The other day, in my stories on instagram, I shared a throwback photo of me taking selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower while my friend Antonia took photos of me taking photos of myself. Paris plays a big role in my life, and in order to be so sensually influenced by it, I put up with a lot of inaccessibility.
I have chosen to crawl up untold numbers of stairs, spent an afternoon desperately searching for a public washroom without stairs, spent more money on taxis than treasures in order to avoid the subway. I did it with pleasure. I sacrificed to love and be loved by Paris and all I felt was the glow of unfettered devotion. I never expected it to be anything other than it is, and it is one of my greatest lovers.
On the same day, I rolled up to a fitness center with a physiotherapy clinic inside it expecting relief, a plan for resuming training, ongoing support when I start to push my body again. I expected it to be accessible. But there were stairs. Stairs I couldn’t crawl up. I was devastated. This was my re-do appointment after the first one also had stairs (which I discovered from the back seat of an Uber I could barely crawl into, I phoned in my cancellation from the parking lot, from the backseat, while it rained).
That appointment was supposed to be the solution. A woman asked if she could help, “I’ll grab the receptionist,” she said, but I was already flustered.
“What is the point?” I genuinely asked. Two women glided down the staircase toward me and encountered me in the midst of unmasked heartbreak. Anger and it’s ilk are fair and warranted in these situations. But I truly felt heartbroken. Left in a lobby, too shocked to sob, welling up with the helplessness and worthlessness rejection has the brutal knack of dredging up. And that’s what these women walked into. My voice, just a touch plaintive, shook when I told them how I had gotten to this point.
They looked in my eyes, apologized, made no excuses, asked what they could do. “I can make you another appointment and make SURE you can get in to the office,” one of the ladies offered, among a bunch of other suggestions of ways they could support me now. But all a broken heart ever wants is to be unbroken. So I shook my head. “Thank you, but I can’t even imagine another appointment right now.” And I think they understood exactly what I was feeling, and I think their hearts were breaking for me.
They didn’t feel bad out of guilt or shame or embarrassment, pity for a broken heart makes it worse. These ladies, they felt the pain of rejection with me. They stayed with me and listened as I told them that I just want to take good care of my miracle body so I can keep doing amazing things with it. They listened until I didn’t feel threatened by worthless or helpless feelings. I felt tender - but human.
“Are you in a lot of physical pain? Are you able to write and create?” my friend asked me. Which is the question of someone who knows what matters. “No pain at all when I lie down. And significantly lessening pain when I move. No restriction to creativity at all.” I told her. My body is healing slow and spectacular.
The rejection hurt more than my electric storm of a body.
I am in relationships with the places I go. Lack of accessibility has a way of making that strikingly clear, but isn’t determined by accessibility alone. There’s the effortless mutuality of a good relationship, the balanced give and take. I felt that with Vila-seca, then it was time to move on. We will always be friends. It’s surprising when my limits change with different dynamics, how my needs fluctuate. With Algodonales, I love the people, I love the mountains, but I have no chemistry with the town at all, perfect on ‘paper’ but there’s no spark. I had a thrilling affair with the incredibly intoxicating Namibia, I still blush when I think about it. And lately, I have had my heart broken by this town, my hometown, that should feel easy like home, but just keeps shutting me out.
(Vilaseca, Algodonales, Namibia)
The next day, the sting soothed by the support and sympathy of my friends, I pulled up google maps, searching for physio, massage, chiro, acupuncture in my area. Anything that would help me support my back as it heals.
Are you wheelchair accessible? No. No. We have one step but we have other wheelchair bound clients, we could get you in. One chiropractor told his receptionist to tell me he was familiar with my disability and couldn’t help me because it was an inflammatory condition (it’s really not even close. I don't have a tailbone. But I agreed he couldn’t help).
And then I found a sports clinic full of chiropractors who do the stuff I knew I wanted.
“Are you wheelchair accessible?”
“Oh yeah, of course. There’s a ramp and it’s all one level,” Charley said, like it was obvious.
“Oh please can I have all the appointments!?” I almost cried.
“I can get you in today,” he said.
It was indeed accessible. There was a ramp. The examining table lowered to the exact height of my chair. My chiropractor took his gentle time learning the incomprehensible ways of my body, willing to figure it out as we go, on board with my goal to use my body in unreasonable ways as soon it lets me. He has a plan, and gorgeous eyelashes. Heart breaker eyelashes.
Accessibility and adaptation bring intimacy into my life, the rejection of inaccessibility has made me resilient. And heartbreak, that leads to healing.