One of the things that really touched me in Davis Phinney's talk this weekend was the message "Don't ever quit". If you quit, you've lost for sure. It reminded me that one of my greatest strengths is my... well, for lack of a better word, stubbornness. I think I posted this once before, but I feel inspired, so I'm re-posting it. A short time after I was diagnosed, I woke up in the middle of the night and this memory came back to me like a gift. I hadn't thought if this incident in years, but suddenly I recalled every detail of it, as though it had happened yesterday:
When I was 12 or 13, my parents sent me to horse camp. I was ecstatic! There was nothing in this world I loved more than horses, nothing I’d rather do than ride. My stepmom says to this day that until the age of about 15, I actually was a horse, and she’s right! So, I was eager to go and spend a week just riding and being with horses. I had forgotten about the social aspects of the trip, though.I was a shy and awkward girl, and decidedly not “cool”. When I got to the camp, the other girls all seemed more confident, prettier and of course cooler than I was. I was starting to get worried. The first thing we had to do was take a riding lesson so that our skills, or lack thereof, could be evaluated. I was terrified now; I was sure I would make a fool of myself, even though I had lots of riding experience. My anxiety was immediately communicated to my horse, and he started acting up. As we walked around the ring, he started kicking the fence, bucking, rearing and throwing his head back. He caught me right between the eyes with the back of his head, and that really smarts! The instructor was a tough-looking woman with a very gruff manner who barked instructions and corrections at us: “Sit up straight!” “Stop jerking the reins!” “Pull your elbows in!”; she was kind of scary. She had us walk, then trot, then canter the horses. My horse, of course, would not canter but just started trotting faster and faster until I could feel my teeth chatter and my bones rattle. I was terrified about what the instructor would say when we showed up on her radar.
But suddenly I remembered why I was there, and everything else became unimportant. I was riding a horse! Even if it was a rough ride, it was what I was there for, and I would still rather be there than anywhere else. I began to live in the moment and enjoy myself. So when the instructor caught sight of me, going at a hard trot, rear end slapping the saddle, elbows flapping, eyes and nose streaming from the blow from the horse’s head, and yet wearing a great big grin, her sun-weathered face broke into the first smile I had seen all day and she yelled “You’ve got a lot of guts, kid!” It was one of the finest compliments I have ever received, and I still treasure it.
I realize now that this is how I deal with Parkinson’s and any other problems that come my way. Maybe not always with grace or style; but I always hang on as hard as I can and remember to enjoy the ride, no matter how bumpy it is, because that’s what I’m here for and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.