What We Are by Mary Statham
I did the kayaking portion of the Ski to Sea race this year with Troy as my pilot. It felt really great at first, and I know I said “I remember now, I’m good at this!” Just past the first checkpoint, I also said that it was starting to feel like work. Troy just said “Well, how about some music, then.” For those of you who don’t know me yet, I sing. I sing at any possible occasion, and really, what’s better than a captive audience? So I sang, and suddenly found that it didn’t really matter that my arms were tired or my toes were asleep. It stopped being about racing, and became, once again, about joy. It was amazing to finish, to help carry that kayak over the line and be with people who had never doubted me for a second.
Then, predictably, my blood sugar crashed and the world got a little muddy and uncomfortable. CRIS folks noticed right away, and came to the rescue with juice and pop. I was sitting on the bench with Lynette and I suddenly realized that it was okay to be how I am with these people. I have fought with shame over my disabilities, and I’m certain I can’t be the only one. It’s not easy to need people when I am so fiercely independent. CRIS has taught me that it’s safe to trust other people with my needs and frailties, and safe to be who and how I am. That safety is beyond price, and it’s part of what makes risk possible.
When I got home, I posted on Facebook about the race, sharing my pride and pain both. A dear friend told me that I amaze her, that she couldn’t understand how I could just hop in a boat and go. I thought then that for someone who doesn’t think of herself as an athlete, I do an awful lot of athletic things. The definitions of who I am have changed drastically since I first started going out into the world with CRIS. I did not imagine myself as someone who would ‘hop in a boat’ or bike down from Big White, or paddle the Bowron Lakes. I’m all those things, now. Who we are depends in part upon who we trust, and on what we dare to do. CRIS continues to give me opportunities to expand that definition. I’m grateful for the chance to evolve my self-definition, to become more and different than I had ever imagined. I’m proud, too, to be part of CRIS, to be able to speak for the power of their work and commitment. Who they are is pretty amazing, too.