Friday, January 15, 2016

Skating Fridays

Fighting Through Adversity

Erik Weihenmayer (photo credit from Touchthetop.com)

My department at work held an end of year event in December to wrap up the year's activities and to provide motivation for 2016. This year's guest speaker was an incredible individual named Erik Weihenmayer. Erik successfully scaled each of the 7 Summits (the highest peaks on each continent), climbed El Capitan and navigated the rapids of the Grand Canyon. While those accomplishments are quite impressive, I have to also mention that Erik is blind.

Erik lost his vision at the age of 13 and initially thought that his life was over. He had a lot of self pity and wallowed in depression for a while. One day before he lost his sight for good, he watched a television program about a Canadian amputee who wanted to run across Canada. This story touched Erik in a profound way. The Canadian showed Erik that nothing was impossible. As a result, Erik set out and become the only blind person to reach the summit of the highest mountains on each continent.

I was deeply moved by Erik's story and understood that humans have the ability to overcome adversity in all shapes and forms. Erik described that there are 3 types of people in the world: quitters, campers and climbers. Quitters face obstacles and give up. Campers see a challenge, hide inside their tents and try to allow the difficulties and storms to pass them by. Then the climbers face the adversity and try to challenge it, no matter how hard the ascent. Erik obviously chose to become a climber.

Last week, I faced some adversity of my own (though a small one, when compared to what Erik has faced). I suffered a serious back injury and did not think it was possible for me to compete in my 3 events at a skating competition.

Through the power of modern medicine, I took some pain pills and anti-inflammatories to help reduce the discomfort of the shooting pain. I spoke with my coach, and we came up with various plans for the multiple scenarios I would face on competition day. Worst case scenario was that I would withdraw from my events if the pain was impossible to manage.

I bought practice ice before my first event and attempted to skate my elements. My back was tight but not too painful. I finished the 20 minutes of practice and felt OK. My first event wasn't for another 3 hours, so I would have to see how things held up.

My event warmup came next, and once again, things were a bit uncomfortable. I wasn't in full pain, but my body didn't feel normal. I was slightly dizzy. The announcer finally called my name and it was my turn to take the ice.

I had a decision to make. I could either skate over to the referee's table and withdraw, or I could skate. If I withdrew, it would be fine because I needed my body to heal. If I skated, I could end up in last place. What to do?

I remembered Erik's message to us: be the climber. When faced with adversity, take it head on and plow forward. Yes, I was injured, but I needed to prove to myself that I could do this. My fellow skaters kept asking me, "Are you going to skate?" I wanted to tell them "YES!" so I went to my starting position and waited for my music to begin.

Although I did not end up with a great score (far from it), I overcome an obstacle and didn't let it hold me back. I didn't climb Everest. But I did decide to skate through the pain and push away the adversity that I was facing. I skated the best that I could and came out on the other side in one piece.


I am proud for getting out there and facing this challenge. Now I need to keep telling myself that I can keep fighting any obstacles that get in my way.


Final score - Eva: 1. Mountain: 0.

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