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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Conquering the Wall


            One of my favorite activities at deaf-blind camp is wall climbing.  Despite my blindness  and physical disabilities, I love to climb that wall.  It's a personal challenge.  It's a way to prove to myself that I can do anything I set my mind on.  Conquering the wall is like overcoming  all doubts about myself.  It's measurable proof that I can succeed in life.

            I probably would never  have  even considered  attempting to climb the wall if it hadn't been for my SSP the first year I attend camp.   I was still in a wheel chair much of the time.  I was weak and couldn't walk far.  It seemed silly that she would even suggest I climb the wall.  She was a great SSP.  She believed I could do anything and gave me the encouragement I needed to try.

            So I did it.  They strapped me into the harness and up I went... sort of.  My hands and feet kept  slipping off the wall and I'd find myself hanging in the harness.  They probably pulled me up more than I actually climbed.  Talk about major wedgie.  But I got up there and that alone was thrilling.  I was shocked when they brought me  down and I was able to see just how high  I had climbed.  I was about half way up the wall when I quit.

            It excited me.  I felt good.  I  was proud of my unexpected achievement.  I was basking in the praise of others  around me who had witnessed the climb.  It was a special moment for me.

            During my second year at camp, I was  ready to try again.  So much in my life was out of control by then.  The wall was something that I could control.  It was me and the wall and nothing was going to stop me.

            A very nice woman was working at the wall that year.  She actually climbed up with me and helped place my hands and feet on the pegs.  This time, I was actually able to climb more than hang.   Suddenly, everything I had achieved in a year was quite clear to me.  I was obviously stronger.  Climbing that wall was proof to me that I was still getting better.  It was something I really needed to know.  The wall answered those questions for me.

            I was beyond determined.  I would get to the top of that wall and nothing would stop me.  Deaf-blindness would not stop me.  Physical limitations would not stop me.  An abusive husband would not stop me.  I would conquer it all.

            Well, I didn't make it to the top.  I was one peg short.  I just couldn't get  to the last peg no matter how much I tried.  I didn't know it was the last one at the time.  If I had, I'd probably still be there today trying to make it up.

            Although I didn't reach the top, I still felt like I was on top of the world.  I went so much higher than I had the year before.  I really was better.  Everyone was so amazed by my accomplishment.  I was the talk of camp that day.  I was so proud and happy.

            Another year went by.  At my third year at camp, I was so eager to climb the  wall that I was the very first person there.  Since we were the first  camp session of the season, I was the first person that year to  climb the wall.  It didn't go well.

            The guy working the wall was a jerk.  He wouldn't help in any way.  I couldn't find the pegs.  He hadn't dusted off the wall or cleared the debris.  There were twigs and dead leaves all over the pegs.  My hands kept slipping off.  I finally  gave up in defeat.

            That was a dark moment for me.  All my hopes were on the wall.  I needed  to climb that wall to prove something to myself.  Instead, I proved that I was a failure.  I wasn't any better.  I wasn't stronger.  I couldn't even climb a stupid wall.  How was I supposed to face the  harsh realities of  my life?

            I didn't attend camp for the next three years.  I wanted to, but there was too much going on at the time.  I had finally left my abusive husband.  We were in the midst of a heated divorce and nasty custody battle.  I had to  stay home with my son.  It's where I was most needed.

            Life is calmer now.  My divorce is final and I won custody of my son.  After three years, he's secure enough that it would be okay for me to leave for one week.  So I was  finally able to return  to camp.

            It happened this year.  I did it.  I finally conquered the wall.  The amazing part  is that I  never  even touched the thing.  I didn't have to.  I no longer needed to.

            The wall that I climbed at camp was just a symbol.  It was something there I could challenge.  It was safe.  It wouldn't retaliate.  Each peg up represented a step in trying to control a most uncontrollable life.  But it was never real. 

            Eventually, I challenged the real monsters in my life.  I faced the real problem.  As scary as it was, I was determined to come out ahead.  It took years.  One step at a time.  But in the end, I  found my peace and happiness.  That's what really matters.

            The wall... It's just a wall now.  It's a game.  It's something fun. I  let the younger and stronger campers have the wall this year.  I don't need three days of sore muscles to prove to myself that I can succeed.  I know I can.  I conquered the real wall.  I conquered the real world.


(Written  on July 1, 2009)


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