Happiness. That’s what I had been searching for all along. And happiness is not contingent on whether or not I could walk. To find happiness in my new reality, I went back to the place that had made me happiest—the stables.
I knew so much about equestrian vaulting I decided to become a coach. I thought if I could help others do dance and gymnastics on the back of a moving horse that it would fill that horse part of my identity that I used to have. And, to some degree, it did.
I didn’t get on the horse hardly at all, because I was afraid I really wouldn’t be able to do anything. But one day my mom’s riding partner didn’t show up, and she asked me to sub in and ride the horse. I said yes even though I was afraid of falling off or looking foolish if I couldn’t get the horse to move forward.
Despite my fears, I got on the horse. I didn’t fall off. We walked a little bit, and then we trotted. And I was on cloud nine. I thought, “This piece of me has come back,” and I was so excited. That is, until fear crept back in and I started to think that maybe this was just an anomaly. I had to know that I didn’t just imagine this and that I could in fact get back on a horse and ride.
I Can Do Hard Things
That afternoon, I didn’t let my fear overtake me. My mom was off talking to some friends, and her instructor had left, but I decided that I was going to get back on that horse again whether someone was there to help me or not. So, by myself, I used what I could find in the stable to get the horse ready for me to ride. I couldn’t stand up, so I used a pitchfork to bring down the saddle stored on a top shelf. I used the pitchfork to put the saddle on my horse. I didn’t have anyone to lift me up onto the horse, so I walked the horse around to a fence and climbed the fence rung by rung, with legs dangling, until I could muscle myself onto the horse. It wasn’t easy. It wasn’t pretty. But I did it. And that was the point.
That day I learned that I can do hard things. And I can do hard things using the strengths and abilities that I do have. Just because I’m in a wheelchair doesn’t mean that I can’t do hard things. It just means I do hard things differently, and there’s nothing wrong with that.