Sunday, March 13, 2016
I am a passionate traveler and avid outdoors fan. When MS eventually changed from a diagnosis to my reality, I entered a new life as a wheelchair user. For an active person such as myself, the loss of mobility is accompanied by a loss of identity. How could I answer the question, "Did I like to backpack?" when, of course, I did, but the plethora of lesions on my spinal cord rendered me physically unable to do so. So, I set about the long process of recreating a life and an identity for my new reality. I figured out what many people with wheelchairs already know: you can do many of the things you once did as an able-bodied person -- just differently. I started this journey by participating in the adaptive skiing program at Outdoors for All, a local organization offering programs in outdoor activities to people with disabilities. From there on, I discovered other local organizations specializing in activities for disabled participants: Footloose (sailing), Little Bit (horse riding), and Pushing Boundaries (exercise). With the help of an engineering and enterprising spouse, as well as helpful relatives, outdoor activities, such as hiking, camping, kayaking, and cycling could all be a part of my life again. By engaging in a little creative reframing, eschewing vanity and pride, taking advantage of existing resources, designing needed new ones, accepting help from strangers and friends, I rediscovered a purpose, an identity, and a joy.