Just. Keep. Swimming. (DCA)

Everyone loves Pixar movies. What we also like to embrace here in DCA is the act of swimming through the air. Humidity is no joke. So we jump right into SWIM PRACTICE. Swim on, DC, swim on. Today’s blog post is brought to you by one of our own that’s been a huge inspiration to me and others around her. She also embraces the mantra of “just keep swimming”. Soon she’ll be joining the mothership in Boston and we will miss her huge smile and great hugs. Be sure to check out the ANNOUNCEMENTS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE, but for now, here’s the story of Meg:

I first learned about the November Project last fall and always “planned” to participate. Actually, longed to join is a better way to describe what I was feeling. My interest was similar to that of a young girl with a basketball eagerly awaiting her turn on the court but never having the courage to say “I got next!”  Friends and acquaintances regularly attended the workouts and raved about their experiences.  They spoke about PR Week, dudes named Danny and Steve, and kept posting “fuck yeah” as a hashtag. I was immensely confused yet intrigued enough to want to try it out.

However, I was terrified. The posted pictures showed amazingly fit people with huge smiles on their faces in the midst of difficult workouts. To me, those pictures didn’t reflect a group of people who might welcome someone like me…overweight, out of shape, and physically weak. I didn’t want to hold anyone back or embarrass myself. I was certain that I couldn’t complete such workouts without looking like a fool.

I hated thinking about what I was missing because I remember and appreciate my recent progress. Four years ago at this time, I was doing everything possible to get out of a wheelchair and walk on two feet again.  I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in August 2001 and had experienced few significant issues. My run of good fortune changed in June 2010 when I woke up and couldn’t walk. I battled for nearly nine months to move from wheelchair to walker to cane and finally to unassisted locomotion.  After that experience, most people wouldn’t believe that I harbored such deep fear and doubt, but that fear and doubt is what kept me from attending a November Project workout for over eight months.

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My first workout was in early June. Nervously walking towards the Lincoln Memorial, I realized that these people knew each other well, and I was an outsider…or so I thought. Chris Gray was the first person to introduce himself, and when I extended my hand towards his, I was suddenly enveloped in a sweaty bear hug…at 5:25 am. The first workout was rough and upon finishing (barely!), I simply wanted to get the hell away from everyone, swearing never to return. However, the next week was PR Week, and I wanted to experience it at least once before quitting even though I had no idea what PR Week entailed. Reluctantly and fearfully, I showed up the next week to complete thirteen Lincoln logs up and down the Lincoln Memorial for my first PR Week experience.

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Honestly, at log eight, only my pride kept the tears and sobbing at bay. I had five logs to complete, and so many people were finished or about to finish their sets. By the time I reached eleven, I was humiliated and ready to take my ball and go home, but my friend Efua (AMADOU!!!) decided to keep me company for those final two. Everyone was gathering for the group photo when I was ready to start my last log, and I humbly sensed they were waiting for me to finish. Feeling defeated, I told Danny and Steve that I would finish my last log after the photo, so everyone didn’t have to wait for me.

Without reservation, Danny said, “The picture can wait. Finish your log.” Those seven words proved that the November Project IS for me and there’s a place for everyone at these workouts. I now attend workouts feeling welcome and comfortable. They are still difficult. I may still be the slowest and weakest, but I never feel alone or unsupported.

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I’ve only been a member of the tribe for two months and will be moving to the Boston area later in August, but knowing Boston has a strong and vibrant November Project tribe helps to make this transition a bit less jarring for me. I will miss my DC tribe but will see them again in mere months. I have a date with a few Lincoln logs at the end of December to demonstrate my determination and improvement.

These workouts serve as my constant reminder of how far I’ve come and recognition of how far I can go. Yeah, the MS may cause my body to fail in unknown ways at a future point, but in the meantime, I’m doing what I can while I can.  I continually struggle with acknowledging and heeding the manifestation of any physical limitations, but when I walk or modify an exercise, there is no shame of self or pitiful glances from others. There’s always a high five, a sweaty hug, or words and nods of encouragement.

Why? Because I show up and work to be better each workout than I was during the last. It takes courage to start and determination to continue, but it is worth it. Even on those days when the unwelcome squatter in my body known as MS is causing a ruckus, when I hear “y’all good?!” the only response is “FUCK YEAH!”

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

FRIDAY: East side of the Captiol Building, 6:30AM. The theme is RECESS. GET READY.

AUGUST 17th, 6pm: Better Than Bedtime…details coming tomorrow.

I’m holding two water bottles hostage. If you’ve made it this far, comment on the facebook album “I solemnly swear not to leave anything at a workout besides a sweat puddle”

 

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