Lis’ Speech: Not what people were expecting, but she got an ovation anyway!

12 02 2008

Hello.  My name is Karin and I was at Lis’ speech today.  We’ve known each other for around five years and she’s part of the reason I got off my butt.  I asked her if she would post her words and she didn’t think they would mean anything, but if I thought it was OK I could.  I taped the speech and here it is. 

The Setting is a small stage with seating for about 500 and is full.  The audience are people concerned with injuries that heard this was happening.  The speakers have gone on about how hard life is for people who are injured and how their lives have forever changed.  For those whom haven’t seen her for a while, she looks trim and athletic.  She’s got some sort of a cold, but dressed in black with a white shirt Our Girl looks like a panther ready to pounce.  She’s sitting with other people who were in our group who all look like dowdy boy and girl pigs.  She almost looks like Aeon Flux in jeans!  Black two in heels, slim black slacks, white shirt, black motorcycle jacket with silver and that kicky hair. 

“Hi.  My name is Lis and I’m really not supposed to be here.  Not because I’m some medical miracle, but mainly because everyone is talking about support systems and I’m single… hold on … I’m not explaining myself well.  Let me tell you about my day. (She takes off her jacket and tosses it on the stool)

This morning, I got to work and started doing about half a dozen things at once.  Of those things I had to do, I tried to outline a speech for you about how support groups and stuff affected my recovery from my injuries.  A new friend of mine wrote an extremely polite note thanking me for my offer to lend an ear for his troubles but noted he keeps his own council.  In my trademark klutzy fashion, I flailed about trying to say ‘well – if you need to talk, you’ve got an ear as long as you’re dealing with your stuff.’ 

Our society is hyperactive about talking and talking and TALKING about whatever is bugging us, but sometimes it takes quiet contemplation to come up with true resolutions.  Trying to be helpful, I couldn’t see that what had offered hadn’t always worked for me either!  Instead of saying “Look – I might be a new friend, just know whenever things are black that you’re not alone … and I care,” I got kind of pushy. Doctors like you and well meaning support group leaders did NOT help me get these (she starts pulling fist-fulls of shining and clinking medals out of her bag. Audience is appropriately impressed) with poor me touchy feely support groups!  This is a year’s worth of hard work and going COMPLETELY AGAINST everything your well-meaning fellows said.  This shiny black one and this surf board – these definitely were against medical advice and cemented friendships I cherish.  This being said, I do have friends who give me that emotional jump-start of “You Can Do It, Shep! We’re Behind You!” before every race and I call afterward to share.  The difference is we care about one another, but we’re taking care of whatever problems we’re having and moving forward.

By the time I was hit by the drunk – 5 months before my 24th birthday – I had been told hundreds of things I couldn’t do.  The really sad and pathetic thing was that I believed the professionals.   I had done fairly well in sports, but all the nay-saying just fed into my already atrophied self esteem.  It was roll over and die or fight.  I fought and kept fighting, but it gets really tiring.  I fought doctors who said I must be wanting sympathy because they didn’t see anything on their machines, even though I was falling over in pain.  My favorite surgery has “Oh shit what’s that” as the last words of the doc before the video cuts out.  I was worn out, in chronic pain, limping badly and just accepting my ‘damaged goods’ condition.  

The Professionals said I would never be competitive again and my depression started taking over.  I was put in groups which fed into the blackness and unsettled feeling I was surrounding myself with.  With weight fluctuating wildly, I continued to do demanding physical work to prove I could.  I did a lot of further damage but did have some fun.

Five years ago or so now, my knee tricked out and I smashed the crap out of the back of my head.  I lost memory.  I saw it as a positive: a time to let all the demons just flow down holes where I wouldn’t have to look at them.  I trusted the wrong people while they tried to ‘rewrite’ their histories in my soft brain.  

Doctors and psychologists and such let me know how severe my injury was and since I don’t have a family said I should be in support groups.  I gave it a shot and, you know, I kept getting further depressed.  People weren’t interested in moving forward – they were sitting on their pitty pots wanting to have a stage from which to bemoan their lives.  I know that support groups have helped many, but like antidepressants … they’re not one size fits all.  My good nature was being sapped by these emotional vampires.  

Like my friend this morning, I tried to be as polite and as firm as possible without offending … but the groups, counseling and having people tell me that I should tell them what is going on and that there was no way I could be fine.  Nobody appeared to believe that I really could be OK and that called my own feelings into question.  I’d go to group, get told I was in denial of my true inner feelings and leave wanting to throw myself in front of a light rail because it made me feel worse than when I went in. My true inner demons were only heightened by the inuries I’ve sustained along the way, and it takes time and safety to be able to throw them off.  It took me a very long time to start to regroup … but it happened.  The first step was to start separating myself from Emotional Vampires.

September 2006 found an overweight, out of shape me walking the Boulder Backroads 1/2 Marathon.  I wasn’t sauntering, but being as competitive as I could.  I finished in over 3 hours but there were people behind me. This is the medal I got.  An guy I’d met told me that I could finish my first event in over 20 years because it’s a mental as well as physical game. Set the mind and the body follows.  He was giving out the medals for the Marathon side, but dove over and presented mine – after he turned me around screaming “Look at that time! You DID IT, Lis!”  He took over explaining drinking and eating to the sore, raw, painful, bloody, sunburnt, chaffed and grinning fool me.  “You’re hooked, Kid.  You know that?”

You’ve got my Athlinks in front of you, so you know I didn’t stop.  People who know my injuries have told me to be careful and to not exert myself. Bite me!   

I’m not a crazed idiot.  I know many of my limits.  I don’t run.  It’s not that I can’t but I like the challenge of racewalking.  You also find out who your friends are when they’re willing to wait two hours for you to cross a finish line after they’re done!  I’m an adrenilie junkie, but know that I might have to be accommodated until we can find a way where the wobbly me can come along and play too.  I’m one bouncy muppet on the sidelines, however!  My left side still has some issues, but the most important thing I do these days is ….

Laugh.  

So that’s what I do.  I am not on meds. I’m on exercise.  I’m not on self destruction. I’m on adrenaline and endorphins.  I listen to my body.  No doctor suggested this.  They said “Physical therapy but you’ll never be the same and you’ll always need pain meds.”  Bite me!

The body is one thing, but the head is something altogether different.  The same friend whom I mentioned earlier innocently asked me if I’ve ever gotten my memory back.  I have a somewhat flip answer about rabbit holes, but the truth is that I never really went back looking for it. I wasn’t sure if I would like what I found.  I didn’t think I was strong enough to handle what might come flooding back.  

An innocent question really opened up a door to me.  I started to look around for my memory and start to knit my life back together again.  I’m talking here and there, but I’m surrounded by the most inspiring group of survivors I’ve ever had the good fortune to become acquainted with and feel honored that they let me play in their sandbox.  They’re behind me and I’m behind them in anything important to them.  The things from the past were no longer as horrible as they had seen.  I am able to cry or speak about them and, more importantly, let them go.

Doctors and Caregivers – you really do athletes and former athletes a royal disservice when you tell us that we’ll neverdo our athletics again.  As long as our spirit isn’t completely shattered, we’ll prove you wrong – be it my friend with nasty COPD, another with brittle asthma, a third with botched knee replacements at 30, the wheelchair racers, blind runners, life survivors and cancer survivors.  We’re all around you … and beating the odds in life and in sport.  Don’t tell us we can’t do something, give some real options.

I know that talking is a good thing, but forcing it just shuts some people off further.  You’ve really got to trust the one you’re confiding in and know you’re safe.  I’ve been skewered by things I’ve said in what was supposed to be confidence.  Letting people wallow doesn’t help either.  Telling them what they’re supposed to be feeling negates what is being felt.  Saying others have it worse off negates further still. People have to be challenged and prove to themselves that they are NOT their injuries; they are NOT their broken bits; they are NOT destined to live in their past.  I’ve had tons of self definition issues, and I’m working on it!  My spirit was almost broken in half by attitudes and definitions of others.  Somehow, like bamboo, I’m proving I’m unbreakable … and also like bamboo – I’m hell to get rid of now that I’m out of my container!  I get down on myself and I hurt, but I get off my fanny … wait (giggles) … bad choice in words … tush because I’ve got an amazing support group of people who are moving forward.

I challenge every single one of you to push yourself and not to settle for your little piece of things.  You get out of life what you put in to it.  I spent too damn long believing the claptrap that professionals kept telling me.  “Fear can hold you prisoner.  Hope can set you free.” is the tagline for Shawshank Redemption as is the more apt “Get busy living or get busy dying.”  Well – Hell, gang, I already did the dying thing and it wasn’t a hell of a lot of fun.  Then there’s “A life lived in fear, is a life half lived.”  I’ve lived the half life and it’s cursed!

You know when the arthroscopic holes started to fade on my left knee?  It wasn’t the few months it should have taken.  They started to fade as I started to see myself as an athlete again – just in time for my 42nd birthday.  The scars on my heart, soul and psyche are finally starting to heal because I’m surrounded by people who accept me as the slightly warped me that I am.  Your support group has to have you at the center and healthy friends who are growing right beside you.

I know I’m not saying anything you want me to, but I’m telling the truth … and if I see you in a race … watch out for this so-called brain damaged, dyslexic, learning disabled, gimpy walker … I’m just about ready to pass you at mile 25!

Thanks and enjoy! 

They let Lis talk for a very long time, but everyone was intersted.  She collects her medals and there’s not only applause, but a standing ovation.  She looks shocked and blushes a very deep red.  Our Girl has tears in her eyes and leaves the stage.

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