Apology Not Accepted
The choices I’ve made weigh heavily on my heart and soul. They keep me awake at night. They inspire me to do the work when my everything screams no. My choices and I are old friends of contention. We are thick as thieves in the predawn awakening hour of my consciousness. They always bring along fear for a fun game of double dare. I’m not sure if i win or lose this game. It feels like a war I never actually fight; more like a battle that might forward the cause - if I were to win.
If I were to emerge victorious… fear banished forever… and me, endlessly capable.
Disability likes to apologize. For getting in the way, for taking time, for even being present sometimes.
“Oh I’m sorry, could you please read that form to me? The font is too small for me to see it.”
“I’m sorry, could you hold the door for me, while I push my chair through?”
“I’m sorry, would you mind picking me up? Dropping me off? Letting me participate? Allowing me feel like a valued member of society?”
I went for a run two weeks ago. The last text I sent before leaving my house in the dark for a solo six miles read
“I’m sick of being sorry”
Seems simple right? I’m tired. Tired of taking up time and feeling undeserving of it. I’m sick of being the last one to raise their hand and bring attention to the things, the inaccessible issues that were forgotten. I’m exhausted with being the afterthought, the retro fitted, the off centre, the last one chosen for the team.
The darkness takes you. It makes you quiet. it wraps around you, welcomes you to be part of the background, to blend in. You can fight it, search for the place of light among the shadows, be the light for a time even; but darkness tends to win. Darkness makes no apology.
Darkness accepts no apology.
Sometimes the sound of my shoes on the road make me uneasy. I tend block out that sound with soft music. I stick to the routes I know, following memorized footsteps around the block, through the neighbourhood I’ve seen a million times. I know the twists and turns, the uphills and curves. I can time out a run to the minute with ease and confidence. I can combine any number of trails or city paths, or sidewalks along the busy sections. I know when to raise my feet more for the seams on the bridges and the curbs that are eroding away. I blend in well with the darkness.
I blend in well with the darkness.
I ask very little of it in return for safe passage. Warning of a rising sun would be nice; although admittedly once every spring I get stranded on a street corner I know that I know, but since I have no sunglasses to buffer the truth of your now awake world, I become frozen. I give the urban wildlife their space. I tread lightly along the edge of hope. I apologize for my intrusion and lack of grace while out there.
“I’m sick of being sorry”
The text rang through my head as I ran. Why does disability apologize? Why do we feel the need. Why am I sorry for merely being here most days? I’m caught in that struggle as I run. What if I wasn’t sorry? What if I just was? Don’t we all struggle? Don’t we all need help from time to time?
“Don’t be afraid to stop and ask for help along the way” a friend says to me while dialoging about fear. The race I picked, the manner I chose, the shear volume of things beyond my control and the weight of all my decisions - oddly this hadn’t occurred to me. Ask for help.
I’m sorry that I might not be able to do that.
“I’m sick of being sorry”
Road cross in the dark. The smell of coffee in the air from the drive through near by. The speed-bumps that give my feet extra reason to rise. Another road cross, and another right turn. Down the road, past the trail I dare not take in the dark alone. Over the last bridge before the subdivisions just beginning to stir.
Left foot, right foot, repeat.
And then movement… across the road, on the other side of the bridge. In the space I can barely distinguish, in the darkness yonder… Movement of a person, two hands on the cement wall, one leg up on the ledge, and jump.
Wait. My brain can’t comprehend. It’s 5:00am on a Saturday. And I’m running. Did I just see that right? Did that guy just jump off this bridge? Into the cold water below? Sure it’s not deep but there are rocks and holy crap I think he just jumped off the bridge!
I took my ear buds out. I finished crossing the bridge, deciding what to do. I got to the lights and waited. Do I call for help? Do I go and check? Do I …
I crossed the road, more at a walk than a run. My right foot had just landed on the opposite sidewalk when I saw this inconceivable thing. The guy who I’d seen jump was clambering back over the edge. How can the even be a thing?
And I’m angry, because I worried. Because I crossed the road to check. Because this guy was obviously high, or drunk or both and playing such dangerous games with the dark.
Two breaths of anger in and out. And time sped up. The guy was angry too. Mad I’d interfered. Mad that I cared? Mad that I stopped? Yelling. Screaming. No traffic on the road. And he’s running, rushing, towards me.
Running for survival is a very different beast. It reminds me I could be free. It whispers hurry hurry in my ear. And the voice from behind me is cursing, is yelling, is threatening to shoot me, to wait there every day to shoot me.
By now I’ve fished my phone from my pocket and, knowing my call will ring on my husbands phone I’ve called him.
“You have to come get me? Please come get me. He’s chasing, he’s yelling. Can’t you hear that?”
Up the road and quick into the subdivision. I’m sorry for waking you. I’m sorry for disrupting the peace and calm that dark can be. The chaser ran out of wind and stopped. He was no where to be seen. I’ve rung a door bell and handed the phone to the home owner and begged to wait inside for Steven. Let me harbour here briefly? I’m sorry to intrude.
The police did not find him or signs of him. The darkness faded to day. The world carried on. The run finished in my head. One step, two step, repeat.
It took me a week to go out alone in the dark. Friends got me miles while the dust settled on my fear again. Sparks of hope glimmer in the ashes. Inspiring stories of friends and trails and happiness kept me going.
A week later on my own again, I couldn’t run that direction. I couldn’t breathe the first three km from the fear that oozed out my pores. You can’t let it cage you, this fear, this helplessness, this neediness.
Parts of my disability will forever create a dependence within me.
"I’m sorry to interrupt your trail run, would you mind calling out ever obstacle for the next 99 miles?”
Do you know how scary it is to cross the shopping mall parking lot to catch that next bus? Do you know how frightening it can be to stand in your doorway in the dark wondering if today you’ll be granted safe passage along your run?
You can’t let it cage you. You can’t let it define you. You mustn’t.
Don’t accept my apology. That is my only ask of you; if we ever meet, don’t accept my apology. I’m not sorry for taking up space. I’m not sorry for trying. I’m not sorry for not letting someone else definition of disability cage me into anything.