Yesterday I thought I had it in me to make 4K. I’d done some smaller pushes but had topped out at 2.6K. But I was itching to try for 4 and I’d arranged it so that I had time to give it a try. These things can be boring for Joe but he knew it was important to me so had arranged to walk with me some of the way but to go off and do other things when he felt the need to. You see, I can’t talk to him when I’m pushing, I have to just simply push.
We were at the mall that we go to do to his, a place that is well known for it’s mall walking program primarily because it’s a really big mall. One circuit is 1.3K. Their map marks out different lengths of walks. I had the pathway in my head and I started. I made the first round in 31 minutes, which, for me, is a record. But on the second round, something changed.
As I went round it seemed that I caused a ripple as I went round. People turned. People gawked. People spat out hateful words. I went by a group of small boys with their dad, they saw me and began a loud, “Look how fat he is dad, look, look, look!!” One boy asked his dad how come I was so fat, his father answered simply, “Fat people are just really lazy.” I was on my second round of an attempt to do 4K in a heavy wheelchair and being called lazy.
Next up were a couple of women, who watched me approach and as I went by one said to the other, “That is a whole lot of ugly on wheels,” and they both howled with laughter as I went by. It was said for me to hear, it was said for all around to hear, and others, a lot of others, joined in the laughter.
As I approached the food court a man was sitting with a baby carriage in front of him, they were directly in my path. I began to change the direction of my chair to go around them, when he pulled the carriage in and out of my way, just I was about to breathe out a ‘thank you’ he said, “Must be awful to always be inconveniencing people.” Inconveniencing people?! I was pulling around him, he chose to move. And since when in simply being considerate and inconvenience?
There was a brief spell of nothing, people were either rushing in or rushing out of the mall thorough the the big exit doors there and I enjoyed the quiet and the temporary spate of invisibility. I pushed on and I pushed hard. There’s good flooring there and I could make good time. The respite would prove to be temporary, it picked up again.
I felt as if I was swimming through hate.
But I didn’t stop.
Until I couldn’t push a bit farther. I knew where the 3.25K mark was and I aimed for that. I got there and as it happened Joe joined me for the last few feet of my push. I came to a stop and told him that I simply couldn’t do the last .75K. Everything hurt. My thumbs hurt. I propel this body and my chair with my thumbs. I had to ask Joe to push me to the washroom because when I stopped my body seized up. Coming out of the washroom, where I had used the privacy to do some cool down stretches as well as the TMI stuff, and I was able to push myself to the food court for a bite to eat, a bottle of water, and rest.
I told Joe what had happened and what people had said, he told me that he had heard some of it. He wondered why I didn’t react. I told him that I wasn’t there that day for anyone but me. I wasn’t there to confront anyone’s prejudice. I wasn’t there to be an educational opportunity for the mean spirited or the bigots. I was there to accomplish a goal, which I very nearly did.
But I also told him that it made the pushing harder, it was like the air became heavier and the pushes took more energy, simply because I had the work of pushing the chair forward while pushing my anger and my hurt and my words of response to the side. It wasn’t easy.
In the end I did a personal best even while surrounding people at their personal worst.