Play in the Park

Last week I went to the park.

I paid for it with several days in bed but nevertheless, I went.

I’ve lived within half a mile of the park for the last six years but in all that time I’ve never been. It’s the same park I worked in as a theatre-hand for a play-in-the-park many years ago. Though I live much closer now it may as well have been the far side of the moon for all the chance I had of getting there, until now.

Two years ago when I was awarded an indefinite entitlement to Disability Living Allowance (just in time for the government to decide to abolish it) I was able to trade the mobility component of my allowance for the use of a Motability wheelchair. Muscle fatigability and orthostatic intolerance mean I am unable to sit upright or unsupported for long periods of time and while my throne-like chair is capable of ten miles or more on a single charge, its occupant isn’t.

On my better days, fifteen minutes from home is the farthest I can go without being too unwell to safely get back again. There is nowhere pleasant to go within such a meagre distance but it allows me to post the occasional letter or make infrequent trips to the corner-shop.

I had planned to call at the shop last week to top up my phone credit but the sun was so high in the sky that for the first time this spring it reached down between the buildings to touch the tarmac. The queue in the shop was so long and the warmth of the sun on my skin so glorious it seemed a waste to sit in a shop then turn back for home, so I sailed right past and just kept going.

I reached the park on adrenaline alone. Knowing my time there was short I headed for higher ground to at least take in the view. At a fork in the path I considered my choices: Should I head for the main road that I’d travelled in healthier days and catch a glimpse of the river? Should I head for the car park that once flooded in torrential rain, forcing us to unload props in muddy water up past our ankles? Should I head for the bandstand, or the play park, or the railway-footbridge I hadn’t known existed until spotting it just now from afar?

For a moment, I revelled in the pretence that I really did have such a wealth of choices. For a moment I pictured taking each of these different paths towards opportunities and sights that I once took for granted. For a moment, I was the person I used to be; the person I want to be; the person I ought to be; just for a moment. Then, as dizziness and nausea hit full-force, the moment passed and I took the only possible path, back the way I’d come.

By the time I got home, I’d been out of the house for less than an hour but could barely see enough to steer my chair. A passing stranger had to unlock my front door as my muscles shook so violently I couldn’t fit the key in the lock. I collapsed into bed, too ill to undress, feeling the room rock and spin beneath me – a rowing boat tossed in a storm. Awash with prescription opiates to drown the pain, I tried to convince myself that the paths left untraveled were not so much the failures of today as the adventures of tomorrow.

Too exhausted to sleep, I consoled myself with the thought that perhaps one day I won’t need a wheelchair to go there:

One day I’ll travel every path in that park till I know it as well as I know my own home.

One day I’ll picnic there with friends, and sunbathe on the grass while the kids play football.

One day I’ll walk, run, and play in the park again, even if it’s only in my dreams.

One day, I’ll look back on last week from the other side of that railway-bridge and marvel at just how far I’ve come.

Last week I went to the park.

Perhaps one day soon, I’ll go there again.

This entry was posted in Hidden Disability, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Play in the Park

  1. saxoma says:

    Dear Sarah It’s good to see that you are still thinking, doing and going on adventures. Let me know the next time you get to the park – sounds like a target to me!! Much love Serena

  2. carla says:

    I hope you get to go again soon 🙂 Keep strong! x

  3. Sian G says:

    Well done for seizing the moment and managing to get to the park. Defo worth it!

  4. HappyME! says:

    Well done for getting there! For so many people with M.E the achievements we have, like getting ourselves outside to the patio to sit in the sun for ten minutes, are things that other people wouldn’t consider because their achievements are going for a jog, or finishing an 8 week project at work. We have to take joy in these achievements that would seem so ‘small’ to other people but to us take so much effort to achieve and have such a cost for days afterwards. It’s hard sometimes to go for them because of the toll we will pay afterwards but once you’ve had a day in the sun and ‘paid the toll’ of pain, fatigue and discomfort in the days that follow you can look back and feel so proud that you did it. These ‘small’ achievements are what sustain us!!

    • So true. It was definitely worth the cost (though for a few days it didn’t feel like it) and it has given me the anticipation of future trips out. My carers didn’t get it as they walk through the park everyday to get to me and couldn’t see what was so exciting about a park that is little more than a glorified playing field. The fact that other people don’t understand these achievements just make them even more precious for knowing just how big a deal they really are. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Sally says:

    I can relate to this… Prior to getting my scooter it was hard to get outside properly. Yes I could sit at the back door… but my scooter takes me properly “out” to get the wind in my face. I’m lucky that I can use it every day….. and the difference it has made to my sense of “being me” is fantastic. Sure I can’t walk the miles and climb the mountains that I used to, but getting out with our little terriers is sure better than sitting in because I can’t walk far enough to get properly out.

    Hope as the weather improves you can take many more adventures in your wheelchair…..

  6. Pingback: ‘Play in the Park’ Revisited. | Dead Men Don't Snore

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