… bubble baths. In winter, slipping into water so hot it stings your toes.
… cooking dinner. With a glass of wine in one hand, tasting sauce with the other.
…walking the beach. My toes sinking into the sand, the waves lapping at my legs.
… dancing. At a club, with girlfriends, knowing some cute guy is watching.
… drive-thru’s. Eating a taco at midnight because the mood strikes.
… high heels. A pair of strappy, too-high-to-be-practical, great-looking shoes.
… singing. Along with the radio, thinking I don’t sound half bad.
Please don’t feel sorry for me. I never dwell on this stuff, except for the purposes of writing. Missing something won’t make it so — so what’s the point? Pity isn’t the intention of this post, gratitude is. Be grateful for the little everyday joys in your life. The simple pleasures. Maybe you can’t feel your toes in the sand either, but you can do something else on my list. The point is to find and take your blessings where you can. As for me? I’ve already watched a gull dipping in and out of the surf this morning. And twice yesterday. Last week, I saw dolphins rolling by. How many of you can say that? Remember, it’s the little things.
“So,” Ann asked me. “Which side of your body is paralyzed?”
“Neither,” I answered. I’d told her I’d had a stroke. It was a natural assumption. “But it’s the right side that …” I hesitated.
“Sucks,” she filled in.
“Well no,” I started to say. Then, “Yeah — sucks.” I smiled. I liked her. Therapists (always able-bodied) were constantly telling you not to call one side the “bad” side. Positive thinking and manifestation and all that crap. Here was a straight shooter.
Also in a wheelchair, Ann O’Brine-Satterfield founded U Can Ski 2 over 20 years ago. She’d won six national and two world championships as a disabled water skier. I’d found out about the free “learn to ski” clinic as I had most of my adaptive adventures, through the Brooks Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program.
No stranger to the program or the world of adaptive sports, the list of activities I’ve tried is long: wheelchair tennis, power soccer, rowing, surfing, snow skiing, hand cycling, bowling, billiards, aquatics, horseback riding and now water skiing. I’m bad at all of them. Or as Ann would say, I suck.
Alice Krauss, the director of the Brooks Program, initially suggested I try wheelchair tennis. I have no idea why. My coordination is so poor, I can’t even put my finger to my nose without poking myself in the eye, let alone connect a racket to a ball. In her defense, we hadn’t met yet. I’m sure I sounded quite capable over the phone. I mean, aside from the slur and all. After we’d met, she wasn’t exactly suggesting I sign up for archery. (Who would’ve thought there is adaptive archery?) I know better. I have no business anywhere near a bow and arrow.
Truthfully, I wasn’t half bad at horseback riding. I had dreams of the Paralympics before I learned the competition is in English Dressage. That means both hands hold the reins. I was riding Western with just my left hand. I’m sure they have adaptive equipment to make it work, (heck, I’ve seen a girl riding with no legs!) but I was already trekking to Georgia just to find a Western adaptive teacher. In the end, the time and expense weren’t worth it to me.
I thought I’d found my sport when I was introduced to power soccer. It doesn’t require contact of your body with the ball at all! Power wheelchairs are outfitted with metal cages and driven up and down an indoor court like bumper cars. Except players are supposed to hit the ball, not each other. I was bad at that too. My double vision got in the way.
Yet here I was again, hanging off the back of a boat as one of the “side skiers” counted down from three for the driver. Since it was my first time, I didn’t really have to do anything. I didn’t even have to hang on to the rope, though I can progress to that later. The rope attached directly to the sit ski I was in. It reminded me a lot of snow skiing, where even the slightest turn of your head guides the ski.
I’m not sure why I keep trying all these sports. Maybe, I’m more competitive than I like to admit. Maybe, I’m looking for something physical to be good at again. Or maybe, I like being part of a group that redefines what it means to be an athlete. Either way, time spent dreaming about a new goal, even if it’s just an hour, can’t be time misspent. Team USA Water Ski, here I come.
I recently received a rejection letter. Well, letter is an overstatement. I received a rejection slip. It wasn’t even a full sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 paper. It was half that. A blank had been filled in with my name. “Dear Blank, we’re sorry we can’t use your work at this time, but thank you for letting us consider it.” I was thrilled.
You see, getting an actual response has become a rarity. Stephen King used to save rejections on a nail in his bedroom. Lots of writers do. In my fantasies of living the writer’s life, an entire wall of my office was wallpapered in rejection slips — the sign of a working writer. But now, many publishers are so inundated with unsolicited work they don’t even bother to say, “Thanks. But no thanks.” Nowadays, no news isn’t good news — bad news is.
So to me, no response means no. And you better believe, I’m keeping track. Today’s writers may not have the form-lettered proof, but rejection still reigns. Famous authors seem to know precisely how many times their manuscript was rejected before being accepted. J.K. Rowling submitted Harry Potter to 12 publishing houses before it came out in print. 18 publishers thought Richard Bach’s book about a seagull was absurd (Jonathan Livingston Seagull.) Even John Grisham, who seems to have mastered the art of selling novels (and movie rights,) had his first book, A Time to Kill, rejected 28 times.
The Help the movie came out last week. My expectations are low. Aside from a few notable exceptions (The Godfather, Gone With the Wind, The Shawshank Redemption, to name a few,) the book is always better than the movie. The Help author, Kathryn Stockett, was turned down 60 times. 60. After rejection number 40, she started lying to her friends, even her husband. She was rewriting and resubmitting on the sly. She felt ashamed for not letting it go.
As persistant as that sounds, Robert Pirsig racked up twice as many rejections for Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Imagine continuing after being turned down 121 times. Consider that Madeleine L’Engle received 26 rejections before A Wrinkle in Time was published and won The Newbery Medal. Or that Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen were rejected again and again when submitting their idea for Chicken Soup for the Soul. I’ve submitted to the series twice. The first time, I received a postcard telling me publication of a particular title was suspended until a future date. The second time, I never heard back. I’ll take that as no. Both times.
So, how do you keep going? Kathryn Stockett says this. “I can’t tell you how to succeed. But I can tell you how not to: Give in to the shame of being rejected and put your manuscript — or painting, song, voice, dance moves, [insert passion here] — in the coffin that is your bedside drawer and close it for good. I guarantee you that it won’t take you anywhere. Or you can do what this writer did: Give in to your obsession instead.”
“It’s the cradle of life. It’s the center of civilization. Men have fought for it. Even died for it.” I have to admit. The television had my attention. On screen, swords and horses in medieval garb clashed . It looked like the trailer for some epic period piece I didn’t want to miss. And then the announcer said it. “Hail to the V.” It was a commercial for … well … umm … a feminine product. Excuse me? Did I hear correctly? Did she just say “Hail to the V?!”
What’s happening here? I’m all for acknowledging my feminine power, but I don’t need it hailed on national television! I was complaining about this not-so-recent trend to my hairdresser. Advertisers seem to be letting it all hang out. I finally got used to all the condom and erectile dysfunction ads when there seemed to be a whole new slew of offenders. She agreed. She can’t stand the colorful bears with all the pieces left behind. And the slogan. Enjoy the go? I detest watching the cartoon babies scrunch up their faces in concentration while competing in some kind of crapping contest set to the music “Whoop, (or is it poop?) There It Is.” What the hell goes on in there that diapers need to come with blowout protection?
And then there’s this candor: “It’s time to get real about what happens in the bathroom. And start talking about what you really want from your toilet paper.” But I don’t wanna! Maybe I’m a fuddy-duddy, but I’m sure I’m not alone in this. It must be real embarrassing to watch T.V. with your kids nowadays. Imagine trying to explain why the couple in bed are so exhausted in a particular “yours and mine” commercial. (And before you say I watch way too much T.V., I was sick last week.)
I guess these corporations know what they’re doing. They conduct market research test groups, right? All I’m saying is that if I did need to buy diapers, I’d be sure to avoid the brand with the cartoon babies.