Sunday, October 21, 2012
There's a difference between saying "I can't do that" and "I am not able." 20 years ago, I, like a lot of people, rolled my eyes at being "politically correct". Having a son with a disability has changed that. We don't say "colored" people. As a friend of mine once said, "we aren't a rainbow, we're black." We don't say "retarded" because, well, it's offensive and in most cases inaccurate. We don't say handicapped because it places emphasis on their disability. And I know Tara and I have beaten this dead horse, but we don't say "that child is autistic," we say they have autism. The reason to be "politically correct" is to place importance on the fact that people are people, first. Whatever diagnosis they might have, whatever their skin color, whatever their religious beliefs are and so on, should ALWAYS be secondary to WHO they are. If you have a friend battling cancer, you never say "my cancerous friend," you always say "my friend with cancer," if you even get to that within your first sentence of talking about them. Ok, so enough about that soapbox and onto my point.
I ran a half marathon today. When we think about people who run marathons and even 5 and 10k's, we think of health nuts who are fitness over-achievers. But as I looked around today, there were people running and walking the half and full marathon who did NOT fit that stereotype. There were only people. Skinny people, overweight people, yes, those health nuts, older generations, a man with one arm, people running because it was their birthday, brides from the night before and young people. People who simply said, "I can do this and I don't necessarily care what my time is, if I have to walk it, crawl it or be helped across the finish line." And yes, to my point, there are people who are unable to do it. THAT'S the difference. "I can't" usually means "I don't really want to", which is fine of course, but don't SAY "I can't" just say "I don't want to."
For many people with disabilities, they are unable to run a marathon, although given the chance, most of them would love the opportunity to do so. It's part of the reason I do run. I had a friend once who was fit, healthy, didn't abuse her body and took pride in the fact that she led that kind of lifestyle. And yet she lost her battle to cancer. I started running because I thought, she, more than anyone, would give ANYTHING to be able to go for a run. So I did it for her. Do I like to run? Not really. But it has become an easy form of exercise and a way for me to demonstrate that if you are able, you should.
Having a kid on the Autism Spectrum has made me realize even more, that there are things he is and will be unable to do. And also, that there are many things he can do. He may very well be able to walk a tight rope one of these days. And he most likely will be unable to run a company as CEO. The difference between "can't" and "unable."
There were people on the marathon today who were unable to finish because of injury or it was too much of an effort for their body. There were also people with determination, even with a disability that didn't affect their legs, that WERE able to run it and finish. I hadn't really trained for this run for various reasons including injuries myself, and at about mile 7 the pain kicked in to epic proportions. I winced with every stride, the sweat was more from pain that cardio and I wanted to quit. My feet hurt due to plantar fasciitis, my knees were killing me because of a weak IT band, my hips hurt probably due to deferred pain from my knees and I had stabbing muscle spasms in my upper shoulder. Needless to say, it wasn't a fun race. But I kept telling myself that I was able to finish. I kept reminding myself, as I ALWAYS do in races, that there are things my son with autism won't be able to do and i AM able to do this, so i do. It proves to him, even though he wasn't there, that when he wants to give up in Math, when he wants to walk away from kids who aren't being nice, when he wants to abandon reciting his sight words, that he is able. And one of these days, probably soon, I will not be able to run a half marathon. And one of these days, my son will not be able to do something he wants to. And when that day comes, we will both be scorning the people who can.