If I Couldn’t Walk (The Paralympics Are Here)

When I was a kid, I read the book Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter. The main character, a young girl, has a very sunny outlook on life, which she shares with everyone else in her small town. But her disposition is tested when she gets hit by a car and loses the use of her legs, unable to find anything positive in the situation. Buoyed by the townspeople she helped, Pollyanna is able to turn her initial anger and bitterness around, finding a way to fight through it and make her way in the world.

The story has always stayed with me, but at the time when I first read the book, my thought was, “I’d become a wheelchair racer.”  That was the only sport I knew of where paraplegics could participate; now I know there are a lot more … a whole Olympiad’s worth.

In my time as a Pilates instructor, I have worked with clients dealing with serious injuries and it makes me think again about how I would handle a life-changing injury. Would I mope and become bitter? Or would I rise above my obstacles?

I also had the honor of working with an Olympic figure skating hopeful this past year. I saw his drive, his utter focus on his sport. It was awe-inspiring. His body could micro-adjust to any teaching cue I gave him. His physical strength was amazing to me, not just in one area of his body, but throughout. And his sense of balance and timing? Impeccable. Just wow.

Now imagine this same grace and presence and strength, but on someone with a limitation. A limb not functioning properly or missing entirely. These athletes move with the same fluidity, the same power … it’s humbling and inspiring. Just wow.

So if, heaven forbid, something happens and I wind up partially paralyzed, or blind, or something else, I’m going to try to roll with it. I’m going to try to set an example for my son and my community that you can rise above. That there is still plenty of life to be lived and enjoyed.

Honestly, I think I’d still want to be a wheelchair racer because the whoosh of the wind through my hair just seems like a whole lot of fun.  For the Winter Paralympics, though, I’d go for curling … it’s just such a geeky and cool sport, how can you not love it?

What about you? Do you have a friend or loved one who has struggled with a physical disability? Have you thought about the “what ifs”?  What sport would you do? I’d love to hear your stories.

This post was created in partnership with Citi®. All thoughts and opinions are my own.