Recently someone told me they had read a book about a person with a brain injury (maybe a stroke) who loved to ski but couldn't. At some point, someone determined that this person could snowboard instead and it changed their life - it was freeing to them. So the person said, "I bet that's how you feel when you go skiing."
Well, sometimes... the times when everything connects and I'm cruising. But isn't that true for most people? I hurt my shoulder and had shoulder surgery over a year ago. Knowing I had a bad shoulder, I developed a habit this ski season which made my shoulder worse, so skiing became a bit frustrating although at one point, a few years ago, it was freeing.
Same thing with handcycling. It was freeing to climb a big hill near our house and then go down. I trained to climb a mountain called Vail Pass and it was freeing to fly down it. But that's how I hurt my shoulder - training to go up to Vail. So the freedom of handcycling isn't the same now - I have to be careful.
So what then is freeing now? It's about discovery - finding something new - maybe that something finds me.
For me, the something has been, probably surprising to others, more powerful than the freedom I once felt when skiing or handcycling. It's not that fast - it's not zooming down a hill. It started 2 days after I started taking Ampyra, when I could stand at 5pm talking to my mom, and my legs still worked. It resulted in a bunch of new freedoms... some would be surprised that these are more freeing than skiing or handcycling, but they are...
- Visiting Mt. Rushmore, holding binoculars steadily with both hands without losing my balance - core muscles were working. I don't think most people are quite as excited to see Mt. Rushmore. Freedom: stability.
- Frisbee! Our family had a picnic and as usual, brought the frisbee, which I usually only catch if it hits me in the stomach and accidentally lands on my lap. But this summer, I could reach for the frisbee, grab it, and not drop it. Freedom: balance.
- I go to weekly PT and walk on a special treadmill that holds my upper body. It's helped my walking. I can walk further - not pretty, but it's walking. Freedom: mobility.
- I actually have a standing frame. I have a crank and I go from sitting to standing and it holds me. Standing straight involves a ton of muscles and I took this all for granted at one point. But I'm getting better at standing straight and it feels fantastic. Freedom: getting back things once taken for granted.
So freedom, and being free. I suppose I surprise myself by saying that the most profound freedom is getting things back that I don't think I even realized I had lost. Sure, I knew I couldn't walk. But I didn't realize I wasn't sitting straight, that people can reach and catch frisbees while sitting, that I could stand much straighter.
And a really great part? When I wake up some mornings (not all mornings) and my whole body decides to do a big stretch. I stand and stretch up on my toes and feel all my muscles tense. That is incredibly freeing - simply stretching. It's as if God is saying "reach for me."
I look up. There's an invisible hand. It's guiding me through life.