I don't think of myself as impaired or disabled or limited - most of the time. I work, I ride a bicycle, I host family dinners, I'm engaged in life seemingly as much as the next person.
But limitations have crept up on me and when I hit one, or it becomes glaringly evident, it sucks! A few weeks ago, I went to Hawaii and one of my goals while there was to conquer my fear of heights and go ziplining. Turns out, it was no problem. I leapt off the platform with eyes wide open and couldn't wait to get to the next platform. It was a wonderful experience.
The activity that "got me" was the one I wasn't expecting. We went kayaking with several family members up a river to a trail that led to a beautiful waterfall, or so I was told. I wasn't worried about the kayaking part since I shared a double kayak with my husband - whenever I got tired (which was often), I sat back, enjoyed the scenery and my husband did the work. We had been promised a flat trail and the walk to the waterfall sounded easy enough to do.
When we got to the trailhead, the ground was muddy. We had expected this and all wore water shoes and sandals we didn't mind ruining. The part I hadn't considered is that it is very difficult to keep one's balance walking on mud.
Struggling to keep my balance, I used a large amount of energy to stay upright.
Soon into our journey, we had to ford a rushing stream. My adult son led me across (there was also a rope to hold onto) the waist-high stream, where I had difficulty picking up my weak left leg and planting it securely again on rather slippery rocks below. It took awhile to get across but I made it. Looking back, everyone else walked quickly across - no problem. I started to worry that my abilities weren't quite what I thought they were. I really thought that everyone else would have a rough time too.
Within minutes, I was so far behind the group that they were lost to sight. My husband stayed with me, taking pictures of the beautiful scenery, but I couldn't see any of it. I was totally focused on the ground and not falling into the mud. I had no thought of not making it to the waterfall until I stopped - about 45 minutes into the hike. My legs wouldn't move and my body sagged. My husband moved forward to hug me, anticipating a romantic moment in this amazingly scenic spot. I stopped him and told him I was completely exhausted and needed to turn around to start the journey back. I felt like crying at the thought that I would have to hike all the way back and then kayak to the car. I didn't know if I could make it.
I had taken it too far.
My husband went ahead to tell the group I had turned around and I found a dry rock to sit on and rest. I lifted my head and looked at the scenery. Wow. This was amazing. I realized I had seen nothing along the way except the muddy trail. I had looked at my feet the entire time in my effort to keep from falling. It was the moment I really realized that I had surpassed my limits. I sat there for 10 or 15 minutes, gathering the motivation to get up and do it all again. I let the beauty of the place inspire me and then stood up.