like she'd broken a world record. She pulled herself into the stands, applauding her own efforts. Yeah, sister! (My tears were flowing--not even gonna lie!)
What have you been working towards?
Have you started a new semester at school? Are you knee-deep in a brand new workout routine? Potty training that stubborn toddler? Anxious to walk without assistance? Maybe it's something less visible. Have you committed to reading scriptures daily? Are you determined not to raise your voice? Or, are you learning to speak up for yourself?
Most people don't achieve a goal simply because it's easy to do so. Worthwhile goals push us, challenge us, drive us towards something better. To begin, and to begin again and again, means staring down our limitations. Acknowledging them. And then finding a way to push forward regardless.
So you still have young children at home and sleep deprivation haunts you every time you sit in a chair? Note taken. So your body won't move the way it used to? Got it. Your new work schedule is unpredictable and impossible to plan around? I hear you. It's totally understandable. Can you find a way around it? What CAN you do?
Everyone and everything around you might click their tongues and shake their heads. Logic might tell you to let it go. You can't do it right now.
But take an honest look at your circumstances and repeat after me: "Just tell me I can't!!! I am incredible! I will not doubt myself!"
Sure, there might be setbacks. Even lengthy ones. And okay, so what if you don't cross the finish line first? Celebrate like you just did! Embrace each other like we're breaking world records all around us!
For me, I lost two pounds this week. Two pounds! Yeah, me! If you hear Carrie Underwood blaring over my speaker, you know I'm holding my own karaoke party for just a minute.
Let's go over this again. What are you working towards?
It is possible! It will require work. Lots of it. You might need to step outside of your comfort zone or shake the balance of your routine. You might need to change your expectations to be a little more realistic. Let creativity be your best friend. Find ways to work around the obstacles that surround you.
You can do it! You can find a way!
"JUST TELL ME I CAN'T!!" (I just got chills. You fiery, saucy thing, you!)