When I talk about all the amazing things I do with CRIS Adaptive Adventures, one question I get a lot is, "Isn’t that dangerous?" and another is "aren’t you scared?"
The answers to both questions are a qualified yes. Two or three summers ago, I took a ride on one of CRIS’ brand new recumbent bikes. It was love at first pedal. I’m of average height, but long in the leg, and this rangy new piece of equipment fit me like we were made for each other. I wasn’t accustomed to the lack of idling. If my pilot pedaled, so did I, and that suited me perfectly. I was racing with a friend of mine (and beating him handily, I must admit) when I turned to smile and gloat as we went past. My feet slipped off the pedals, which then grabbed my knees and threw me onto the post between my seat and my pilot’s. I left a good patch of skin on the road, but what mostly bothered me was the bruised ribs. I hit my diaphragm just below the sternum, and at the time I was doing music therapy regularly. It was very, very hard to sing, and those ribs took a long time to heal. Our bike safety has since been upgraded to heel and toe straps on the pedals, as well as a harness that keeps the rider on the seat. I still maintain that it was all worth it, just to zip past my buddy like we did.
The next spring I did the road portion of the Ski2Sea Race on that same bike, barreling down Windy Canyon on the bike that bit me. I was scared, and then I was elated. Being afraid and doing things anyway has broadened my horizons in more ways that I can say, including in my willingness to share my thoughts as I do here.
Having a disability does not make danger go away. I assure you that I feel much less secure walking unescorted in a busy parking lot than I ever have on a bike with a competent and caring pilot. Doing outdoor activities is never without risk. I’ve seen a lot of people with sports-related injuries, and they got those injuries because they leaped into life like every second was priceless. That just sounds worth it to me.
Every second is priceless, even for those of us with a disability. Imagine a life with all the risks taken out of it. Imagine someone, somewhere carefully padding all the corners of your existence so that nothing is sharp or exciting. Imagine then, slipping out onto pristine waters in a kayak, where you can feel the cool of the water and the warmth of the sun, and taste the sharp excitement of a freshening breeze. Wouldn’t that be worth anything to you?
Risk has value. It teaches us that there is a cost to everything we do. The aim is always to balance out the gain with the risk, but I do so many mundane things that require risk of me. I’ve had more near-misses on sidewalks in this town than on roads. To be able to choose to risk this body of mine for the sheer pleasure of effort and physicality has helped me be brave enough to risk my status quo in search for something better, bolder, and truer to my being. Yup, it’s dangerous. It makes me ask, "What next?"
CRIS endeavours to make all our outings as safe as possible while still being the challenge we need to keep growing as humans. I cannot overstate the commitment our volunteers and students have to the well-being of everyone in the organization. The trust I have for them lets me be scared and go anyway. It gives me back the chance to pick my risks, to appreciate my successes.
Of course I get scared. Why wouldn’t I? Since I’ve joined CRIS I’ve done more than I could ever have imagined, and I’ve been scared every time. Fear doesn’t run my life anymore, no more than does my disability. There’s danger in anything I do. Some days, that includes walking. I’m going to walk anyway. I crave the chance to try things, to live as full a life as I possibly can.
As I see it, refusing risk only ever led me to despair. I’ll take the risk, thanks. I still love that bike, by the way. I ride faster on that thing than I’ve ever ridden on anything. It is still completely worth it.