Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Failure is an Option

I stared at the kayak. “Oh, hell no,” my brain was telling me. I wasn’t worried about the paddling part—my arms can crank. But the getting in part, the staying upright part, the getting out part, and the whole not drowning part were an issue. Laura wanted to go, and suggested a tandem kayak would alleviate many of my concerns. My brain was skeptical. My brain, wisely, wanted to bail. And then, on the edge of a tiny lake in Colorado Springs six hours from home, my celebrity doomed me.

“Hey, don’t you do a blog?!”

Egad. Mr. ActiveMSer has been spotted contemplating waffling on well, being active.

“I love ActiveMSers, it’s so inspiring to see you getting out and doing what you can. It helped motivate me to climb a fourteener. You are awesome! I’m Meg, a longtime member with multiple sclerosis. It’s so great to meet you in person.”

Gulp. Totally busted. There was no way I could let Meg down now.

Okay, I reasoned with my brain, if Meg can do a fourteener (she even got a tattoo to commemorate the experience), I can attempt to kayak for a measly 15 minutes. So I went through my basic pre-kayak checklist: life jacket—check, paddle—check, behaving bladder—check (as much as one can check such things).

As I expected, getting into the kayak was challenging. But with a little help, I was off and paddling! That is, until I wasn’t. While my arms are great, my core (despite lots of training) puts the eh in meh. With my legs in front of me and no back support in this particular kayak, after a half dozen strokes I was admiring the puffy clouds directly above me in the sky. I discovered kayaking while lying on one’s back is rather impossible.

For the rest of our excursion, which was nearly a half hour, Laura did 98 percent of the work while I grabbed my legs to stay upright. If we got near shore, I’d paddle for a few strokes in the event a swarm of paparazzi (or just Meg) was going to capture my lameness for the tabloids. Oh, I didn’t actually care. Why?

See, earlier that day I played wheelchair tennis, a sport I feared would depress me, and just remind me of how I used to love to play the game and how I now had no business setting foot (or wheels as the case may be) on the court. Sure, I was terrible, but it was fantastic fun. Laura had to drag me off the court after nearly two hours. We even played doubles!

The point is, there likely will be times with multiple sclerosis that you fail trying to do something that the old you could do effortlessly. It’s important to realize that that’s okay. Heck, when you have MS, failure absolutely is an option, and an important one. Because if you never try, if you never experiment, if you never leave your comfort zone, then this disease wins. Screw* that.

While I enjoyed getting out on the lake on a beautiful day, I’ll try to kayak again with proper back support (and ideally an adaptive instructor). And I’ll get back out on the tennis court with a proper wheelchair designed for swinging the racquet and chasing balls. As for when motivation wanes and doubt creeps in, I discovered that you need to find inspiration wherever and however you can. This day it was a touch of serendipity, and her name was Meg.

*Note: my editor, aka wife, used this word to replace the more descriptive and vulgar word that I had originally chosen. Children, she reasoned, might read this. Meanwhile, I’m thinking kids have better things to do than to read blogs that contain words that rhyme with duck. While I always defer to her (always) better judgement, feel free to replace said word in your head for dramatic effect.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

The adaptive kayak equipment you are looking for exists

http://www.creatingability.com/

As well as adaptive paddle nrg instruction

http://www.americancanoe.org/?page=Courses_Adaptive

Dave Bexfield said...

Thanks Anon! I knew equipment was out there, and this looks trick. There are adaptive classes here in New Mexico but I haven't tried them yet. Definitely on my to-do list. I've been sea kayaking in New Zealand, Alaska and the Vancouver Islands and would love to give it another go.

My Odd Sock said...


What a descriptive way (funny, yet depressing) to tell the story of MS gimpness.

I too, feel your pain. I tried playing cornhole several years ago. Let me say, I was a dead-eye in my younger days. I could throw a shoe into a keyhole. But the first pitch of a cornhole beanbag, I loss balance & fell onto the cornhole board in front of me. It was ugly---and I was devastated.

Haven't played since. Oh well.

Dave Bexfield said...

MOS, it was just the generic resort kayak that gave me fits. I can definitely kayak in the right kayak. And I am confident you can play cornhole with an adaptation or two. And my message was to try again after failure, not to give up! Bah, you are too intelligent to walllw in your cornholelessness. I just found that adaptive cornhole tournaments do exist. Seriously. Do it. http://www.yumaaz.gov/event/parks-and-recreation-events/adaptive-recreation-washoes-cornhole-tournament

Yvonne deSousa said...

Love this one and love kayaking. But I do the bladder check and use a sit in kayak so I have back support. I can get in and out but it ain't pretty. Here's the weird MS thing that goes on with me when kayaking- each time I do it, my paddling gets worse and worse as to control of the boat. What the heck is up with that??? You'd think it would get better, but no. Last I did it I did make it back to the shore on what was a quiet, calm, little lake but not without first crashing into a moored sailboat and passing annoyed swimmers quickly doggie paddling out of my way. Too weird. But I loved this post and loved that you got your inspiration from Meg. Hi to Laura!

Dave Bexfield said...

Yvonne, good to know I can count on you to take out other boats, swimmers, and who knows what else. You should always lead to clear the way!

Yvonne deSousa said...

Right!!!! I think the confusing the left/right thing was part of the problem!

Bette Coffey said...

I love kayaking!! Its the one sport I can do that I can forget about my MS for a bit while I'm on the water. Of course getting in and out would make a great video worthy of late night comedy television. I take my fly fishing pole with me and have a good back support and a good husband who hauls me in and out of the kayak.

Dave Bexfield said...

Bette, late night comedy? That sounds like either nudity or profanity are involved. Come to think of it, that's probably about right for me!

Anonymous said...

This is so random. I just got back from Belize. Snorkeled on day 1, canoed on day 2 (so scared of dumping over and killing all involved), snorkeled on day 3 and while it was docking, I feel over. Everyone was standing around watching the boat dock and me falling down. Duck it! I had spent the day in the sun, using muscles I hadn't used in awhile but if I had listened to that voice in my head, I never would have gone. Thanks for posting this, makes it little easier.

Dave Bexfield said...

Awesome, Anon, I have not been to Belize. I'm so glad you didn't listen to that voice in your head!

Jane Bow said...

Thanks for the laughs & encouragement, Dave. Reminded me of the time my daughter & I tried to land our kayak below a rocky outcropping where 2 lovebirds were admiring the sunset. I proceeded to fall out, tipping said kayak & daughter, both of us laughing hysterically, adding a new dimension to the lovebirds' moment.

2 thoughts: 1) I now listen to the voice of fear. Ignoring it can result in a fall. But letting it rule is also not an option. So I listen, then give my other voices the floor. They usually find me a way forward.
2) God abs suck! Dr. Terry Wahls, who has very weak abs, finds electrical stimulation helpful, among other things. She went from wheelchair to riding a bike! I find a lot of her advise helps me.

Anonymous said...

I have a 2 person sit on top kayak and bought backrests. I did not get sea sick. But when getting out afterwards it took a while. Funny. Not sure what to make of it. Plan on going to Cochiti tomorrow. Carolyn

Anonymous said...

I would love to know how to stay up right on a bicycle again. There was a time I only had a bicycle and my legs to get me where I needed to go.

Dave Bexfield said...

I learned to windsurf at Cochiti when I was a teen. Have fun!

Dave Bexfield said...

Anon, re: biking. You should try a trike. It's made all the difference in the world.

Anonymous said...

Anon, if you can get past the comedic aspect of it, most kids start with training wheels. You might even have some stored away.

I haven't logged in, but I'll let you know who to blame; it's cgarri which is Craig Garrison making this suggestion.

Dave Bexfield said...

Yes, Anon, watch out for Craig. I've had the pleasure of breaking bread with him, and he is right to warn you. :)

Anonymous said...

Keep laughing, good for the core muscles:). In case you are unaware, may I suggest 2 orgs. RISE adaptive sports (Beyond Limits in NM) and HEROES on the WATER. RISE offers adaptive kayaking, hand cycling, fishing, fencing, ect. All supervised and free. HEROES is for returned Vets., but volunteer and they are happy to have you join them! Citizens provide private lakes for vets with PTSD and handicaps to kayak and fish. Both orgs allow an opportunity to make friends, be active, and feel NORMAL. We all know how important that is! I have MS,RSD/CRPS and 2016, breast cancer. Happy to report cancer free!! Takes time to find programs. I hope this helps someone. STAY ACTIVE, STAY POSITIVE. Thanks Dave AND Laura!!

Dave Bexfield said...

Brilliant suggestions, Anon! I will also pass these along on our forum with links, etc. Thanks!

Losing the legs said...

Thanks for your honesty and courage sharing your more challenging life adventures. I have been getting 'hit in the face' (not literally) with lots of "Wow! I used to be able to...and now I can't even do...' moments lately. My default is roll over, not battle on. I'll be re-thinking that strategy.

Dave Bexfield said...

Losing Legs, you are smart to change that default setting. It takes work, but it is so worth it.

sequinedevil said...

Great posts about kayaking! I gave enjoyed the sport for years. The upper body helps when you get stuck in a sand bar...

Dave Bexfield said...

Devil, having a decent upper body helps when you get stuck in a regular bar, too. Pint curls!

Robert Brown said...

Great story Dave. Thanks for sharing. Not to get off topic BUT, about those abs you and Jane Bow mentioned. What IS up with that and lower back muscles too. After bending over for a bit I have a hard time standing up straight again. Many of the MSer’s I know have these problems. I have a terrible time with it AND I have the MS Python (hug) 24/7/365! So using my upper abs just adds to the length of the python.
If this is not the right place for this conversation, please let me know. I’m new to blogs.

Dave Bexfield said...

For those looking to follow Robert's challenge with the MS Hug, check out the thread in our forum: http://forums.activemsers.org/showthread.php?t=2261

Terry Billie said...

Love kayaking but went last summer for three hours and boy that last hour was rough. It was on a lake so no current. Used to do 6 hour trips. The only way I got out of the boat was 2 people pulled me up. Luckily they put it back on my car, and helped to strap it on. Then I proceeded to drive to a shady spot to put the AC on full blast and do all sorts of car yoga to stretch out my back, legs, feet, eyc. Took about an hour but then was able to join the potluck bbq with my kayak meetup group. Learned that while I can kayak I will have to keep it to 2 hours or less if I want to function the next day!!

Laura Ruthie said...

These comments, stories, memorable phrasing, particularly about kayaking are making my day! Along with boatloads of coffee! I used to be a runner, and was,overally, fairly athletic. As MS progressed, and my legs turned to cement wearing the Pants of Pain--along with other MS'd stuff--my abilities depressed. Kayaking became my running, and the only place i feel graceful. Last year, and despite rather chilly conditions, i decided it was a pretty good idea to kayak. As i was zenning my way into the boat, I feel in. The water was, as it happened, more than rather chilly. However, I decided "Duck it!" and went forth, sodden up to my chest. Kayaked for a couple of hours, stopping to rest and shiver massively. This story is one of many, illustrating my Strong/Stoic/Stupid personality. Thanks for listening.

Dave Bexfield said...

Terry, fantastic that you are getting out there (and paying attention to your limits). And Laura, love the attitude. Don't freeze to death, though!