Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sunday Scribblings #245 - Limits

Can't is a horrible word. For one, it's a conjunction - and in my book it's just as easy to say "cannot," as it was said in proper English for centuries before Americans hit the scene. And crazy though it may seem, even in this conjunction-heavy modern day I am a great supporter of proper English.

That's not the real reason I hate it, though - "can't." I hate it because everyone says it about me. Almost every day. They've been saying it for sixteen years, and I for one am at a loss for anything that might make them stop.

I "can't" use the stairs, so I have to have an elevator pass, or take classes on the ground floor. I "can't" be in the school play because it requires dancing - no voice-only parts available. I "can't" do any school sports, even though I'm sure I could dominate at track and field if I wanted to - or basketball, or even rodeo. I "can't" drive myself anywhere (even with my liscence) because I "can't" get in and out of the car by myself. And I "can't" get any job that's worth getting. Believe me - I've tried. All because of this stupid wheelchair.

I shouldn't say that, really - my wheelchair allows me to do a lot of things I wouldn't be able to do otherwise. It takes away a whole world of "can'ts" from the picture. The proper thing to say is that I hate the fact that I will probably never be able walk. It's the only "can't" I've learned to accept. I can't stand for more then a few seconds on my own - I never could. I suppose that after so many years of living with a "can't," you start to get used to it.

But I have a secrect. In the evenings, after the dinner dishes are cleared away and my siblings are off to their respective activities, I disappear to my bedroom. I have it to myself - the only one on the ground floor. I lock the door, turn on the desk lamp, and pull the shades. I get out of my wheelchair and onto my bed. I even collapse it and push it beneath the desk, so I don't have to see it. I kick off my shoes and pull off my braces. Then I slip a hand under my pillow and draw out what's hidden there - a novel, whatever I was able to get my hands on in the library that week. I reverently pull back the cover, find my last stopping place, and read.

And suddenly I am in another world. It doesn't matter which one - the effect is the same. I am taking the stairs of Hogwarts two at a time, trying to be on time for Transfiguration with Professor McGonagall. I am dancing in the moonlight with the Scottish selkies, their seal skins abandoned on the beach. I am playing discus or racing chariots with Perseus and Jason and Heracles himself. I am travelling the world - by ship, by train, by horse, by hot air balloon. I am working alongside both the great and the humble - sluething alongside Sherlock Holmes, weaving with Silas Marner, striking the hour in Notre Dame with Quasimodo, or farming beside Alexandra on the Divide. I fly over Alegaesia on Saphira's back, ride through the woods with the Elves of Rivendell, wield a sword in defense of Narnia against the evil White Witch, or join the crew of brave Odysseus in his journey home to Ithaca. I can be anyone, go anywere, or do anything between those blessed pages...

And when the novel is over, or life comes once again creeping beneath the door and through the blinds to steal me back from the realm of fastasy, I turn to other means. When my mother or teachers think I'm doing homework, I open a fresh notebook and write. And then the world is my own, and I am once again free of the contraints of reality and flying on the back of my own imagination.

The world may say that I "can't." I say "you can't stop me."


  1. I loved how you describe the way literature and writing allow us to escape a limiting reality and to be whoever we want to be, wherever we want to be and do whatever we want to be. I really enjoyed reading this and love the fact that you won't let anyone limit you.

  2. What a wonderful piece..I am so glad that for a moment in time you can escape in words..Jae

  3. So everybody knows - the speaker in this piece isn't me. Her name is Celeste (at least for now). She's a character in a novel-in-embryo I'm envisioning. She's very much like me, though. I've heard it said that a book is a magic carpet that can take us wherever our imaginations will let us fly. Welcome to my childhood - and Celeste's world. I'm glad you liked this piece of it.

  4. Rachel, I'm thinking of sharing this with a young friend of ours who has a painful, debilitating illness that has recently caused her to have to use a wheelchair. She actually reminds me a lot of you--wise and sensitive and reflective. She is turning 15 next week and her name is Kathryn. She is trying to attend high school, but some days are so bad she can't go. We pray for her every day. I think she might appreciate this.