I miss my Thanksgivings in the desert. The perfect pairing of body-destroying physical activity and an ambitious feast. I loved the challenge of it. I loved the perfection of making so much food and then eating it as the climbing trip progresses. Turkey sandwiches on the summit! I don’t even know how to make a turkey unless it’s in a pit in a campground surrounded by coals and tents and climbing gear. This year I didn’t make one. I also didn’t make a single side dish. I spent the holiday reliving all my memories from this time of year: the early trips to Joshua Tree, my last trip to Red Rocks. I miss my friends — too many of whom I see only rarely — and the single-minded rhythm of climbing trips. I also took a long, beautiful bike ride along the coast.
This year I learned how to take. I’ve always been the independent goal-setter and the stubborn wanderer. But this year I’ve needed a lot and have been given a lot. I learned how to talk down the inner voices of ego and pride. Accepting help is not easy for me… but I understand to accept is a gift to the person offering. I’ve spent so much time taking and asking — physically and financially. And when you’re in a wheelchair, you constantly attract helpful attention. I am working on building a thicker skin. So far, still, a single person asking me if I’m OK and if I need help while I’m going to my car will ruin my mood. I want to break that narrative.
So, to take charge of my role, to flip the tables, I signed up to volunteer at a church dinner for the poor and homeless. I helped and cleaned and tried to navigate the whole affair without awkwardness. I was asked only once if I wanted a plate — and then the person nearby said no, she’s a volunteer. I guess this is my way of proving to myself that yes, I still have a lot to give. I have a lot to be grateful for. And, in part, it is my response to the political climate right now.