I imagine that to go through life effortlessly on the first tack, then to acquire a disability on the downwind run, is a bit like sailing with an unskilled crew who stalls the boat in irons as you push the tiller to turn into the wind. Physically, mentally, emotionally – you stop. Perhaps it’s a momentary pause but what if stalls you too long? Your boat slaps against the incoming waves, everything bangs around noisily above you, floundering in irons you lose the wind from your sails. You are no longer winning in the race, other boats pass ahead. Without caution, without fortune, perhaps your team stays at reset in irons endlessly. As an Occupational Therapist, I have gone through Irons with family members who have appeared stuck in the same psychology and physical movement patterns, without energy to keep pushing for more. Trying one wellness method failed, pain returned, and disability continued to anchor their soul to an island they wished they could see beyond.
According to Richard Bode, who wrote First You Have to Row A Little Boat, if you are a winner you seem to carry the momentum of the past with you into your future successes (51). Personally, I can relate to this from my work on AutismSees, LLC; I kept having serendipitous encounters that would carry the team to a new discovery or a funding source. One such encounter is detailed below:
I was walking through Central Park in New York City and sat down on a park bench while my friend used the restroom. I bent down to the pet this lady’s dog who was next to me and struck up some small talk for a moment. When I mentioned to her that I lived in Boston, she told me how her husband had managed an investment firm for entrepreneurs and that she now managed his wealth, the firm, their apartment near Central Park, and was caring for her daughter, who had autism. We talked about my company and she offered me her contact information to potentially invest in my business. I called her a couple of times later that week and followed up even a few months after, but I never heard from her. However, I walked away from that encounter that day in shock. What a happenstance! I was held in a state of disbelief at the happy coincidence for the rest of my walk through Central Park. Are these chance encounters, or are these the types of occurrences that can happen throughout life if you sail in a favorable wind, a state of flow, one that aligns with your heart’s course?
However, the storm inevitably hits – we don’t live in a fairytale everyday. What goes up, comes down. I’ve felt inertia set in, the feeling of losing the wind from my sails, the quickening of my pulse to the realization that I’ve been surpassed by outside forces. My business might fail – we acquired debt and could not meet our milestones in time. I’ve felt the pressure of failure and self destruction upon my chest. I’ve also felt hope. I’ve felt the tendency to draw into myself, to watch my thoughts turn into a dark storm casting shadows on sails.
If I was struck with insurmountable physical limitation one day, I would mourn my old self, just like I’ve mourned the loss of my past life working to create a new technology with a team that had to be created from scratch. Those were the days I was baker in the kitchen, a conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra – floating and flying on the high notes and lifted through the darker melodies of the low notes, riding on what Richard Bode calls momentum. Do you feel like this about your life? Do you mourn an old version of yourself? Are you stuck in the past, unable to incorporate what life has thrown your way lately?
I do not know what is like to live with a disability, but I have watched my mother live with one. My cousin live with one. My ex-boyfriend live with one. I have seen the reflections of the mind in emptiness and self-pity. I have seen the mind who lives in joy, hope, perseverance. In life, we either seek moments of transcendence, or we spend our days searching for a way to abandon the weighted, keel-bottom ship – or blame her for our losses.
I hope that I can bring my insight from my journey into future client relationships, so that (although I may appear to be a therapist of youth and ability, incapable of understanding the aging process, the burden of pain, the wearisomeness of lack) I might be understood otherwise by my clients. I know that I need to seek to understand more than to be understood. But, writing still feels good. A form of self-expression, of sharing the process.