March 5, 2020
I made a really really good decision. Traveling to Washington DC for Policy Conference these past few days was a massive gamble, yet seems to be one of the best non-medical choices I’ve made to date during recovery. Since January, I have felt increasingly physically able, and since February, more psychologically steady, yet still hadn’t a clue what my attendance would come to represent. But the energy absorbed, the relationships fostered, the connections forged, the knowledge gained, the experience overall was wholly positive with multifaceted benefits, strengthening and propelling me (and our movement!) forward.
Thank you to every single soul who dared to come over to me. To hug me. To simply say hi. To tell me you’re proud of me. Thanks for sharing the impact of a speech I gave in the past. For calling out the power of my writing. For baring witness to this journey. For saying you believe in me. Thank you for thinking to honor the significance of my presence. To invite me to a program. To recognize my progress. To say I look beautiful, trite as that may sound. Thanks for asking me a question about anything. For introducing me to others for the human I am, not the invalid I’ve felt like for half a year post-accident. For going out of your way to find me, even if just for a brief hello that has been six months-or-longer in the making. For engaging in person meaningfully and lovingly. Thank you…
To the dear friend who hugged me for far too long-yet-never-long-enough in the middle of everything, the one who snuck away to raise a glass for an overdue cheers, the individual who stared me square in the face with hands on my shoulders and tears in his eyes to say what I meant to him, the bright spirit whose infectious smile upon catching sight of me lit up the entirety of the event. To the graduate school student I met in an excruciatingly long line, shared with openly around common passions, and am now slated to speak at his mid-Western university. To the old friend who made time to catch up late night when we were both already wiped out and overloaded. To the girl who said that sharing of my own struggles had given her courage to continue, building upon the inspiration she gained when hearing me present on her campus a few semesters back. To the Rabbi who welcomed me with open arms and sage wisdom as I set foot into my first event on Saturday night, and bid me adieu at the last on Tuesday evening. To the mom and daughter who asked to take a picture, because reading about my shifting relationship with my own mother had transformed theirs. To the elderly man who praised my intellect before his entire family for a simple question he heard me ask in an earlier session, knowing nothing of the path I’ve been navigating, yet holding me in high esteem all the same. To the mentor who carved out time for a sit-down away from the chaos amid a massively busy schedule. To the college student in the elevator who asked if I had given a speech at x place on x date, to which he replied with shock and awe in his eyes, “You. Changed. My. Life.” To the new friend I made while hiding away from the crowds who hadn’t a clue who I was, what I’ve done or where I’m coming from, but invested so genuinely in our conversation. To the woman in the bathroom who smiled ear to ear when she saw me, reminding me of a chance encounter last year and cheering me on for being there, even if it took applying yet another layer of powder over my scars. To the fellow board members who listened intently to my ideas and opinions, even though my voice and presence have been missing in action for six months. To the two beloved brothers who drove me home in a cab side-by-side after a late night of mellow, much-missed bonding we never thought would happen this soon. To everyone, truly.
I am humbled to do life side by side; to stand up for what we believe in today, tomorrow, together; to surmount unimaginable challenges with one another; to forge new pathways hand in hand; to speak out powerfully in sync; to explore synergy in any and all walks of life. What a true and lasting joy to feel seen, appreciated and included by friends, colleagues and the greater public. My community inspires me daily, my relationships elevate me, my people sustain me.
This weekend was exhilarating albeit exhausting, and after running on unknown wells of sheer adrenaline (and hummus) for days on end, I flew home yesterday morning, slept gate-to-gate and then crashed mid afternoon for another unfathomable seventeen hours straight. I don’t know how (or why!) I made the journey, let alone summoned the stamina of body or mind to attend multiple sessions and receptions, but I did it! And oh am I ever happy to have shown up proudly — because while I continue to take it day by day, step by step, little by little without compounding additional pressures or stresses onto recovery, being at Policy Conference has given me the jolt of energy, inspiration, connection, fortitude and hope I need to go forth.