Many of us have heard the story of the rocks in a jar. A professor fills a large jar with rocks and asks his students if the jar is full. Yes. Then he fills it with pebbles. Okaay. Then sand. Full now? Ummm. Then he pours water into the jar. I’ve often wondered what else he could have done. What if he heated the water? Isn’t steam and air filling up the spaces too?
The lesson is about perspective. It’s easy to see the obvious: The rocks. The hurdles. But is that all there is? How do we focus on the unseen potential, the nooks and crannies that can be filled with a myriad of other things?
Last weekend, I hung out with some runners who live in the unseen spaces. Literally. A team of five legally blind athletes decided to challenge a 125-kilometre course of mountain trails that included three summits, multiple creek crossings, roots, rocks, and so much mud. It gets better. They were not trained for the terrain at all. At. All. (…I’m not entirely sure how a blind runner trains for this…). But they finished. Every one of them. They fell, they swore, they laughed, maybe cried? Even without meeting the cutoff for a medal, they never once considered stopping. 25 hours later, they crossed the finish line.
There were rocks: literally, yes, but also…they couldn’t see! So, that’s kind of obvious and hard to get around. And that would stop most people. Then there were pebbles: they didn’t have the right terrain for training. No, the Gatineaus in Ottawa – as picturesque as they are – no, they will not prepare you for the Rockies. There was sand: no trail gear and not much understanding of how to fuel or pace for mountain running.
But then there was water…five guides who poured their time and energy and enthusiasm and seeing-outside-themselves to be eyes for others. Guiding is not easy. It’s hard and taxing and work. I’ve paced, not even close to the same thing but as close as I can figure, and there have been moments on those trails with a whiny, suffering racer that I’ve considered leaving him (Todd) for dead. Still, the guides who have a much harder job than pacing – they keep positive energy and intent focus for the sake of another. Water to fill the unseen spaces.
And finally, there was air. So much air! Good natured, high humoured, always adaptable, completely unflappable air. Indomitable spirits that settled into all the spaces, filling each tiny crack with energy and potential.
I apologize that this blog has taken an unexpected poetic turn, not intended. The words follow their own path and sometimes the indescribable is only found in art form. What I know that requires no flowery prose is that there are no excuses. None. Our lives are not limited. They are limitless. We don’t focus on what we can’t do. We find a way to do what we can. My own life, which I thought had been lived beyond limits before my injury and then far too limited since then, has been redefined. I am no longer interested in what I can’t do right now. I am very interested in doing everything I can with what I have. Life without limits. There are no excuses.
With gratitude to Blind Team “now you see us, now we don’t” – Bronwyn and her husband/guide Adam, Peter with my husband/his guide Todd, Shelley with guide George, Richard with guide Rebecca, and the ringleader/inspirateur Diane with guide Cheryl.