In March this year, my family was invited to climb Mt Kosciuszko with The Rotary Club of Turramurra. Such an expedition mightn’t seem worthy of a blog but if I told you that my eight year old daughter was wheelchair bound would you lean in to read more?
If you’ve climbed this mountain, all 2,228 metres, you’ll concur that the rough and steep terrain is not for the faint hearted, let alone those of whom are wheelchair bound. We got up there in the end, with the help of a very dedicated crew and the support of our family and friends who raised over $1K for SpinalCure as part of the trip’s Summit Wheelchair Challenge.
But this blog is not about the expedition. It’s about the “no barriers” mindset that my family has adopted since my daughter turned six. She entered our lives, born with profane physical and developmental delays which remain undiagnosed to this day. It has been a hard slog but we’ve come a long way in therapy, building a support crew and landing the perfect school.
It was through the school that this mountain trip became available. We were given two weeks’ notice, leaving no time to plan or ponder too long on every possible thing that could go wrong, 2,000 metres above sea level with no medical services for our daughter. But we took the plunge in any case.
That’s what we call the “no barriers” mindset. I first took it on two years ago when I realised that I needed to make a choice whether I sink or swim in my adversity. Living daily with disability is beyond your worst nightmare. It breaks families apart. It causes poverty. It brings on grief and depression. It makes you isolated.
So my husband and I chose to swim. And I chose not to be a victim of my circumstance. A friend said I make disability look easy. Well, it’s not easy, but another friend said “it’s about 80% mental and 20% physical.” It is for me. I cannot imagine life any other way and I love my daughter and all that she has taught me.
Now, two years since the switch to a “no barriers” mindset, I can reflect and smile. The most amazing thing about this mindset, besides seeing our daughter do all the things that every other nine year old does, is that you attract like-minded people who spur you on for more.
In order to lift our daughter on a daily basis my husband and I train in the mornings at CrossFit2147. I never thought I would like high intensity sport and risk lifting 50kg over my head but I’m doing just that and we have amazing coaches to get us there. It includes a fitness community that encourages and lifts each other up to achieve our goals. We’re strong enough now to be able to take our daughter everywhere we go (beaches, waterfalls, even Kakadu).
On the hike up Mt Kosciuszko I met a woman who also exuded a “no barriers” mindset. Sam Bloom had a horrific accident in Thailand that broke her back, resulting in a wheelchair bound life too. She tries her hand at Olympic kayaking and just competed in the Adaptive World Surfing Championship in San Diego, taking first place. In her book “Penguin Bloom” (a story about her recovery now being produced into a film) she says “surround yourself with a supportive inner circle.” That’s very true and it’s what we’ve done to survive, in addition to our belief in the grace of our Lord who gives us daily strength and wisdom.
Sometimes, we encounter negative people. And it’s about navigating away from them before you lose sight of yourself.
Hence, now, as I embark on my first new business venture, despite having my hands full as a mother and primary carer, I take on the “no barrier” mindset once again. I hope that this will open opportunities to meet more amazing people.
When we reached the top of Mt Kosciuszko we let out a “coowee” which was a huge relisation that we were heading in the right direction on life’s journey. Do you have a “no barriers” mindset? Want to gain one? My advice is to set some life goals that benefit your loved ones. From there, you can apply the same tenacity to another area of your life. Here’s some further advice from Elenor Roosevelt that I adopt: “Do something everyday that scares you.” That way, you’ll know you’re pushing a barrier that will fade over time and one day soon you too will coowee from the mountain tops!