Yesterday I drug myself (inwardly kicking and screaming) to the gym for a run around the running track. It was more for my mood than anything. The snow and cold settles in, and I fight the winter blues.
The first kilometre was a battle inwardly to get my bad attitude in check. Suck it up princess. By the second KM I found my pace, and the stress started to melt away. It was on the third KM when I noticed a man walking ahead of me in an unsteady but fiercely determined sort of way. Directly in front of him, a woman walked backwards in support holding two canes, should he need them. His expression was full of grit and will with each step he took. Every time I passed him, my respect and awe for his fierce spirit grew.
By the fourth KM, the pain of an old running injury gripped my knee. I pushed on to finish the 5K, but I was discouraged. It took months previously for this injury to heal enough to run consistently and I wasn’t excited to go home and ice my knee. Running is really the only cardio I enjoy. The thought of having to use an elliptical or a spin bike fills me with dread. It’s a little over dramatic, yes, but running is like therapy I swear. The time just flies by.
After I finished my run, I stood to the side of the running track catching my breath and wiping the sweat off my forehead. I noticed the man whom I had yet to speak to, but already respected, sitting on the bench with the supportive woman. He had kind eyes and a contagious smile.
He asked me how to read the chart behind him which detailed each lane’s distance, so he could figure out how far he had walked. It was only then as we were talking that I noticed he had a prosthetic leg. He explained to me that he was taking his new leg out for a spin, as he hadn’t had it for very long. With enough enthusiasm to light up a room, he told me he was enjoying the freedom of being able to walk again now that he is no longer confined to a wheel chair.
It hit me like a ton of bricks. Here I was running with annoyance worrying about a silly knee injury when at the very same time, this amazing man walked the same track filled with gratitude for the gift of being able to walk again. I felt small, petty and ridiculous.
He interrupted my thoughts with a story about a girl he met as he was going through rehabilitation. She was my age and she had also lost a limb. She was filled with rage and anger over her loss, and her enraged attitude, however valid it was, negatively affected her rehabilitation. She was so focussed on her anger and the one thing that she absolutely could not change, that she lost all focus on her recovery. He told me how bad he felt for her that she couldn’t embrace her new reality.
We talked a little more about life, and we said our good-byes. I made my way downstairs to do some weights, and I assumed he was done his exercise for the day. I can’t imagine how much energy would be required to learn to walk again. But out of the corner of my eye, there he was doing weights to build up his strength. Every station he went to, the supportive woman followed and they talked and laughed as he worked.
As I left the gym, he was still doing weights. I sat in my car in the parking lot and took a moment to soak in the lesson he had just taught me. We are blessed my friends. Every time I think there’s no time to stay active and take care of my body, I will remember him and his fierce determination. He considered the ability to walk as a gift and it just shouldn’t be taken for granted.
I hope I see you again strong, determined, full-of-the-zest-for-life man with the contagious smile. I was so wrapped up in your amazing story that I forgot to ask your name. Thank you for sharing. I will never forget you.
From my heart to yours,